33 Things I've Learned by 33 [Pt. 2]

All of what you are about to read took 33 years to compile and concludes as the second half of a two part series. These words are in now way meant to be exhaustive, but they do represent the summation, insights, and take-aways from yours truly. 

(Part 1 Begins Here)

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18. Serve Your Family

Having been in ministry, I used to believe that service began in the house of God. Then, I realized that the first ministry I'm called to is serving my family. 

This is a serious challenge, as family tends to see us at our best and our worst. But imagine, if just for a moment, the impact in starting here. If you can learn to serve your family regularly, then it's likely that serving others will become a natural outpouring of your character.

I challenged myself to do this beginning this past summer. I was going to start the day by making my family breakfast on a regular basis. Why breakfast? Well, for starters, it's a daily meal I can actually cook. Breakfast is probably my favorite meal and since my wife was 6-7 months pregnant, I thought it would be a great way to serve her and give her a break from cooking another meal throughout the day. 

I've kept up with this habit. My wife and oldest daughter are definitely fans and so am I.

Instead of looking to get, I’m looking to give and it’s starts at square one, in my home.

On a side note, I can also now make super-delicious waffles. They're killer. Seriously.

 Our Thanksgiving Family Photo...my oldest daughter still unable to focus on the camera. 

Our Thanksgiving Family Photo...my oldest daughter still unable to focus on the camera. 

19. Good Creativity Means Good Hard Work

If you want to be a good artist, then you're going to have to work really, really hard. Good creativity requires lengthy, persistent focus. You're going to have to make (and I do mean make) time free from distractions. You have to create space in your life to submerge yourself in your craft.

There's just no other way around this one. You have to do the work.

Good creativity also requires a proper plan and approach to what you’re going to make. Creative types are notorious for being unorganized, but the truth is that being organized (even somewhat organized) allows you to be more creative. It frees your time allowing you to do what you enjoy doing most and that is creating.

So, get your headphones, some good music, and get intentional about diving deep into your gift.

20. Honor the Gift(s)

A man’s gift makes room for him,
And brings him before great men.
— Proverbs 18:16

Notice the emphasis isn't on your efforts or personal cleverness or hygiene. Please don't misunderstand, smelling good is integral to being liked by others, but it’s our gifts that make room for us, which otherwise we cannot create.

As a kid, I excelled in two areas in particular, art and soccer. I could draw well and I was a good goalkeeper. These are skills that I honored. What I mean is, I gave them priority or a place in my life. 

In college, I received scholarship money for excelling in both of these areas. 

Today, I've coached soccer at the high school, elite club, and NCAA Division I levels.

I'm also an art teacher and a practicing artist.

What began as hobbies, I discovered as a talents. My talents, I then found, would become part of my calling and my calling would connect me to other people.

I teach because I am able to do.

My gifts have afforded me so many opportunities and connections; so much so, I couldn’t begin to list them all here. 

Here's the point: When you honor your gifts, they "make room" for you.

They will set you in places and before people that you couldn't begin to imagine.

21. Stay Drug-Free

Okay, so you're probably not on drugs. And I'm really mostly kidding. 

Unless you are on drugs, which isn't good. The word going around is that drugs are bad. 

So, yeh. Don't do drugs.

But on serious note, there are some common substances I consume that can really alter my state-of-mind if I get too much of them. For this reason, the occasional detox from sugar and caffeine is pretty liberating. Abstention or consumption of these items in moderation has really helped me to regain my focus. Which is good, since you have no idea how much I like "Sour Patch Kids."

22. PRAY

Look, I know that to some this may seem like a "no-brainier," but this is perhaps the most important thing of all. 

The opportunity exists each day to converse with the God of heaven. It's overwhelming to think that the same God who fashioned the universe, finds great joy & glory when we speak with Him.

Prayer is a dialogue. It's a direct connection providing constant insight with a God who can and will direct you, encourage you, and teach you how to manage life from the day-to-day for His sake & glory.

I am often amazed at our propensity to make prayer an afterthought. 

So my question for you here is:  Is prayer your first resource or your last resort?

A strong commitment to prayer, I've learned, is integral to sustaining your life as a devoted follower of Christ. There’s just something about addressing the matter before God first, that causes trust and peace to come that much sooner.

23. The Realm of Impossibilities

There's nothing quite as incredible as the human imagination. 

Locked inside are endless possibilities.

Just as space seems nearly limitless, where the universe keeps expanding, the imagination mimics that capacity. It continues to stretch and reach into the realm of new and fresh ideas. 

This is why books are so amazing. You can venture through the imagination without ever leaving your living room; it's promise much more rewarding than just glaring into a box for hours upon end. That's why the movie will never be as good as the book. 

Your imagination is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the simpler it is to overcome those creative blocks. 

Keep that child-like sense of wonder alive.

Engage the imagination

24. Learn to Listen

It's better to be interested than interesting. 

In becoming a skilled conversationalist and all-around like-able person, all you first need to be is a good listener. 

25. Keep Pursuing the One You (Will) Marry

After the nuance of dating and the honeymoon wears off, this becomes crucial. Hopefully, if you're currently dating someone and it looks promising, then you have plans for marriage. If you're already married then I trust you're happily married.

(You can read about our story here.)

When my wife and I were dating, we realized there was a certain level of expectation that came with the whole process. The excitement building up to a date night was fun and it really drove us to enjoy each other's company.  

Once we were married, we continued with our date night tradition. Every Monday we would go on a date. Now that we have 2 kids, this is an event we really have to fight for. 

The reality is that if we're not healthy, then our family isn't healthy. Our relationship is integral to the betterment of each other and our kids.

As a man and a husband, winning my wife's heart isn't a one-time event, but a perpetual pursuit. It's lifelong. 

Gentlemen…doing what you did to win the woman is further necessary to keep the woman.

Celebrating life together is a journey, so make it a fun one. Get creative and make it a priority to keep pursuing one another.

FYI: For all the ladies, this is a practice that my wife loves and has never objected to. 

Often, she encourages our date nights more than I do.

 Date Night

Date Night

26. Celebrate People

People matter most. 

Making people feel loved and appreciated is not a luxury; it's a necessity. 

As often as I feel like I need encouragement (which is pretty often), I remind myself of how much others need it too. This serves as regular reminder of how much people like to be celebrated...particularly if you choose moments when there's no real reason to celebrate i.e. not on birthdays holidays, etc.

A small gift or the right words at the right timer can turn someone around.

Think of what these moments may have meant to you. 

King Solomon said that...

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.
— Proverbs 12:25
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
— Proverbs 16:24

27. Your Greatest Investment (for Parents & Mentors)

Your greatest contribution to the world isn't the success you become or the goals you achieve, it's the child that you raise. 

You're greatest legacy lies in that little version of yourself you see day-to-day. 

The residue you leave behind will be calculated most greatly in the character carried out by your son(s) or daughter(s). 

Their lives are a testament of yours. 

Pour into them as many good things as you can. 

Make the sacrifices for their future now and raise them to lead their generation well.

28. Take Risks

Push the envelope. Press against the conventional grain of how things are done. 

This isn't about challenging the rules for the sole sake of rebellion. It's more about testing the tradition of things to determine why such traditions or bureaucracy might exist in the first place. 

Real objectivity & fresh perspective are a Godsend and this viewpoint often only comes by standing outside of the lines of conventional thinking. 

Electricity, flight, the automobile, these kind of life-altering phenomenon came at the expense of calculated risk takers. 

In the same breath, I'd also like to make a strong appeal to wisdom. Risk taking is quite different than foolish, blind ambition made in a heightened, emotional state. 

You can stay grounded and still test the system. So, test it.

And if you find a better way, take the risk and go make it happen.

29. Start the Day Right

This is not an appeal to start the day by consuming the right amount of yogurt or oatmeal. Although, that is important. This is rather, an encouragement to begin each day with prayer & devotion to Scripture.

If not for my devotion time in the morning, I doubt that my thoughts would be so clear and my day so unobstructed.

I’m not saying this practice makes everything perfect. I am saying it makes my day more manageable. I walk away from my devotion each morning knowing there is enough grace and strength to take on what the day has in store.

This grace and strength you find, stems only from God. It’s like having an added layer to shield you from the harms of this world. The words you read and what you pray, bring confidence to know that God is with you. Period.

30. Stop Procrastinating

The compulsion to delay will persists if you let it, but keep moving forward. Sooner or later, the desire to quit or ease up will start to gnaw at you and you will have to make a decision to press through. 

Keep going. 

The goal is not to become an overnight success. Those stories are few and far between.

And let's be realistic, most overnight successes are comprised of diligent people who have persevered through years of hardship to carve out a space for their passion in life. 

The goal is 1% gains and those start with the simple willingness to show up.

Show up. Do the work. And the results will come.

31. Learn How to Make a SALE

You can have the best idea in the world, but if you can't sell it, then you don't really have much. 

This isn't just about money, it's about perceived value.

In our world, money is simply an exchange of perceived value. 

There are plenty of innovations & ideas that others have paid a healthy premium to have access to. Maybe these ideas ultimately became products, goods, or services. 

Regardless, if what you have devised is both unique and helps others to solve a problem, then be fair enough to place a fair monetary value on what you've made.

The next step is getting to know your audience. Who’s looking for what you have? This is better known as finding your market or customer. Trust me, they're out there. 

Helping this audience get their hands on what they need from you is better known as making a sale.

If you believe in what you have, here's a few of my favorites that share good insights on business, talent, and marketing:

Firepole Marketing - Clever guys who just make business better. 

SeanWes - Type artist teaching both the art and business of hand -drawn type. 

Jane Hammill - Fashion-savvy chic with a nose for trends & how to grow your brand. 

Jon Morrow - Writer/Blogger who shares and lives generously through his words.

32.  Spirit of Excellence

There are far too many clichés that I'm tempted to use here, so I won't. 

What I will acknowledge is that humanity is tainted with failure and mistakes, so to strive for perfection, I've learned, is a more fleeting, draining, and binding task than I can tackle. 

But what we can do is to learn to be excellent. 

Excellence is less about chasing the mythical, shining unicorn of achievement and more about using what you know, combined with what you have right now, to make what you have envisioned be the very best it can be.

Is your knowledge limited?

Fight against the ignorance and teach yourself as much you can. A man who can read is a force to be reckoned with.

Are your resources limited?

That's okay. Limited resources are the breeding grounds for innovation.

Excellence is its own best promoter. 

Make something good enough or become good enough and you won't have to go chasing after people, people will come chasing after you because they will want what you have. 

Do you see a man who is excellent in what he does? He will stand before kings. He will not stand before unknown men.
— Proverbs 22:29

33. It's Still Not About Me (or You)

I’ve listed 32 things that I’ve learned in the past 33 years (if you missed Part 1 you can read it here) and I saved this one for last.

In all of the getting and doing, striving and straining, I’ve discovered that every good thing that exist in me and every good thing that exist in you was intended to give God His due glory.

Among all of the pursuits, creeds, and purposes you could serve, this one thing stands most supreme.

You and I, we exist to give God glory.

So, in our getting and doing, let us live our lives in such a way that the outworking of our actions would give Him the greatest glory. 

Let your life be an example of His love, goodness, and generosity to others.

And when you have emptied yourself; when you’re good and tired and satisfied, then you’ll know that serving Him was worth it.

Then you’ll know that the world was left a little bit better than it was when you first found it.


Well, that's it.

That's 33 years of experience and life lessons poured out on paper. I hope this means as much to you as it has to me. If so, would you please consider sharing this article with someone?

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Also, I'd love to hear your favorites from Part 2. Tell me which ones and why in the Comments below.


Tweet this - "Making people feel loved and appreciated is not a luxury; it's a necessity."

Tweet this - "Your greatest contribution to the world isn't the success you become or the goals you achieve, it's the child that you raise."

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