34 Lessons from 34 Years

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I’ve made this so you can skim vs. scan. However, please note that truth and beauty are always detailed. I’ll meet you in the comments to discuss this! 💗

1. Listen.

Tune in. Observe. Listen with your full body. When we really listen, the answers are there.

2. Your Why = Your Way.

Simon Sinek has golden circles. Oprah calls this intention. To me, it’s about your calling; your purpose. Define it with a verb. Honor that. Act upon it.

3. Be You.

There’s NO ONE in the entire world like you. Sure, you can try and fit into the sea of boring brown cows, or be the extraordinary purple and sparkly you. (Thank you, Seth Godin.) 🦄

4. Mental Wellness.

This is king. Everything. You cannot obtain peak performance (in the physical world or digital world) without always taking care of your mind. Call it strategy. Call it mindset. I call it mental wellness… for now. Examine both sides, too: your relationship with self, and your relationship with source.✨ 🧠✨

5. Physical Wellness.

Your body and environment will affect you. In a world that sends you messages on what it means to be worthy, successful, and beautiful, it’s also a difficult journey to self-love. You’ll feel better taking care of your body. Beyond the body, the physical world is also your work and home life. Really take care of yourself in these areas. Bring joy! Create your own space and protect it—while also enjoying the physical world and the community and connection it provides.

6. Digital Wellness!

This applies to what you’re sending and receiving. Get over fears of privacy, judgement, failure, success, or mediocrity. Taking care of yourself should remain your top priority, but stay active and create habits and consciousness in this world: just like the mental and physical realms.

7. Honor Your Past.

We all have one: the BEST and the WORST moments of our lives. Don’t lug around your accolades or your trauma. That’s too heavy! Let them become a platform you stand confidently on—without fighting for love or self-worth with the full storytelling. Share stories for credibility, not validation or affirmation.

8. Present Your Present.

You have such a unique and rare combination of gifts. Share it with people! To succeed and attract more attention, you must package and position the gift. A diamond ring wrapped in a dirty paper bag won’t have the same affect as a Tiffany’s presentation. Dress for success, baby!

9. Design Your Future!

Anything is possible. You can’t do everything, but you can steer your life (and business) in whatever direction you want to go. Be prepared for change, and know that things probably won’t look exactly like you imagined, but you will surprise yourself at where you end up.

10. Make Things.

Actively create. You are a child of God and it’s your duty to keep creating—especially while others (and our culture) have become so intent on destruction and consumption. Produce. Give. Share. Illuminate. Brighten.

11. Make Things Better.

Not only create with excellence (because it’s your divine calling and God is on your side and flowing through you), but also seek to make the world a better place. Don’t be selfish. Make it about your audience. What can you do for them?

If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.
— @AvaDuVernay

12. Make Things Happen!

It’s an increasingly noisy world and the “success” you see in the physical and digital realms is a result of people working really, really hard. Believe in magic but take the extra steps needed to connect objects and spark the fire that takes your star higher. Look at Billy Porter and the team around him. Keep going higher! 🌟

13. Don’t Go It Alone.

You’re really awesome, but you can’t do everything. Create your team. Hire slowly. Trust people to do their jobs, and let them know when it doesn’t meet your expectations.

14. Go With the Flow.

People come into your life for a reason, season, or lifetime. Most will fall into categories one or two. Let them flow in and out of your life as they are on their own journeys. 🕊

15. Sharpen Your Strengths.

Quit trying to be all things. Be the best you—day after day after day. Become so unique and extraordinary you’re the only choice that makes sense.

16. Keep Growing!

Avoid the comfort zone. Examine your physical, digital, and mental wellness. Schedule time (daily practices) in your calendar to make improvements! 🤓

17. Love.

It’s not easy, but it’s key.

18. Practice Gratitude.

Roll your eyes, but your life will be better if you stop looking for more more more (at least for a moment, girl!) and look around and behind you at all you have. (Damn! You’re a lucky duck!)

19. Happiness is Within.

See above. It’s not gonna come from money or the love of others (physical or digital), it’s gonna come from you. When needed, refer back to #18. Again and again.

20. Articulate Learnings.

You’re going to fail. People will fail you. The world will fail you, too. Don’t look at specific outcomes or label them as failures. Explore them. Why did this happen? What can I learn from this? Find the key insights from the experience. Quietly carry the wisdom with you. Leave the drama… keep it moving!

21. Writing Creates Clarity.

Writing forces you to be clear, and then craft your words so that someone else can understand your thoughts. Use it as a tool for yourself and when communicating with others.

22. Talk Things Out.

At least for me, I much prefer two-way communication. I can read your body-language and facial expressions and you can see mine, in addition to tone and perhaps even visual storytelling. When possible, have in-person meetings, use the phone, or even do video calls. Especially when something is getting tough or tricky. You can also write this way: editing transcriptions. 😉

23. Practice Deep Work.

Do not allow other people’s agendas to influence your focus and flow. Turn off notifications, create boundaries (get off those noisy group threads! It’s noise/garbage and they can reach out directly if they really need to.) and GET TO WORK. Do work that matters.

24. Create Good Habits.

Create a morning routine, designated daily work hours (for yourself, and for others/$$$), and also some evening habits. Layer in FUN and make sure all the worlds are covered: mental, physical, digital.

25. Create a Calendar and Schedule.

Be sure to include time for YOU. Where are the workouts? The social events? The writing time? The research time? Once you’ve allotted time for your priorities, check your calendar and schedule before saying yes to any requests others make of you! 🗓

26. Examine Your Analytics.

If we’re creating for others, and I believe art needs an audience, you must examine who is observing and what they respond to. Creation without awareness of the other is artistic masturbation. 🤭

Know thy audience. Focus on them.

27. Test Small Adjustments for Big Changes!

It’s easy to want to make huge changes based on fresh ideas or insights, but test small. Make incremental improvements and build upon what’s working. When it’s necessary to make big changes, see if you can give yourself a smaller test or trial. Try out the new roommates. Try out the new city. Try out the new career. Get out of your head and into the experience to see if it’s right for you. Test it before you go full-tilt-boogie-woogie.

28. Freedoms = Sacrifices.

The dream life, job, and day will require you to work hard—especially in the early days. No one is an overnight sensation, or at least a permanent fixture, without years of hard work. Get to it!

29. YOLO!

You’ve lost many people to the physical world. Regardless of your evolving spiritual beliefs, treat each moment as the gift it is. LIVE! LOVE! YOLO!!!

30. The World is Unfair and You’re Privileged.

Fight for the underdog. Challenge the system and status quo. Everyone deserves clean water, a good education, affordable and effective health care, and equal opportunities for advancements.

31. Create Community.

We all want love and safety (connection), so hold and create the space for community.

32. Don’t Compare.

There will always be people at different levels and heading in different directions. Refer back to lesson one. Listen...in particular to your mental chatter. Keep your eyes on your own paper and keep going/growing! 📝

33. Friendly ≠ Friend.

Be wary of wicked witches and flying monkeys who want to steer you off your path. This is also called “tall poppy syndrome” or “crab in a bucket.” Many people (based on their histories) will intentionally try and “use” you and get everything they can—even friends, casually, and with a smile. Maintain boundaries and don’t allow the facade of friendly to actually mean friend. Pay attention to actions. Similarly, be friendly with people, but know that you don’t have to be friends with everyone.

34. You’re NOT an Impostor.

The Imposter Complex is a real thing. Go back to #1 and listen when people (or the universe) tell you that you’re doing an awesome job. Believe them, and work to take confidence in the extraordinary abilities you hold.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to my glorious friend and colleague Liz Kimball for the inspiration.

I hope these make sense and I look forward to hearing your insights in the comments below. 💗

ArticlesTony Howell