So it was my birthday last week. That magical time of year that you count down to when you’re little and that you are taught to dread as you get older.

Not to get morbid for a brief second, but one of the guys I went to Crossfit died last week. He was around 29. It definitely put the whole dreading your birthday thing into perspective.

We are so lucky every birthday that we are able to have, mostly for the knowledge we get to continue to accrue.

I tried to come up with just 36 things, but well I don’t think you should put a cap on life lessons, so here are my 50.

(When your smallest homies surprise you with birthday cake on your 36th birthday)
(When your smallest homies surprise you with birthday cake on your 36th birthday)
  1. You never forget people that show you kindness when you are vulnerable

Mike Kammermayer made a point of talking to me when I was a silent ninth grader with no friends. Alisha Moran invited me to sit next to her at Irish National Team camp when I felt sick to my stomach with nerves not knowing anyone in 2005. Their kindness when I was in a tough time is not forgotten. You never know when your kindness can change someone’s life.

2. How you treat people is more important than winning

We are inundated with the message that winning is everything. Its a bunch of bullshit. Helping everyone around you be the best version of themselves is everything. Even if sometimes it means losing.

3. Surround yourself with the kind of person you want to be

It’s hard to be anything but the best version of yourself when you are surrounded by people around you that mirror who you want to be and push you to set higher standards for yourself.

4. Be nice to people that work in customer service especially anyone that’s being an asshole

One day I went to Walmart to get my oil changed. I saw how the woman at the desk was extremely rude and combative to the guy in front of me. My first instinct was to be rude to her, but I thought, I’m going to experiment here and be super nice. Sure enough we started talking and she told me what a bad day that she was having. She gave me the biggest smile and we had a chat every time I saw her the next few years.

5. Growth comes out of your comfort zone

I definitely haven’t come close to figuring life out, but I do know that growth is at least one important point to doing life properly. Unfortunately emotionally, physically, financially, you only learn by doing in places that make you uncomfortable.

6. Success comes from putting yourself in situations that most people wouldn’t 

I’ve played around the world, and lived my soccer dreams not because I was a crazy talented player, but because I was willing to do things like cry myself to sleep for a month in Denmark because I was so homesick, or go to Australia without a team and a place to stay arranged until the last minute. Most success comes from pushing yourself through doors that other people aren’t willing to.

7. Hard shit is easy to deal with when you love where you are or what you do

A good friend said this to me tonight which I thought hit the nail on the head. She can live on bad money, and doing things she doesn’t enjoy to play soccer because the reward is something that makes her so happy. I say this goes for following your dreams, having kids, being in relationships; there will always be hard times, but you can still be extremely happy if you know where the joy or the serenity matches or beats the challenges

8. Everything always gets better

If you just hang in there things always move from the uncomfortable dread or loneliness to better. I have more life situations to count to make me certain of that point.

9. Get out of your normal to realize that normal is only what you are exposed to

Going to Denmark in 2002 when I was 22 was amazing on so many levels to me, mostly because it made me realize that normal was what I had been exposed to and it was a fluid thing. I took it all in amazement- the best player on our team chain smoked, they thought going to university before 22 was weird, very few people with children were married, gay couples with kids didn’t make people blink, and I listened in class to the US being blamed for the Iraq War. It threw my world upside down and was the best thing that ever happened to me as I realized “normal” is just a fabricated thing.

10. Question everything

There is a history and an agenda to everything in our society. We push things forward and create a better community when people learn and question than just accepting things as “just the way it is.” Because it’s usually not the best way.

11. Little kids are geniuses, treat them accordingly

We leave so much potential untapped in our world by not treating little people like the wise and capable people that they are. Every time I step on a field to coach, I am reminded of how brilliant people that are up to our waists are in so many different capacities.

12. Getting to know people makes it really difficult to judge them

I spent a week being completely immersed in a Mormon community in Provo, Utah when I was 24 and visiting my best friend from college. It was a blast and I met some of the coolest people ever. I couldn’t help but think to myself how Mormons were presented in the media was so much different to what they were like in person, and how spending time with people is the best way to kill misperceptions.

13. It’s a lot easier to be understanding towards people once you’ve walked in their shoes

I used to scream at referees in games when I was younger. Then one summer when I lived in Colorado, I was a referee at a 5 v 5 co-ed adult tournament. And the abuse I got! At one point, I stopped the game and told everyone if anyone yelled at me again, I would start making calls against them on purpose. And then I could never (without feeling terribly guilty) lose my cool at a referee again. We’re all just trying to do our best, and usually failing miserably.

14. When you screw up, apologize. Genuinely.

If you are breathing on planet earth you are screwing up. Daily. The best thing you can ever do is apologize, learn from it and be better.

15. If someone apologizes to you, have the grace to accept it. Genuinely.

Apologizing is not an easy thing to do on many fronts, and at some point we are all going to be on the same side of screwing up and asking for forgiveness. Just give it. Life is too short otherwise.

16. Holding on to anger is only hurting yourself

I had a friend do something terrible to me that bled on for months. I was consumed in anger and betrayal for months until one day (sitting on a spin bike in Norway) when I realized, the only person that this anger is hurting, no matter how righteous I perceive it to be, is myself. So I reached out and told her I forgave her and I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Without caring anymore, the resolution to the situation unfolded better than anything I could have come up with myself days later.

17. The seeds you plant are what grows

Whatever you do and whoever you are eventually comes to fruition, for better or for worse. Just like trees that grow, time makes everything be seen in its true light.

18. Don’t take things personally

We all are carrying the burdens of our hopes, our fears and what is going on, for better or for worse in our lives. That affects every interaction. Taking things personally is a waste of time, because usually how people treat us have nothing to do with ourselves.

19. Be kind to yourself

I think many of us if we spoke to others the way we speak to ourselves would be horrified. Nothing is more important that learning to be kind to ourselves. It is life changing.

20. Be grateful for what your body can do instead of being fixated on its (perceived) aesthetic flaws

Like many women I have never been happy with my body. That being said, the other day as I was going through a super hard workout at Crossfit, I thought to myself, what a waste of time to focus on a stomach I don’t like, instead of celebrating the gift I’ve been given to be able to lift, run, dance, and do so many things with this body.

21. Just try and be a little bit better every day

Life can be overwhelming. The best way I’ve learned to feel good at the end of the day and give myself some focus is asking myself did I become a little bit better today.

22. Ask yourself not what have you accomplished but what kind of legacy have you left/do you want to leave

We have it hammered into our heads so often that life is about accomplishments, about what our resume says. Legacy is about character and lasts far longer than any fancy accomplishments we can put on paper.

23. True heroes are not found on TV, they are the people quietly living big lives around us every day

I travelled the world and played at the top level of sports to realize that the biggest heroes in the world are not found in the spotlight. Rather, they are people like my Mum and the millions others like her, who have shit thrown their way in this big game called life, but who choose to still be kind, and laugh and make others lives better.

24. True joy comes from loving your process. Don’t worry about the outcome

We all get caught up in trying to work towards something, whether goals big or small. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is the process that matters. If you spend all your time and energy into creating and enjoying the best possible process, whatever happens as the outcome will be an afterthought (and you’ll likely have a far better chance of accomplishing it, then stressing out about it every step of the way).

25. Be conscious of what you spend your money on and how it affects your life

We live in a consumeristic society that constantly sends the message that we are what we spend money on, whether a fancy education, or a snazzy car or purse. But unless you’re dripping with dough those choices require valuable time to pay for. Make sure you’re not substituting amazing life experiences, or following your dreams for stuff.

26. Laughing makes life easier

My mom taught me this, one day when I found her in the hallway of our house, flipped upside down in her wheelchair. As I struggled to get her up, we caught a fit of hysterical laughter. I felt so grateful in that moment that we chose to laugh when we could have chosen so many other emotions.

27. Playing the victim is a waste of time

Life, I believe, is filled with choices. Choosing to play the victim in any situation takes the control out of finding a solution to our problems and makes us focus on everything that keeps us stuck with where we don’t want to be.

28. Never forget

I carved this message to myself into a wooden stair behind my school when I sat there crying and lonely in 9th grade, gripped in social anxiety. I told myself no matter how many friends I ended up with, never to forget feeling so low. Live life powered by the humility and kindness generated through your own toughest times.

29. You don’t need to always be right

As someone that used to have the penchant for having the last word I’ve realized its a stupid way to live. You learn a lot more and have a lot more joy and peace if you don’t always have to be right. You’re also far less annoying. And who wouldn’t want to be less annoying?

30. Buy a house in an area that appreciates with low taxes that has a positive cash flow as soon as you can

Forget university degrees and big fancy jobs. This is a pretty smart way to make passive, long lasting income.

31. Take care of your body and mind

They are the vessel that we are given to experience life. Cherish both accordingly.

32. Challenge accepted pathways to anything

To be successful you have to stand out, and often times that is figuring out the different, away from the rat race pathway, to the destination that everyone is trying to get to.

33. Get comfortable making mistakes

I spent a lot of time being afraid to live life because I didn’t want to make mistakes. A life well lived is a life filled with courage, and courage is often going to lead to not doing things the right way the first time. Get comfortable in that place because it is here where you grow.

34. Put time into the people that matter to you

When shit hits the fan we all have a tiny circle of people that we can identify as our go-tos. Make sure you are investing time into those special people in your life. Nothing is more important than them.

35. If people are making you unhappy, no matter who they are, let them go

We live once, and our time on earth is so short. If someone is not making you happy let them go. If they are meant to be in your life, they will find their way back, under the boundaries that you have set. This applies to family, significant others, old friends, anyone. Surround yourself with people that lift you up. Settle for nothing less.

36. If someone doesn’t have the courage to talk about something to your face they aren’t worth your worry

As humans we gravitate towards the easy option. In social settings, if we have been wronged in some way, most people instead of confronting things and moving forward in a positive way choose to talk behind people’s back. I made a point at some time that if something bothered me enough about someone to say behind their back that I was obliged to say it to their face or let go of it. If people choose to talk, it comes from a place of their own insecurities. It’s not worth your time or worry.

37. All you can do is your best

At the end of the day, in any situation, if you can look yourself in the mirror and say you did your best, moving on from anything becomes so much easier.

38. It is certain in life that we will have to say goodbye to everyone at some point. Live your life accordingly

My best friend moved to Peru when I was 13 and I was devastated and afraid to make friends for a long time after. The best lesson it taught me that we are going to have to say goodbye to everyone at some point. The best way to not lose your mind with that thought is to pour your best self into everyone while you have them.

39. Leave what you come to, better than what it was before

My mom used to tell me when I babysat to clean up people’s houses so when they came home the place was nicer than when they left. This has been a helpful focus in everything in life.

40. How we view everything is relative to where we are

My friend gave me the same blog and within the course of a week gave two completely different responses to it. Where we are in our lives colors how we see things. Life is fluid and so much can change by what we are experiencing and the lens that we are choosing to look through.

41. Give without expectation

The best thing I ever did was give $1000 to a stranger when I heard a story that made me realize it was a lot better spent with her than in my bank account (it was a pretty high percentage of my net worth at the time which made following my gut a little scarier). She was so grateful and it felt good. I forgot about it and a year to the weekend later, when I was struggling financially and lost, someone close to me, randomly sent me a card encouraging me with a check for $2000. It was the coolest, most amazing non-coincidence of my life.

42. Solving what we are upset about, is usually figuring out what we are afraid of

I believe the state we are supposed to be in is at peace. I’ve come to realize that every time I am upset about something, it’s about something a lot deeper, and once I peel back the layers and examine it, it’s about working through whatever it is I am fearing (that I’m not good enough, that I can’t change something, that I’ll be alone and can’t handle it).

43. The things that fire us up about other people are usually what we are most insecure about ourselves 

Usually if we stand back and look at a situation or someone that gets an emotional reaction out of us, usually it’s because they reflect something about ourselves that we don’t like.

44. Validation of our choices affects how we encourage others

I realized once when someone was majorly hating on my dreams, that they were someone who hadn’t followed theirs, and my actions were demonstrating to them that they could have made a different choice. I think human nature is to drag up or down to where we are, so be careful who you listen to and be cognizant of how where they are in their lives are affecting what kind of feedback you are getting from your own choices.

45. Examining the motivation of a message is a key to discovering truth

In society, plain and simple truth is hard to come by. Whether it is a company trying to sell us something, a fear that is being instilled in us or an experience being projected on to us, it’s important to step back from any message and look at the motivation of anyone that is trying to get us to believe anything.

46. Life is not fair

Bad things happen to good people. End of story.

47. Survival brings out the best and worst in everyone

The need to survive, whether its on a team, at a job, in a life or death situation usually tears down every pretense we live our lives on and shows true character, for better or for worse.

48. It’s ok to be selfish

As someone that has put a lifetime in of putting other people before myself, it’s been a blessing to recently realize that there’s a reason in airplanes they tell us to put on our own air mask first before assisting others. You are no good to anyone else if you’re not good yourself, and you don’t need to take on worrying about other people either. They will be ok.

49. Appreciation is the most important gift to give anyone

The most underrated value in life is appreciation. It is a currency that gives value to our actions, something that I think deep down we are all searching for. It’s just also a really quick, easy way to make other people feel good, and who wouldn’t want to give out a dose of that.

50. The key to a happy and successful life is taking any negative situation that happens to you and turning it into something that you look back as the best thing that has happened

Job losses, break ups, getting cut from a team, name your shitty, upsetting situation. It will happen in a life that is being lived. The best way to successfully navigate life is to take any negative situation and use it as motivation to make choices to be able to look back at it as the best thing that has ever happened to you.




2 thoughts

  1. First off, Happy Birthday! (belatedly so)

    Second, thanks for sharing your lessons. I can tell you, being a couple of decades older than you, that the lessons you’ve learned so far don’t change as you get older, they only get more important. You are fortunate to have learned them already and they will stand you in good stead as you celebrate many more birthdays.

    1. Thanks for the nice words Diane 🙂 I was thinking about what an updated look at my lessons would be in 20 years!

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