If you’ve been following along on social media, you may have heard me reference “RTF” quite a bit: Road to Forty. I turn 40 in March and I’ve been thinking a bit about what I want that year to look like, how I’ll celebrate, and what I want to accomplish in my last year of my 30’s. In recapping the life lessons I learned before 40 and where I’ve been, I realize I have lived a very full life.
From Nebraska to Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles and Austin, from being a TV and film publicist to managing and programming for one of the largest festivals in the world to writing, being an ambassador for a premier cycling brand to an international clothing brand, to hosting two speaker series, and interviewing creatives around the world for main stages, podcasts, and so much more.
It’s been a truly fun adventure and I am in awe of what can happen when you approach life with an open heart, curious mind, and a flame inside that yearns for more learning.
So, with that in mind, here are 40 things I’ve learned before I turn 40.
1. Trust your gut. I can’t tell you how many times my intuition was right, and I didn’t speak up on it. Ever been in a meeting and you have an idea but are afraid to share it, then a colleague or your boss shares the same idea and you’re like DAMNIT, I should’ve spoken up? Trust yourself.
2. “Don’t let fear steer.” One of my favorite Peloton instructors, Tunde Oyeneyin said this in a class, and while I can’t take credit for this exact quote, it’s stuck with me and I repeat it when I feel fear creeping in.
3. Today is the perfect day. I think we all learned how precious life is in 2020. This is your reminder to not wait for the perfect day to open the bottle of wine, wear the fancy dress, take the trip, or do anything else you’ve been putting off. Do it now.
4. No one can read your mind. This applies to dating, relationships, work, etc. Communicate what you want and what you mean. If you follow Emily Morse (sex therapist, author, podcast host), she’ll often say, “Communication is Lubrication” and I could NOT agree more with dating.
5. Advocate for yourself. No one is going to want it more for you than you. I’m grateful for the moments I’ve shared a desire or simply asked, and then received.
6. Your voice is a powerful conduit to help others. If you have a platform, a voice, or any kind of power, use it to help others. It will never take anything away from you.
7. Actively anti-racist > well-meaning ally. I learned this one in 2020. My well-meaning intentions and posting a black box on Instagram were more performative than actually helpful. We must work to be actively anti-racist for the rest of our lives and use the platforms and privilege we have to educate, activate, and stand up to systemic racism.
8. Look for yellow flags. Yellow flags are opportunities to collect information. Don’t wait until you’re in red flag territory before it’s too late. I could’ve saved myself a lot of time in many relationships if I had noticed the yellow warning flags reminding me to slow down and proceed with caution.
9. Satisfaction comes from within. I’ll never forget when I got that blue checkmark three years ago on Instagram and Twitter. It felt validating and like I had “made it.” LOL TO ME. That feeling was very fleeting and didn’t matter. Know what’s more fulfilling? When a friend shares how I’ve positively impacted their life. That’s what I live for and care about. There have been so many more instances that followed that one, and I always come back to how I feel inside versus constant external validations.
10. It’s okay to outgrow people and things. We all change. Let’s normalize outgrowing people or things that no longer serve us, and without a dramatic breakup. Nothing inherently bad has to happen to move on.
11. Embrace your quirks. It’s very liberating to embrace the full you and know that’s what makes you so unique. If you were ever told you were weird or interesting, congratulations, you’re not a carbon copy of everyone else.
12. DIETS DO NOT WORK. I’ve done the leg work for you and have tried them all. I’m here to tell you, they do not work. I won’t tell you what to do, because I think we all require something different, but please do not give into diet culture. You deserve better.
13. Experiences vs. things. True essentialism and being a steward of our future planet. I’m having way more fun in life adventuring and making memories vs. purchasing items I don’t need and further contributing to our growing waste problem on planet earth. If I could hit rewind, I would’ve saved more money in my 20’s and not purchased the fancy handbags I’m now trying to get rid of. Learn to be financially savvy and live a more sustainable life; you’ll never regret it.
14. Control the controllables. This is not a new concept, but I put it into play every single day. “What can I actually control here?” Always comes down to my effort, my attitude, and my response.
15. Learn a skill or hobby outside of your profession. You are not your job. I repeat… you are not your job. Make time to enjoy things that have nothing to do with work to give your brain a break. I always wonder, “if I took a sabbatical from my job today, what is the first thing I’d do to enjoy my time?”
16. Volunteer your time. Get to know your community. Your community is less about who you live next to and more about how you come together. We may not all have 6-8 hours to spare on the weekends, but maybe we have an hour to phone bank, or 30 minutes to drop off donations. Whatever it is, it’s important to be in service of a community we often take from (trails, farmers, etc).
17. If it’s available & affordable to you, go to therapy: This has been life-changing for me and I wish everyone had access to it. Therapy is for everyone; we all have thoughts, concerns, issues, etc. that we need to address, and we need a space to unload outside of friends and family. I recommend it to every single person.
18. Time block vs. multitask. I’ve learned the hard way one too many times. When I multitask, I’m not present and therefore always forget. Time blocking allows me to give my attention to the project at hand and my work is always better.
19. Ask better questions. Most of you already know one of my favorite things on the planet is interviewing and moderating conversations. This year I completed coaching training at CTI (Co-Active Training Institute), and I love the tools I’ve learned to ask better questions. Next time someone comes to you with a problem, rather than say, “Oh I’m so sorry,” how about “How does (insert whatever) make you feel?” You’ll learn so much about the human you’re interacting with. (Sidenote: I love coaching, it’s been really fulfilling).
20. Hydration and sleep cure more than you think. I don’t think most humans are drinking enough water or getting enough sleep. Whenever I pay more attention to both, I feel so much better.
21. Wear the damn swimsuit. I want to embrace the younger grade school me and wrap her up in my arms and tell her she is amazing and beautiful no matter her size 1,000 times over again. I spent much of my life avoiding pools and any water activities to the point of dreading summer just to escape wearing the suit, and when I did get in, it was always with a shirt. Please get out there and live your precious life and don’t worry about your body in a suit. Jonah Hill’s Instagram post really hit home for me.
22. No one can make you feel a certain way without your permission. This one hits me to my core every time I feel like someone treated me awful. My therapist always reminds me of having a protective shield around me for these humans, so I truly envision a shield and their mood bouncing off of it. It helps.
23. Clear is kind. This is Brené Brown’s quote, and I couldn’t agree more. This statement pushes me to have the hard conversations and truly keeps me honest. Being clear saves me time in the long run. If you’re new to this way of being, it gets easier with time.
24. You’re never too late to do what you want to do. I hope you live your life constantly pivoting and evolving to inch close to what lights you up. You’re never too late, you’re right on time—your own time.
25. Do something sexy for yourself. What does that look like for you? Sexy doesn’t have to be something that’s solely activated in dating or relationships. I love this, it allows me to explore my femininity and spark confidence. Boudoir shoot? Lingerie just for you? Getting ready and going to a bar with a book solo (when it’s safe to!) Have fun with it.
26. Simple always works. My dear pal Keith has said this for years. Whenever I see my perfection or over-complicated side sneaking in, I remember that some of life’s greatest pleasures are the simplest of moments. From hosting friends for dinner to posting a photo on Instagram, I prefer simple and uncomplicated.
27. Never stop learning. Stay curious and open to always learning. When was the last time you were a total novice, a complete beginner at something? It’s fun to use your brain in a different way. My Grandpa was always learning something new: from flying, to playing the violin, to woodworking and more. He always kept his brain fresh and was such an interesting human. I strive to be like that.
28. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Over the years, my friends, family, colleagues, and therapist have all said, “You’re incredibly hard on yourself,” and they’re right. It’s exhausting. I’ve learned to cut myself some major slack, but it hasn’t been an easy road to get there. I’m usually repeating this mantra “you tried your best, way to go!”
29. Stay open to feedback. Feedback from those we love, or respect can be so useful and truly catapult you to the next great thing, but please remember the difference between being open and receptive vs. reliant on other’s opinions.
30. Learn about your body. I’m learning more about my body and reproductive health just by asking more questions at the doctor’s office and doing research. Our bodies are fascinating and it’s a great feeling to take ownership and learn about the only “home” you truly inhabit your entire life.
31. Not every text/DM/email requires an immediate response. If I responded to everything as it came in, I’d never get anything done. Boundary-set wherever you can. I typically respond to texts at the end of the day unless it’s urgent.
32. Move your body. I want my body to take me all over the world, birth a child (hopefully) and allow me to explore until I’m in my late 80’s. I try to move it at least 30 minutes a day, and it always makes me feel better.
33. Build a strong and tight-knit community of pals you can lean on. I’m so grateful I have friends who know my entire family, have my parent’s cell phone in case they need anything, and are there to help or celebrate a big life moment. Hold these pals close and don’t let them go.
34. Learn to navigate your own ego. Your ego is the thing that makes up stories in your head, the thing that holds you back, and tries to keep you in control. A great starting place is asking yourself, “Is that true?” to anything you’re playing out in your head. For example, “I can’t ask my boss for a raise or promotion, she’ll immediately say no.” Internal response, “Is that true? How do you know? Have you asked her?” You’ll quickly realize how much you’re holding yourself back from hard conversations.
35. It’s okay to change your mind. This is growth, friends. Too often we hold onto the notion that because we committed to something, or said something, that we have to do that thing or think that way, forever. How can we grow with that mentality?
36. Leave room for failure. Failure means you tried! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fail than always wonder what if. Perfection is debilitating and often leads to inaction. Invite failure in.
37. Take all the time you need. My question to you is, “what’s the rush? And, if you can answer that, my second question is, how do you know/is that true?”
38. Don’t forget to rest. Unplug. Walk away from your phone. Go to bed early. Go for a leisurely walk without any devices. Rest is crucial to show up powerfully in the world. At the height of my 20’s and early 30’s, living a workaholic lifestyle burning the candle at both ends felt needed to stay in the game and relevant in the industry, and now, no thank you. I don’t think that’s needed for anyone. Take care of yourself. We get one body.
39. Keep *some* things for yourself. Social Media sure feels like a place to tell all and share all, but here’s my philosophy: if you’re a very close friend or family, you’ll hear about something before it ever hits social media. And about 25% of what I do lives online. I like having things for me and a few special people and for me, the real magic of my life lives outside of an app.
40. Have fun. Have you ever done a core values exercise? I do it every year and while my values tend to change each time, the one that always remains is FUN. I love living a life full of fun, adventure, and freedom. I’m goofy, witty, and I love when I’m enjoying life so much that the day has flown by and I’ve lost track of time. Something I come back to in both relationships and work is this question, Am I having fun? If the answer is no, I change it immediately. I know it’s the most cliché thing ever but life is so short, I want to make it a fun one and I hope you do too.
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