Today I turn 45. I remember when my uncle was in his mid-forties and I was a teenager. I thought he better get his sh*t together because he’s pretty much done. Well, here I am today, doing my best to get my sh*t together.
But I don’t feel done. I feel like I’m moving into the second season of my life, taking everything I’ve learned thus far, about myself, people, love, the world, and hopefully doing something with it.
Here are some things I have learned at age forty-five.
1. Grab a beverage and have a seat. This one’s going to be a long one.
Liquid drain clogger only works if you add hot water after fifteen minutes or you’ll think it’s a scam and keep thinking you wasted your money. It wasn’t until recently that I realized this. I kept pouring that sh*t into my drain and it did nothing. Until one day I actually read the instructions. Once I added the hot water, it was like magic. The drain unclogged instantly. I guess the real “know” is that I still don’t read and follow directions, which is why I can’t cook anything. I’m still gluing the wheels of the model car to the wheel well because I don’t read and follow directions. I know this and need to work on it.
2. Thread count matters.
Even if you can’t put food on the table for your starving children, make sure you buy expensive sheets. Like cheap underwear, there’s nothing worse than climbing into bed in some crappy crusty cardboard covers. High thread count is one thing that will make you feel like a king even if you’re broke AF.
3. Energy is a real thing. Be conscious of yours and the energy of others around you.
It’s only been in the last two to three years that I’ve really been paying attention to energy. I feel it now. It’s real. I feel it in rooms. I feel it in other people. I feel it during intimacy. It’s like having a sixth sense that you never knew existed. Making decisions based on energy can allow you to make different choices which can change your life. Seeing the world through energy lenses makes life more magical.
4. I still don’t understand traffic.
Yes, I understand it’s a result of too many cars coming or going at the same time. But when you’re stuck in bumper to bumper then suddenly the traffic lifts, and you look around for an accident or a reason for the bottleneck and there is nothing. Not one thing! That is one of the great mysteries of life.
5. People don’t really change that much.
I get people go through their transformations and rebirth. But we snap back very fast. At our core, we are basically the same. Yes, we may have some new tools and see the world through new lenses. But we have the same personality and still like the same toppings on our pizza.
6. I still can’t have more than two beers without turning bright red.
This is an Asian thing. No need to explain that I don’t have the enzymes that fight off the poison like you do! So I still glow red after two beers and probably always will and I’m totally okay with it because for whatever reason if the lights go out, you got me.
7. Everyone will adjust.
I used to worry so much about the push back I would receive from others from my choices. Friends, family, co-workers, girlfriend. It’s not that I care less today but I’ve learned over the years that everyone will adjust. You can’t make everyone happy. You just can’t. It’s impossible and you’ll die trying. So you have to start with you and your truth. Everyone will adjust. ← I even turned it into a tee shirt as a reminder. And if they don’t, then you have to ask yourself if they really care about you and your journey.
8. I don’t trust photos anymore.
No one looks like their pictures anymore. No one.
9. I finally feel the results of being present and living mindfully.
This is a big one. Let me give you the most recent example. It happened yesterday. I just went to Asheville. Lovely place, by the way. The plane ride back to LA was two hours longer than on the way there. And since the trip back was with a different airline and didn’t have TVs, it meant not only was the plane ride longer but I didn’t have movies to kill the time. The old John Kim would have b*tched, dreaded, and complained in his head, most likely ruining the entire trip. But I only thought about it once then filed it away. I stayed super present for the entire retreat and barely remember the five and a half hour plane ride back. I remember opening my computer and suddenly, we were landing. This is the power of being present and mindful and not allowing our thoughts to strip the life from us and cause us to dip into lower frequencies. Because that’s what slows time down. This is just one example but I’m having more and more of these experiences by practicing distance from my thoughts and truly staying present. Like truly, not just wearing the tee shirt. Sorry, I don’t have a tee shirt to remind you to be present. Anyway, congratulations to me.
10. I finally believe I’m a writer.
It took over a dozen screenplays, five thousand blog posts, and two book deals. So the know here is that changing beliefs take time. But also, that it’s possible.
11. Love can’t be put into a box. Each experience is uniquely different and valuable for its own reasons.
More on this as I continue to explore love. I just know that if you do put love in a box, by comparing old relationships and blueprints to your new one, it will not have a fair shot. In order to give yourself new love experiences that will eclipse old ones, you must be a student to love and toss all your definitions. Or else you’ll just be repeating patterns and chasing old memories of something that didn’t work out.
12. Friends > Money.
I believe that great friends, truly great friends who you know you’ll grow old with, will add more value and quality to your life than lots of money. One can argue, well how do you know John because you don’t have lots of money. And to them, I say watch your mouth. No seriously, I don’t know about you but I know many who have f*ck you money but little friends (not literally) or fake friends, and are not happy people. They feel very alone in the world, even if they have a significant other and kids. Their money has created walls instead of bridges. At forty-five, I believe more than ever that having great friends is priceless.
13. I don’t feel guilty when I travel anymore. I’m actually starting to enjoy it.
I used to feel guilty every time I left Los Angeles. You know that dumb saying, you can sleep when you die? Well, I used to think the same thing about traveling. I always felt like if I’m traveling, I’m not being productive. But I am finally, at age 45, allowing myself to not feel guilty when I traveling. And it’s opened up a whole new world. Literally. I want to go places now. Not because I feel like I have to. But because I genuinely want to see more than Malibu beach and the Hollywood sign.
14. There is no such thing as a perfect person or a perfect relationship.
It didn’t take me forty-five years to learn this. I’m just doing something about it now by not chasing “perfect”, trying to be “perfect”, and putting more weight on other things like character, humor, kindness, energy, and emotional intelligence. I’m spreading my chips out and making smarter, better bets. I’m also doing my best to practice what I preach. I used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But that’s just called being a hypocrite. Looking inward and exploring what comes up is the work in any relationship. There’s a difference between knowing /teaching/coaching and doing — practicing it in your own life. These days, I’m putting more money where my mouth is.
15. I can go exactly three days without washing my hair before I start to feel gross and wonder how the hell people get to dreadlocks.
The first day it’s too dry. The second day is when your hair looks the best. By the third day, it’s time to wash it. If you go to four, people can smell the marination when you walk by and that’s not worth the cool hair. It took me forty-five years to learn this.
16. Cold showers at night are not sustainable.
I tried taking cold showers before going to sleep because I heard you sleep better and I have really sh*tty sleep. I lasted about a week. By the sixth day, I was afraid when night time came because I knew my balls were going to be in my mouth. We, as humans, are just not meant to take cold showers. I don’t care what we did in the caveman days. Why don’t you go sh*t in the woods then and not use toothpaste? We did not grow up in the caveman days. We grew up with hot water.
17. Either is no processed sugar.
I understand processed sugar is bad for you. It f*cks up my gut too. But to completely eliminate it from your diet? Really? Completely? There are times when you’re just going to eat processed sugar. Like tonight, there’s a super high chance I will have donuts and a stomach ache because it’s my birthday and I’ll eat sugar if I want to. I’ve learned that it’s all about moderation. Not abstinence.
18. I enjoy peeling the lint off the drying filter like women like popping pimples off their boyfriend’s backs.
I think it’s the feeling of something being cleansed or cleaned. You tell me.
19. I trust my intuition more than my eyes for the first time in my life.
I feel. And sit in that feeling, really soak in it. Then make choices based on that feeling instead of just logic. I never used to do this. My decisions were always from my left brain. There is power in our intuition and we need to practice listening to it or it will always be a weak signal. I believe our truth lives there. And we can’t go where we’re meant to go unless we listen to it. Often.
20. I have a couple of friends who were born when I was graduating high school, which means I could technically be their father.
This is just a fact. Nothing to go on and on about. It’s depressing a little yeah.
21. I eat out way too much.
I don’t want to talk about this.
22. God / The universe speaks to me through events and serendipity.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted God to talk to me. He never did. But then I realized that he does but not through words. Well, maybe through me with words but not like a thundering voice I hear. I used to label everything as coincidences. Today, I don’t really believe in coincidences. Yes, it’s a choice. A tough one sometimes but enough crazy sh*t has happened that I believe serendipity is a real thing. I mean if you believe in spirits and energy and life flow, and possibly past lives, the universe talking to us all the time makes complete sense to me. We’re just not listening because we’re always on our phones.
23. What you think people think about you is 90 percent wrong.
There are so many times I would bet my right arm that someone believed or thought something about me only to find out that I was totally wrong. In my world, it’s called projection and we do it constantly. I love the classic saying, “What someone thinks about you is none of your business”. I remind myself of this often. I also have another saying. What some thinks about you has more to do with their story than yours. Keep that in your back pocket. Or bathroom mirror, depending on how much you struggle with what people think about you. I’m just too old to care now. The cement is drying.
24. Don’t trust your thoughts.
We all live with distorted thinking. Our daily thoughts are usually filled with worry, dread, and fear. Ninety percent of these thoughts are the same ones we had yesterday. Instead of trusting every thought I have, I now practice awareness, see them as if they’re inside a snow globe, and choose what I want to hold on to.
25. Don’t trust your feelings.
They are not facts.
26. Nothing is permanent.
There is an ebb and flow to life. Seasons. Chapters. People change. Relationships change. We change. Constantly. And that will not change. So I accept it now and it makes life much easier because holding on it what causes most of our anxiety.
27. Women like things slow.
Not just in bed. With everything. They don’t like to be rushed. Conversations. Dinner. Foreplay. I try to take my time now. It may be a sign of maturity.
28. Korean barbecue isn’t what it used to be.
The idea of eating four plates of meat kind of grosses me out now. I actually like the pan chan (the side dishes) just as much if not more than what’s being grilled. It’s not just the world’s attitude toward meat and I haven’t seen any of these food documentaries about slaughterhouses that have instantly turned people vegetarian. My body and taste are just changing. That’s what happens with age.
29. The world is about to change very fast.
I’m not just talking about cool apps that make life easier. In our lifetime, our education system may collapse and be rebuilt and scaled by you. This means we can finally get rid of math! Thank God. We may take rockets instead of planes when we travel. Everything will be “smart”, not just our phones. And as the world turns virtual, I believe there will be push back from people who believe we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and want to go back to the basics. The new “hippie” will be born. Actually, they’re already here.
30. I can’t stop drinking coffee.
I’ve finally given up on trying to drink less coffee. I’m not a tea person. I’m just not and I’m okay with it. Phew. I feel so much lighter. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
31. Growth is about connection. First, connecting with you. Then to others.
As life happens and we have to grow up and pay taxes and sh*t, we disconnect with parts of ourselves. Parts of ourselves that we really liked. Reconnecting to who we truly are is where growth lives. Then as we connect more and more to ourselves, we also start connecting with others, and this connection goes back to helping us connect to ourselves. This is how we grow and thrive. We are not meant to do life alone.
32. Talking sh*t about other people is something I have very little time and patience for these days.
In my twenties, I used to love talking sh*t about others. Today, not so much. It makes me feel like I’m doing nothing with my life. Also, it’s just negative energy and I’m no longer interested in any kind of negative energy.
33. Everyone underestimates the power of our subconscious.
Every time I’m baffled at how I drove somewhere while I was completely in my head the entire time, I think about how powerful my subconscious is and how many things I am doing without being aware I’m doing them. Then I think if we can tap into this power source, we can always be moving toward our goals without realizing it.
34. I should start buying real furniture for my apartment instead of waiting for the dream of owning that house in the hills.
I’ll start with a few plants.
35. I finally like music and realize the power in it.
People are always shocked that I’ve only gone to a handful of concerts in my life. I didn’t see the point in spending money on something you can get for free on the radio. I finally get it now. Being obsessed with our state and how to change it has allowed me to discover music as a very powerful tool. There are very few things that can change your state as fast. I listen to music as much as I pee now.
36. What we actually see with our eyes is only a fraction of what’s happening in reality.
I believe there is so much happening around us that we don’t notice because we only pay attention to what we see with our eyes. If you think about sounds only dogs can hear. Spirits only a few can see. The effects of the moon and stars. There are things happening around us all the time. Energy is in constant motion and always moving. I think if we choose to be more aware and pay attention, maybe starting by being still and reducing our internal noise, we can become sharper instruments to notice. I think this is how we’re meant to experience life, a richer life. One we can actually feel and not just see.
37. Meaning > Pleasure
For most of my life, I’ve been chasing pleasure. Anything that feels good and shoots dopamine into my brain. Today, meaning means more to me than pleasure. What I’m doing and why. Who I surround myself with. This doesn’t mean to strip myself of pleasure. It just means to not hang my life on it. I think a well lived is a life filled with meaning. Meaning or pleasure, they lead to very different lives.
38. Modest Mouse was right.
And we’ll all float on okay. I’ve learned that even when it feels like life is falling apart, things always end up working itself out. It’s like experiencing turbulence inside a plane. It feels like you’re going to die. But if you pull back and see the plane from the outside, the plane is stable and you barely notice the bumps it’s experiencing.
I used to live in a state of panic. Always. Thought the sky was always falling. After a few decades, I’ve learned to trust my story. Like #26, nothing is permanent. And if you accept that, you will accept change even if it’s difficult because difficult is also not permanent. I like the word “float” in the song because that’s how I choose to look at life. And by “float”, I don’t mean powerless or do nothing. I mean not holding onto things that will keep you stuck and drown you. Let go of the rock. Allow the current of life take you where you’re supposed to go. This leads me to my next know,
39. You can’t fight the universe.
I’ve tried many times. I haven’t won yet. I no longer choose to fight the universe. Things rarely happen when we want them to or how we want them to. Things happen in their own time. And come in different forms than we imagined which later in life we understand and appreciate why. We meet people unexpectedly. Seeds we planted years ago but forgot about come back around. Again, there is a flow. And I choose not to fight that flow (our resistance) anymore. No more swimming up river.
40. Patience is one of the greatest life tools.
I am an Aries and a very impatient person. I’ve been like this most of my life and it hasn’t helped in any way. Luckily, with age comes more patience naturally. But it is something I still struggle with. Choosing to be patient, with people, situations, love, the day, and of course, yourself will give you less anxiety and wrinkles. Also, use sunblock.
41. It’s better to live in a smaller place but a nicer area than a bigger place in a sh*tty area.
I’ve lived in both and I’ve learned that the area you live in raises your quality of life tenfold, not the space you live in. You can make a small space cozy. You can’t make a crappy neighborhood better. Today, I live two walking steps away from everything, coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, sushi bars, movie theaters, etc. which means I rarely use my car which means I rarely sit in traffic. I write in coffee shops all day, do sessions and have meetings down the street, and hike up in the hills right above me. I’ve created my own Mayberry and it’s wonderful. Most of you won’t know what Mayberry is. It was a very simple town in an old television show where there were two police officers and one jail.
42. I still can’t watch scary movies.
I remember watching Psycho as a kid and I don’t think I stepped foot into a shower for an entire summer. Nothing much has changed. I can do monster scary but not Exorcist or creepy sons dressed up as mom waving butcher knives around scary. It’s not so much the movie itself. It’s my imagination that takes things to a whole new level when I get home. And it lasts for weeks. I think in pictures and convince myself that what I imagine is real. This is a great thing when it comes to visualizing a good life but not when it comes to scary movies.
43. Live and die in LA.
I grew up in Los Angeles. I’ve been here for the earthquakes, the mudslides, and the riots. I know nothing else. I’ve visited small towns with clean air and friendly people. They’re great. But LA will always be my safe tree. It’s my backyard. The language I speak. Yes, I want to see other parts of the world but in order to re-energize I need the California sun, year around motorcycle rides, hipster coffee shops, and taco trucks.
44. Life is short.
I know I sound like an old guy sitting on a porch or a cheesy Hallmark card. But holy sh*t! It just feels like last week I was stealing car stereos to fit in with the older kids. It feels like yesterday I discovered functional fitness, took the motorcycle course, and started a life coaching intensive. I think it takes getting to this point (40’s) to realize how fast life goes by. People born in the ’90s have no idea what I’m talking about. For them, life is not short. Life is long and complicated. That’s how I felt too. I get it. But now life is not complicated. People are.
But the good news about realizing how short life is is you give less f*cks about things that used to matter, like why someone doesn’t like you or where to buy pants that actually fit. You also lean into moments more. Appreciate the little things. And things that used to piss you off don’t, as much. You’re able to let go and let bygones be bygones.
You start to think about how you want to leave this world, especially if you don’t have kids to pass the baton.
So every minute counts. You end up tipping more. You care more about people. And finally,
45. I’m smiling more these days.
Every time someone points a camera at me, I tell myself, smile motherfucker. You’re forty-five. There’s nothing to be insecure about anymore. No one cares.
This post was originally published here and is republished with permission from the author.
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