I’ve been alive for 29 years.
I’ve had to accept that I’m probably not going to be gracing the Forbes 30 under 30 list, which is a bummer. I’ve always identified as the “young entrepreneur” but I guess I’m not so young anymore. In a lot of ways, I am so thankful that I’m not so young anymore. I’ve learned a few things along the way.
29 Lessons in 29 Years
1. Reinventing yourself isn’t as hard as people think. With this crazy military lifestyle, we’ve been blessed to live in three different states in the last five years. It’s always a little nerve wracking to leave everything you know, but it’s amazing how fast you can acclimate to a new place. This truth applies to more than moving – you’d be surprised how quickly a new work situation, new friends, or new house becomes your new normal. Don’t be afraid to jump if you’re not happy with where you are.
2. Babies give you perspective. It’s hard to feel self-important after being pooped, peed, and puked on all in the same day. Kiddos remind you that the world is so much bigger than you are. I am so full of gratitude that I’m Afton’s (and future baby #2’s) mama because I learn more from them about what *really* matters than from anywhere else.
3. Getting burned sucks. In the last year, I’ve dealt with a crappy situation where I didn’t come out on top. It sucked. But at the same time, I’m not bitter. At least I had the courage to try something. Trying things that are worth a damn don’t come with guaranteed success. It might work out, it may not, or you may get burned. At least you tried.
4. Record this moment in time. It’s mind-boggling how much you forget over the years. I used to think I knew everything I would need to know about radio advertising when I was working in that world day in and day out. Now I remember the highlights, but certainly not the detailed information I did then. Same with kids growing up. When you’re in the middle of watching their milestones, you think you’re always going to remember what age they started sleeping through the night, eating solid food, or talking. I’ve already forgotten it all.
5. Spend time figuring out what you think. Consuming content and information is easy. It’s passive. Mindlessly reading through your newsfeed, blogs, and the news isn’t going to propel you forward unless you spend time digesting information and applying it to your life.
6. Certainty sells. People are craving someone who is 100% sold on their ideas. Figure out what you believe and share it confidently without abandon. People who (look like) they know what they are doing attract passionate audiences.
7. Get out from behind your computer screen. Okay, this one might apply to only me since I work online from home. (Note to self!) Make sure you are deliberately making face time to see the people you care about and to meet new ones. Deep human connection makes the world go ‘round, and it’s hard to replicate on social media. I adore my new friends I’ve met here in Hawaii. I’m looking at you Ann Marie, Erika, Kait & Terra.
8. The world of work is changing. There are more flex and remote work opportunities than ever before. The freelance world is huge. Especially as a military spouse who moves every few years, I’ll continue to figure out this exciting new world. If you’re interested in working remotely, check out Flex Jobs for more traditional corporate remote work opportunities, search Indeed.com for “remote + your keyword,” and look at the ProBlogger job board for writing gigs. Those are great places to get started.
9. Old friends are worth their weight in gold. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without my oldest, best friends. We’ve finally gotten to the point in our financial lives where we can take a trip to get together once a year or so and those long weekends are my most treasured time of the year. People who know every stupid mistake you’ve made and still love you are life’s pure gold. Sending love to you, Kara, Caroline, Heather, Jen, Sheila & Jen.
10. My uncommon rule for a happy marriage: Always say good things about your partner to others. Negative thoughts and words are toxic, so keep them to yourself. Talk with your partner privately if you need to. Positive thoughts and words raise everybody up. I am so incredibly proud of my hubby and am ready to tell that to anyone that’ll listen. He does the same for me.
11. Revenue isn’t profit. For gosh sakes, don’t get caught up in entrepreneurs online who talk about bringing in 6 or 7 figures. You have no idea how much of that they kept as profit. You also have no idea what kind of team they had behind them or what they did to get there. Find people who seem to have similar values as you and take information in with a grain of salt. Pay attention to people’s motives for sharing that kind of information.
12. Daycare isn’t evil. When I grew up, “daycare” was practically a four-letter word. It spoke of parents who cared about their own happiness more than raising their children. It was the impersonal place to send children. For me, daycare is the place where Afton plays with friends and learns more than I know how to teach him. It’s my space to carve out to give value back to this world and to maintain an identity separate from “mom” and “wife.” I thought I would have a lot of guilt about sending him, but I don’t. And that’s OK.
13. Want to learn something new? There are so many online courses, books, blogs, and more online that are just a search away. College is not the only place to learn new skills & information.
14. Real freedom is accepting yourself. In my late 20’s I’ve been getting a heck of a lot more comfortable with this weird person that I am. We’re all weird. Being weird is rad.
15. Figure out what your success looks like. Don’t be afraid to think bigger than you can see right now. Know that it’s going to change with your life seasons. Take the time to figure out what’s precious to you, so you don’t sacrifice it in pursuit of some accepted form of “success.” Hats off to Jen & Danielle, the co-hosts of the podcast She Percolates, who are exploring this idea in depth.
16. Open a Roth IRA. As early as possible. I feel like an old person saying this, but compound interest is no joke. Bobby had opened his account about two years before I did and now has $20K more than me, thanks to the extra time even though we contribute the same amount each year. It multiplies so quickly.
17. I thought I’d be financially well-off by 30. I’m not quite there yet. Maybe I will be in a year or two. I certainly have the drive and ambition to help people and give value. However, we have a new member of our family joining us in December and newborns are a lot of work. 🙂
18. Being uncomfortable can show you the way to go (grow). Feeling comfortable means that you are standing still. Getting stagnant. Growth and change inherently feel uncomfortable. If trying something new makes you feel a little queasy, it’s probably a great thing to try. I’ve felt the uncomfortable pit in my stomach when I volunteered to teach a class, attend a new networking group, and move to a new city. All of those cases led to career and personal growth.
19. I have so much more to learn. Most days it feels like I’m going backward on the whole “figuring it out” scale. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. I crave a wise mentor, but part of me thinks I just need to keep working consistently and pay my dues.
20. Forgiving yourself is freeing yourself. I carry a lot of guilt. When it feels heavy, I remember a basic truth I learned when I was young: God forgives us without question. If we seek and believe it, we are forgiven. I try to ignore the other half that I learned at the same time: We are all sinners and unworthy of his grace. That part makes me feel heavy.
21. Lean into the projects that make you lose track of time. When I’m working on a brand strategy for a client, I get lost in my world of connecting disparate dots, bringing concepts to visual life, and strategizing their place in the market. I’m a pig in mud. It’s not the easiest service to sell (there’s a lot of education involved – people don’t usually wake up and think, I need a brand strategy!) but I LOVE it. So that’s the business I’m building for myself.
22. Take the time to encourage others. Especially when they’re “daring greatly.” I have to share this quote; it’s my favorite:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
If someone is opening up part of their soul to start a business, share their knowledge, open their heart, show their art, etc. in public – encourage them. The critics are a vocal minority. We need more encouragers to drown them out.
23. We’re all human. “Big deal” people in your industry are still human. So are you. We’re all just people – don’t psyche yourself out about reaching out and building a relationship with someone you greatly admire because of their “status” or “fame.” Just make sure you’re giving, giving, giving.
24. Remember to call your mom. And your grandma. A lot of the best advice I get still comes from my mom. Especially when you are living away, keep in touch as best you can. People aren’t going to be around forever so cherish them while they are.
25. Don’t assume people are going to buy what you are selling. Test the market. Make sure you’re selling something that people want. Talk to your future customers and ask them questions. I’ve seen too many businesses built around a product that no one desires. You might need to package your passion differently to make it attractive to the market.
26. Try things. Before you have the luxury of saying “no thanks” to the things you don’t want to do, you have to figure out what those things are. Try everything you are remotely interested in and experiment. The real growth will happen once you figure out what your one best “thing” is, but you won’t get there until you have real-world experience trying all the duds.
27. Get extremely specific about your goals. I don’t want to “make more money” before I go on maternity leave. I’m going to make $15,000 before November 30 for my maternity leave. Having a specific goal makes it easy to backward plan the way forward.
28. Spend time with your family. Even if you are passionately working towards a career dream, your family is a hell of a lot more important than your clients. Keep your priorities straight.
29. Keep growing. Read more books, travel to new places, make new friends, try a new hobby, take a new job, start a business, make some art, write something, and exercise. Find ways to expand your comfort zone. This world is massive and incredible. There’s no reason only to experience a tiny sliver of it.
Do any of my lessons learned resonate with you? What would you add to this list? Comment below!