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On Turning 40

On Turning 40

On December 13th,  2007, I turned 40. No birthday before this ever caused me a day of depression, but this one got to me. Pulling a group of friends together for a great party, complete with great food, terrific wine, and a wrestling singlet with my name emblazoned on back (it would take too long to explain), I celebrated the day with my friends and got through it well.

But now it occurs to me that at this place in life, I need to be cognizant of the fact that in our forties, many of us are extremely focused on our careers. Money, achievement, success, respect, power. These things entice us now like they did not ten or fifteen years ago. These are the ways that human beings, at least in our culture right now, keep score at this age. There is nothing wrong with that, in reason. But if we don’t pay attention, we will get swept up in those things for the next decade or more.

And what I can tell you from having friends who are older than I is that this too will change. 40 is a big birthday, but 50 is bigger. It makes you really step back and ask yourself what you have done, what you have accomplished. And it makes you look around and ask if you have any real friends. People who like you and want to be with you, not because you are a good contact, but because you are a good guy.

My theory: the decade of your forties needs to be about harnessing the countervailing forces of accomplishment and relationships, much like a sailboat moves forward because of the tension between the wind and the keel. The wind of ambition is blowing strong, and so be it, that is part of being at this place in life. But we must have a depth in our life that balances this drive, an appreciation for and a commitment to loving others, to relationships, to serving and helping and most of all being with other people.

If we don’t keep this tension, the wind will drive us in front of it, and it will be a wild ride – for as long as it lasts. But there will be a cost. Sooner or later we will reach the shore, and be faced with sailing our boat back into the wind – alone.

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