40 Things I Have Learned at 40, by Lisa G.

Lisa turned 40 this spring and celebrated at a surprise party thrown by friends. Today she shares 40 things she has learned at 40.

Today’s Things I Have Learned list comes from Lisa G., one of my best New York pals and a fellow recent inductee into the 40-and-over club. She’s a return guest blogger on Newvine Growing, having shared thoughts about her mother’s death in 2009.

Lisa was one of the first to say yes to participating in this series, and true to her type A personality, she was the last to submit because she invested a lot of time in making sure she got her list just right. She completed it on a recent international trip for work that gave her many hours on airplanes.

Lisa is a Michigan native who moved to New York eight years ago for a corporate job and a new chapter in life. She’s recently packed away her suits to become head of human resources for a global nonprofit and she’s preparing for the New York Marathon for the first time with a program that mixes biking to work, running in Central Park and drinking Guinness.

  1. Being alone is better than staying in the wrong situation.
  2. Try any dish once: worst case, you don’t like it and stop after one bite.  As a result, you’ll discover so many incredible ingredients and flavors.
  3. Related to the above, don’t waste calories or fat on unworthy food, but don’t fear them when the food is worth it.
  4. Being underestimated gives you a unique advantage in a new situation; fight the initial urge to be offended and insulted and rise above it to seize the opportunity.
  5. Get over yourself: no matter how many degrees you have, how much money you make or how big your title is, most of us are not saving lives, curing disease or brokering world peace.
  6. Whenever that little voice inside begins to doubt whether you are capable of doing something, go DO IT.
  7. That goes double – maybe even triple – for telling the people you love how you feel about them.
  8. Be kind to everyone – not because you think they can do something for you, but because it’s the right thing to do.
  9. There comes a point in your career when making more money – or even the same amount of money – isn’t the most important criterion in deciding your next move.  Don’t miss it.
  10. Coffee with Bailey’s is one of the most versatile drinks ever:  part dessert, part warmer-upper when you’re chilly, part pick-me-up when you need that second wind at night.  Oh, and it tastes great.
  11. Let your friends be friends to you.  You will be disappointed by some who let you down, but it’s worth the realization of who IS there for you and the more substantial connections you’ll develop with them.
  12. Related to the above, be a friend.  When they need you the most, it might not be obvious and will inevitably be at the least convenient time for you.  You may have to listen, as their silence might be the signal.
  13. Your doctor may have more medical training than you and more degrees on the wall, but never forget that you are the one who lives in your body. Don’t hesitate to get another opinion and don’t talk yourself into accepting an answer from him/her that doesn’t feel right.
  14. Some items (shoes, handbags) are worth every penny you spend on them and can make an outfit.  Others, like solid color T-shirts or cutting-edge trends that will be out of fashion next year, are not.  Get them on the cheap and mix them in with your quality stuff.
  15. Losing a parent sucks and impacts you deeply and forever, no matter how old you are when it happens or how long you knew it was coming.
  16. Black is the best color ever for clothing/accessories:  it is slimming, coordinates with all other black items, and doesn’t show dirt/scuffs/sweat.
  17. Related to the above, there is no such thing as an invisible underarm deodorant/antiperspirant.  Don’t believe me?  Put some on and then wear a black tank top… just pulling it on over your head will probably prove my point.
  18. Travel.  A lot.  In whatever way you can afford.  Keep putting yourself in new places on a regular basis, even just for a little while.
  19. Whenever you catch yourself saying, “Maybe someday I’ll….,” find some way to do it or start it or plan it NOW.
  20. Family secrets…. just. DON’T. have. them.
  21. Drink water.  Lots of it.  The benefits far outweigh the additional trips to the bathroom, though I’ll admit that part is a nuisance.  One of the best things I ever did for myself was stop drinking soda (that’s “pop” to my fellow mitten-people) and start carrying a bottle of water with me at all times.
  22. Not sharing your true feelings in a relationship should only happen in sitcoms and movies, where it can serve some purpose as a plot point.  Swallow your pride, open yourself up, and talk.  Even if it doesn’t lead to the result you were hoping for, I promise that you’ll be better off for doing it.
  23. Remember those SNL skits with “Drunk Girl,” who slurs gibberish and cries for no known reason?  Check it out HERE if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Point is, try not to be that person.  Having a glass of water between each beer/wine/cocktail is a great way to enjoy yourself without getting sloppy, not to mention avoiding a hangover the next day.
  24. Learn to apologize.  Sincerely.
  25. Related to the above, if you get too comfortable apologizing, you might be doing it too often.  Figure out why you keep needing to say that you’re sorry, and then try to stop doing whatever’s putting you in that situation so frequently.
  26. Did I mention to drink lots of water?  Twice already, you say? No matter, it deserves repeating.
  27. Your bucket list should be constantly evolving in BOTH directions – adding new experiences and destinations to the list, but also accomplishing some along the way.
  28. Laugh as much as possible.  Just not AT people.
  29. Complete laryngitis, which I’ve had several times now, is an opportunity to focus instead on listening skills, and to more carefully decide what is so important to add to the discussion that it is worth the combined (and frustrating) effort of squeaking and charades.
  30. Handwritten notes are an endangered species.  Help bring them back.
  31. Follow the “cringe rule” when you are at a crossroads: whichever course of action makes you sort of cringe at the thought, the one you least want to do, is probably the best choice.
  32. As often as possible, pay your credit card balance(s) in full each month.  You’ll avoid the downward spiral of fees and interest rates that can suck you in like quicksand when you make just the minimum payment, and then the credit will be there when you truly do need to carry a balance.
  33. Peanut butter always tastes better on a spoon.  Unless you’re using a piece of chocolate to scoop it out instead.
  34. Just as romantic relationships sometimes do, it’s OK for some of your friendships to end or scale back to more of an acquaintanceship.  You might even have to be the one to realize it first.
  35. Read the book before you see the movie.
  36. One of my worst bosses ever gave me one of the best pieces of advice ever (maybe unintentionally) when he said, “You’ll never get everybody to like you, so stop trying.” I am still working on this.
  37. Reading as an adult the “classic” books assigned to us in school, but now without the end game of a paper or test at the end, makes them a completely different experience.
  38. Start your interactions with people by making eye contact, smiling and saying “Good morning (afternoon/evening/etc.)” before launching into why you’re there and what you need.  It takes no additional time at all, and is amazingly effective.
  39. Whenever you feel like the world is against you, nothing is going your way, and you just can’t see the light at the other end of the tunnel, keep going.  You may not recognize this at the time, but you have been given the tools and resources you need to get through it.
  40. Snoopy and Guinness rule.

Lisa is the eighth contributor to the “Things I Have Learned” series, running each Thursday on Newvine Growing. Previous lists have come from:

Each person’s list is their own. Life teaches us all different lessons, even when we face the same experiences. I’m honored to share this series of life lessons in each contributor’s voice.

Want to contribute a list of lessons you’ve learned in life? Volunteer in the comments or email me: cnewvine at gmail dot com.


Categories: career, creativity, food and drink, health and well being, home and family, lifestyle

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9 replies

  1. I’m curious to find out what blog system you happen to be working with? I’m
    experiencing some minor security issues with my latest blog and I would like to find something more risk-free.
    Do you have any recommendations?

  2. Wise and thoughtful and I’m glad you shared, Gauche!

  3. I would love to contribute a list from England!

    • Donna, we haven’t had an international participant yet so it would be lovely to have you take this project across the Atlantic.

      I’ll need your list with one item for each year you are old, plus a recent photo and a brief bio, maybe two or three sentences.

      Email me when you’re done or let me know if you have questions.


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