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Saturday Blueprint on Turning 40

Things I wished I knew a decade ago, and other musings on turning 40.
Saturday Blueprint on Turning 40

This week, as I turn 40, my thoughts on growing old. You can't escape ageing. For a bit of fun, the FaceApp app is a great way to glance into the future and visualise the 'older you'. It is certainly a bit confronting! 😳

We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

✈️ Things I wished I knew when I was 30 now that I’m 40

As we bump along through life we gather lessons and learnings. I made a list of the things I wished I knew when I was 30 now that I’m 40.

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Habits

That habits are the key to everything and anything.

I’ve written about habits before, see Saturday Blueprint 19 on Routines and Habits, but in summary, they are the single most effective means to affect change.

Success, whatever that means to you, is found in consistency.

My top habits are:

  • Gratitude. Keep a daily gratitude journal.
  • Writing. Journal on what you’re thinking, feeling and doing.
  • Cold therapy. A daily cold shower is incredible for your health and mood.
  • Strength training. Daily press ups, pull ups, squats and kettlebell swings tick most muscle groups and require minimal kit and can be done from home.

Physical and mental health

Don’t put off looking after yourself.

The earlier you find a level of physical and mental exercises that you can maintain indefinitely the better.

I constantly return to the idea that, just like on a plane if the oxygen masks were to deploy, that you have to put on your mask first in order to then be able to help others.

My early 30s is when I didn’t put my health first and it was very hard to get back on track.

Mental and physical health are intertwined. An improvement in one will improve the other.

Acceptance

Accept and embrace things as they are.

Enjoy the journey.

Find the opportunity in everything, even negative situations. Positive attitude really is a necessity. How you view the world is your world.

There are seasons of life and there will be ups and downs as sure as the sun rises and sets. You will make it through because you always have.

There will never be a right time. Just start. Whether this is buying a house, getting married, having kids, or changing careers you just need to do it. It will work out just fine in the end.

Work

Work is just work.

Do not kill yourself for a paycheque, and for a job where you will be instantly replaced anyway.

Do what you need to do and find the meaning at work. For me, this is in positive work relationships. It doesn't matter what the tasks are like at work if you are with a bunch of great people.

Learn to say 'no' at work.

Money is just money, it can be earned again. Time though is precious. Go to all your kids' shows and performances. Pick them up from school. Look after them when they are sick.

Friends

Keep in touch with old friends, even if just via text and phone. Having positive connections is valuable.

Reflect

Take the time - daily, monthly and yearly ideally - to reflect on what you want and your current trajectory.

How can you course correct?

If you keep doing what you're doing, where will you be in 5 years' time?

Diet

Eat well, whatever that means for you.

For me, it's to eat more protein and fewer carbs, and skip the processed junk, except for special treats.

It's to avoid alcohol except for a few times a year for special occasions.

This little piece of reflection then leads to a big question:

  • For those who are 50 now. What would you recommend to your 40-year-old self?

🏹 The trajectory of life

Here is a short musing on birth to death.

Birth. From nothing to something. A spark in the darkness. Unknowable potential. After birth it’s like an explosion of consciousness. Of colour. A Big Bang on a smaller scale. An expansion to fill the void, consuming every experience, seeking every emotion, more, more, faster, bigger. An acceleration of experiences. Unquenchable curiosity. We look ever outwards, we look to others to validate us, our ego grows. We feed off others and off experiences. Maximal velocity. Life is a blurring rush. Standing still would be maddening. The speed, wind in your hair. Yeehaw!

Then at some point there is a turning point, an inflection. Perhaps this occurs when you have your own kids and realise that nothing else matters. Or perhaps when you realise you don’t give a fuck about what other people think. Or perhaps when you are faced with the starkness of your own mortality. The shift.

Then a realisation that it’s not all an outwards expansion, but the journey of life is now shifting inwards. An exploration of the self. Who are you? What do you want to be? How will you be remembered? It’s a contraction. A convergence. Now it’s about inner meaning and purpose. Unlearning instead of learning. Removing the unnecessary with the clarity of knowing what is unnecessary. Simplification. Time and perspective to smell the flowers and watch the birds. Consumption replaced with observation. You wondered why it ever mattered what other people thought. That was a different you. The trajectory continues inward. And as you explore deeper into you, your purpose, your meaning, it leads to, well, nothing. There is no you, no self, no ego. Your entire consciousness collapsed to a singularity. The same singularity when we were born from nothing. Existence. To non-existence. You are nothing, but everything. You are indistinguishable from the universe.

I do sense some sort of inflection point now. A turning of the tide. This is not something I worry about, it’s something that is curious to me. It’s something to explore and think about. It’s a reminder to ask myself how I feel now. To notice what I spend my time thinking about - the curious problem of needing my attention to know what my attention is on. Either way, it - this - is life, and all the aches, issues and pains are what they are. I’m the passenger on this trajectory and it won’t change a damn to complain.

The scale of a lifetime

Permit me to do a bit of maths for a moment…

The age of the universe is 13.8 billion years, give or take. Say a typical lifespan is 80 years. As a fraction of the age of the universe this is tiny. In fact 5.79710144928x10^-9. We’re not very good at visualising small (or big) numbers so let me try to frame this in a different way. If we contracted the age of the universe to a single day; 24 hours. Then a typical human life would last just 0.5 milliseconds.

Blink and you’ve missed it. In fact, blink and you’ve missed two hundred lives (a blink is typically about 100 milliseconds, or a tenth of a second).

At top human running speed a distance of 5mm is covered in that half a millisecond.

The human eye-brain system perceives a video refresh rate of 30 milliseconds (60 lives in our contracted time) as continuous motion.

Even just to read ‘half a millisecond’ takes about half a second, or 1000 of our contracted lives.

In short, because life is short, our time here is almost incomprehensible in its brevity. There is no wisdom here. Just the stark reality of our consciousness emerging from the void for the briefest of moments, and subsequently blinking out, the void returning. That we exist at all is quite remarkable.

It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊
Nick


About the Saturday Blueprint

The Saturday Blueprint is a weekly newsletter every Saturday on health, vitality and philosophy by Nick Stevens.

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