Monday, August 31, 2009

30 lessons learned in my 30th year

So, it's here. Today is my 31st birthday -- and my golden birthday, to boot!

While the thought of turning 30 last year initially caused me a bit of anguish (in fact, I long referred to it as "the first anniversary of my 29th birthday), I quickly got over it and embraced the big 3-0. And then my 30th year of life unfolded.

If you know me at all, you know that the word "unfolded" doesn't really describe the last 12 months, if only because unfolding is usually a fairly smooth, fluid process. It would probably be more accurate to describe August 31, 2008, through August 30, 2009, as resembling a can of marbles that gets dumped onto the floor, collected and put back into the can, only to be dumped out again. (The good news is that they're all in the can again, and I think I've found a pretty good lid).

From being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder last fall to losing a job I'd worked hard at for nearly seven years when it and two others were eliminated this spring, my 30th year was ... tumultuous. Would I want to do it again? I don't know. Does the gift of hindsight make me appreciate the events of the past year? Certainly.

As such, I've decided to compile a list of 30 things I learned -- or was reminded of -- during my 30th year of life. I share these in no particular order, as this post is largely a "brain dump" of ideas that have been rolling around in my head.

☞ Being good to others without even thinking about it is a blessing to others and to yourself.

☞ There are two true tests of your character: How you behave when no one's looking, and how hard you work when you know it's largely unappreciated by those who control your professional fate.

☞ No matter how old you are, you're still someone's kid. And a hug from your mom can still fix a heck of a lot at any age.

☞ In the event of major and minor life catastrophes, your family will always sift through the rubble and help drag you out. (My family rocks!)

☞ A positive attitude is the best gift you can give yourself. Surrounding yourself with people who inspire, encourage and recognize your good attitude is a close second.

☞ You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. Ultimately, the part you control is the more important part anyway.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
-- Viktor Frankl

☞ Trust your instincts. If you think something is off, it probably is.

☞ Financially, live like you could lose your job at any time ... because, well, you could. A healthy savings account and a low amount of debt will prove highly valuable if your income suddenly disappears.

☞ If you're diagnosed with a disorder -- particularly one that could affect your work, life and relationships -- devote yourself to learning about it. Read everything you can on the subject, especially the most practical and accessible books. Learn about the problematic behaviors to which you may be predisposed and how you can minimize them, but also determine how you actually can harness the disorder's typical effects and turn them into advantages. Also, recognize that those who have been or may be affected by the disorder's effects on you deserve an explanation, so explain and/or apologize as needed, but never use your disorder as an excuse. Do not exist under a shroud of secrecy and silence; it will only stress you out in the end.

☞ Sometimes, a typically devastating event -- like, say, losing your job -- can turn out to be just what the doctor ordered.

☞ Not having a job can provide a huge boost to your career if you use the time wisely.

☞ Good friends are a cure-all (especially good friends who'll share a bottle of wine with you. ha!).

☞ There's no substitute for good customer service. Its impact can be deep.

☞ Diplomacy does not make you a phony.

☞ A benefit of being sincere and truthful is that you never have to worry about remembering what you said to whom. The clear conscience is the best part, though.

☞ A true friendship is one that seemingly ended abruptly and badly years ago but somehow manages to pick right back up in its best place when you see that old friend again.

☞ The smallest thing can make someone's day in a major way.

☞ Being bitter takes far more energy than being gracious. Besides, being gracious is more fun than being bitter because it drives the people who expected -- or perhaps even wanted -- you to be bitter completely nuts.

☞ When you take the time to mentor young people, you'll most likely see them become high achievers, and you'll probably even receive sincere thanks from them. And it feels amazing.

☞ Being an adult does have its privileges. The option to have ice cream for dinner is my favorite of those.

☞ The most amazing people in your life might be the ones you originally found in the most unexpected places. (You know who you are!)

☞ Flying isn't that scary after all. (And now that I realize that, I'm making the most of it!)

☞ Look out for yourself; you're the only one who's obligated to do so.

☞ If you feel that someone in a position of power has painted a bullseye on your back, don't write that feeling off. It's real. And the more that person unsolicitedly tells you that you're paranoid, the more real it is, But don't crack. Continue to do good work and be pleasant. You'll feel better about yourself in the end.

☞ People who have reputations as being kind, fun and reasonable are capable of being quite the opposite, especially if you see through it and they know it.

☞ Buzzwords and corporate-speak do nothing to enhance your credibility.

☞ Everything happens for a reason. Everything. Don't question it; just roll with it. You'll be a better person for it.

☞ Self-awareness is highly underrated, but dedicate yourself to it anyway. However, don't obsess over it, or you'll drive yourself and everyone else crazy.

☞ Recognizing your natural talents and limitations and acting accordingly is wise and brave. Don't let anyone tell you it means you're not ambitious; in fact, the people who tell you it means you're not ambitious are probably in over their heads at jobs that they hate.

☞ If you take care of/help others when you're in a position to do so, you'll find that the universe "has your back" when you're the one who needs help ... especially if you weren't thinking about that when you were doing your good deeds.


  1. I'd say that your 30th year was groundbreaking for you! I enjoyed revisiting the 30 things that you have learned and comparing them to the 54 things that I have learned. Not surprising, the lists are very similar (although, sadly, mine is nearly twice the size - LOL)

  2. you rock, Linds. these are GREAT! totally relevant good stuffs. happy 31 - welcome to the club :)

  3. Happy 31st, LAKINDAY! Yes, Lakinday. ;-)

  4. (((((((((((HUG))))))))))) Love ya, Mom

  5. Hey, "Anonymous" (ha!) ... I hope you recognized yourself in *at least* one of those 30. :)

    And thanks!

  6. First, Happy Birthday (and yes, I mean today!!). :)

    Glad to see you've "accepted" the inevitable - and if it makes you feel any better, you're still 10 years behind me ;-)


  7. It's important to be reflective with each passing year...great list of life lessons, Lindsay!

    My fave:
    Everything happens for a reason. Everything. Don't question it; just roll with it. You'll be a better person for it.

    (This is one I try my best to remember each day!)

  8. Happy, Happy Birthday LMA!


  9. Bravo, Lindsay. I'm suffering a little from "list fatigue," and this was as refreshing a list as it was a lovely read. Congratulations for all the lessons you've learned, those you've taught, and the perennial student I know you are - that's the best kind. I hope your 32nd year brings you much joy.

  10. I LOVE that your parents comment on your blog. That just makes me smile like crazy. :)

    I have to admit, it is SO easy to fall into a bad spot after the kind of year you (we?) have had and it's so impressive to me when the people I know take the worst of the lemons and make a whole vat of awesome lemonade. You are a fantastic example so many people should be looking up to for inspiration--especially those who've let uncontrollable factors beat them down.

    My favorite lesson of yours? "You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. Ultimately, the part you control is the more important part anyway." SO IMPORTANT.

    You kick so much butt, lady, and I hope 31 is filled with all the greatness you deserve. :)

  11. Lindsay, this post is fantastic! Sometimes, those unexpected life events that initially appear to be negative are actually just blessings in disguise. Glad to see everything falling into place for you!

    Happy birthday!!
    Heather (@prtini)

  12. Happy, happy birthday, Lindsay!

    When I stressed about my 30th birthday, my mom said to me, "The 30s are your best years. You have some work experience. You're making some money. And you finally begin to know as much as you think you do."

    She was right.

  13. Great list, Lindsay! I especially liked "Diplomacy does not make you a phony." It seems that's something people often forget.

  14. you rock, lindz. all good, and true.

  15. Sounds a lot like my 25th year. Very introspective, and such a great post Lindsay...I'm sure many can benefit from your sage advice, myself included!

  16. First of all, congrats. Second, applause for having such a golden Golden Birthday, and knowing what that means scores you points.

    The list is great. So wise, so roll-with-the-punches, so a'propos.

    I promise to buy you a drink -- or one of those pizza pot pies -- next time you're in Chicago.


  17. It is a Happy Birthday when you can look at all the wisdom afforded you during these last 12 months. Truly, you are an inspiring woman! Love you.

  18. What amazing life lessons...all learned in 30 short years! ;) Sharing all the knowledge you've acquired about life is a great way to celebrate your birthday. Thanks for spreading your wisdom. I've been thinking about creating a similar list to celebrate my big 2-5, so you've definitely inspired m!

  19. Wise words from a young whipper snapper. :) Celebrate all week long and let me know when you are coming to Texas.