Next week is my 42nd birthday. Last week, I jotted down the first 42 reflections on life as they came to mind. Surprisingly, the thoughts flowed fast, and I wrote the post below in my notes app in a couple of sessions. 40 seemed like a scary age. A bridge from being a young adult to whatever is on the other side. My 30s were a great decade. We dug out of debt, had two kids, and made great memories with our family. I can only hope the rest of my 40s are equally as good.
I struggled to figure out what to title this post because these reflections aren’t advice or lessons learned or anything. They are just random thoughts. Some are words that I live by. Other are places where I question certain things that I have or haven’t done. Either way, these are straight from the heart, so I hope you enjoy reading through them.
42 Reflections on Life for My 42th Birthday
1) Gratitude is powerful. It’s perspective-shifting. Whenever I feel down, I try to think about how blessed I am by my family and health. Even thinking about having easy access to running water, food, and shelter can be a powerful thought exercise.
2) Obsess less about money and more about what it does for your life. Does it provide you with flexibility and options? Does it allow you to help people in need? Money shouldn’t be a game where you just try to accumulate as much as possible.
3) Parents stress too much about things that don’t matter about raising kids. Screen time, what they eat for dinner, and their school. What matters most, in the end, is raising your children in a home with parents who love them unconditionally, are present, and create a safe space.
4) Following your passion is good advice, but not necessarily for a job. Sometimes, working a job that allows you to follow your passions outside the workplace is even better.
5) Depression is real, and you don’t understand it until you go through it. I used to think depression was for the weak-minded until I went through a spell myself in my early 20s for about a year. It was crippling but I am grateful I got through it and haven’t had another bout since.
6) Being a dad is the most rewarding thing ever. Nothing comes close. My kids and my wife are my everything.
7) Youth sports are more important than ever these days. Not only do they get kids away from screens and get them outside, but sports also teach kids how to deal with failure in real-time.
8) Going to college is still worth it today if you pick a school where you don’t have to go deep into debt. College teaches kids to think critically and acts as a bridge between adolescence and adulthood. I don’t know anyone who regrets going to college, but I know quite a few who wish they had gone.
9) Debt is like a weight hanging around your neck that pulls you down. Not all debt is bad, but if it’s not mortgage-related or leverage to make money, then it needs to go. Even low-interest debt can pile up and weigh you down.
10) Fitness and finance are similar in that the concepts are remarkably easy, but the doing is hard. Professionals make both seem overly complex. There are no shortcuts; you just need to do the work.
11) Around age 40, you can really tell which of your friends takes care of themselves and who doesn’t. People either look 30 years old or 50. There’s no in-between.
12) Most everything in moderation is okay. Drink the beer, have the desert, stay up all night, and skip the workout. But do those things sparingly. Stick to good habits 80% of the time, and you’ll be fine.
13) Consistency is the most important aspect of success. Be the person that does the work day after day when nobody is watching.
14) I need to be more appreciative that I have two parents in their 60s who are still healthy and active. Unfortunately, that will get taken away one day, so I need to appreciate my time with them more.
15) Servant leadership is the best kind of leadership. People will run through walls for you if you genuinely serve them first.
16) Working out for 30 minutes a day can completely change your life—a mix of strength, cardio, and stretching.
17) Too many people get worked up about many different causes and never do anything about it besides post on social media a few times. It’s better to go all-in on two or three causes you’re overly passionate about and try to make a real difference.
18) People grow personally and professionally when uncomfortable and stretched out of their comfort zones. If you don’t get butterflies in your stomach occasionally, you’re probably not growing.
19) Intermittent fasting and keto diets don’t work for 95% of the population unless you are incredibly disciplined. For most, these fads do more harm than good. Most diets don’t work. You have to make a lifestyle change in how you eat to become more healthy.
20) Tracking anything improves your chances of success. For example, track your calories to lose weight, your spending to spend less, and your workouts to improve continuously.
21) Success in corporate America is a mix of results and relationships. You’ll have difficulty advancing if you do one well without the other.
22) Politics affect everyone. People who say they don’t care do not have a political issue that impacts them significantly. At the same time, be aware of where you consume your political information. Cable news and other outlets are more entertaining than news and poisonous.
23) Side hustles can undoubtedly be good, but sometimes it’s better to spend your limited energy going all in at your day job.
24) Most great things in life come from hard work. Parenting is no different. It’s exhausting but, at the same time, extremely rewarding.
25) Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the keys to happiness at work. Find work that you can do in your way, that you’re good at, and find meaningful.
26) Nobody likes yellow starbursts, but they serve a purpose; they make you appreciate the other flavors more. Sometimes something mediocre or wrong can make you enjoy the good things even more.
27) I don’t think it’s coincidental that anxiety is at all-time highs while belief in God is at all-time lows.
28) The pandemic taught me two things about people. The first is that many people are bad at risk management. The second is that once people take a stance on an issue, they resist change.
29) I made several money mistakes in my 20s. The biggest was not house hacking when I lived with three other guys. I would have set my life up much differently.
30) Living with your parents after college can be an excellent way to save money, but most would benefit more from moving out and learning to live independently. We all make mistakes when first trying to adult and make those in our early-to-mid 20s.
31) How do you know if you’ve had a mid-life crisis? I don’t think I’ve had one yet. Is it one of those things when you know you do?
32) Whenever I thought about my dream life as a teen, it mostly revolved around having a great partner and a few awesome kids. I can say that I’m living the dream right now. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
33) Something I’ve changed my mind about during the past ten years is spending money on experiences vs. things. Not sure if that’s because I’m a dad now, and experiences generally aren’t for me but the whole family.
34) Drinking 100 ounces of water daily is one of the best things you can do for your health.
35) I struggled to get interest from women in high school and college until I learned that attraction isn’t a choice. I then spent months learning and practicing how to spark that attraction in the opposite sex, and my dating life improved.
36) My mind constantly races a million miles a minute. Prayer and meditation help slow it, but I need to live better in the moment. I fear that someday I’ll look back as this being my biggest regret.
37) Having close friends with whom you can have deep conversations is rare. Years ago, I lost one of those friends (he moved away and cut off contact), and I miss our chats. We were very different people, but he was one of the few men I’ve ever been able to open up to.
38) Finding a great church that aligns with your beliefs is one of the best things you can do for your family. After 15 years of barely setting foot in a church, we found a great fit. The service and community groups have filled a gap in our lives. As a result, my faith in God is stronger today than ever. Going back to church has been one of the best things to happen in my life over the past seven years.
39) My wife is the strongest person I know. She has gone through a lot. At age 10, her dad committed suicide. Then, at age 14, she had an aneurysm that required brain surgery. After the surgery, she had grand mal seizures for years (her last seizure happened on the day our oldest child was born more than seven years ago; it’s truly a miracle she hasn’t had one since).
40) If I can make it another 40 years, my main goals are to raise good kids (and hopefully help with grandkids), make a positive impact on the lives of others, and look back, never regretting not spending enough time with loved ones.
41) Working your dream job often doesn’t lead to living your dream life. Often it’s the opposite. Find the balance.
42) People say that time flies when you have kids, and it turns out that really is true. Enjoy the moments with your children because they grow older in the blink of an eye.
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.