36 Leadership Lessons From 36 Years Of Life

Today marks the 36th time I’ve orbited the sun. That’s right, February 16th is my birthday!

I wanted to do something special for my birthday. I wanted to give you guys a gift. That gift is 36 leadership lessons I’ve learned over the course of my life.

life and leadership lessons on my birthday

Image by Evan Rummel

I hope you’ll enjoy these. Some of these leadership lessons are fun, other leadership lessons are serious. They’re all valuable though.

36 Leadership Lessons From 36 Years Of Life

1. Make friends:

Leadership can be lonely. But leadership is lonely only if you let it be. Make friends with people and your time in leadership will be much more enjoyable.

2. Know when to quit leading:

Leadership is a temporary position. There will come a day when you are no longer leading where you’ve been leading. Know when it’s time to hang up the leadership cap at your current position.

3. Have fun:

A big mistake a lot of leaders make is to make leadership stiff, stuffy, and unfun. Leadership can be fun. It’s your choice. I say choose to have fun!

4. Keep reading:

There’s an old say: Leaders are readers. This saying has stuck around for as long as it has because the saying is true. Never stop reading.

5. Never stop learning:

This goes along with leadership lesson #4. You read so you can continue to take in new information. So, never stop learning. Whether that’s through reading or watching movies or attending conferences, find ways to learn on a regular basis.

6. Invest in yourself:

It’s easy to forget about yourself as you’re leading others. However, you need to remember to invest in yourself.

7. Invest in your family:

The other area leaders forget to invest in is in their families. Between long hours at the office and on the road, you can easily neglect your family. Don’t! It’s a big leadership mistake.

8. Invest in others:

You know you must invest in yourself and in your family. You also have to invest in others. These include people within your church, those you lead, and those in your community. Never stop investing in others.

9. Find counsel:

The most foolish thing a leader can do is to avoid wise counsel. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Lean on their experience. You need the wisdom of others.

10. Have a hobby:

There are people out there who will tell you that you need to get rid of your hobbies and extracurricular activities if you want to be successful. This may benefit you in the short term by giving you clearer focus. It will hurt you in the long run as you begin to destroy who you are outside of work.

11. Do more than lead:

Leading is important. It’s not who you are. You’re also a family man, husband, brother, friend, artist, musician, etc… Know life isn’t all about leading.

12. Get fit:

Life is a lot easier when you’re taking care of your body in addition to your mind. Find time to go for regular runs, walks with your spouse, baseball with the guys, or some other activity that will keep you active and fit.

13. Create something important:

Over the last several years, I’ve created this blog. A place leaders can come and learn. It’s something I’VE created. You can and NEED to create something as well. Be willing to put your work out there for an audience to consume.

14. Remember where you’ve come from:

Not all of us have come from a great place. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remember it. Use it as a springboard for greatness. Or, if it was good, look back on the fond memories you’ve built and the people who have been there for you. Either way, don’t forget the past.

15. Savor NOW:

Your mind is racing all the time. Looking back, looking forward, rarely on the NOW. The now is more important than the past or the future because the past has happened and the future isn’t guaranteed.

16. Think of the future:

The past has happened, the present is happening, but what about the future? You need to savor the present but you also have to think of the future. Make plans, dream big.

17. Invite people to your house:

Our houses have become a private place rather than a place where community gathered. Open your doors and let people come in. Make your house a home.

18. Don’t judge others quickly:

Our default action is to quickly judge those we meet. The problem is you don’t know who they are, what they’ve gone through, or where they’re going. Don’t judge quickly.

19. Have a dog (or a pet):

When I lost Zane, I told Pam we were not going to get another dog once Leviticus passed. Looking at my time with those two boys, I realize the joy and happiness they brought to our lives. That’s why I am glad to have brought Lok home a month before we lost Leviticus. Life is better with a dog.

20. It’s okay to play video games, go to a movie, or watch TV:

You don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying a good song, movie, or TV show. I regularly do this and life would be a lot less happy if I didn’t.

21. Go for a hike in the woods:

There’s something about being in nature that is so liberating. Find time and ways to spend in nature.

22. Find a good church:

Connecting with God is important. Find a church community that will help you grow in your walk with God.

23. Try new things:

The world is full of things to try. Try them. Go ice climbing, jump from a plane, drive down a road you’ve never traveled, start a podcast, cliff jump, run a half marathon at 3 AM… Doing new things will help you over the inability to start as you begin to realize life isn’t so scary.

24. Sing (and don’t care who hears you):

Yeah, you might not be able to sing but you want to. So sing it out!

original artwork displayed in office25. Add a little flair to your office:

Walking into a drab office drains the life and creative energies from the room. Add some flair. For me, I’ve added graded comic books and original art pieces. Do something to make your room exciting to walk into!


26. Try new food:

Your mouth can experience a mindblowing amount of flavors. Allow it to taste different foods from around the world. It’ll stretch you beyond what you think you will like.

27. Don’t stay stuck:

Life will throw curveballs at you where you’ll find yourself stuck at a job you hate. You don’t have to stay there and waste your life away. Choose to get unstuck.

28. Be kind:

You can be rude and condescending or you can be kind. Do what Paddington Bear says and be kind to others.

29. Make choices:

You have the ability to make choices. Choose to decide and make a choice.

30. Build a community:

There are so many awesome people around you. Choose some to invite to become a permanent part of your life and community.

31. Spend time with your parents:

They won’t always be around. You’ll miss them when they’re gone. Spend time with them now.

32. Don’t give up:

Times will get tough. You may not see a way through it. But don’t give up. You are worth it.

33. Speak up:

We feel less than what we are because we fail to speak our voice. Speak up when you see injustice and wrong being done. Speak up when you have something important to say. Know YOUR voice matters.

34. Buy quality when it matters:

For so long, I bought cheap. I bought the cheapest things I could buy so I could use them until they broke. Then I bought new stuff. Buy quality, buy something that will last.

35. Protect others:

There are people in your life who need protecting. Stand with them. Protect them.

36. You matter:

Maybe the most difficult lesson I’ve learned in my 36 years here is that I (and you) matter. You have worth. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Question: What’s something you’ve learned from the time you’ve been alive? Let me know in the comment section below.

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