• Michael Pietrzak

40 Lessons at 40


Let's swim, dad!

I turned 40 last month and have been eagerly anticipating my turn to jump on the “x pieces of wisdom at age x” bandwagon.


I can’t say for certain that any of what follows is wise, but it does represent the best advice I can offer, gained through some well-fought experiences in the arena of life.


I wrote this mainly for myself, but hope you find at least one fragment of valuable insight here. Enjoy!

  1. Remember the incredible value in taking risks. Becoming a dad means someone is relying on you, but most of what you think is scary, isn't. Show your daughter fearlessness.

  2. Take advantage of those short, stolen moments. You may only have 5 minutes, but in that time you can start a story, call a friend, send one Christmas card. You don't need vast open holes in your calendar to "do". Focus on starting, not finishing.

  3. Having a family and community are not superfluous niceties, but can be a central core of your daily life. Living as an island can be liberating, but nearly all peak experiences happen with others.

  4. I could listen to the ocean waves all day and night. We evolved with nature. Don't shut it out of your house, having the A/C on all the time, the windows closed. Let the outside in.

  5. When you make the first move with a stranger, you'll almost never be rejected. In fact, they're usually happy to talk. More often than not this opened doors I would not see, and multiplied the fun.

  6. Alcohol is the mind-killer. Even small amounts rob us of our health, sleep, good mood, mental clarity, connection with the infinite, money, enthusiasm, vitality, and energy. In return it delivers zero value. Quit now.

  7. Sometimes an AirBnB experience with across the board 5-star reviews really is terrible, and not worth driving 3 hours on Costa Rican roads in the middle of the night when you're sick. Reviews aren’t everything.

  8. As I grow, material things mean less and less daily. The sunset we just witnessed? That 30 minutes in silence brought me more joy than anything I own. If you chase anything, chase those experiences.

  9. It pays to invest in your relationships. I've let them lapse and they are very hard to rebuild, yet they are also more valuable than any object you can own.

  10. Stop working for an hourly wage EVEN if you are your own boss. True abundance comes when you de-link your labour from your income. Passive income is the key to freedom AND security.

  11. There may be an appropriate limit to vacation time, but I haven't found it yet.

  12. Travel is literally the best teacher because when you're in a foreign place and you see how people live fundamentally different to you and your countrymen, yet seem to be happy, you start to question all your automatic patterns with an open mind. Reality bends, and with a vision of an alternate future, change is much easier.

  13. Nobody wants to be marketed to. They want to trust your company enough to believe that you can solve their problem right now. Clients are dying to find someone to trust with their problem. Focus on building trust #1.

  14. Your partner wants to trust you enough to know you have “it” handled. They want to know that you are not going to hurt them or leave. They want to be able to open up to you completely. Be the kind of man or woman that people trust without question. That starts with knowing your values.

  15. Your body is probably your most important asset. If it works, you can avoid a lot of physical pain, but also the pain in the ass time-vampire/money-pit of fixing your health. How many older people talk about nothing else but their health, and thus forget to live?

  16. When you study a wide variety of subjects all of the other subjects become richer. Plus, the quality of your ideas improves exponentially. The Renaissance golden age was sparked by the intersection of art, music, science, philosophy, etc., not by specialization.

  17. Astronomy is probably the arm of science most related to spirituality. Understanding the vastness of the Universe is better than being in a church, and better than being high. You don't believe in God; you either know God, or you don't (replace God with Universe, infinite intelligence, the quantum field, or whatever term feels comfortable).

  18. There is something beautiful about living your life for others. Fulfilment simply cannot be found in self-aggrandizement. The best way to get what you want is to help others first get what they want. Chasing riches is precisely how to keep them from you. Serve first.

  19. You need to break your patterns—repeatedly and often. Einstein said you can't fix a problem with the same thinking that created it, but it's much easier to think differently when you're not living the same day over and again. *** Ready to get out of your own way, and create radical momentum in your life with a powerful coach? Book a free hour with me. ***

  20. You need to change your environment as well, and for the same reasons as above. See point #12 re: travel.

  21. No, you probably don't want to turn your hobby into your job. Sure, you think you'd love to play computer games all day now (or write, or shoot hoops, or hike), but when you're doing it for money, the magic can be lost.

  22. Paradoxically, perhaps, you can probably avoid the trap of "killing your passion" by only writing (etc.) what you feel compelled to write. Start from passion, and the money will be a bonus.

  23. The worst trap I know is a repeated mental habit of worrying about money (poverty mindset). You can't do anything—anything—well if you start from, "this has to work". Try, "this might work" or "let's see what happens when I create this thing."

  24. Sometimes you just need to actively pursue what scares you. Bungie jumping will terrify me for a minute, but living fear-free for life is priceless. The pandemic has put virtually everyone I know in a default state of fear, and we barely detect its insidious repercussions. Fear is flimsy when you run directly at it.

  25. Take a break when the writing (etc.) becomes tiring. Push will wear you out. Create a compelling WHY that draws you, and switch tasks when the work feels drab and grey.

  26. Compound interest is your most powerful ally. It's not exciting to save money in your 20s by investing—it's far more fun to spend. But if I had invested only $200 out of the $800 a month that I was spending on partying in my twenties, I’d have an extra $144,000 today. That's 15 epic family vacations or a downpayment on another income property.

  27. Compound interest is even more powerful when applied to habits. Improve yourself 0.1% per day and you are 37.7% better at the end of the year. What does improve mean? Read or watch something educational. Write. Journal. Exercise. Catch your negative mental gymnastics. Eat something that's good for your body.

  28. Sex lasts for a moment, but broken trust is forever. Don’t cheat. If you’re unhappy, have the courage to fix your relationship, or walk away. By extension, always think 3 or 4 steps ahead with your decisions. Chess is great teacher for this. Paradoxically, don't overthink. Learn to trust your intuition.

  29. Physical attraction and passion is enough in the beginning of a relationship. But eventually it’s the emotional connection (especially for women) that’s the key to great fulfillment and sex. Take the time to connect on that level. Don't just expect it from your partner.

  30. People are far smarter than advertising and marketing assumes. We can see right through your bullshit. Try harder (and build trust first).

  31. Life is over in the blink of an eye. What are you worried about? Live full out. Again, fear is terribly flimsy when you run directly at it. Paradoxically, life is long—learn like you will live forever.

  32. Jobs, and even careers, are a dime a dozen, including yours. You can get a new one any time you like. When you let go of the fear of losing your job something magical happens: you start to do your best work.

  33. You are not entitled to a salary, benefits, pension, or vacation. Business owners and companies exist to build something and make a profit. If you are not helping them in that pursuit, your contribution is less than useless—you are a liability. Stop thinking you’re owed something and take a hard look at the value of your contribution to your organization.

  34. Most people are not as good at their job as they think, because they are not constantly improving their skills. Think of yourself as a corporation of one, with you as the product and the CEO, and you will start to rise to your potential. Ask, what value do I offer?

  35. Enthusiasm and curiosity are the most underrated qualities. Without these you can be good, but not great. Plus, without these, everything you do will be a constant uphill, joyless struggle.

  36. Big goals are not to be feared or seen as out of reach. The time will pass anyway, so you might as well invest it in a challenge instead of just killing time. What might be your moonshot?

  37. You don't need as much down time as you think you do. The quality of your leisure matters far more than the amount. I’ve never found 8 hours of Netflix to be as revitalizing as a 1-hour walk in the woods.

  38. Being offended is your problem, not anyone else's. It follows that your whole experience of life is created in your head, not by anyone else, or anything external. Nobody can make you feel anything. Happiness is your choice.

  39. Competence is far less valuable than good character. Nobody wants to work with or spend time with a brilliant asshole. Character is fate. Don't spend your life in ambition and competition if you care to have more than 3 people at your funeral.

  40. There is virtually no difference between someone who doesn't read books regularly and someone who is illiterate.

And there you have it. Did any of this resonate with you? Did you completely disagree with something I said? Am I a total jerk? Let me know in the comments and I'll respond!


Or, if you're ready to radically change your life with the help of a coach who gets you, book a free hour with me.
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