Today I get to celebrate my birthday. And while it's not a "milestone birthday" - by no means am I "old" but I definitely have a sense of being "older". And I can tell as I age, that I am changing - as a person. My values and priorities are coming into much sharper clarity and focus, and they are shifting from the kinds of things a young man wants to things that seem much more profound to me now.
So my birthday gift to you is to share some of the lessons I've learned over the last few decades. I hope these resonate with you and encourage you.
Life is about People.
I don't care if you are at work, at home or at your place of worship. At the end of the day, people are the ultimate currency and prize. A few years ago, a relative turned 90. I remember sitting back at the party and watching all the people who came to celebrate her life. As a younger man, I remember remarking about the number of lives she has touched, and the people who were so happy to come and celebrate her life - which is far bigger than celebrating a single birthday. That day I resolved to try and be more like her and do what it takes to make a difference in people.
Focus on Outcomes, not Effort.
With my kids, I celebrate their efforts. With adults, I appreciate effort, but results really speak. Often when I'm talking with someone in my office, they will say "I'm going to try to do that." I almost always reply by quoting Yoda, the Jedi Master "Do or Do not, there is no try." When they chisel something into granite to put on my grave, I don't want them to write "Here lies a man who Tried Hard!" I really want an epitaph that reads something like "Here lies a man who DID great things!"
Words have power, and how I speak influences how I act. So I discipline myself to not even use the language of attempt. When talking to myself and to others, I use the word "do" as often as possible. Because I want to drive myself to achieve real meaningful results. Don't settle for less than your best by substituting effort for results.
Create Don't Criticize.
Creating things is very hard work. Much more than it looks like on first pass. But creating things is something that really makes a difference. It is very easy to sit back and criticize what others have tried to create. But to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, "credit goes to the man in the arena, who attempts great things, not to the critic in the stands."
Sometimes criticism is appropriate - when it is constructive. I've seen a lot of people criticize because the can't/don't/won't create themselves. Instead they achieve parity by destroying the creations of others through criticism. That is so petty. If I can't create, then my next best option is to help someone else create. This world has no energy for people who tear down.
As I enjoy this birthday, these are the top three things that I'm thinking about for myself. I hope you can find a way to pick up the torch and run with them and make a difference around you as well.