On Leadership, Random DJB Thoughts, What's Next...
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Learning life’s lessons

One of the evergreen posts on More to Come is a piece I wrote for my 60th birthday entitled 60 lessons from 60 years. * It was great fun to compile and seven years later it still wears well.

The idea of capturing lessons learned through living came to me from sportswriter Joe Posnanski in a post now blocked behind a paywall. Posnanski’s birthday post led me to look for other examples where thoughtful people take stock of what matters at significant mileposts in life.

Thus, I was thrilled when 35 Lessons on the Way to 35 Years Old hit my email inbox this week from author and bookstore owner Ryan Holiday.

I want you to read his entire list, but here are excerpts to whet your appetite, beginning with one that really hits home for me:

Don’t compare yourself to other people. You never know who is taking steroids. You never know who is drowning in debt. You never know who is a liar.

How often do we attempt to help other people understand why we make our decisions? Stop doing that!

You don’t have to explain yourself. I read one of Sandra Day O’Connor’s clerks say that what she most admired about the Supreme Court Justice was that she never said “sorry” before she said no. She just said “no” if she couldn’t or didn’t want to. So it goes for your boundaries or interests or choices. You can just say no. You can explain to your relatives they need to get a hotel instead of staying at your house. You can just live how you feel most comfortable. You don’t have to justify. You don’t have to explain. You definitely don’t need to apologize.

Here is one from Holiday’s list that is simple and straightforward.

You don’t have to be anywhere. You don’t have to do anything. All that pressure is in your head. It’s all made up.

A couple of pieces of good health-related advice:

Just drink more water. It’s very unlikely you’re drinking enough and a veritable certainty that you’re not drinking too much. Trust me, you’ll feel better.

Same goes with walking. Walks improve almost everything.

It is very important to care about other people. Period. I recommend you click through and read the story that Holiday includes in this lesson.

I was reading a book recently and I could feel a part of my mind trying to find a way to blame the subjects of the book for their own problems. The reason I was doing this, I came to reflect, was that if it was their fault, then I wouldn’t really have to care. I wouldn’t have to do anything or change any of my beliefs. I think it is this impulse that explains so much of where we are in the world today. THIS HEADLINE HERE is one that I think about almost every single day for that reason. You have to fight that trick of the mind, the one that looks for reasons not to care. It’s the devil’s magic.

Finally, a related lesson.

Despair and cynicism only contribute to the problem. Hope, good faith, a belief in your own agency? These are the traits that drive the change that everyone else has declared to be impossible.

Think about the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Maybe you’ll find a way to post them on your next significant birthday.

More to come…


*That post was followed the next day by Comments on 60 lessons from 60 years to capture feedback that came from emails and other sources.

Image of watch and wisdom from Pixabay.

This entry was posted in: On Leadership, Random DJB Thoughts, What's Next...


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. DJB says

    My friend Merrill wrote the following in response to this on my LinkedIn page:

    “Excellent! I *really* want to go to his bookstore. He posted a great video about how he approached the design and contents that I found fascinating. I was about 30 miles away a couple of months ago and almost went but then took an earlier flight home instead (right decision at the time), so now I need to plan a bookstore-specific road trip!”

    • DJB says

      In response, I wrote to her:

      “So glad you liked it, Merrill. From the descriptions, it appears to be another of those terrific independent bookstores that draw us in. I like the idea of a bookstore road trip. I may do a post for a “virtual” trip like that and ask friends which ones I should include. In about 5 seconds I could think of several I’ve enjoyed: P&P and Kramerbooks in DC of course; Books, Inc. in Alameda, CA; Shakespeare & Company and The Red Wheelbarrow bookstore in Paris; Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi; Elliott Bay Books in Seattle; Powell’s in Portland, OR; and Maria’s Bookshop in Durango. That’s a pretty good list there!”

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