I read that Taylor Swift was talking about the 30 things she has learned before 30. With this in mind, I realised that I have the best part of 20 years more experience than her. And seeing as this site is aimed towards men, I have a lot more relevant experience for the people likely to read on The Big Five-O. There are a lot of things that we don’t know when we are young. Seeing my kids grow up, I can see the frustrations obviously on the face of my father when he looked at me in my teenage years. And that’s only one of the areas that I’ve learned things in. Let’s take a look at 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50.
1 – Your Body Isn’t Infallible
A friend told me as I approached my 40th birthday that when she reached 40 ‘bits started falling off.’ I had no idea what she was talking about. As a man I’d abused my body for years with fast food, alcohol and goodness knows what else. A lack of exercise pretty much from ‘retiring’ from Sunday league football in my mid-twenties until the age of 40 did damage that I didn’t expect to be happening at the time. I hadn’t looked after myself.
But as someone in your 20’s or 30’s you don’t feel the aftereffects of all this abuse. You just get up the next day and everything pretty much feels fine. A hangover was something I just worked off. Now it can last for 2 or 3 days.
You must look after your body. It’s the only one you’ll get. Reaching 50 gets you looking at the future. I pretty much want to last for another fifty years. That means I need to get and stay fit, look after the diet and stay away from injuries. That is easier said than done. Playing sport can bring the injuries. Feeling tired after running leaves me looking to bottles of Dr Pepper to recover rather than something healthy.
Getting yourself in shape is the second most important thing you can do. The most important is to stay fit in the first place. Once you’ve let it all go, the journey back is incredibly hard. If you’re on the younger side of 50 then I’d suggest taking action now while you can.
2 – Kids Are The Highest Highs – And The Lowest Lows
I know, it doesn’t sound very nice in parts. As well as your children delivering you the best moments in life, they also deliver some heart-breaking lows. And this isn’t on the off chance they become incredibly unwell. They just get you when you are already down.
For instance, I was sitting by the back door one day, feeling under the weather and feeling decidedly sorry for myself. I wanted to just be on my own. My kids were running around, playing. Every now and again they would come over and make sure I was okay. Kids have this 6th sense of when things aren’t quite right. They really pick up on things and want to enquire.
One of them popped over for the umpteenth time and as he stepped towards me, his foot landed square between my legs. That moment of tenderness between father and son evaporated (or should I say erupted) and I was left in agony on the floor. It was the perfect example to me of the highest highs and lowest lows.
There is plenty of advice on the site about how to help your kids. Generally, as we reach the age of fifty our kids are growing up and are at least heading towards their teenage years. Much of the advice we look at is defined with teenagers in mind but can be applied to children of any age. I share with you the experiences I have had with kids. I hope that they can help.
3 – Relax – 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50
Frankie Goes To Hollywood said it best. Back when I was fresh into senior school, they sang this song. I sang along. Yet I had no idea what they were talking about. I had no idea why they caused controversy. There was talk of them being banned from Top Of The Pops and again I had no idea why.
But their ‘advice’ from back in the 1980’s is sound for men approaching fifty now. There is a great deal on this planet to get angry, annoyed or upset about –
· The fact that America keeps on electing complete numpties as president
· The massive gap between the richest and those struggling to stay alive due to a lack of food, healthcare, etc
· All the stress our kids bring
· Work life imbalance
· The price of everything these days
There’s little wonder we get annoyed. The image of us descending into those grumpy old men on the television becomes closer and closer to the way we act every single day. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There is a great deal to get uptight about. But a great deal to be thankful for. If I’ve learned one thing in particular in the last few years of the near-50 I’ve been on the planet then its that you just have to accept certain things.
There are some things we just can’t change. There are some people who will just always be the way they are. It might be painful to have to see them at work every day, or to play in the same football team as them. But you have to accept that’s the way it’s going to be.
Relaxing about the world around you feels counterintuitive. I guess going back to caveman times, we were at the age where death wasn’t that far around the corner. In fact, many cavemen didn’t live to this age. So, we start to see threats everywhere. We stop looking at others as though they can help us and start to look at them as though they are going to finish us off.
There are many different ways that you can do this. Meditation is a great tool. Don’t poo-poo it – give it a go. It might change your life. Don’t get sucked into that world of anger and try to relax a little. And that goes for the next one in my list of 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50 too.
4 – Your Car Isn’t A Weapon
Dangerous driving has become an epidemic on our roads. And I’m sorry to say guys that in my experience, you are the forefront of this. Road rage affects us all in one way shape or form. Don’t think that you are abnormal if you get angry when someone gets in the wrong lane on purpose and then cuts right across in front of you to save themselves six seconds on their way to work. The natural reaction is to sound the horn and then select your favourite hand gesture. I don’t mind admitting that mine is to raise my hand to my mouth and then blow them a kiss. It’s really the last thing they are expecting.
But we should leave it at that. Moving to the next level isn’t big and it isn’t clever.
There’s a serious message here. There are more than 40,000 serious car accidents in the United Kingdom every year. The metal box we think will protect us when we are driving aggressively, trying to undertake the prat that just cut in front of us won’t protect us in the case of an accident. Unfortunately, around 3,500 people die on the roads ‘while operating their motor vehicle’ each and every year.
I’m putting out a plea to all drivers. Just take it easy. We will all get to work or back home in time. Those extra few seconds are not worth putting everyone else at risk for, let alone yourself. The guilt and pain that you might carry for the rest of your life is a heavy weight. We have enough guilt and pain as it is. Let’s not add any more just for the simple fact we got pissed off with another driver. Life is too short. A big lesson in the 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50.
5 – Go On Holiday
I have been across the world on holiday. And I recommend that you do the same. As a man approaching fifty, you should experience other cultures, other foods and other people. We get a buzz going away whether its somewhere else in the UK or overseas. And there is a big world out there.
I’ve been to places in Africa, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka and all over Europe. I’m not saying this to brag, I know there are people who have been to scores more destinations than I have – my parents are two such people. But I’m saying it to make you think about where in the world you’d like to visit.
Write a list of all the places you’d like to see before you die. Think hard, speak to your partner, your mates, your kids and get together a list. The start to break it down. Who will you go with, what will you do there, what age would you like to be when you visit? Once you have a list together then start to make plans of what that will look like and how much money you will need per year. Commit to it; start a savings account where the cash will go and set a regular amount to go into that every single month. The money that leaves your account automatically is far less likely to be missed than a cash amount that you have to find every month at the end of the month
“Now we said we’d put £500 per month away and we’ve put nothing away this month. It’s the 28th, so what can we do?”
One thing I really recommend is to try the local food wherever you land. Too many people in my opinion go abroad and then look for the English option – an English bar, a greasy spoon, the football. There are so many other things to do and see that you would be better served having a look around and finding out what the locals eat.
And don’t leave any stone unturned. I used to go away on holiday and sit by the pool for 2 weeks. I have been to St Lucia and didn’t see the Pitons. And I have travelled to Sri Lanka and didn’t go on the trip to Adam’s Peak. These are places that I’ll never go to again, yet I have left some of the most stunning, interesting parts of these beautiful islands behind.
6 – Enjoy Stuff
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But I meet hundreds of other men my age every month and most of them don’t seem like they are enjoying their life. We meet, they moan, I smile, and we move on. The world is filled with wonders. From the everyday to the once in a lifetime. Men get stuck in this rut. And I believe that some of it is expectation. We are expected to be miserable. It’s just that time of life. But I don’t believe for one second that this should be the case. We have so much to be thankful for.
Now for the sombre stuff. Men are killing themselves in massive numbers. 84 men take their life every single week. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Yes, you read that right. More men of that age range are dying of suicide than of heart disease. Than of car accidents. Than of strokes. More than of cancer.
We don’t know how to look after ourselves in this modern world. The traditional role of the man has been eroded to a point where it pretty much doesn’t exist any longer. That’s fine. The equality of the sexes is something that this generation should be proud of achieving, even though there is a little way to go. But men need to adapt. We look for role models to see what to do. Our own fathers grew up in a time where men went out to work and women stayed at home, on the whole. They don’t know and wouldn’t recognise this new world. So, we can’t talk to them.
Our friends are fighting the same battle as us. They didn’t expect this either. They grew up when we grew up. And they watched similar fathers to our father. As much as we can get together and have a moan about things, we can’t look to them to give us the answers because they don’t have them either.
Men traditionally don’t look for help anyway. That’s one of the reasons we are taking our lives in such huge numbers.
I, for one, don’t think that we as a group of men are taking enough responsibility. We should be on the lookout for each other. Your mates, you’ve probably told them when you’ve had a few drinks (more on that later) that you’ve got their backs. So, you need to back those words up with action. Keep an eye on your mates. Now, I don’t mean start spying on them. That would be weird. But ask how they are. Now, I know you will find that equally weird to begin with. Both of you will. But, after a while, you will both feel far more comfortable with it. And you will feel happier about a world where a mate asks how you are. Women have been doing it for centuries, and they aren’t dying in anywhere near the same numbers from their own hand.
7 – What’s The Deal With Drink?
I used to have a drink most weekends. I was never one of those that were drunk to the point where I couldn’t stand up and was fighting, vomiting and passing out. But I liked a drink. Truth be told, I still do. It’s only a few times a year but when I grab the time for a beer or there with my friends or family, I enjoy it. That night. And only that night.
Something happens the next morning. Something dreadful.
I used to deal with a hangover in a matter of minutes. My hangover removal formula included a quick run to sweat out the alcohol then a Coca-Cola, a bag of salt and vinegar crisps and a Twix. I out the sugar back, put the salt back and then put the calories back. Job done. I could go to work the next day feeling pretty much as fresh as any other day of the week.
But now the hangover lasts for a few days. I feel lethargic, slow, unwell, grey. Yes, that’s the word that comes to mind – grey. This is a repeat vision when I think of the 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50.
I don’t know what’s going on. From being able to deal with a hangover with ease to having it lingering over my life for days just happened. I can’t tell you when. I can’t tell you where. And I can’t tell you why. It just happens that way now.
Drink messes me up. I know from speaking to so many friends of the same age that it does the same to them too. Mixing drinks is lethal, but even if I stay on beer all night it affects me for days on end. One of the biggest things I’ve learned before the age of fifty is that you shouldn’t drink. But we still do…
8 – Money Really Isn’t Everything
You hear this a lot. Money is something we work hard for. But when we sit on our death bed (I know, I’m getting all morbid) we will look back on happy times, connections, people. And we won’t give money a second thought. You know what, that’s probably right. And the sooner we accept that, the smoother the ride becomes.
Having teenage kids, I can see the cycle happening all over again. I can see, particularly in the eldest, the connection to cash. I can see the desire to own money in his eyes. And it takes me back. I remember when, in the immortal words of the Wu-Tang, cash ruled everything around me. And now it doesn’t. Of course, we need money to do pretty much anything on this planet. But we don’t need infinite amounts of it. Just enough to get by and to buy dome luxuries every now and again.
The struggle is to pass this same ethos to the kids. I want them to see the world the way I see the world. I want them to work hard, but not to let work take over.
Money really isn’t everything. There is so much more to life. Working a few extra hours for a few extra pounds leaves you with no time left to enjoy the things that those few extra pounds can buy. It usually ends up that we work extra hours so that everyone else can enjoy the fruits of our labour. And as selfless as that sounds, it’s not what we are on the planet for. We are here to make connections with our kids. We are here to share joy with others, to have a beer or two with our mates. Life is about going on holiday, indulging in our wildest fantasies and treating our partner to the best things in life. And the best thing to give is quality time.
Money really isn’t everything. I can’t repeat it enough. This is a biggie in the list of 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50.
Thanks for reading the first part of this blog. Over the next few months and years I will be adding to it. The idea is that by the time I’m fifty I will have poured out the fifty most important lessons. Now the ones in this first blog are pretty big. But there will be more obscure findings in the future blogs. Please keep an eye out for what I have to write. As time goes by, I’m sure you will have lessons too. Feel free to drop me a line with your ideas. I’d love to feature what you have to say. Maybe we can crack this together! And follow the 50 things I’ve learned before the age of 50 in future blogs.