Yep. It happened yesterday.
I completed 50 circles around the sun. It's a bit surreal. I don't believe I look 50. I most certainly don't feel it. I definitely don't act it. (Just ask my family) But this type of birthday is a call for reflection. At least for me.
I look back on how I was raised in a wonderful, loving home where my mom and dad loved each other and loved me. They loved me enough to tell me the truth and discipline me.
I look back on the person I was in junior high and high school and can see the seeds of leadership that were developing at that time.
I look back on the person I was in college. Desperate to be accepted. I was the guy who tried too hard. The guy who wanted to fit in and became what he thought others wanted him to be in order to gain that acceptance. So many things I said and did at that time still make me cringe today. MAJOR identity crisis...
I look back on my children and watching them grow up to the incredible people they are today. Despite my faults, they are strong individuals with great heads on their shoulders.
I look back on the young minister I was. I made so many mistakes and WOW... people were so loving and forgiving of my faults- which were and are many. They allowed me to learn and grow and change.
And then I hit 50.
People say "You're seasoned." or "You're more experienced." But that's not necessarily the case. Some people have 50 years of experiencing the same thing over and over again. They haven't learned from their past or their mistakes, so they simply repeat the same year over and over and over again.
I've always been the type to risk (sometimes foolishly) and then learn. I mean fall FLAT on my face. The challenge for me is to be a better me today than I was yesterday. The ceiling of yesterday is my floor of today. I want to learn and grow. It's a passion of mine.
I heard somebody make the statement: "Life begins at 50"
I'm going to disagree with that.
I have a friend I met at a John Maxwell event. Her name is Amy. She is a Navy veteran and a leadership expert. Amy has gone through some very tough times. She has been through cancer. She lost her hair. Part of her treatment caused her to completely lose her hearing. She had to give herself injections twice a day, every day. She was told in 2011 that it would be a miracle if she lived for 5 years.
I heard her speak on stage and was completely struck by the fact that she could not hear anything she was saying. She talked about having to read lips so she could keep up with what people are saying and how much more difficult that was in large group settings. Most people don't realize she is completely deaf. She talked about the fear of being in a hotel room and not knowing if the fire alarm was going off or if there was a potentially dangerous situation on an airplane. She talked about not being able to hear music anymore or even hear her husband's voice tell her: "I love you."
And then she said, "If you're feeling sorry for me, please don't."
I'll tell you why not to.
Amy is still very much alive today. If you're doing the math from the doctor's diagnosis who told her she wouldn't live for 5 more years... that was SEVEN years ago.
Amy lives life to the fullest! She leads leadership conferences at the corporate level. She is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team. I recently saw where she was behind the plate, catching baseballs at Fenway Park, home of her beloved Boston Red Sox! Those are just tiny examples of her life experiences.
And to be around Amy? She has a joy that is absolutely contagious. If you're in a bad mood or feeling sorry for yourself, you'd better stay away from her. Her joyful disposition and love of life will get all over you in a matter of seconds. I am a better, more positive, more grateful person today because I know her.
Here's what makes Amy the way she is: She made a CHOICE. Her difficulties would not define her. What most people see as a handicap, she uses as a stepping stone to help others and in doing so, propels herself forward. She is a beacon of light to people going through dark times. She seasons every person and every situation with JOY. Amy has made the choice to LIVE LIFE.
Life begins at 50? I don't think so. Life begins exactly when you decide it will.
If your life isn't what you want or where you want it to be, you have two choices: You can choose to be a victim and feel sorry for yourself and enlist others to feel sorry with you. In doing so, you'll remain in exactly the same place.
You can be a VICTOR and let difficulties and setbacks propel you FORWARD. You can use those difficulties to encourage and help others overcome their difficulties. You can be a joyful person who spreads that joy and love to everybody. You can change and become who you were always meant to be. You can experience life "more abundantly".
I've decided to be in Amy's camp. I'm living my life to the fullest.