• No big thing — just the key to success, happiness, and world peace.

    Turning 53 is weird.

    I don’t feel as old as I used to think 53-year-olds feel. My arthritis and bursitis still feel like annoying little injuries that will someday get better, rather than an ache that I will have to simply live with every day, especially in the winters of Wisconsin.

    My brain still feels full of potential and possibilities, skills I want to learn and experiences I want to have. Every day I for the last three months I’ve written an article, but the stack of ideas to write about is not getting any smaller — nor is all the other stuff I’d like to write, podcast, video, photograph, sketch, and dance about.

    I do enjoy sitting on the porch and watching the world go by much more than I thought I would in my reckless youth. Back then I couldn’t understand the idea of just sitting there, when there were so many things that I could do.

    I’m starting to glimpse the value of rest, so perhaps there’s hope for me to slide into my dotage with some dignity.

    But I doubt it.

    In ten years, no one will care. In one hundred, no one will remember.

    That’s one of the hard truths that I’ve learned in my half-decade of conscious life.

    It’s a form of YOLO (“You Only Live Once”), but I think people often take the wrong lesson from it.

    Some people take the impermanence of events and decide it means that whatever we do doesn’t matter. Enjoy life to the fullest! Live as though there’s no tomorrow! Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they may storm the capital and strip our voting rights and burn our books.

    That’s not the lesson that I take from it.

    If the future is uncertain and the past unchangeable, the most important thing is what we do now.

    Yesterday I wrote about a time when all of my Great Plans of Life fell to ruins in a matter of weeks. I’d had a whole career and family goals laid out with actionable steps and milestones — and it was all swept away.

    It seemed like the end of everything. The destruction of hope. Yet now, arguably, I am more happy, more successful, and more secure in my relationships than I could have ever imagined back then.

    How did I get here?

    I don’t know, really. I didn’t plan to be here.

    But what I did do, back then when my world was falling apart, was start focusing on the next action. And trying to make it the right one.

    “Right Action” is all about the little things.

    There’s a whole lot of things that people in power tell you will matter immensely, most of which revolve around numbers. Did you get a good GPA? How is your credit score? Did she give you digits?

    I can’t speak for everyone else, but none of these things have had any real influence on my life. I suspect that they are less about actual importance and more about instruments of control and shame — it’s hard to measure things like “wisdom” or “connection”, so the powers that be choose to measure what they can, rather than what really matters.

    It’s the little things that matter the most. That’s why the path to being successful lies in choosing, in every moment, to do what seems to be the “right” thing.

    But there’s a caveat: you don’t get to choose what little things are going to matter. Most of them, as I said, no one will care about in a decade, and in a century, no one will remember.

    But some of them will count.

    And since you don’t know which ones are the ones that will change your life, the best you can do is to make the right choices, one choice at a time.

    At least, that’s what works for me.

    It’s been a very bumpy ride; there may be a way to figure out the right choice without making a bunch of wrong ones, but that’s not the path I took.

    The world outside seems hell-bent on falling apart — but in the microcosm of my current moment, the incremental right-choices have led to a pretty good place, here on my 53rd birthday. Thanks for sharing a bit of it with me.

    At the risk of sounding presumptuous: good choice.

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