Three “Vault-Worthy” Lessons I’ve Learned This Year

Yesterday (June 5) I celebrated by 38th birthday. As I’ve grown older (I remember when 38 seemed ancient!) I’ve tried to become more introspective about how I spend my days, and also to pay attention to themes and learnings that are earned from hard experience. Learning is the payment we receive for struggles and challenges, yet many people never claim their paycheck. Here’s my paycheck for the year.

The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being. – Socrates

#1: Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
This saying was on a poster in my son’s classroom this year, and he would occasionally let it fly at what seemed to be remarkably appropriate times. There were a ton of instances when I felt like phoning it in or just pushing mindlessly through my daily word count quota or checking out emotionally, but these words from my son kept me focused and engaged.

In the moment it always feels good to relieve work-related tension by slacking off, but in the end the toll it takes on my integrity is simply too much. I have a hard time looking at my son and encouraging him to push through his math homework when I know that I didn’t put myself fully into my work that day. My goal for the upcoming year? To look back at the end of each day with satisfaction in how I chose to spend it.

#2 : There’s no such thing as the boogie man.
I’ve wasted too much time in my life worrying about what might happen. It’s the equivalent of lying awake at night listening for sounds in the closet and checking under the bed before turning out the light. Not only is fear a complete waste of time, it’s robbed me of seasons in my life in which I should have been living in deep gratitude.

I am so quick to turn opportunities into burdens. I refuse to do that this year. While there are many new uncertainties in my life, I’m choosing to embrace these unknowns as adventures, not threats.

#3: My children will become what I model for them.
This is the first year I’ve noticed our oldest son beginning to look a lot like us in word and action. He’s starting to reveal how successful (or not) our parenting was during his first few formative years. I flinch when he shows anxiety, and I cheer when he tries something new, but I realize that many of his tendencies are the result of our efforts and modeling.

I’m choosing to focus this year on instilling the kinds of space and nurturing that our children need, and on emphasizing and modeling what we hope will be important to them as they grow into adults: contribution not celebrity, love not fear, generosity not consumption. I’m committing this year to ramp up these efforts.

That’s just a small portion of my paycheck this year, but it’s symbolic of a lot of other stuff I’ve learned. While the upcoming year holds a lot of uncertainty, I hope you’ll join me in embracing each day as worthy of examination!

Share your thoughts:

Please keep your comments civil and on topic.


  1. Suemcmullian

    Hi Todd,
    I spend so little time on facebook that I just read this…..I’m very
    touched and impressed that there is such wisdom
     still being shared with others…this could be a second book!

  2. WildC

    Belated Happy Birthday, Todd! I’m going to remember it next year because, believe it or not, I’ve known three other people in my life so far born on that date!

    “Contribution not celebrity, love not fear, generosity not consumption” Amen to all of those and may your year ahead be just as you would wish it 🙂



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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More

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I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas.

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