I’m turning 40 and this is what I know

I’ve been told many times to write a book. Maybe someday I will. You may ask why, perhaps? Or, more so, why me?

I’ve been told I give good advice. I don’t believe that is true. I think I give good counsel. The difference? Advice is when you tell someone what to do. Counsel is when you tell someone what you see. I’ve been counseled and advised many times over in my forty years – professionally, amateurishly, selfishly, hilariously – and I have found the difference.

I counsel you to focus not what you would love to achieve, but to fall in love with what you do best. Since childhood, we are set upon a path to find our passion and make that dream our reality. I have nothing against that. But I do think it is ultimately more productive to discover what we are good at, perhaps even great at, and learn to have a respectful, giving relationship with whatever endeavor that is. There is such a difference between someone who succeeds out of fear of losing and someone who succeeds for the love of the game. I promise you when you see the former up close, you’ll know it. Run the other way. The latter is worth working towards.

I counsel you to know that you are where you are because of those around you. A turtle sitting on a fencepost didn’t get there by himself. We are all turtles on a fencepost at some point. Look down. Perhaps you are sitting on one right now. If so, say thank you and give thought to when you may feel ready to climb down (you need help doing that, too). Actually, knowing when to leave your post is often much harder than getting there in the first place. For when the view from where you’re seated no longer makes you smile, it’s time to find a new fencepost.

I counsel you to seek out a great mentor and know that it is your job to learn from them, not theirs to teach you. I wanted to learn issue advocacy advertising and therefore I sought out the best in the business—or, as The Washington Post named him, “the godfather of issue advertising.” I stayed at his side for seven years, working myself up from intern to senior executive. I initiated that first move in asking for the internship with a blind letter, kept my head up every day looking for ways to learn, and fought for my ideas to be heard (albeit, I recognize now, not always in the right way). Most importantly, I took responsibility for my own education. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

I counsel you to know that even though every kid on the doorstep gets candy when the door opens on Halloween, you want to be the person who knocks. This is for my fellow introverts who live in a world where mainly extroverts succeed. It may not make a difference to the person opening that door given the moment is so very fleeting. Too many times, I hear the excuse that it does not matter who initiates an action if the end result is the same. Ding-dong! It is not the same. It is not the same to you and the way you will remember the events of the day if you don’t step forward and ring that doorbell. Your memory of how something happened in the past is the most powerful influencer for how something will unfold in the future.

I counsel you to care enough about something to cry. We are over scrutinized in today’s world, that much is certain. We temper our reactions and shave off emotional discomfort like the brown parts of an apple. Don’t do that. Have feelings. Everyone turn to the person to your left and tell them, it is okay to have feelings. Now ask how you can help. There, don’t we all feel better?

Many of you have seen me through my thirties – in the best and worst of times. Some of us have just met. And others of us have communicated solely through this digital sphere. Cheers to all of you. I’m here for you – both old friends and new, as you will find if you hang around. And with good counsel, I hope, through it all.

Here’s to a new decade together.

“Stop and stare
I think I'm moving but I go nowhere

Yeah, I know that everyone gets scared
But I've become what I can't be
Oh, do you see what I see?” 

-- OneRepublic