35@35: Completion

crossing-the-finish-line-1-dr-diva-verdunSo last year I had a goal to write 35 blog posts, using the 35 principles and guidelines for life that I have been gathering during my adult life. I didn't meet that goal. I got through 26, but my schedule just didn't allow me to finish. So, in an effort to follow through (at least to some degree) on that 2015 goal, I'm going to post the rest of my principles and guidelines. Here goes:

27. You improve what you measure.

If you want something to be 'better' in your life, then you need to figure out how to put some metrics around it so that you can determine growth. If I say 'I want to eat healthier', it's only going to happen if I have the ability to look at my performance and see whether there is growth. Am I eating more vegetables? Eating less cookie dough filled donuts? Reducing carbs/calories/fat? The first step to improvement is assessment.

28. My imperfection points to God’s greatness.

When I screw up, I tend to be pretty hard on myself. I am tempted to devalue my own self worth when I screw up. But God chooses to give me grace. So I try to do two things: accept God's grace, and thank Him for that grace. Because God is not threatened by my screw ups. And that just goes to demonstrate how wonderful and fatherly His love truly is.

29. Read a lot of books. You can never have to much outside perspective in your thinking process. When you stop learning, you stop growing.

I think that wisdom comes from having perspectives. We can each see through our own eyes, feel our own feelings, know our own desires, fears, hurts, passions, etc. Wisdom is understanding and appreciating those same things from the eyes of other people. Books are a great way to see through another person's eyes, and therefore to gain wisdom.

30. If you want your life to be different in five years, the question to ask yourself is "what am I doing today to make that happen"?

I knew a person once who wanted to be a professional musician. I asked her if she was taking voice lessons. No. I asked her if she was taking guitar lessons. No. I asked her if she was creating demos and sharing them online. No.

It dawned on me that she was simply hoping that one day, somebody would knock on her door and offer her a dream job, or that she would otherwise luck her way into that position. That's a terrible idea. If you want to work in a particular field in 5 years, I want to know what school you're enrolled in to take classes toward that field. If you want to be a mile away from your current life next year, I want to see the footsteps you took today. Wishing you were at a destination is pointless. Taking steps, even small ones, will move you closer and eventually get you there.

31. In your 20s, try anything and everything you think you might be interested in.

I see many young people going to college right out of high school and joining the workforce right out of that in the field where they got a degree. It's like a race to get in so you can start working your way up. But what if you figure out 10 or 20 years later that you hate what you're doing? That's why people have a mid life crisis. I think that in your 20s, you should travel, try different jobs, have as many experiences as you can. How can you know what you love until you start to discover things that you don't love.

I discovered that money was a much less powerful motivator for me that it was for others. I learned my passions and engaged with them fully and now I work at places where I love showing up each day. I may have seemed like a late bloomer, having not started college until several years after high school, but when I decided my course, I engaged it full steam. Take a moment to aim before you fire. That moment is your 20s.

32. You get what you pay for. (aka: I hate running, but I hate being out of shape even more.)

Pretty self explanatory. If you want something better than what you have, it will cost something. As Jesus said, count the cost. For me that cost is regular exercise, specifically running. I hate it, but if I don't pay that price, I won't get what I want.

33. There is no success or failure, there is only obedience.

Most of my principles are acquired (stolen) from other people of materials. This one particularly so. When my wife and I were in the process of purchasing a business (that would eventually fail), a friend at our church said this to us. It sounded a bit prophetic to me, and I didn't like it one bit because I intended to succeed. After everything came crashing down, I recalled this. It gave me hope, because I believed we had obeyed what we believed God had guided us to do. I don't have to accept the result as being my identity, and I can move forward without feeling like a total failure.

34. The path you take in life makes you who you are. Shortcuts aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Related to my theory about trying anything you want in your 20s, the point in life is not the same as Youtube commenters yelling 'FIRST!'. Being first is overrated. First into a career. First to own a new expensive gadget.

My wife and I both settled on a long term career in our 30s. Part of us wants to kick ourselves for 'losing' 10 years we could have been investing in these fields, but I don't regret it.

We're very different from somebody fresh out of college learning a job. We bring experience and broader perspective with us. Here's how I think of it: Everybody set out for a particular campsite called 'life'. My wife and I took a long and winding path through the forest while most others took the paved footbath. We arrived much later than those who used the footpath, but we also have way better stories about things we saw in the forest, experiences we made it through, and the ability to navigate the forest again if the campsite has to be evacuated.

I know this is basically the plot of the Adam Sandler movie Click, but life is made up of the experiences you have along the way. Shortcuts usually have less experiences.

(Yes, I'm aware that this whole post is basically a short cut. Thank you for not pointing out my inconsistency :)

35. Think for yourself, but not only of yourself.

As somebody who highly values both faith and intellectual development, I have learned that both of those two area have strengths, and that they are not mutually exclusive.

Intellectual development helps me not to be subject to manipulation of others. I decide the things I believe. I don't just go along with people.

But faith has taught me the value of community. That allowing myself to be reliant on others isn't a sign of weakness. It allows me to gain more value out of life as I love and am loved. As I know and am known.

I work hard to never outsource my thinking to others, but I seek to invest in others and allow others to invest in me knowing that I can never reach my upper limits without others to help me get there.

Have a great 2015!


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.