20 Business (and Life) Lessons From A 40-Year Old Gen X’er

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday (40 is the new 30, right?) and even though I still look like a guy in his early 30’s (hey, that’s what people tell me so I’m not going to argue) and feel like a guy in his 30’s (or 60’s, depending on the day), there is no doubt that I’m a proud, card-carrying member of Generation X, also known as Gen X.

Gen X contains people born in the 60’s all the way up to the early 80’s. Me, I was born smack dab in the middle… in 1971. Turning 40 typically causes one to reflect on his or her life, accomplishments, lessons learned, goals met and goals to set, and to step back and evaluate where one is personally and professionally.

That is exactly what I did…and continue to do. In fact, I’ll be doing that every day from this point on. So the thought struck me as I was lying in bed one morning and interacting with the Twitterverse….”What have I learned over my 17 year career?” I started typing out a rough draft on my iPhone and ended up with this blog post.

I’d love to hear feedback from Gen Y, Baby Boomers and anyone else after you read through this list. I don’t proclaim to know it all and I am a firm believer that “the magic” happens in business when all generations are open minded, work together, and realize that they can learn a lot from each other.

So here’s the list from a newly minted 40-year-old Gen X’er….

1. Career satisfaction comes not from how much money you make but by how much you enjoy the journey.

2. The world is overflowing with TAKERS. The quicker you learn to filter them out, the more rewarding your career (and life) will be.

3. One of the best compliments you can ever receive is someone telling you that you’ve inspired them.

4. Seek out people that challenge you. Real and lasting growth only comes when you step outside your comfort zone.

5. If you haven’t found a career you love doing every day, keep searching. You will never find it if you sit still.

6. Calculated risks are the best kind. Make sure there is water in the pool before you jump off the high dive.

7. Nearly every company has people that suck and people that are awesome. The former will keep you down at all costs and take credit for what you do. The latter will raise you up on their own shoulders and let you shine.

8. There is nothing more rewarding than helping people every day.

9. Ever thought about what people would say at your funeral? If you don’t like the answer today, you still have time to change it.

10. Your instincts are usually right. Just know it takes time and experience to learn to trust them.

11. The #1 most ignored and undervalued business opportunity is creating, defining, and maintaining a thriving, employee-centric corporate culture.

12. If you are a business owner, President, CEO or in a position of leadership within a company and don’t talk to (and really know) the people that work for you, then your business isn’t successful yet.

13. Many companies say “We’re only as good as the people we hire” yet they routinely make $50,000 hiring decisions based on “gut” feelings, 2 page resumes, and an hour interview.

14. Employees that ask questions and challenge authority/status quo are often the ones that care the most and have the most potential.

15. Saying PLEASE and THANK YOU never gets old.

16. Doing what you say you are going to do is an awesome skill set….that many people are lacking.

17. Organizational skills are an awesome skill set….yeah, you guessed it….that many people are lacking.

18. When someone asks “Why?”, two answers that are never acceptable are: “That’s the way I’ve always been” and “That’s the way things have always been done around here.”

19. I’ll take a person that is willing to say “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” over the alternative every single day of the week.

20. Don’t be fooled: Common sense is not so common.

What do you think? What life and business lessons have you learned that you can share with our readers? C’mon! Tell us!


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