I turned 40 this month, and as I got closer to my birthday, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my life. A lot has happened in my 40 years. I moved across the country, got married, and now have five kids, and we are full on into the teenage years.
In light of turning 40, I wanted to share some things that I would tell my 25-year-old self. The reason? Most of us at 25 think we’re smarter than we are. Thankfully, I had some great people in my life along the way who told me hard things. I have a great wife who has stuck by me through some dark seasons, and I lead a church with a lot of people younger than me that I’d like to help learn from my mistakes instead of repeating them. I’ve already shared what I would tell myself about leadership and will add one on marriage soon.
So, here are 12 things I’d tell my 25-year-old self about life:
1. Prioritize relationships. I’m going to say this in all the posts, but as a man, this is something that gets overlooked. At 25, all I could think about was the goals that I had for my career, finances, and what my future climbing of the ladder would be like.
Because of that, people were more useful for helping me in that climb than actually investing in them as friends with desires and dreams. That’s hard for me to write, but at 25, that’s what I thought.
A switch happened to me in my 30’s, and the richness of my friendships now are evidence of that. I have people in my life who I have been incredibly close with for almost a decade, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
2. Get a counselor. This is a big theme for me because in my mid 30’s I did something that in my church growing up would’ve been frowned on, I went to a counselor. I can’t say how life changing this decision was. To have someone ask probing questions, to push, give advice, to listen. For Katie and I, to learn more about each other on a deeper soul level.
3. Eat healthy, move, and get enough sleep. When I was 25, I was in the worst shape of my life (click here to see all 300 pounds of me at 25) and I was miserable. Sleep was difficult, my self-esteem was at rock bottom, and it had profound adverse effects on my relationships, marriage, and career.
I decided at 28 and that all changed. I lost 130 pounds in 18 months and have never looked back. This year, my goal is to deadlift 500 pounds, squat 400, and bench 300. And I have a great shot at all three of them.
I remember sitting across the table from my brother-in-law at my heaviest, and he asked me, “Josh, how do you talk to others about self-control when you don’t have any in this area?” He was right. I believe a lack of self-control in one area shows a lack of self-control is in other areas. For me, losing that weight was not just life-changing for my body and health, but I became organized and disciplined in every other area of my life.
Don’t wait. It only gets harder.
Men, decide today to start moving, eat well to fuel your body, and get sleep.
At 25, I would stay up late watching movies and playing video games. I would run on 4-6 hours of sleep, and every part of my life was affected negatively. Today, according to my sleep app, I average 8 hours of sleep a night.
4. Know what it’s like to be on the other side of me. I’m a big fan of self-awareness as any reader of this blog knows. If it’s a personality test, I am all over it.
What I failed to understand though was the power of my personality. It is essential to know what you are like, how you are wired, what jobs fit you, etc. What many of us fail to know and understand is what we are like in relationships.
For many people, this one piece of information will help you immensely to move forward and not limit your influence in life and leadership.
5. Energy management is more important than time management. There is a lot of focus on time management, and we think a lot about it. Rightly so. We only have a limited amount of time. The reality as you get older though is that energy management is more critical.
In this way, by the time you hit 40, you will wonder if what you are spending your time and life on is worth spending your time and, life on. You begin to wonder if the things you do are worth doing.
There is nothing worse than feeling like you are wasting your life. It is essential to understand what recharges you, what lights in a fire in you, and what drains you. The longer it takes you to figure this out, the harder it will become later in life.
6. What matters today might not matter tomorrow (or in 10 years). I talked about this in the leadership post, but it applies here as well.
Things in your life that are important right now won’t be in 10 years. The people whose opinion matters so much to you right now, it might not matter in 10 years.
7. Read every day. I began this practice at 22 and have never regretted it.
When I was in seminary, I had to read a book every six days for three years and have tried to keep that pace (although I’ve slowed down for sure).
There is a lot of truth that the person you become in 5 years is determined by the books you read.
8. Find people further along than you are. Many men struggle to find mentors. They don’t want to be a bother to someone or waste someone’s time. Men also struggle to get something from someone if they feel like they are getting it for free. But to move forward in life, it is better to do so off the wisdom of people who have walked before you.
9. Don’t take yourself so seriously. In your 20’s there is a lot of pressure to grow up and prove yourself. For me, this came out of my story and family narrative. I always had this feeling of not being enough, smart enough, or missing out on things in life. I felt this enormous pressure to prove myself to everyone. The problem is, everyone isn’t paying attention to you as much as you think they are.
And most people aren’t against you and your success, although we focus on the ones who are and give them a louder voice.
10. You won’t be able to outrun your story for much longer. The counselor we go to told me this more than five years ago, and it has stuck with me. He said, “Josh, in your 20’s and 30’s you have the energy to outrun your story. You’re building, driving, accomplishing, starting things. At 40, you won’t have the energy to outrun it anymore.” When he told me that, my first thought was, “I’m not running from anything.” But the more I’ve dug in, I was. We all are. Whether it is a switch of priorities or energy, it is true.
If I were sitting with my 25-year-old self, here’s what I’d want him to know: your 40’s are simply a continuation of your 20’s and 30’s. Whatever work you have done in those decades, you will reap the benefits of your choices financially, career, family, and health. The choices you make in those decades determine what the next few decades are like. I have sat across the table from incredibly successful men who are running from so many things, and they are miserable. I have sat across from men working multiple jobs, not making a lot of money who are filled with such joy. Why? It all goes back to their choices.
For men, your life becomes the sum of your choices.
We don’t want to admit that, especially when it doesn’t go well or because we don’t want the pressure of it resting on our shoulders, but it is true. And the sooner you realize that, the better.
11. Prioritize your wife. I’ll talk about this more in my post on marriage, but too many husbands don’t prioritize their wife. Notice, I didn’t say your marriage, I said your wife.
I realized early in my 30’s that I had made my marriage all about my dreams and my goals. There was no space for Katie’s hopes and dreams. I had to apologize to her and make some corrections for that to happen. It is easy to make your marriage about one person’s hopes and dreams, but that isn’t what it’s supposed to be.
12. There are things you won’t be able to skip or go around; you will have to go through them. When I turned 25, what I didn’t know at the time was that I was about to move into the hardest two years of my life. That was the season Katie, and I refer to as our desert. I was betrayed by a close friend who was also my boss that led to me losing my job, we had our first child (consequently, the timing of all of our kids has never been ideal), and I found myself filled with a lot of self-doubts as it relates to my gifts and leadership and wondered if I was done being a pastor. At 25!
The reality of life is that you can’t avoid the pain and suffering and trials that come with life. You can run, pretend they aren’t happening as many people do, or you can engage them and walk through them. At our lowest point, Katie looked at me and said, “Will you just learn whatever God is trying to teach you so we can move forward.” God was dealing with my pride, self-sufficiency, and stubbornness.
There is a temptation in life to skip the hard parts. Don’t. There is a temptation to ask God why something is happening, and I understand this, but God wants to develop something in you and to learn to pray in those hard places, “What are you trying to show me” moves us to where God wants us faster than asking why.