30 Things I Want My Goddaughter to Know on Her 30th Birthday


Let the young soul look back upon its life and ask itself: what until now have you truly loved, what has raised up your soul, what ruled it and at the same time made it happy?

Line up these objects of reverence before you, and perhaps by what they are and their sequence, they will yield you a law, the fundamental law of your true self.



Earlier this month my goddaughter Clare celebrated her 30th birthday. I am feeling old(er) and gave considerable thought to what I could give her as a gift. Since she’s dripping in Shinola, I thought I’d challenge myself to identify the thirty truths about people and relationships that I’ve grown convinced of in the span of the past thirty years and that I hope she grows convinced of in the coming thirty years.


Clare is a smart woman and she already lives guided by many of these truths. In the years ahead I look forward to witnessing her learn and relearn the value of all these truths.

(a form of this article originally appeared on my LinkedIn page)


  • Everybody has a story – everybody is a story. Homer knew this. So did Chaucer. There are no more magic words than, “let me tell you a story.”


  • Life is whack-a-do. Logic has its place – and should stay in its place – but – let yourself be gobsmacked by what people say and do. Remain open to surprise.


  • Both God and the devil really are in the details. I once saw a well-dressed woman walk down a major Los Angeles boulevard holding a stiff, extended dog leash – with no dog in sight. A friend sitting beside me in the car never noticed. Be a person who notices it all.


  • People struggle with words. Too many words. Too few words. They struggle. Most are confused. There is no greater gift than to help someone gain clarity. There is power to asking, “tell me more.”


  • No need to fear the different. Again, honor the story.


  • Welcome the stranger. Blanche du Bois was right to say, “I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers.” But, remember, you do live in NYC!


  • Not everyone will like you. You are not perfect – nor do you need to be. Inevitably, you will disappoint someone – other than yourself. The smart and the brave learn to “fail forward.”


  • Don’t waste your time with someone who doesn’t say “thank you” to a server. Arrogant people do not deserve your time.


  • It’s ALL about relationships. A client once told me, “I’m dating someone but it’s hard to find time for them.” Another, during the week of her 50th birthday, lamented that she has only one friend. They’re not outliers. Don’t join their company.


  • Ritual grounds us. Establish traditions with those who mean something to you. Those rituals will anchor and energize your life.


  • People are most difficult when most afraid. Remember that – for yourself. Remember that – for when you are engaging with a person acting out in a difficult manner.


  • Lying is a fool’s habit – there are a lot of fools in this world. And most people lie from fear. What are you afraid of?


  • Sidestep your fears at your peril. They will do you in unless you put them in your place.


  • When people say they are going to do something, more times than not, they really want to do what they say they are going to do – but – the road to hell really is paved with good intentions.


  • We all have a remarkable capacity to talk ourselves out of what’s in our own best interest. People are either too thick-headed or too-cautious. Which are you?


  • Never say something to yourself that you wouldn’t want someone to say to you. Be kind.


  • We all do what we do for a reason and so the best thing we can do in a moment of decision is to ask: “Why am I doing this? Why do I think this is in my best interest? Is there something else I could do that would potentially be better?”


  • Magical thinking is deadly. A problem does not magically resolve itself. A person does not heal or evolve by denying a problem is real. Sorcery is for binge-worthy Netflix shows.


  • Given a few spare minutes, people can weave fantastical soap-opera storylines to explain why someone did something or said something, believing the lie, “why else would they be that way?” Hmm. Maybe they were constipated that day.


  • 30 years from now people will have forgotten you and your idiocy. Yeah, people just don’t care that much to remember for 30 years how you made a fool of yourself one day in a meeting.


  • People change only by choosing to do what makes them uncomfortable. Seriously. Embrace Pt. 23.


  • You don’t have to do a Google search before saying “yes!” I spent 3 years on an island in the South Pacific and was clueless as to where I was all those years! And they were the best years of my life.


  • One of the sanest ways to stay honest with yourself, is to ask, “what did I learn this week about myself – people – my work – life?”


  • The heart of power is to believe, “I have value.” To believe I have value to offer. To believe I deserve value. Power is not a dirty word.


  • Confidence is never achieved. It’s exercised and re-exercised. Demons are never eradicated. Don your emotional ALO wear and have at it.


  • Joy runs deeper than happiness. Where your joy meets the world’s need, there you will find your purpose.


  • Desire lofty goals and reconcile with the fact that you will at some point be disappointed. Disappointment is not defeat.


  • “Who do I want to be in this moment?” is the most important question you can ask yourself – in times of crisis and in times of contentment.


  • Eutrapelia (one of my Top 10 all-time fave words) is Greek for the “virtue of play.” The Ancients knew that Knowledge + Wisdom + Healing all come from “wasting time.”


  • Whatever you choose and wherever you go you will find adventure and new people – some of whom will nurture you, some of whom will annoy the hell out of you. The truth is – every decision leads to an adventure.


Mary Oliver, of course, got it right when she wrote:

Instructions for living a life: pay attention – be astonished – tell about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *