Six Things I've Learned After Living a Quarter Century

I turned 25 this past weekend. It was a great birthday, surrounded by family, friends, delicious pizza and a 3.5 hour game of Settler's of Catan. And it continued on Sunday with lunch with a couple of friends. Birthday weekends are the best. It also caused me to reflect on what 25 meant to me (because it is the biggest milestone since turning 21). Normally birthdays don't do anything for me. It's just another day on the calendar. I worked out with my trainer in the morning, ate a post-workout pick-me-up, and headed over to my parent's house to get access to cable (most notably the Food Network).

This birthday was more.

Warning: the next sentence is slightly pessimistic and realistic. If I live to the average life expectancy, turning 25 means my life is roughly one-third over. But, I feel like it's just beginning. I've got so much more to accomplish: a house to build (not buy), a family to raise, and a company to grow. Those are the big goals.  And those goals came from somewhere. My best guess? They're from 25 years of thinking, talking, listening, processing, imagining, and dreaming.

Today, I want to share some of those thoughts with you.

I didn't want to do the stereotypical "25 things I've learned at 25" post. Those are everywhere. So, I chose 6 things. It's a random number. Keeps me on my toes. Here goes:

(Before we continue, did you catch that rhyme? I'm so proud of myself).

1. Listening is More Important than Talking

I recently wrote a post on listening that got attention from readers. Over the past few weeks, I've done a lot more listening than usual. I'm quieter during meetings at work, pretty much silent after work, and when I hang out with friends and family, I talk out-loud more than I need to.

It's a delicate balance - listening and talking. I'm adopting a practice to only speak up when I have something of value. I've caught myself talking just for the sake of repeating the last person's thoughts or agreeing. That's garbage. Build on the conversation or don't say anything. Challenge who you're talking to or offer a new perspective. Those are the most valuable times to talk.

2. The Best Word to Lift Anyone's Spirits is "Awesome"

I noticed one of my favorite social media tools, Buffer, has a paid plan to "Go Awesome". I want to buy the plan just to feel awesome. Just saying the word excites me. It gets others pumped up, and you're left with a win-win. Have you told someone they're awesome lately? It will change your day. Heck, it's been changing mine for the last 25 years!

3. You'll Constantly Be Amazed at What You Can Do

I know I am. I've started four companies, been awarded a 40 under 40 award from a local magazine, traveled a good amount, lost 50 pounds, realized when I needed to move on, forged friendships with top-notch friends, did a "Filthy 25" workout, rid myself of angry-kid syndrome, and I like kale. The list goes on. How did this happen? It starts with internal motivation. I needed to change. Who I surrounded myself with needed to change. My attitude needed to change, and lastly, I needed more self-confidence.

I'm amazed at where I've been and who I've become. At how I've changed and how I want to continue to change. You have the power to be who you want to be. No one has the ability to make life-altering decisions for you. Afraid of taking the leap into a new career, new city, or new relationship? Get over your fear and just do it. You'll be amazed and what you're capable of.

4. Never Let Anyone Struggle

Shout-out to my Dad for this one. It's stuck with me since I was  five or six years old. Never let anyone struggle. We're all here to help others. If you see someone struggling to get their kid's stroller through the door, hold the door open. If you've got a couple of soup cans you're never going to use, donate them to someone who will. If you're in grid-lock and someone has been waiting to get out forever, wave them through.

You're bound to struggle at one point in your life, so set yourself up for great karma. Lending a hand is not only a nice thing to do, it's the right thing to do. It makes you feel awesome.

5. Read + Write. Every Day.

Several years ago, this would not have been on my list. I hated reading and writing was time-consuming. Yet, they're essential functions of life. Reading transports you to another land, helps you learn about yourself, and forces you to do something that doesn't involve a computer screen. Same with writing. Putting your thoughts on paper is a magical experience. It helps you get through tough times, vent when there's no one around, and quite frankly, become a better writer - personally and professionally. Now, I try to write 1,000 words a day (work and personal projects) and read for 30 minutes almost every night.

6. Life Truly is a Pursuit of Happiness

There's no way you're going to be happy all the time. I've learned you're in a constant pursuit of happiness (thanks, Will Smith). Just when you think you're there, something knocks you down. That's life. Some people choose to move on to find the happiness they used to have. Others spiral into bouts of depression and think life isn't worth living. They'll never be happy.

That's because they're thinking about it all wrong. Happiness isn't a pinnacle. It's not one point in your life. It is your life. There will be ups and downs. You will have dreaded Mondays and dysfunctional family potlucks. And those may not be the happiest of times. But. if you know happiness is a constant journey, you'll know that sunny days are just around the corner.

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Reflection is an important exercise. It causes you to think about the bigger picture - not the  daily minutia. When I reach a milestone, whether a certain age, sales goal, or new relationship, I pause to make sure I'm doing something right. Am I at the right spot? Where have I been? Where do I want to be? How do I get there? One miss-step and you're bound to learn a new lesson.

What do you think? Did I miss something that was a pivotal life lesson when you were 25? Let me know in the comments.