40 for 40: What I’ve Learned Thus Far

With my two left size 13 feet, no one is more surprised than me to make it this far in life. I imagined sickle cell, the police or diabetes would’ve had their way with me, but God has ensured I continue to be blessed and highly favored… and for that I am giving praise hands today.

I’m not one to celebrate my birthdays (unless under duress), but in honor of my 40th birthday, I have put together my own version of Biggie’s classic “Ten Crack Commandments,” (minus the step-by-step cooking recipe and classic “Scarface” movie references). I’m pet coon crazy, but hopefully some of these hard fought lessons resonate with you, and in these dark times gives you a roadmap to hopefully keep your head above water.

  1. Age is not a barometer of intelligence. (Just setting the tone that I am self-aware!)
  2. Don’t answer the door of everyone that knocks. Protect your peace.
  3. When you change your location, you can change your perspective. Just remember: wherever you go, there you are. If you aren’t at peace, even heaven will feel like hell.
  4. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. When you take the easy road, you ultimately cheat yourself.
  5. Optimism keeps you young, but wisdom keeps you alive. Discernment is key.
  6. Dreams come true, they don’t come cheap. Everything has a price.
  7. “No” is a complete sentence. Save your breath and the explanations.
  8. I have no issues letting others drive… but the moment you show me you don’t know where you are going, I will rip that steering wheel out of your hand!
  9. Rejection is protection. What’s for you won’t miss you.
  10. Everything has a cost. Either you pay in time, or you pay in money. Either way, you pay.
  11. If something about someone triggers your spirit, listen to your body. We spend so much time playing devil’s advocate giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt. Trust your intuition.
  12. You win or you learn. Period.
  13. Not everyone from the pilot makes it to the series finale. In life, your cast of characters, locations and storylines will change. Life will carry on. You’ll do it live with the company on hand. Through that, I have learned nothing is ever good or bad. It’s just different.
  14. NEVER accept criticism from someone whose advice you wouldn’t take.
  15. Give more than you take. You’ll sleep better. 
  16. Everything can be tackled if you break it down into steps. As a minority, I’ve never had the option of being anything less than impeccable. It has gone from a burden to my superpower. 
  17. I try to be more excited for my friends’ wins than my own, especially in times I am struggling. Your day will come too.
  18. When you help others, you ultimately help yourself.
  19. … But be careful who you save, you could be interrupting their karma.
  20. Know the “why” in the things you do and the choices you make. It will help you get up in the morning.
  21. Focus on improving yourself, not proving yourself. In the words of Jeff Jarrett, “To a critic, no explanation will do. To a fan, no explanation is needed.”
  22. Time alone is never time wasted, especially if you are at peace with it.
  23. Once you see moments in your life falling under the bucket of existing for a “reason, season or lifetime,” letting go of things becomes easier.
  24. Your relationship with yourself is your most important one. Don’t abandon yourself… not for a lover, family, work or anything else.
  25. Friends. Family. Colleagues. Acquaintances. Know their differences. Everyone has a category for a reason. 
  26. If you don’t know where you stand with someone, that’s your answer. If someone respects you, there will never be ambiguity.
  27. If it’s not an addition to your life, subtract it.
  28. Your truth may free others. Never be afraid to be open and honest.
  29. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I’m not the best at anything, but I’ll never be outworked. EVER. 
  30. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Additionally, no job or relationship will ever be worth your health or sanity. Don’t do an exit interview. They know. (Again, save your breath.) 
  31. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t allow the illusion of social media to control your self-worth. 
  32. My dear cousin Howie used to say, “You can only meet someone as deeply as they’ve met themselves.” If someone tells you who they are, trust it. They’ve known themselves much longer. 
  33. Complacency is death. If you stand still for too long, you are a dinosaur waiting to become extinct.
  34. If someone tells me they are something, I am suspicious. Your YELP reviews from others and the way you live your life should speak on its own.
  35. Everyone sees themselves as the main character… I call it the “Carrie Bradshaw syndrome.” Leaders lead. Earn the right to have top billing.
  36. People who are just as invested in your goals are priceless. I listen to the problems of others and then add “What can WE do about it?” Even if they don’t take me up on the offer, you can help someone feel seen and heard.
  37. Few people are as brave as they think they are. The world is worse off for it.
  38. Our worth isn’t determined by our physical appearance. The rush to be fit is typically centered around vanity, not health. Know the difference… and your “why.”
  39. Don’t you know bad boys move in silence and violence? In the words of Biggie, every move you make should not be announced. Give yourself space and the flexibility to adapt.
  40. Don’t be afraid to change your opinion when presented with new information. It takes humility to admit you don’t know something. Once you remove your ego, it can be such a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Stay humble.

Most importantly, remember this:

Refer back to the end of #40. Be well.

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