4 min read

On age and intention

The final installment of 40 for 40

Here they are - the final 10 pieces of insight from my first 40 years. If you missed the beginning of this series, you can catch up here, here, or even here. If you’ve been holding your breath and waiting for me to get back to writing about creativity and innovation - good news, I’ll be back to that next month (and unlike that showoff Kevin Kelley, I’m not going to do one of these every year).

I’d rather buy something high quality that costs a bit more that I’ll use for a long time than something lower quality that I’ll have to replace repeatedly.

But, uh, only after I've been cheap and proven that I'll actually stick with it for a bit (and I'll try to find it on sale).

The most important quality to cultivate in a family or a community is the ability to hold together in the face of adversity.

I've seen this so frequently. Unfortunately, I've also seen its inverse too. There are so many negative reactions to adversity (and a reality that even the most healthy reactions need to work through some negativity), but when a group supports each other and steps up to be present for each other and get through a thing together that's a force to be reckoned with. When I saw this happen within my immediate family during the first COVID lockdown, I knew that we could go anywhere and take on anything together.

Be your own toughest critic.

Michael Jackson-Man in the mirror lyrics Man in the mirro...

When you are your own toughest critic and you’re candid and reflective about what you need to prove to yourself, it’s an absolute crucible while you’re in the process - but once you’ve proven it to yourself, you don’t need to worry about proving it to someone else. That carries a lot of freedom.

You'd rather have a lot of extra free time than a lot of extra disposable income.

Pretty sure I'm stealing this from Amos Tversky, but above the survival threshold your time is almost always worth more than the money you can actually command for it...and if that isn't true, then you probably have more than enough money anyway.

Even when you love your work, you need outside interests and time to rest.

This might have been the hardest lesson on this entire list for me to come by, and - if we're being honest - the one I'm most likely to relapse on with stunning regularity. I fully believe this to be true, and I can fully get wrapped up in some new pursuit to the cost of so much else.

Learn to fire yourself at the end of a bad day and rehire yourself in the morning.

You'll have days in adulthood when it's hard to see your way forward and things just feel bleak. On those days, you have to set the low ambition to just make it to the end of the day. I don't know if the next day is actually better, but sometimes you just have better perspective by the time it rolls around.

Define a threshold for yourself of sufficiency.

If you don't, the default will become maximization - you'll always want the most, the best, the greatest. Sometimes that is actually what you want, but often it's more than fine to say, "this would be enough." When you know which is which you can be much more intentional about how you invest your time & energy.

Big decisions are consequential, but you don’t have to be fatalistic about them.

Seth in his twenties absolutely did not know this and felt a great deal of decision paralysis. Life plays itself out, and no matter how well or how poorly you've made decisions you play the hand you've got and figure out how to make the best of it. There is no singular pre-ordained way that it all works out.

Wherever you are, figure out how to live a good part of your life outdoors.

Maybe the most recent lesson I've been learning. For a lot of my life, I thought that people were spending time outdoors because I lived in places with great weather - which made it easy. Living in the Netherlands (where there are many great things but the weather isn't one of them), I've seen that there are practical obstacles that are easily overcome. Get the right gear to make it reasonably comfortable, and just get into it. When you can be outdoors, when there is vast space to explore, your environment is richer and your mental model of the world more complex.

When you sow generosity and passion into a group of people, it resounds with intensity and immediacy.

I had a hard time trying to figure out the last item on this list. There are quite a few candidates that got left on the cutting room floor. I thought the list was set, and then in the last few days before I actually turned 40 I found myself in an intense few days with a group of people where the leaders were so generous and passionate that it left the rest of us almost confused, but it made everyone more vulnerable and open and established this immediate bond that was quite profound. And this wasn't the first time I've seen this phenomenon. But it's worth remembering, because we all have these opportunities from time to time to show up among a group of people, and it's so easy to let our own insecurities take hold. But we can choose to be present in a different way. Generosity and passion both come from a sense of abundance, and I definitely want to live my life out of a sense of abundance.

With that, I’ll probably lay low for a few weeks as we kick off with the Leading Smart Creative Teams course…but I’ll see you back here soon enough.