50 not out

Photo by Taelynn Christopher on Unsplash

Today marks 50 years of my time on this planet we call Earth. My 23-year-old told me that ’50 is the new 20’. I hope that’s not the case 😅. But I am undoubtedly healthier than I was at 40. So maybe 50 is the new, improved 40? 🤷🏽‍♂️

To mark 50 years, I thought I’d share a handful (or two) of things I’ve learnt over the past half a century.

Here goes:

1. No one is “self-made”. No one.

I first came across the concept early in my working life when someone was described to me as a “self-made CEO”. The implication was that they ‘made it to the top’ purely through their effort and sacrifice. What it meant was that they had given themselves the title. ‘No person is an island’1. We are all shaped, supported, and stand on the shoulders of the people around us and who have gone before us.

2. Conformity is (mostly) overrated

In its worst form, conformity demands that we diminish and compromise who we are to ‘fit in’ or maintain the status quo. Conformity never sparked a revolution, made a scientific breakthrough, or birthed a masterpiece.

3. Relationship trumps Rules (and Religion)

Arbitrary rules (and conformity) can often get in the way of authentic, healthy relationships. Rules work when they keep people safe, inform positive choices and encourage us to be better. Rules and religion fail when they cause harm, exclude and condemn people.

4. Build (don’t burn) Bridges

Life is short, and we’re all connected to someone who’s connected to someone else. There are times when we need to draw a line and walk away. But we have a saying in our household, “Kind words, kind heart, gentle touch.” More often than not, kindness and grace are more constructive than outrage and offence.

5. Turn the Tin (don’t let the tin turn you)

As a kid, I tried to help my Dad by opening a paint tin. He watched patiently as I crouched beside the tin and progressively waddled around it to pry open the lid with a screwdriver. He sat next to me, said, “Try this”, put my hands on the tin and made a turning motion. It was a 🤯 moment. Sometimes, we make things more complicated than they appear, and there are more effective solutions to the task at hand.

6. Breathe (and count to 5) before you respond to pretty much anything

Five seconds (minutes, days or weeks) can significantly affect how we respond to almost anything. Try it. Think of something that infuriates you. Breathe in (two, three) and out (four, five). It’s often enough time to process, pause, engage your filter, and respond. Sometimes, the response is not to reply. Often, it’s a more calm response. This ‘hack’ (which can become a habit) has significantly improved my parenting and general response to most people and situations.

7. Humans are tribal (that doesn’t mean my tribe has more value than yours)

We are hard-wired for community and belonging. The desire to belong can translate to conformity and compromise. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless belonging requires us to ‘other’, dehumanise, or devalue other people. Every human has value. Every. Human. Yes, even humans who don’t believe or uphold this as a fundamental truth. If most of humankind upheld this principle, geopolitical violence and humanitarian crises would often be averted.

8. Love wins

My faith tells me that ‘God is love’ and love is the greatest power, principle and ideal. In each moment, I can choose love, or I can choose something else. Choose love because love wins.

  1. A nod to the poem by John Donne ↩︎

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