40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

I turned 40 this week. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for the last year, and it finally happened.

So for my own sake, and for my children, and others who might enjoy it, I challenged myself to write 40 things I’ve learned in 40 years on earth.

Please note: I reserve the right to be wrong, to change and amend anything, but I think this is it. Mileage may vary. But grey hairs persist.

Here goes:

  1. Life, happiness and success is ALL about people and relationships and the special times you share together. Thus, always be seeking to build great epic relationships. I have so many now that I’m thankful for but I’m selfish and want more good relationships and deeper ones with the people I have now. In fact, last year, I started my top 100 relationships list.
  2. Choosing the right mate was the single most important decision I have made in my life for my health and happiness and success. And the biggest priority for my no. 1 relationship is devoting quality time together, loving each other in your Love Language, going on weekly dates (or whatever gets Quality Time together), and constantly be aligning your goals and dreams.
  3. Life is a book. Chapters end, new ones begin. It’s not about one event, it’s the overall story you’re telling. Remarkably, I’ve found life does go on. Sometimes I wanted some chapters to end too fast, instead of savoring the moment. But my goal is to craft each chapter so the story just gets better and better.
  4. A lot of chapters in my book are people. And people come and go. That’s just part of life.
  5. Life is a roller coaster, with highs and lows, twists and turns. Sometimes it feels out of your control. And knowing that I seek daily to control only what I can control (my thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions). Knowing I’m on a roller coaster helps me manage that better. And in the context of people, purpose and values it helps me more, do more, have more and better.
  6. Regarding the lows. Sometimes life sucks, and then you get back up again. Always get back up. Even when it really sucks to get up. Sometimes you need help. Sometimes you need to wallow it in for a season, then just get back up. Things happen and that’s what we call the past. But ALWAYS get back up though and keep moving forward.
  7. I’ve not arrived, and hope I never think I do or will. There is always something to learn, a new challenge to face.
  8. Be bold(er). Live bold(er). If I had one regret for my first 40 years, it was that I wasn’t bolder. I wish I had taken more chances and believed in the potential I have to offer the world of my time, talent and treasure here. Sadly I devalued and undervalued who I am and what I have to offer the world. That’s waste. And too often because of that I let people run over or trample me. This book changed my life for the better.
  9. Being myself, discovering who I am, and then being true, every day, to who I am, is truest freedom and treasure I savor every day. Coming into my 40s, I think I know most of who I am, yet have more to discover. However, the parts I’ve discovered … I’m immensely proud of. I won’t give those up. It’s me, take it or leave it. For those who don’t respect or cherish that, I’ve gotten better at showing them the exit sign of my life.
  10. Time is the rarest, most valuable currency. Spend it wisely. (HT to Lindsey Miller for teaching me this.)
  11. Laughing is healing. Laughing is happiness. I want to put myself in more situations to laugh out loud, belly laugh, laugh until I cry, laugh until I pee my pants … and laugh together with the people i love … more. My dirty secret is YouTube fail videos. Our team has been doing monthly-ish hangouts at one of our houses. I love sitting by the fire, sharing a good meal and libations and telling our funny stories.
  12. Conflict and troubles and storms of life add seasoning and flavor to it. Although I don’t enjoy them in the moment, it makes me so much more grateful for my life and who is in it. This is one aspect I’m trying to be in the moment more for, to understand the place and value of those things in order to live a better life.
  13. Setting healthy boundaries for what and who I will allow in my life has been a key, non-negotiable element to my happiness and health. In the moment, it sucks, but the reward has always been a brighter tomorrow. Been trying to tweak this belief but it’s something to this effect: Always love yourself with respect and compassion, but not at harm of others’ health and happiness … and … Always love others richly and deeply, but not at the harm of your health and happiness.
  14. Investing in people always holds the greatest return on investment of my time, talent and treasure. I’ve found nothing else comes close to its reward and joy.
  15. My purpose in life is to make people’s lives awesome.
  16. Sometimes you have to … DANCE IT OUT. For a season in our marriage, when Lindsey and I would get a little heated or frustrated at each other, whether it’s an argument, or just flat out fight, we’d say, “OK, dance it out.” The rule is non-negotiable … you must stop talking and start dancing. Sometimes it’s a low-effort shoulder roll, other times it’s full-on break dancing, depending on our moods. But its effect has been profound for us. It breaks the tension and forces you to try to smile. This applies to all of life too. I think maybe the other translation for this is: Don’t take yourself too serious. Goofiness, which I come by naturally, helps … oh and I’m a terrible dancer.
  17. True friends rush in, while everyone else runs out. If there was one good benefit to hard times for me, it’s realizing who’s with you and who isn’t. And since my time is precious, I only want to spend it with those who walk with me on the long road. As I scan my life today, I cherish and am so deeply thankful for the special set of people who love me and who I love so deeply. #pals
  18. Hope, optimism and positivity are indispensable for life and happiness. They should be my Default settings. I spent too much time with my Default set to Negative. As Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes in her awesome book, Life Reimagined, “Your thinking is your experience.” It’s something I’m seeking to be more conscious of every day.
  19. I am lucky. I want to be lucky. Shawn Achor in his book “The Happiness Advantage” shares a research study about luck that changed my attitude altogether (Essentially, if you think you’re lucky, you’re able to see opportunities more clearly). So I consider myself even more lucky now. (For years, I carried around a fortune cookie that read: “You will be unusually successful in business.”) And I know I’ve had a huge amount of luck, combined with hard work and seeking to do right and good by people.  But I want to make the best of my good fortune and luck and always be on the lookout for new opportunities. If life is a lime (I like limes), I want to squeeze all of the juice out of it for my special cocktail.
  20. Everybody hurts, and it’s OK to ask for help. I’m not alone. Don’t try it alone. Thinking about life as an iceberg helps me.
  21. Guilt is useless. I wallowed in it too much for needless things.
  22. Don’t live your dreams. Choose them. And then have dreams big enough for several lifetimes. In my late 30s I realized I had accomplished everything I set out and dreamed of doing in my adolescence. Then I was left a bit empty and wondering, “Is this as good as it gets?” I have been formulating bigger, bolder dreams ever since.
  23. Jealousy, bitterness, envy are some of the most damaging obstacles to my happiness and health. They are self-inflicted. I now seek to be happy for others, while quickly refocusing on what I want.
  24. “Anger and frustration come from unmet expectations.” (HT my business mentor Michael Smith) Whenever I get angry, I try to ask myself what expectation of myself or someone else I had. Is it something I can correct, or does someone else need to change? And I can only control myself and my expectations.
  25. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And going together has been more fun and exponentially more impactful. We resonate and follow people who share two qualities: Caring and Cause.
  26. I was never into fashion, still am not, however, having clothes that fit and that I feel and look good in are such an incredible boost to my self esteem, confidence and happiness.
  27. What I might have lacked in mentors or experience, I made up for by reading and learning. I’m where I am today because I am a voracious reader and would likely wither and die if I stopped learning new things.
  28. Obstacles are opportunities, Cory. Obstacles are opportunities, Cory. Obstacles are opportunities, Cory. Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” This book has become my mantra for life, so much so I bought the audiobook so I could listen to it while I drive.
  29. Look to the future, while savoring the present. I love thinking about the future, but too many times neglected being thankful for and dwelling in what my present held for me. When I focused too much on the future, I wasn’t grateful for what I had.
  30. Writing is therapy. It’s so many others things, but last year I started writing in a private journal (typing actually). It’s been such an amazing thing for me. In fact, this post started out as a journal entry on my 40th birthday.
  31. Ignore the noise. Stupid people don’t matter anyway. (HT Lisa Sabin-Wilson) What matters is you, your team/family and and the people you’re trying to help.
  32. I spent a lot of time figuring out what I like and what I don’t like … and in the middle of that and just growing older and letting myself submit to crankiness, I found I became more persnickety and less open to trying new things. And some things about myself I may need to change.
  33. I have lived in one of the best, most incredible times in history and I’m so thankful for that. Now we have a huge opportunity. I am both excited and scared for what the future holds, in particular for my children. But I think the best is yet to come.
  34. After changing jobs on average every two years since I was 16, I finally found the best job ever, the one meant for me — Entrepreneur. After 8 years, I still have to pinch myself.
  35. Parenting is THE hardest job I have ever had. (Thank God I have an amazing partner and mother along for the journey.) I naively thought instinctively I would be an awesome dad. That somehow I just woke up one day and was awesome. And then I had kids and realized how much I have to learn and improve. Just recently I realized I had to change some things about myself and I’m working on those. Also: I wish I could have thumped myself in the nose every time I saw a parent and made a judgment about them in the past. But my dad was right … my children, although they are utterly exhausting and frustrating at times, beyond the love of my life, my wife, are the best gifts ever. The special moments I’ve had with them in the last 3+ years have been some of the best in my life.
  36. The mind is the most powerful tool I have to improve. I can program it. It takes what I give it. And mostly I gave it crap. Too often I fed it lies. Or more powerful took the thoughts of others as truth, or even more sadly my perceptions of what others thought as Gospel.
  37. Perfect sucks. It’s an illusion and a lie. It is a thief that steals the time, talent and treasure we have to offer the world.
  38. Genuineness and vulnerability are a rare gift you offer the world. It’s something people crave. The more I’ve opened up about myself, and what I’ve experienced or feel, the more it’s drawn people in.
  39. Rest, relaxation and recreation are vital to health and happiness. I’ve gotten better at this and discovering the things I can do to get a recharge. When I’m on Empty, I’m not very good for anyone, let alone myself.
  40. All the experiences, lessons, relationships and resources I’ve accumulated in my first 40 years will help me make the most of the next 40 and beyond. (HT Rebecca Gill) Go big. Go bold. Make the most of what I have to be and do better.

Here’s to the next 40!

P.S. — While the hair on my head has thinned and greyed … ear hair never stops growing. To the 20 or 30 year old reading this please know, the hair on your head retreats and replants in awkward places. Facts of life, people!

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  1. This is awesome, Cory!

    Thanks for all the things you do for all of us and for making great products. Cheers to your next 40 years mate!

  2. Thank you for sharing Cory. I love the “Dance it out” concept. My wife and I might just try that one. And I’ll confirm as I am in my mid 30’s that hair does in fact replant in weird places.

  3. Cory,
    First of all – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    You are seriously such a HUGE inspiration to me – both personally and in my business!

    I love iThemes and your entire support team! I love that you shared all of this extremely helpful, useful, and honest information about your many experiences in life! I love your dedication to your family and to making sure your work team is happy and fulfilled.

    I put you very high on my list of people who inspire me…so thank you for continuing to do so!

    🙂 Stefani

    1. Thanks Stefani! Hope we get to meet in person sometime soon.

      Comments like this keep me amped up to keep pushing publish. Thank you for that!

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