7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Over the Last 39 Years

by Don Smith

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Today's my 39th birthday. Statistically speaking, I'm nearly halfway through! Not sure why I said wrote that with excitement, knowing your life is nearly halfway over is a very odd feeling.

I have been reflecting on my life today and thought you might enjoy reading a few lessons that I've learned in the first half. I learned many of these lessons through painful experiences; by sharing them, I hope you won't have to learn them the way I did. Enjoy!

1. Relationships matter!

Imagine for a moment that you are lying in a nursing home toward the end of your life. That might be a bit morbid for you to contemplate, but this will be the unfortunate reality for many of us at some point. What will you want at that point?

My guess is you will want friends and family around!

My wife works in a nursing home, and she regularly tells me that she is saddened by how many residents don't have anyone visit them. Old, tired, and cranky, they leave this world alone. They have either driven those they once cared about away or failed to create new relationships and maintain existing ones. Others who have been intentional about surrounding themselves with positive people and who are positive themselves to the point that others enjoy being around them pass peacefully surrounded by friends and family.

Friends sitting around the campfire

Relationships Matter! Be intentional about creating them!

My girls were in girl scouts at one point, and they had a song that I loved. The song starts, “Make new friends but keep the old.” It's that simple. Make new friends, and keep the old ones if possible. Try to stay in touch with old friends, but don't worry too much about those that leave. I believe some people are only supposed to be in your life for a season or a moment. Don't waste your life chasing after those people. The people who want to be a part of your life will come and stay.

While you might go through a few rough spots, those relationships will be easy and enjoyable for the most part. The right relationships matter, be sure to take care of them! Those are the ones you want to keep and focus your energy on.

2. Want to help yourself? Help others!

Zig Ziglar once said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” I've found this statement to be true in my own personal life and career. The more I help others without expecting anything in return, the better my life flows. When I get too selfish, that's when things fall apart.

That's what this community and site are all about, helping others. This started as a way for me to share some of my life lessons to help others, and as often happens on these sorts of things, it ended up turning back around and helping me most of all.

Help others!

Helping another person up the hill

3. Money isn't everything, but it is important.

There is a country song that I like. One of the refrains is, “They say money can't buy happiness, but it can buy me a boat.”

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy experiences.

How true is that??? Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy experiences. Experiences are where magic often happens. We've traded giving regular presents at Christmas time for experiences with the family over the last few years, and the difference has been amazing.

Money can also solve many major problems, and many charities are funded almost entirely by the very wealthy. If you aren't carefully stewarding your money, you won't be able to contribute to some of the amazing work being done in this world.

What money can't buy is true relationships or lasting happiness. Relationships you have to tend carefully, and happiness is a choice. Choose wisely. Piles of things will not make you happy for long in my experience. Money creates significant problems if making and hoarding it is front and central in your life before God & family, but ignoring it is not wise either.

For those who believe that money is the root of all evil, here are a few of the things the surprising things the Bible has to say on the subject.

Proverbs 21:20 The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

Proverbs 28:19 Work hard, and you will have a lot of food; waste time, and you will have a lot of trouble.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Bottom line? Money is important, make and use it wisely. But do not let life pass you by in the endless pursuit of it!

4. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Have you ever been on a flight and listened to the flight attendants speak about what will happen if the plane loses pressure? If you have, you've probably heard this one. “If the plane loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop. Make sure to put on your own oxygen mask first, then help the person next to you.”

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Why is putting on your own oxygen mask first so important? Let me ask you this, if you are passed out from lack of oxygen, how many people are you going to be helping?

My guess is zero. If you are passed out because you did not take care of yourself, you will not be helping anyone! They will be helping you! Put on your own oxygen mask first. Do what is necessary to make yourself healthy and happy, and then and only then will you be prepared to help others.

5. Be true to yourself

Life is far too short to be worrying about what others think all the time. Be true to yourself and live your own life and go after your own dreams. It doesn't really matter what others are doing or thinking. That is their life. They are not the one who has to live your life, you do.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. There are absolutely ways to say things in such a way that the other person can hear them without getting too offended, but don't get so caught up in worrying about what other people will think that you don't express your own needs. This goes back to putting on your own oxygen mask first; if you are avoiding expressing yourself out of fear, that will eventually come back home to roost.

Be true to yourself!

6. K.I.S.S.

I went into this idea in more depth in one of my previous articles, “3 Lessons about Life I Learned from Leighton.”

Life doesn't have to be complicated. We just make it complicated.

Keep It Simple Stupid!

7. Enjoy it

Life flies by. Don't live too seriously; take the time to enjoy it!

Sliding and having fun

Those are my 7 life lessons; I hope you enjoyed them! If you did, don't forget to follow us, share this so others can benefit, and sign up to get more articles like this in your inbox!

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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