On Turning 40

by Matthew on November 15, 2014

One of my vivid memories of spending at-home time with my father was sitting on the couch with him at night, television on, sharing some words every now and then, but mostly it was special because we were sharing the same space.  I loved those moments because even if we sat in silence, a very calm and comfortable (actually a comforting) silence, we ultimately were together and that’s what made it special.  Often times as we sat on the couch, he would have a yellow legal pad with him and a black pen, both tools to capture thoughts.  Most of the time, those thoughts were related to his business activities. Prior to my father turning 50, he once again took a black pen to a legal pad and he began recording thoughts about things he had learned in his 49+ years of life.  It wouldn’t be until later, that he shared those thoughts with his children.

The words of life he wrote then – true words of wisdom – have stuck with me.  This was the obvious intended consequence since he shared them.  In the six months prior to my 40th birthday, I’ve been recording my thoughts about turning 40 here in this version of my yellow legal pad.  I hope, too, to share these words with Elle, William and Cal at some point.  They actually are already hearing the simplified, children’s versions of this now in our daily interactions.  I’m hoping that these words are having their intended consequences.  I also hope that eventually, at some point when my children are old enough, they, too, might learn something from the experiences and simplified words describing some of the most important lessons of experience I have gained in 39+ years of life.  Just like I learned from my father.

For Elle, William and Cal: so you may be everything you dream you can be
For Elizabeth: you are the oxygen of my Then, Now and Will Be

On Turning 40

On Life, Profession and Health

  • The only currency that matters is trust.  Without it you can never have any meaningful relationship – personal or professional.
  • Smile.  Laugh.  A lot.  Both make you feel better and makes others feel better.
  • Don’t take yourself or others too seriously.  It doesn’t mean you should be a clown.  But know, ultimately, there are very few things in life which are too serious.  Trust and your integrity are two of the most serious matters and are no joke.
  • Tell the truth…always.  If you tell the truth the first time you never have to worry about keeping record of what you did or didn’t say.
  • In matters of money, always do the right thing, not what you feel like allows you to “win” a transaction.  Life isn’t transactional.  Life is based on relationships.  Transactions are short-termed.  Relationships are long-term.  More often than not, if you do the right thing in a money situation, you’ll see it, and more, coming back to you in the future.
  • Show up.  So much about success in life is about simply showing up and giving your best on a consistent basis.  You don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room to be successful.  Showing up and giving your best consistently is more important than intellect.
  • Similarly, finish what you start. You might not like it.  You might not be good at it. But there’s too much to learn when you follow through on a commitment. As Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through”.
  • Never skimp on your health or a good bed. The latter is a function of the former. Your health drives your physical, intellectual and emotional well-being.
  • The most important thing in the world is to be proud of yourself. Self-confidence allows you to be the person you truly are meant to be and to share that person with others. Giving your best breeds self-confidence, and ultimately a large portion of your happiness.
  • As you navigate finding a career, discover the things that make you feel good about yourself, personally & professionally, in that order.  As you narrow the scope of your career development, focus on finding an occupation that enables self-confidence and pride.  Invariably, this will provide so much of your happiness.
  • Professionally speaking, I spent most of my 20s figuring out the professional path for which I was best suited.  I spent most of 30s trying to develop the foundation of a deep professional expertise from which to layer on my experiences.  As I approach 40, my goals for the next 10 years are to further that expertise and share it in meaningful relationships with my clients and through mentorship with my colleagues in their own professional pursuits.
  • Growth comes through discomfort. Navigating challenging circumstances, sometimes more gracefully and successfully than others, ends up providing much more significance and meaning to who and what you (and your relationships) are all about. Don’t run from discomfort. Acknowledge it and navigate it the best way you believe to be the path of integrity to you and your relationships.  Remember what the best way out is…through.
  • It’s okay to fail.  You learn much more from your failures than our success…IF you make sure that you learn from those failures.  Don’t shy from opportunities out of fear of failure.  Success or not, you always have the opportunity to learn.
  • Happiness is a reflection of gratitude and grace.  Be grateful the gifts you have and act with grace with others.  This doesn’t mean complacency.  You should always strive to be a better you.

On Marriage

  • Marriage isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.   There’s an ebb and flow with it just like any relationship.  It requires work – sometimes a lot; other times, not as much.  Generally, though, your marriage is like raising a child.  It demands attention, nourishment, discipline, consistency, empathy, respect, commitment, trust and love.
  • Best piece of advice anybody gave me about getting married is from my father.  He once told me, “you want to know how a woman is going to be many years from now?  Observe her mother.”
  • Your life partner should be exactly that – a partner.  Somebody who complements your weaknesses but loves you for them while encouraging you to expect more out of yourself.

On Family

  • Your responsibility to your family is to be the best version of you that you can be.  Your legacy is to the family name.  When people think of your family name, you want them to think of a family of good, honest, hard-working, trustworthy people.
  • Siblings are a precious gift. Develop an open, honest relationship with them that allows you to count on them and for them to be able to count on you.
  • Your best friends are an extension of your family.  Love them in the same way.

On Parenting

  • I engage in a rehearsed dialogue with Elle most mornings before she goes to school or when I walk her to school:

“What’s the most important thing in the world?”
To which she responds, “To be proud of yourself.”
And then I ask, “And how do you do that”
She says, “By trying my best.”

  • We raise our kids with a couple of simple premises.    First, we want them to know they are loved.  Physically and emotionally, it’s critical they know we love them.  We specifically tell them that discipline (and punishment) from their parents is a form of authentic love.  Second, we want them to have a strong sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.  Between feeling loved externally and loving themselves (internal), we believe they can mature into loving and productive adults.  These concepts are simple in theory but incredibly hard to execute.  I’m sure we won’t know how we’ve done at this for a long, long time, but for now we look at their general happiness and demeanor as our only feedback to their emotional development.
  • I believe that best thing you can do for your kids to achieve the above is to love your spouse openly and honestly in front of them.  How you interact with your spouse – explicit communication and in body language – is the model for which a healthy sense of relationships of ones self and others is developed in your children.

In his “On Turning 50” thoughts, my father wrote that he spent this first 40 years of his life trying to make his father, mother, wife and children proud of him.  He then followed that he wanted to make sure that he spent the next 10 making sure that his children were proud of themselves.  Dad, you achieved that goal early on, and who I am today has your the fingerprints of your soul all over me.  Please do know that on the eve of my 40th birthday, I am proud of myself.  As I look toward the next 10 years, I want to make sure that my children are developing into the adults whom Elizabeth and I dream they can be.  Most importantly, I want Elizabeth to know that she is, has always been and will always be the most important person in my life.  I can’t wait to see you, Elizabeth, turn 40 and to share the next 10 years with you.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: