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Thirty Life Lessons From a Thirty Year Old


I was impressed with the thoughts my son Alex, published on facebook and I wanted to save them on in an online format I could easily access again and share them here so that more will perhaps enjoy them as I did. I added the photos.

This was his idea:

"Leading up to my 30th birthday, each day I will share a lesson I have learned throughout the years."

I don't have all 30 but will add soon.


Shoot the ball.

We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take. Our biggest regrets in life are often the things we didn’t do rather than the things we did. “I wish I would have…” say those on their deathbed. So don’t let what you think you can’t do keep you from doing what you can. Take the risk. Take the step of faith. Sometimes things don’t pan out how we thought they would, but at least you can say you went for it. Apply for that job you think you’d never get. Ask out that girl that you think is out of your league. You might just be surprised!


People tend to reflect you.

If you smile at someone, they usually smile back. If you are kind to someone, they will generally return the favor. If you are rude to someone, they will typically be rude back. This is not a rule, but a common observation. So treat others how you would like to be treated!


Singleness is not a curse, it’s a gift.

It is useful. It serves a purpose. It is not just a waiting season. It is a unique time to do things you will not be able to do or have the time to do when you have a family. It can be a time of rich ministry. How do you know if you have the gift of singleness? If you woke up this morning and you are single, you have it! You don’t lose at life if you remain single - you lose if you waste your singleness!


Be yourself.

You are unique. You are the only you. Why settle for a carbon copy of someone else instead of being the one-of-a-kind original you were designed to be? I’d rather be disliked for who I am, than liked for who I’m not.


Love is not an emotion or a feeling.

Emotions are great, but they come and go. Feelings change. But those are not what love is. Love is a choice. It is something we freely choose to do and demonstrate by our actions. We can choose to love someone even if we don’t feel like it or whether we think they deserve it or not. Loving someone even when the emotions or feelings aren’t there is a bigger test and demonstration of love than when they are there.


Leave her better than you found her.

Young men, this one is for us. You've probably heard the saying: "leave it better than you found it." What if we approached relationships the same way? What if we focused less on what we could get from the other person, and more on what we could give? (How can I encourage her? Inspire her? Support her? Comfort her? Recognize her? Magnify her? Appreciate her? What am I bringing to the table for her? How can I build her up?) I won't pretend to have this all figured out. I have failed in this. But I'm learning. Not to say there won't be heartache and pain if it doesn't work out. There will be. But if we both became more mature and complete people in the process, I'll take it.


There is beauty in the process.

If you haven’t arrived to where you want to be, don’t get discouraged. God never promised we would be ahead at halftime. The journey is just as important as the destination. Don’t forget to enjoy it along the way.


Save an emergency fund.

As soon as you can, save up $1,000 – and then view that as having $0. There have been several times when this has saved me big time. You never know when your car is going to break down or you’re going to have some type of financial crisis. Having that $1,000 to fall back on is huge.


People like cookies.

I personally love them. Taking time to make something for someone is a way of showing that you care. It doesn’t have to be cookies. Food is not listed as one of Gary Chapman’s five “Love Languages,” but it should be! In fact, Jesus, whether he was feeding thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a couple little fish, turning water into wine, or having a beach barbeque with his friends, loved feeding people.


Work smarter, not harder.

It’s good to work hard, but it’s important to understand that working harder is not synonymous with making things better. In fact, if you are working harder at the wrong things, you’re going in the wrong direction. Work ON it, just as much as you work IN it. Step back and ask yourself: “How can I improve at what I’m doing?”


It’s okay to accept help.

When I was starting life on my own in college, I didn’t want my parents to help me. I wanted to be independent and do everything on my own. They wanted to help me out, but I didn’t want to let them. However, as I became a Christian and developed a passion for serving others, I realized how silly it was that I would go so far out of my way to help other people, but refuse to let anyone help me. Now if Jesus, while on the way to be crucified would let another man (Simon from Cyrene) carry his cross, who am I to try and carry everything on my own! Thanks Mom and Dad for all the help throughout the years! I wouldn't be where I am today with out you!


Often the hardest people to love, need it the most.

So love people when they least expect it and least deserve it. We can’t control how people treat us, but we can control how we treat them. I'm not saying you have to be best friends with everyone. Some people we choose to have in our lives, others we don’t. They could be a relative, classmate, co-worker, etc. But when we are able to love those in our lives that are "difficult," or "hard" to love, then we are starting to look more like our Father above.

Hurt people tend to hurt people.

You never know what someone is carrying around. I don't know the hurt, guilt, anger, pain, regret, disappointment, confusion, shame, baggage, etc that you may have, but I know it is heavy and you want to unload it. Sometimes you throw it off at other people. I know I have done this before. So lets try and keep this perspective. Lets try not to take it too personally. Hopefully we can have grace and compassion with those who may hurt us. You never what is going on in thier life or what they have been through.


The fact that God loves me is a reflection of His goodness, not mine.

There is nothing I could do to make God love me any more or any less. He already loves me perfectly. It is just who He is. In fact, while I was still a sinner, Jesus died for me. He loved me before I loved him. No matter how far I fall, I am never out of His reach. My grade is already in the gradebook... and it's a perfect A! Jesus earned it for me. Salvation was never something I could earn anyways. It's God's gift. And if I couldn't earn it by my actions, I cant lose it by my actions either. My standing before God is based on what Jesus did on my behalf. So in response to this love and grace, do I just go ahead and sin. Of course not! Rather, my response is to worship and love and serve Him! Not because I am trying to be saved, but because I am saved!


Turn off the TV.

What if you studied a language for 1/2 hour a day? Or exercised 3 times per week? Or learned to play an instrument? Or read the Bible for 20 minutes a day? (you could read the whole thing 1 ¹/2 times per year!) When I was a kid I used to spend hours, even days, in front of the TV playing videos games. It was entertaining, but didn't really get me anywhere. I decided to give them up when I was 18 because I just didn't have time anymore. In the years that followed, I discovered that experiencing life is much richer than watching it. I should have listened to my uncle Bob after all! It's not that TV is bad, its just that there are a million other things you could do instead. Go for a walk. Build something. Write to an old friend. Call your grandma. Learn a new recipe. Invite some neighbors over for dinner. The point is that there are so many opportunities out there! Don't miss out!


To succeed at the wrong things is to fail.

As kids, my brother and I played basketball everyday. Ball was life. I remember in one game, Dan got a great rebound in traffic and went back up strong to score. The only problem was we were on defense! He was shooting at the wrong basket! Luckily he missed and one of our teammates got the rebound. But we've all been there. We try so hard to succeed, only to realize we're shooting at the wrong goal. Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding in things that don’t really matter.


Beware of your inner "me monster."

If you're interested in being friends with someone, listen to them. Ask them about their story. You'll make friends more easily by being interested in them than by trying to get them to be interested in you. Instead of always talking about what YOU are in to, learn what THEY are in to and what you have in common. One of the most humble people I have ever met is pastor Pete at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship. When I first started working at Bent Tree, Pete took me out to lunch and just asked me about my story. As a pastor of a megachurch, he has more than enough on his plate. It blew me away and made a deep impression on me that he would genuinely be interested in me as a person and take time out of his schedule to have lunch with me. You never know how a genuine interaction can impact someone.


Don't live above your means.

Actually, live below them! For example, if you make $40k, live like you make $35k. I know in our American culture if we make $40k we want to live at $40k, or even at $50k! It's not like I've ever had a lot of money, but I have found that trying to give myself a safety cushion gives me peace of mind and more financial freedom.

God knows better than I.

As I was hanging out with the newest addition to my family yesterday, dear baby Jason, we were playing with some candles (they weren't lit, relax) and he tried taking a bite out of one! I had to tell him "no!" You see, I understood something that he didn't - candles are not good for food. In the same way, God's understanding is infinetly higher than ours. When he tells us "no," its for our own good. We might fus a little bit and even get upset, but I've learned to trust that God knows what He is doing. Looking back, there are lots of prayers I'm glad He didn't answer. Sometimes the timing just wasn't right, sometimes I just wasn't ready yet or still just really needed to grow a little more first, sometimes it was because God had something totally different that was way better than I could have ever imagined. There are some things I have come to understand, but there are others I still do not understand. There are some prayers I'm still waiting on, but I have resolved to trust in God. He knows what He is doing.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

As I reflect on our dear Savior's birth today, I'm reminded of the humble circumstances surrounding his birth. Humility can be hard to define sometimes, but it's easy to see. Jesus' parents were humble people. His birth was announced to humble shepherds. Instead of a palace, a stable adjacent to a bustling inn is where Jesus made his entrance into the world. Shedding his heavenly glory, he took on humanity - born as a little baby. From the manger to the cross, the Son of God dwelt among us, never exalting himself above anyone. He came to serve and to love, yet the Bible says that he was "despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." If Jesus had saught to preserve himslef, there would been no manger and no cross. There would be no Christmas and no Easter. But there is! Merry Christmas!


Train with purpose.

Whether it's the basketball court or hitting up Planet Fitness, go in with a plan. Assess what you need to work on, set some goals, and attack them. As a kid, I played tons of basketball, but so many times I would go to the gym and spend hours just shooting around. Not that it didn't help my game some, but I wish I had actually went to the gym with a focus. There are tons of different drills I could have been doing - shooting, scoring, dribbling, etc - that would have made me a much better basketball player. So whatever your sport or fitness aspirations are, approach them with focus and purpose!


The most important choice you make every day is your attitude.

Back in 2008 I spent the summer doing research out on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan. Although I had the opportunity to work at a Christian camp that summer, it was crystal clear that Beaver Island was where God was calling me to go. And when I got there it was all sunshine and daisies... Not. It was all gloomy and gray. Nothing had bloomed yet. (It was early May in northern Michigan, what could I expect.) I only knew one person at the research center. I was isolated in a cabin all by myself on an island in the middle of one of the biggest lakes in the world. I felt a million miles from home. It was freezing cold and windy - and my job was to get down into the icy water and swim with the fishes. Not really how I had envisioned it when I felt God calling me there. I recall laying in bed that first night just talking to God and expressing my confusion and misery. My goal was to just make it through that first night. But as I laid there, I made the decision to worship God despite my circumstance. I decided to trust in him even though I did not understand. As the days went by, I experienced an intimacy with God that I never had before. As the summer progressed it eventually warmed up and I started to enjoy my work a little more. There were new challenges that arose, but in my heart the battle was already one. My contentment was in the Lord. That summer ended up being one of the sweetest seasons of my life and a defining season in my faith. Praise God. Choose your attitude wisely.

Validate and listen.

These are the two words every guy needs to learn. This is so hard for us guys because we always want to fix everything and make it all right, but women are different. So hold off on trying to fix, listen to what she is saying and validate it. There are times to disagree of course, but at least listen, validate her feelings and validate her as a person. Try to be specific when you can. Be sincere. I haven't really figured this whole thing out yet and I dont fully understand it. Men and women it seems are wired very differently, but this advice has helped me. Guys, I hope it helps you! Validate and listen!


Do what you love.

I learned this one from my dad. I wish it had been his example of what to do, but instead it was his example of what not to do. He's had a very successful career as an engineer, but most days he lamented going to work. I understand the need to provide for the family and sometimes that means taking a less than desirable job, but money isn't everything. We spend so much of our time working, why do something we don't enjoy? After all, how we live our days is how we live our lives! So choose a career that you enjoy and find meaning in! Thanks for the advice dad! Dan and I both really love what we do.

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