Happy Birthday To Me! 41 Pieces Of Advice To My 21-Year-Old Self

Mic Johnson, Blue Gurus

This week, October 5th, is my birthday…41 years young. While my genetic blessings are few and far between, I am thankful for the baby face I was given that makes me look at least 20 years younger. Ok, maybe 5 or 6 years younger. 

When you hit, and then surpass, 40, you find yourself reflecting on your life and the future ahead of you that oftentimes seems to have more questions than answers. Some things get easier; others get harder. 

Recently on a visit to see my mom in Wichita, I was sitting on her deck, rocking back and forth on the glider (you don’t get one of these until you hit at least 50), smelling the cool, fresh air on a crisp Fall afternoon,  pondering my life and, of course, my next blog article. That’s when inspiration hit and I started to think of all the things I’ve learned to this point in my life and what I wish I could go back and tell my 21-year-old self. 

With that in mind, below is a list of my 41 pieces of advice to share with him…and you. This list isn’t all inclusive, but it’s a great start. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on what you’ve learned in your life to this point and what other words of wisdom you have for me and others that read this blog. 

Before I get to the list, watch this preview of the 1981 thriller “Happy Birthday To Me”.

1980’s horror is so hilarious.

 Ok, now on to the list: 

1. Love your mom and tell her often. She went through a hell of a lot for you that you’ll never know about or fully appreciate.

2. Ditto for Dad. 

3. Most of the things you think are really important…aren’t. 

4. The perspective you get on life when you lose someone close to you is priceless. Keeping that perspective is the challenge.
5. Exercise regularly. You aren’t invincible and never will be.  
6. Get annual physicals. It’s one hour of your life a year.  
7. Get your teeth cleaned twice a year.
8. Doing work you love for less money always trumps doing work you hate for more. 
9. Friendships take effort and many of your friends will forget that from time to time.
10. Take risks in your life and career. Calculated risks are the best kind. 
11. You will never have a work/life balance if you aren’t willing to make the sacrifices that make it possible.
12. If you meet someone that loves you unconditionally for who you are, marry them. (Oh, and a shout out to my wife Missy, who I celebrate 15 years of marriage with on October 11th! Happy Anniversary! I love you!) 
13. Learn how to prioritize.
14. “Life is short” is not a cliche. If you think it is, you aren’t old enough yet. 
15. There are a lot of people who honestly believe they are more important than they are. Avoid them.
16. The square footage of your home, the kind of car you drive, your annual salary, the brand name clothes you wear…If you think these define who you are, then you don’t know who you are yet.
17. Happiness is a choice. 
18. You will waste a lot of energy and time if you keep trying to prove you are right all of the time. 
19. Always be passionate about at least one thing in your life.  
20. There are some things in life that can only be learned with time. 
21. There is nothing better than routinely surrounding yourself with people that love you. 
22. Your job title doesn’t guarantee respect. It’s true..respect is earned.
23. Every minute spent envying someone else is a minute wasted. 
24. Be sure to choose the life experience over the prudent financial decision whenever possible.
25. Cancer sucks. 
26. People in your life care about you. They just aren’t always good about letting you know.
27. If you think about a friend or family member, call them and see how they’re doing.
28. You have to define happiness first or you’ll never get there.
29. No matter what anyone says, no one is ever too old to change. 
30. Always choosing the safe and secure career guarantees you will never reach your potential. 
31. There will be many people in your life that lack common sense and common courtesy. Try not to let it bother you too much.
32. Nothing you ever accomplish in your career will be as rewarding as time spent volunteering. 
33. Be who you are and don’t apologize for it. 
34. There are consequences for every decision you make. Be smart.
35. Not everyone will like you but that’s usually their problem.
36. Very few things are as rewarding as inspiring another person to take action. 
37. Get a good 6-8 hours of sleep a night. 
38. Believe what you want. Just don’t force those beliefs on other people. 
39. Stress is oftentimes the direct result of poor decision making.
40. If you haven’t gone back and analyzed your past, then you are likely to make the same mistakes your parents did. 
41. Do whatever it takes to see other parts of the country and world. 

If you’ve made it this far, here’s a few bonus pieces of advice. I guess I’ve learned more than 41 things in the last 41 years. :)

-Patience is the toughest virtue to learn. 
-Never stop dreaming. You have to dream it first to make it a reality.
-When the time is right, you will know it. But you have to act on it. 
-If you routinely pick up after yourself then you will never have to learn to hate cleaning the house. 
-Any seed you plant needs a lot of time and water to grow. 
-Take time regularly to do nothing else but reflect. 
-There is always more to the story than what you see on the surface. 
-Judge the mirror before you move on to other people. 
-It’s not ok to be a jerk. You know better. 
-Over time, prices will go up. Get used to it. 
-If you feel guilty, do something about it while you still can. 
-With few exceptions, don’t tell someone how you think they should parent their children.
-Don’t ever take a hot shower or meal for granted. 
-The happiest people you know didn’t get there easily. 
-95% of the time the worrying is worse than the eventual reality. 
-Live today so tomorrow is without regrets. 
-Seriously, stop and smell some roses. 
-Surround yourself with inspirational people and watch what happens.
-Stay humble. That way you won’t be surprised when life does it for you. 
-No one is “normal”.
-Laugh as often as possible. 
-No one is impressed with how many hours you work…especially when you tell them.
-If you just keep going, it will get better. 
-It doesn’t matter if you don’t get why younger generations do what they do. 
-Don’t hold stuff in. It always comes back to bite you.
-Never forget to say….. THANK YOU.





17 replies
  1. Tad Gomez
    Tad Gomez says:

    Happy Birthday Mic…I love your list. Hope you have a great day and hope to get back to KC to see y’all soon! Take care and best wishes. Tad

    • Mic Johnson
      Mic Johnson says:

      Thanks so much, Tad! Appreciate your comment and appreciate you taking the time to read the blog. Hope to see you too soon….off to Minor Park today…I think the last time I played there was with YOU!

  2. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    Hi Mic, I turned 41 last month and have had the interesting, wonderful and difficult experience of being diagnosed with cancer about 4 months ago. The things I am learning from this experience is what will shape the next 40+ years of my life. Thanks for posting this advice – I agree with so many of the items you posted here – some of which I didn’t learn/realize until I started my cancer journey. So many of the things we think matter so much in life really don’t matter when it comes right down to the difference between living the next 20, 30, 40 years and not. Happy Birthday to you!

    • Mic Johnson
      Mic Johnson says:


      Thank you so much for your comment. It moved me on many levels.

      I lost my dad 17 years ago to cancer and my mom is currently battling breast cancer, so I am all too familiar with the journey.

      Just remember that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it….

      Thanks again and I will send positive thoughts and energy your way,


  3. Pat Wogan
    Pat Wogan says:

    I got the link to your blog from my daughter’s blog Dineanddish. Today is Kristen’s birthday, too. I enjoyed reading your blog and actually agreed with everything you said. My hardest birthday was my 30th. I felt I had not done enough with my life. I went back to school, changed careers, began knowing who I was supposed to be, etc. My next birthday will be my 80th. My life has had its share of ups and downs, but looking back, there have been many more ups than downs. Thank you for reminding me what is important in life!

  4. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    OK – here are some things I might add… to MY 21 year old self.
    – Don’t wear the blue eyeliner… just don’t. It is not and will never be a good look.
    – Dress for the job you want, not the job you have
    – Little gestures mean a lot… send a card, buy a gift, let someone, somehow know they were on your mind
    – Don’t compare yourself to others. Be the best YOU you can be
    – Don’t use credit cards…it’s a bad habit not worth starting
    – Don’t let lack of money or space stop you from entertaining. Find creative ways to spend time with friends despite circumstances.
    – Make time to get away…even if it is just to the next town over, get out and explore and experience the world we live in.
    – Read The Happiness Project and then apply it to your life and live it!
    – Do more than your job requires, including things that might not be on the job description. It gets noticed, trust me.
    – Don’t post drunk pictures or college party pictures of yourself on Facebook or any other social media outlet. That never ends good.
    – Don’t regret your mistakes… learn from them, grow and move on. Your mistakes mold you who turn into and are a very important part of your life.
    – Say I’m sorry… and mean it.
    – Don’t hold grudges
    – Give others grace, even when they don’t meet your expectations. People will disappoint you, and you will disappoint them. Forgive and give grace.
    – With that said, don’t let life sucking negative people continue to be a part of your life. Choose your friends and the people you surround yourself with wisely. Positive energy is so important.
    – Celebrate every birthday with open arms! The alternative is dead… so be thankful for another year!

    • Mic Johnson
      Mic Johnson says:

      Love it! Thanks so much for all of your FB posts and tweets! You’ve got a bigger audience than I do!!!

      Thanks also to your mom and Maureen….so nice of them to comment!

      Hope you are having a great day my birthday twin!!


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