A member recently joked about me being just a little too young to personally know about getting old and the aging body. The member also assumed I was 30-ish and was surprised when I mentioned I was 40ish. I turned 39 this month. It’s not old by a long shot. But it’s not young either. And I have lived my years.

It started wheels turning and got me to a little reflection. Here’s a few chosen nuggets of what I’ve done since I was truly young, 20 years ago. Since 19, I…

  • Joined a fraternity (Sigma Chi), won a bunch of crew medals (3 seat, starboard), got the grades and graduated college (U of MN, Ski-u-mah!).
  • Survived a motorcycle crash (forward roll) and climbed a few mountains (keep going).
  • Studied and taught Kung Fu and Tai Chi (thank you, Sifu).
  • Learned to rock climb, snowboard, surf, fight, and the discipline of Kettlebell.
  • Treated myself to depression and got treated for it.
  • Had my heart broken, broke someone’s. More than once.
  • Moved and made a home 15 times across two countries and two US coasts.
  • Came one signature away from joining the military.
  • Worked hard in steel-toed boots, in a serving apron, and at an embassy in Malaysia, for the Ford Motor Company, for a Dot Com startup, and for big companies and brands through consulting (thank you, City Square).
  • Lost my faith. Maybe gained something in its place.
  • Educated myself through classics of the East and West (Marcus, please meet Miyamoto).
  • Had many wild nights.
  • Had many quiet mornings.
  • Learned my capacity for addiction.
  • Wrote and self-published a book.
  • Broke my body in pursuit of ability.
  • Fixed my body and redefined ability.
  • Shifted my physical identity from athletic output to mastery.
  • Buried friends and family members.
  • Witnessed some births of the next generation.
  • Met my future wife, courted each other, and married.
  • Stood against and crumbled under trials and uncertainty.
  • Met my daughter.
  • Made, lost, and held important friendships.
  • Started a business.
  • Shifted from relying mostly on others, to relying mostly on myself, to being relied on.
  • Discovered what it means to shudder alone in a leased corner in a strange place gripped with existential terror.
  • And then survived.
  • And then thrived.
  • Cultivated a powerful fitness path, my own Kung Fu, one that continues to unfold.
  • Made connections through my business path that continue to evolve and blossom.
  • Began to learn what it means and takes to shift from being Coach and  Janitor-in-Chief to Founder and CEO.

Most of the deepest, truest experiences of life are similar across lives. They feel unique only because they make us feel so much.But they are not. I’d love to give myself some succinct perspective on 20 years. To tie together all the bullets–and all those entirely unbullet-able experiences that were not mentioned–into a personal and useful bow. Three things come to mind.

  1. The first: at the end of all our little life triumphs and tragedies, the only thing of real value is how and whether we’ve connected ourselves to ours and the world. Connection to people that matter will lead you to your best self.
  2. The second: there is only one true emotion–bittersweet. Truest in that it attends the best and deepest experiences.
  3. Third: the only reasonable response to the universe or yourself is a good chuckle.

But none of these are sufficient. When I was young, I prayed a lot. I twice prayed so hard I was directly answered (or convinced myself I had been). On most days, I prayed for wisdom. I had some idea it was more important than knowledge, but I didn’t know why. Now I know why, that I don’t have it, and that it isn’t a thing to have anyway. I live in a place and time that celebrates youth and passing ephemera above all else, but a wisdom path teaches that the best is yet to come.

I am 39 and infinitely more than I was at 19. I’m 39 and know life’s acceleration curve. I’m still learning how to pace myself on it. I’m 39 and I’m a white belt again (thank you Sensei!). I’m 39 and I am strong for others, weak for myself, and I am still hungry to work on both.

A good path delivers more than its follower could ever imagine. I’m 39 and I’m on a good path.

In Strength & Movement.