Last Updated on December 17, 2019 by Audrey Scott
I turned 40 yesterday. Yep, I’m almost hesitant to admit it. Almost. There are days where I’d like to think I’m suspended permanently at either 23 or 33. But that's not the way time, this construct we’ve created to capture the constant state of change in the world around us, actually works.
“What have you learned over these years?” a friend asked in light of the occasion.
“Good question,” I thought, having no immediate answer at the ready. In an attempt to catch up to the query, I jotted some tidbits that reflect my life circumstances, my travel experiences (of course) and the lessons from countless people who've showed me some of the light in the strangest of ways.
Hypocritical Blogger Note: I don’t always do these things myself, but I try. I am a work in progress.
40 Life Nuggets at 40
1. Manage your expectations. They are the key to your satisfaction. (Please keep this in mind while reading this list.)
2. Be thankful. Gratitude is becoming.
3. Especially gratitude for small things.
4. Whatever you think you need, you can probably live with less.
5. Awareness is often productive. Fear usually is not.
6. If it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Likewise, if it smells like crap, it’s probably crap. (Don't ask me about duck crap.)
7. Moderation in everything. Unless you really like it. (I kid. Kidding is good, too).
8. Eat like a bird and
shit poop like an elephant.
9. Give others the benefit of the doubt. But have your boxing gloves ready, just in case.
10. If you don't really need to, don't react immediately. Take deep breaths, then respond.
11. Stretch. Move your body – and your mind – in ways it’s not accustomed to.
12. How can you appreciate the good if you haven’t experienced some of the bad?
13. Music is good for the soul. Listen to it. Make it. Dance to it.
14. Exercise. Walk. Bicycle. Do whatever — just keep moving.
15. Use dental floss.
16. Be your own guru. The moment you sign someone else up for that job is the moment you’ve handed over responsibility for your own personal evolution.
17. Take joy in the free, the intangible. Things like sun, fresh air — things that prove you are alive.
18. If you feel like shit, try doing something different. Repeat.
19. Sometimes it's necessary to defer enjoyment. But be careful not to defer it to when you are dead.
20. Don’t save “great moments” for special occasions. Spread them out. Take them when they present themselves.
21. Be curious. Even when it comes to mundane things.
22. Beliefs are good.
23. So is evidence to the contrary.
24. Doubts are good, too.
25. I think there's something bigger than all of us. I don’t know if it has a beard though.
26. There’s great strength and opportunity in not knowing everything.
27. There’s even greater strength in realizing it.
28. And still greater strength in accepting it.
29. Don’t take for granted. Take stock.
30. Everything is on loan, to all of us.
31. Don’t expect the unexpected. Just know that it’s out there.
32. There is wisdom in youth. Likewise, there is energy in old age.
33. The past is to learn from. The present is to live in. The future is to build for. Try not to mix them up.
34. Small steps lead to big things.
35. Eat Brussels sprouts.
36. Life is liquid. We are suspended in it. That means we’re in it together.
37. Leave a little bit on the table. Life does not need to be eaten in one bite.
38. In life, there’s no proxy for experience.
39. Seek joy. If you seek it, it's more likely you'll find it.
40. This is all subject to change. (a.k.a. READ THE FINE PRINT)
I'm sure there's more, but I only have 40 years under my belt. Guess I'll have to look forward to 50 to add 10 more.
42 thoughts on “40 Life Nuggets at 40”
@Matt: Thanks on both accounts. That whole “younger than you are” thing is by design.
@Erin: Thanks. Indeed, travel keeps you young…for so many of the reasons mentioned above. Glad you enjoyed and laughed. Especially glad that you had no idea I was near 40 🙂
Good to see you’ve learned a couple of things in four decades, Dan! 🙂 I like your style…
@Stephanie: #8 roughly translates to “consume less, produce more” Having said that, producing a lot of poo (or BS) isn’t good either. But the consumption vs. production concept is worth considering, whether one’s concern is diet/weight/health or sharing ideas. The quote comes from Guy Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries.
@Adam: Thanks! Great to see you here. I figured it’s the least I could do with the time I was given.
@Dyanne: Young — now you’re talkin’! Thank you. Great list, short and sweet.
As for my #10, it has served me well lately.
I love this! I just tweeted this article 5 times linking to my favorite quotes.
I love a lot of them, but this one is my favorite: Be your own guru. The moment you sign someone else up for that job is the moment youâ€™ve handed over responsibility for your own personal evolution.
And the one I’m currently struggling with: Manage your expectations. They are the key to your satisfaction.
Although I know the truth to the above statement and have been actively muling it over the past few weeks, I still set my expectations very high, which isn’t all that bad, except when I set myself up for failure. I think I’m failing when I’m actually accomplishing and experiencing a lot, not a good thing.
I need to re-work my expectations so I can live happier.
I think I may print this out and stick it on my wall in my room. I’m actually de-cluttering right now, getting rid of at least 3 things every day until my 24th birthday, and I got rid of a good chunk of stuff before I started this 3 things a day goal. But I’m going to remove all of the stuff from one of my walls because it’s beginning to overwhelm me.
I think I’ll replace the 20 something signs, etc on my wall with just one thing, this post.
This is cool. Thanks. 🙂
Again happy birthday but i always thought u were much younger.
Happy Birthday Dan! This has confirmed my theory that travel keeps you young – I had no idea you were near 40! Some great (and funny) tips here.
I’m not sure I understand #8, but I definitely enjoyed learning from your 40 years.
Happy Birthday, “young” man!
A fine list to strive for. My own (for more than 6 decades!) is much shorter:
1. Live simply
2. Give more
3. Expect less
That said, I really like your #10.
Happy birthday!!! You certainly look a lot younger, being on the road suits you well!!
I must say that you guys are inspiring… and I am quite sure that travel in fact makes you wiser.
Keep up the good spirits, and I hope you add at least another 40 life nugggets to your list! =)
Happy Birthday Dan. Great article. Profound but in your usual fun and non pretentious style. I have to say that traveling not only makes you look younger but it probably makes you wiser too..
Nice Birthday post, Dan. I didn’t think you were 40 either, so it proves that age doesn’t really matter. Most important is how you feel 🙂
I can totally relate to number 20. you should take every single opportunity that presents itself every time. Congratulations on turning 40! Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday – I’m 43 so had to use the magnifier on my computer on the last one…holding out a litte longer on the glasses.
thanks for sharing the world with us! 🙂
Well first of all wish you a very very Happy B’day and i do not think that you look 40, you still look like a 25 year old guy.
Ah, browsing the comments now I understand #8. Had been wondering about it quite a while, though. Happy birthday Dan! Hope to read way more travel stories from you both soon, you got yourself a gorgeous blog there, love it!
Happy Birthday- I just turned 39 on the 4th.
Congrats on your great blog. It is one of the best travel blogs out there. Thanks for the hours of entertainment. This list was really enjoyable too.
Happy birthday! I really enjoyed your list!
In honor of your 40th birthday, I just drove the length of I-40 (nearly) from California to Nashville this week =)
I’m a firm believer in #15- dental floss! Happy Birthday, I enjoyed reading this!
@Emelina: I wasn’t focused much on the sequence of the 40 items, except for #1, which I felt was arguably the most important. As a consultant, I would always share that with clients, but the more I said it the more I realized it was relevant in our personal lives as well.
There’s nothing wrong with setting high expectations. Many of us wish to demand more of ourselves and others. The question is how reasonable those expectations are. Then you get into the question of which of those expectations we have influence on and control over, and which we don’t. That’s where the *manage* part comes in.
I’m also glad you like “Be your own guru.” — when there’s so much philosophy and advice floating around out there, it’s tempting to cede control of one’s own development.
I’m flattered that you would consider printing this out. Will look forward to hearing more from you.
@Claudia: Thanks! Your comment made my day. I’m not going to make any bones about it: I love to hear that I look younger than my age. And that we might be inspiring to others.
I’ll look forward to sharing more nuggets as the years comeâ€¦and reading more of your comments!
@Jeffrey: Thank you! What a terrific compliment. If I could have described my goal (in terms of the tone of this piece), it would have been exactly as you’ve written.
@Agne: I had *you* fooled?? Now I’m really proud.
In the grand scheme, age doesn’t matter. It’s just a fact of life. As with other facts of life, it’s what you do with it.
@Anthony: Thanks! Glad you liked the great moments are for every day. Take ’em when you can.
@Pooja: 25. I’ll take that.
@Phyllis: Thank you. That’s funny. I halfway expected someone to say “please give us a break with the tiny text.” Keep holding out on the glasses!
@Erik: Happy birthday to you! And a big thanks for the congratulations and compliments. Great to hear that you are enjoying the site.
@Nikkie: Thanks! Glad #8 got some much needed clarification. Nice to see you here.
@Jose: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.
@Kristin: I’ve done that drive a couple of times now. Know it well. The I-40 sign (with the asterisked expletive) was my own very late minute handiwork and addition to this piece.
@Anis: Excellent, another dental floss lover! Sometimes Audrey and I think we’re a little overboard. But hey, “real age” says flossing gets you +/- 8 years.
@Tommy: You’re a funny guy Sully…
Wow…must suck to be forty…..oh, wait…….crap.
Happy birthday Dan. Great tips, especially no. 17, taking joy in the free things in life. Feeling the sun on my skin after a long winter make me feel both alive and grateful. Not so sure about 35 though, the best thing I can say about brussels sprouts are that they make me appreciate all of the other, more palatable vegetables in the world.
@Bianca: That resonates. The joy of the sun (on the skin, in the eyes, in the soul it seemed) after a long, dark winter. I’ve known more than a few of those.
Oh, the poor misunderstood brussels sprout. Maybe #35 should read “Eat your peas. Or your broccoli. Or your brussels sprouts. Or eat those green things on the plate that you know are probably good for you.” I had considered “eat your vegetables”, though some have claimed ketchup is a vegetable, so that was out the window.
@Robin: Big thanks. I’m working on 80 for 80 right now. You know, it’s never too early to get started.
Thanks for sharing Daniel. Will be interesting to read the “80 at 80” to see those that have changed and new ones … mind you, I hope my memory at 80 holds out to the end!
Feliz CumpleaÃ±os Daniel … and many more.
happy birthday man those are some great tips
hey…happy Birthday..nice list.i could relate to 38 and 34 more. i agree that we can live happily on less things(most of the free stuff).
This is a great list! Some real gems in there. And happy birthday!
Happy Birthday, Dan. Those words of wisdom ring true and are great advice! I am 14 years older than you but haven’t travelled even a quarter as much. Good luck with the next 40 and keep travelling and keep writing for the rest of us! And good luck to your wife Audrey too – the other half of Uncornered Market.
And unlike the barber from Bangladesh who thought you looked older because you lost your hair, I don’t think you look older than 30!
The bird/elephant one… wow!
Happy Birthday Dan 🙂
In response to #13: so, when are we going to see dancing Dan? Dance, Dan, dance!
Also, brussels sprouts are gross. Is broccoli a good substitute?
Lord, you realize I’m slightly (very slightly) older than you? My joints tell me so, yet my face tells me something else, then my wisdom sums up those years in this list you posted. Beautifully, I might add.
If I were to add to this: act to who you are, not what age everyone thinks you should.
That’s my motto, been working for me. 🙂
And Dan, happy belated! Do people really think you look like Ben Affleck? Then, you must be doing something right.
@gautami: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Small steps, big things. Your experience. Have fun!
@Sutapa: Thank you! Loved your message. Very sweet. Sent chills, actually. And good luck to you with the next 40.
As for the barber in Kuala Lumpur and his news, whether or not I go bald, I will try to do the 40 things on my list.
@Henry, Jordan: Thank you!
@Yan: Laughing. Thanks for the wishes, and the laugh.
@Kyle: I can dance if I want to.
As for the brussels sprouts, you are forgiven. And broccoli or peas — spinach even — will do.
@Jeannie: Thanks. I always thought you were 30-ish 🙂
I think we all pretty much act to who we are, apparent age included. From there, it’s a matter of how others respond.
I’ve been told a number of times I look like Ben Affleck. I’ve also heard Hugh Grant, Matt Damon. Oh, and Margaret Thatcher.
I think I’m doing something right. I feel perfectly good, now a week into 40. I’m told it gets trickier at 50, 60, etc. But just this last week, a 98-year old woman in San Francisco received a black belt in judo, proving that it’s pretty much never too lateâ€¦for anything, including fulfilling your lifelong dreams:
glad to see you’re still out there having fun at 40. I just turned 39, and some people think my wanderlust is a bit immature. Bullshit. I love your list, even the part about flossing… I’m a dentist
@Matt: 39 is a great age. I remember it well. As for premature wanderlust, I remember having it when I was 5. At that time, my range was a bit more limited though.
Glad you enjoyed the list, flossing included. Big respect for the men and women who help us mind our teeth!
Welcome to MidLife!! ;-0
@Sandi: Tagging this “mid-life crisis” was tongue-in-cheek. Midlife is in the eye of the beholder. I think this is just the beginning.
Very nice post and congrats on turning 40! I don’t know about the brussel sprouts though not a fan…i couldnt see number 40 without a microscope
@Kirk: Thank you on both accounts. Really nice to hear that you enjoyed this.
Regarding brussels sprouts, there’s been some resistance in the comments. I also imagine that the vocal anti-brussels sprouts crowd speaks for a silent majority. But I’m going to hold fast. The key is to broil them in salt, pepper and olive oil until they turn black on the outside. Then they are amazing. Outside of that, I guess I’m saying eat something green. Broccoli? Peas? Spinach? Green beer? OK, scratch that.
As for the readability of number 40, you are not alone. (A serious tip to read tiny font in your browser: Command and “+” on Mac OSX. I forget what it is in Windows. Probably CTRL and “+”.)