So today I turn 50.
Honestly, it’s the only birthday I’ve ever dreaded. And yes I realize that age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel, blah, blah, blah, but I’ve had this in my mind for many years. To me, the turning point between young and old is 50. I’m not sure why exactly that is, but it’s how I feel.
I’ve been around the block a few times and have learned a lot of lessons along the way, many of them the hard way. Today, I’m sharing the 50 most important ones.
My hope is that you can either resonate with some of them or take something away from them.
1. Remember that life is short
Life is short, much shorter than you might think. Looking back, doesn’t it seem like you were playing wiffle ball with your buddies in the park just a short time ago? Do you remember going to Toys-R-Us to get your first Nintendo like it was yesterday? I do. Time is our greatest source of wealth and it’ll be gone before we know it. Take each day as it comes and appreciate everything.
2. Pursue relationships, not money
To me, money is just a tool to buy stuff and can always be earned. Relationships on the other hand will bring us far more happiness than money ever will.
3. Practice Patience
This is one of my strongest virtues and it’s served me very well, especially during and after my divorce. This is something that must be developed like any other skill but it’s well worth the effort. I’ve gone through too many shit storms to count post divorce and it’s taken all my will to be patient. I have been and have been able to remain level headed and rational through it all and it’s helped me and my girls tremendously.
4. Be Humble
Confidence is important don’t get me wrong, but there is a fine line between that and arrogance. I know because I spent my late twenties being the cockiest son of a bitch you ever met. I thought I was the coolest thing since sliced cheese because I finally hit puberty and started attracting the opposite sex. When I started getting into shape and looking good, I let it go to my head. Because of that, I had very few real friends because nobody could stand to be around me. Today, I know what I am and what I am not and consider my humility to be one of my best qualities.
5. Appreciate each day
I think about my mortality every single day; far more than anyone should think about death. I know at 50 my life is more than half over and that scares me. I don’t want to die but it’s coming. It sounds morose but it serves as a frequent reminder to appreciate what I have.
6. Get out of toxic situations
Life is just too short to be stuck in misery, whether it’s a broken marriage that can’t be fixed or a soul sucking job. I was in both and spent too many years waiting and hoping. It was only when I chose to actually live my life that I was able to get out and turn things around.
7. Confidence will take you far
Being confident comes from making promises to yourself and keeping them. It comes from feeling good about yourself despite what others think. Confidence has gotten me more jobs, dates, and opportunities than I can remember and I’ve seen far too many dads struggling with this. When you’re beaten down in a bad relationship, being micromanaged by your boss, being told you’re not good enough, or don’t have a positive role model in your life, it can be very hard to build confidence. Find a way to change your situation if these are the case.
8. Take the high road in ALL situations
This is WAY harder than it sounds, but it’s the right thing to do.
9. Give more, take less
A simple rule to live by. You’ll get far more by giving than getting.
10. Be a good listener
I have always lived by the rule of listening twice as much as I speak and it’s worked very well. I once read that a conversation is just two people waiting for the other to be quiet so they can do the talking. People love to talk about themselves, so I let them. Ask questions. Be genuinely interested in them.
11. Learn to laugh at yourself
How many people do you know that take themselves far too seriously? A lot I bet. We all have our quirks, insecurities, and faults and learning to be able to laugh at mine has been a blessing.
12. Make yourself the priority
I talk about this often and I believe it 100%. We can’t be the best fathers, husbands, friends, or employees if we aren’t operating at our best. The sad fact is that most dads put themselves last; behind their families, jobs, obligations, and even their pets. Put yourself first and you will be a better man for it.
13. Be honest to a fault
If there is one thing I learned from my father it’s that honesty isn’t an option. Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
14. Find what makes you come alive and do that
I spent 11.5 years working in a career that I hated. It was the “right” thing to do because it was secure, paid well, and gave my family health benefits. But it sucked the life out of me every day and looking back, I know it was time wasted and that I’ll never get back. In 2010, I started a blog called EndingTheGrind.com, which was a journal of sorts as I worked my way out of my 9-5 job and into an online business. I wrote from a place of anger, resentment, frustration, and almost hopelessness and it resonated with a lot of people.
I spent years researching careers, taking personality tests, and reading about all the options I had. And in the end, I found that what I really wanted to do was help other dads live better through fitness. It was then, in 2014, that the Fit Dad Nation community was created and I’ve never looked back. My advice is to stop wasting your life doing shit you hate. Find what gets you fired up and figure out how to make a living from it. There is always a way!
15. Be your children’s biggest fan
Our job is not only to teach them how to be happy, productive adults but also to instill the confidence they’ll need throughout their lives. Be their raving fan regardless if they suck at sports or get mediocre grades. Celebrate their wins despite how small they are.
16. Never forget to say “I love you”
This is something I learned as a kid growing up with divorced parents. My father lived on the west coast and my mother had us on the east coast. When I saw my father each summer (and only the summers), he had a habit of always telling us he loved us. It stuck and I tell my girls every chance I get that I love them. I also do this with my significant other and I”m surprised at how often this goes unsaid in so many relationships.
17. Get your kids a puppy
Growing up in a small 2-bedroom apartment, we didn’t have the option to have a dog. And up until two years ago, I had never had one. It was always cats, hamsters, snakes, fish, or turtles. And I never considered myself to be a “dog person”, but after getting our Yorkie Boomer at eight weeks old, it’s been a different story. More importantly though is my daughters now have a dog and get to experience all the love and happiness he brings into our home. SO worth it!
18. Embrace your inner nerd
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a nerd. Growing up, I was really a nerd and spent my days playing Atari, Nintendo, or Sega Genesis instead of playing sports like most kids. I was absolutely addicted to video games and I carried that habit well into my adult years. Even now, I still nerd out with some kind of role-playing game on my phone and the kids love to bust my chops over it. I’m not embarrassed by it though, I just laugh. I spent too many years trying to be cool and now realize that being a nerd is far more fun.
19. Listen to heavy metal
Now most of you will disagree with this one and I even had to go to a Slayer concert alone because nobody wanted to join me, but hear me out. While it might sound like a bunch of angry noise, it’s actually not (well at least some of it isn’t). I grew up as an angry teen; angry that I was so far away from my father and could only see him for two months out of every year and angry that I didn’t fit in anywhere. A also hated school and most social settings.
So I found solace in gaming and heavy metal, specifically thrash metal. The heavier and faster the better. I remember taking my bike down to Rocket Records and looking for the new cassettes to add to my growing collection. Bands like Slayer, Kreator, Exodus, and Testament kept me sane during my formative years and to this day, it’s almost all I listen to. There is just something about the heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums that makes you feel alive! Try it before you say no. I’d recommend starting with Slayer’s Reign In Blood, which is probably the best thrash album ever made.
20. Force yourself out of your comfort zone often
It’s far too easy to stay inside your little cocoon and the longer you wait, the harder it is to get out. All personal growth lies outside your comfort zone, so make yourself do the things you really don’t want to. As a high school senior, I almost didn’t graduate because I refused to do any oral reports. I was terrified of getting up in front of the class so I took a zero for every assignment that required me to speak publicly.
My business management teacher (I can’t remember her name), told me at the end of my senior year that I was dangerously close to failing her class and if I didn’t give my oral report on Lee Iacocca, I would fail and not graduate. I weighed my options for longer than I should have (A GED isn’t so bad, right??) and ultimately decided to do it. It wasn’t pretty and I got a C because I stuttered and stammered all the way through, but I did it. And I felt good about it. Fast forward 10 years and I was speaking in front of 100 people at our company’s events and although I was still nervous as shit, I felt like a rock star doing it.
21. Avoid drama at all costs
While some people thrive on drama and you probably know at least of a few, I have always run in the other direction when it comes my way. I have my own shit to deal with and a busy life, I don’t need a bunch of meaningless bullshit taking away from my quality of life.
22. Always make your bed
This is one habit I’ve had since childhood and it’s a simple and easy way to start your day off right. I know so many guys who don’t even try either out of laziness or apathy and while it’s not a huge deal, it’s a super easy way to take care of yourself from the beginning of your day. Recently I read a book called Make Your Bed and it’s phenomenal.
23. Share your life with your best friend
So many of us marry someone for the wrong reasons, like me, and it’s no surprise that the divorce rate is around 50% in the U.S. Instead of looking for qualities like appearance, great body, or great sex, find someone with a shared interest in the things you enjoy, has a great sense of humor, and is a good person. I have laughed more in my current relationship than I ever have and we are like two peas in a pod. We’re best friends, truly enjoy each others company, and are each others biggest supporters.
24. Exercise because you want extra time, not because you have extra time
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a long, happy, healthy life. I want to see my daughters grow up, go to college, get jobs, get married, and eventually have children of their own. And I won’t see any of that if I die because I chose not to take care of myself. Life is already trying to kill us, don’t make it easier. We just never know when our last day will come, whether it’s a car accident or getting diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This shit happens every day and it’s scary.
A few years ago, they found a large mass in my right elbow that had been growing there for years. The director of oncology at Mount Sinai hospital said if it had been malignant, I would have been dead already. It’s something called PVNS and luckily it wasn’t and I’ve had two surgeries in the last five years to remove the masses. It sucks and affects my movement and strength, but at least I’m alive.
Exercise is one thing we can control and while it’s no guarantee that it will extend our life, it certainly won’t hurt.
25. Old school is the best school
In my opinion, simple is better in almost all situations. Remember the days of heading out on your bike after school and staying out until dark? No cell phones, just a “be back for dinner” from mom. I grew up in the 80’s and to me, it’s the best generation. Things were simple then. Pay phones instead of cell phones, hacky sacks instead of motorized scooters, Pac-Man instead of Call of Duty, and MTV that played actual music and not idiotic reality shows.
26. Aggressive driving is better than defensive driving
I live in the D.C. metro area and there is a ton of traffic. Unfortunately, it seems only a small percentage of people actually know how to drive well and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people driving 10-15 miles under the speed limit or stop in the middle of a roundabout because they’re terrified. We see it all the time; people perched up close to their steering wheel, hands at the 10 and 2 positions and gripping with all their might for fear that they might get an accident. This is what I called scared driving and is far more likely to cause accidents than a confident or aggressive driver.
27. Train the basics
Sure there a 127 different variations of a pushup, but you only need one. The booming fitness business is filled with fancy programs and exercises, novelty diets, and useless gizmos, but all we really need to get stronger, leaner, and fit are a handful of basic exercises. My own programs are build on a few core movements like chest presses, pushups, rows, pull-ups, carries, sprints, squats, and step-ups. And in all honesty, just sticking to simple and effective exercises like these is more than enough for you to reach all your goals. Keep it simple.
28. Admit when you’re wrong
For us men, this ain’t easy! We like to be right about everything and even when we’re wrong, we will defend our position to our last breath. This doesn’t work, at least not if you want to have a healthy relationship with your wife. It takes a man to own up to his mistakes and take responsibility for his actions. Be that man.
29. Crying is a sign of strength, not weakness
The macho dudes reading this will disagree and that’s OK. In my opinion, it takes a lot more strength to be vulnerable and express your emotions (which may include crying), than it is to suck it up and act like nothing bothers you. I’ll admit that it’s harder for me to get to that point these days and if I cry, it’s when I’m by myself (or watching Wonder). I remember going to the movies by myself years ago to see Seven Pounds and it was just me and this couple a few rows in front of me. It was a very emotional movie and I may or may not have been choked up and crying and when the movie ended, the guy turns around and says “dude, are you crying?”. I was like “umm, yea weren’t you?. He looked at me like I was a 10-year old girl and laughed a little, but it is what it is.
In some relationships, your wife might think it’s not “manly” to cry and even my own significant other gets all up in my grill if I tear up and yells “OMG, ARE YOU CRYING??”, but there is nothing wrong with shedding a few man tears when the situation dictates it.
30. Call your mother often
I spent my teens and twenties hating my mother. In my eyes, she was solely responsible for taking my brother and I away from my dad and moving 3,000 miles away. I was so angry and resentful towards her and it wasn’t until my thirties that I realized that she was doing what she felt was the best thing for us. She sacrificed her life, her relationships, and time for us and did what she had to do to survive as a single mother. I see that now and have a tremendous amount of respect for her. Throughout my forties, our relationship grew much closer and we spoke often. I called her frequently and we drove up to New Hampshire to see her a number of times.
She lived alone and with not much going for her, but she was always positive and there for me. She was the one person I could call to talk about anything and I told her how much she meant to me when we spoke. A few years ago, she called me to tell me she had been sick for a few weeks and was having a hard time getting around and I figured she would be OK as she had been in and out of hospitals for years with Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
My girlfriend urged me to take the 9 hour drive up to see her because something didn’t seem right and reluctantly I did. When I got to the hospital, she was incoherent and on a breather. Apparently, after a lifetime of smoking Newport cigarettes her lungs just didn’t have anything left and she died that night. I think about her often and am so thankful that we were able to rebuild our relationship in her final years. Your mother will be gone soon enough so make it a point to call her as often as you can. Believe me, it will never be too often for her.
31. Make the hard decisions
In 2012, I was a shell of a man. I was working in a job that I absolutely hated and felt completely and utterly trapped. I was also married with two small children and things were terrible at home as well. My (now ex) wife and I didn’t get along, agree on much, or really even like each other after a very long and difficult 8 year marriage. We didn’t speak much and there was always a sense of underlying resentment in the house. We both wanted out, but it wasn’t the “Catholic” thing to get divorced. She had stayed with the girls while I worked and we had a nice life on paper. A house in a great community, an SUV, and two wonderful daughters.
But were both miserable.
We went to counseling, workshops, and retreats in hopes of repairing what was broken, but it just didn’t work.
I had been sleeping on the coach for about six months when I started having chest pains at night and waking up in cold sweats. It was then I thought I just might have a stress induced heart attack. I asked her to meet me for lunch the next day and it was then that I said “wee need a change, I think I should move out”. She said OK like were were agreeing on a movie to watch. No tears. No discussions. It was just over.
The decision wasn’t an easy one despite my unhappiness because my girls were the ones who were going to be caught in the middle of our divorce. I knew the pain a child can go through because I went through it myself and it was traumatic. But I also knew that living the way we were wasn’t going to help them either. I didn’t want them seeing two unhappy parents who couldn’t stand each other to be the example we set, so I chose the difficult option; move out, do the very best I could to mitigate their involvement, and do my very best to be a better parent and person.
It was hell for a long while of course and I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, but looking back now, it was the best thing I could have done for them and for me.
32. Presence is more important that presents
Sure kids love to open presents, but being present for them every day is where the real value comes in. I’ve known too many dads who spend their time in bars or in their basements watching football than with their kids. So sad to me. MY father, although only having us during the summers and working as a researcher at UCLA, always made time for us. I remember all the things we did together, not all the things he bought us. Our kids will remember these same things.
33. Realize you are stronger than you think
We all have the ability to great things, I firmly believe that. Unfortunately, most of us play small ball and just try to get by. Life is only what we make of it and we can either make it amazing or we can make it tolerable Choose wisely.
34. Spend your time with the right people
We become just like the people we hang around most, so choose your circle carefully. I talk to my girls about this all the time because they don’t realize they will end up being like their friends. If their friends are wanna be thugs, guess what they’ll want to be?
35. Stretch daily
Simple I know but one of the most overlooked aspects of long-term health and fitness. Seriously.
One of the things I consistently teach my clients and those in our Inner Circle community is to make daily mobility sessions a must. It’s THAT important.
36. Get massages on the reg
This is right up there with all your other self-care tasks and if you aren’t getting a (good) massage every month or so, you’re doing your body and mind a huge disservice. I realize it can get expensive and good MT’s are very hard to find ( I have a GREAT one), but it’s worth the effort. The list of benefits is huge and it becomes even more important as we break into our forties and beyond.
37. Take ownership of everything in your life
We are a society of blamers and always seem to be looking for scapegoats. We can control most things in our lives, both good and bad, and it’s on us to take 100% ownership and responsibility of them. Don’t like your job? Find something else. Aren’t happy in your relationship? Choose to fix it. Or don’t. There is incredible power behind knowing you and you alone are responsible for the outcomes in your life. Embrace it, don’t run from it.
38. The only way to fail is to quit
Life is hard and we’ll experience things that challenge us to our limits. That’s a good thing. That’s how we get better. If you throw your hands up when shit gets heavy, you’ll always be struggling. It’s only those who refuse to give up despite adversity that go on to do great things. I’ve had so many setbacks and near failures in my online business and have come close to shutting it down on more than one occasion, but I didn’t. I didn’t because I know that despite all the issues I’m facing, if I quit I’ll have to go back to working a job and that’s my nightmare.
39. Stop making excuses
As a fitness coach, I hear excuses every day and I’ve heard it all. I have bad genetics, I don’t have time, I don’t have money to eat healthy, I don’t know what to do, and the list goes on and on. And while there are some actual legitimate reasons, most are nothing more than excuses. It’s just easier than to put the effort in and we are a society that doesn’t want to work for things. It’s just the way it is.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be like the masses. You can stop the bullshit excuses and get the fuck to work today. This goes for anything in your life. Just stop making excuses and do the things you know you need to do.
40. Make every day a non-zero day
I picked this up from a member of our community a while back and it’s always stuck with me. Every day, make it your goal to get better in some part of your life, even if it’s just a little. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be happier, healthier, fitter, smarter, or wealthier and those all take work. So get to work.
41. Stop caring what others think
This is the one thing that holds so many of us back from living the life we want. We are so terrified of what other will think of us and that we’ll be judged. But in all honesty, nobody actually cares. For real. People are so worried about themselves and what others are thinking of them that they aren’t thinking about you. The happiest people are those who are carefree; those who aren’t concerned about judgement. I’ve struggled with this for many years and it’s natural to care deeply what others will think. But they don’t. They really don’t care if you make a fool of yourself, sing off key, or dance around in the park. Just be yourself and you’ll be happier for it.
42. Be a man of your word
If it’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s someone who says one thing and does another. If you make a commitment, honor it. And if you can’t honor it, own up as to why. Do what you say and say what you mean.
43. Recognize that you have everything you need already
We are a society of want, want, want. Sure I’d like more money, a better car, more vacations, and another three inches (height you sicko), but I have everything I need already. I want those thing, but definitely don’t need them to be happy. Once you can recognize that unless you’re living on the street or hopelessly addicted to meth, you have all that you need in this moment. Stop living for more and start living for now.
44. Find your “why”
This is something I feel very strongly about and talk about it often. The reason we do something is more important than the thing itself. What drives you to be better? What lights you up inside? Why is it so important that you’re healthy?
45. The way you do anything is the way you do everything
I picked this phrase up from Wes Watson, who is a fucking machine and incredible motivator, but the principle behind it has stuck with me over the years. If you want something, go all in and get it. If you want average results, be average. Whatever you’re doing, do it with conviction. Do it with purpose.
46. Start where you’re at
I use this a lot in my fitness business and I believe it 100%. If you’re a fat, weak mess, that’s OK. Start there. I’ve been way out of shape many times and I’ve felt like a failure. But I always restart where I’m at and take it a day at a time. Stop comparing yourself to others, to what you used to be like, or what those fuckheads on Instagram are saying. You do you, If you can’t do a single pushups, start there. This applies to every area of your life.
47. Quality of life is everything
I’ve spent many years working my ass off, making difficult choices, and sacrificing things I wanted in order to be where I’m at today. I’ve built the life that I want. I have freedom over my schedule. I work with who I want. I get to help others live better. I work remotely. I travel when I want. I can take a Tuesday off if I want. I get paid what I’m worth. I can’t get fired.
Of course these things came at a cost and there are inherent risks with it as well, but my quality of life is amazing. I’m happy with where I’m at and don’t really have the desire to change it. The one piece of advice I’ll give you is that if you aren’t happy with your quality of life, you owe it to yourself to change it. Do you just want to go through the motions of yet another day? Are you happy with only working to collect a paycheck at the end of the week? Are you willing to spend the rest of your working life taking orders from others? Are you OK with not being able to advance further in your career? Are you frustrated that you can’t go play ball with your kids on a weekday because you have to be in the office?
I already know the answers. If you want to change it, make the commitment and start on it today.
48. Learn and use people’s names
Until just a few years ago, I had a crazy good memory for names and faces. Maybe it’s my age catching up with me because I’m not as good as I used to be, but it was one of the skills that served me well. People want to feel important and special and by learning and using their names, it’s your way of telling them that they are. It’s simple and easy and is just such a good practice.
49. Develop a strong handshake
You don’t need to be this guy, but it sends a positive message to those you meet when you shake their hand firmly. We’ve all experienced the dead fish shake and it’s disgusting. Don’t be that guy.
50. Remember, one day it will be too late
Yes, one day you and I will breathe our last breath and it will be over. It might be tomorrow or it might be in 40 years. All the things you wanted to do, say, and be won’t matter because it will be too late. Today is all we have. Love more. Worry less. Laugh more. Be angry less. Choose happiness. Be grateful. Enjoy your life.