Atlanta-based husband and father reveals 43 things he's learned in 43 years

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An Atlanta-based CEO, author, husband and father is sharing the 43 things he believes he’s learned in life as he celebrates his 43rd birthday. 

“Forty-three isn’t a terribly notable birthday, but I was reviewing the year so far and reflecting, and had the chance to think through 43 things I’ve learned,” said John Coleman, CEO of an investment firm. 

He’s the author of several books, including “The HBR (Harvard Business Review) Guide to Crafting Your Purpose” and “Miracles.”


He distributed his 43 lessons originally through his newsletter, “On Purpose,” and shares them here with Fox News Digital by special arrangement. 

His life insights touch on career, relationships, parenting, family and friends, wellness and much more.

1. Every rule has an exception. Don’t worry about it. General principles are important for life, but almost none are universal to every time and place. Don’t get stuck debating exceptions. Just use judgment when exceptions arise.

2. Never (almost) burn bridges. Life is long, and the world is smaller than you think. Never be afraid to speak up, but always treat others with dignity and respect. It’s the right thing to do, and you will encounter almost everyone you know again someday.

3. But sometimes burn the ships. Often, the only way to take a big risk is to burn the ships behind you and leave no option but forward progress. Some of the greatest accomplishments in history were made by those who couldn’t retreat.

“Take the choice out of love — make it unconditional — and you liberate it.”

4. Unconditional love is easier than conditional love. It’s easier to do something 100% of the time than 99% of the time. Take the choice out of love — make it unconditional — and you liberate it.

5. Being a hypocrite doesn’t make someone wrong. You’re a hypocrite. So am I. No one perfectly practices what they preach. But people can be right even about things they live imperfectly. Don’t dismiss good ideas because of hypocrisy.


6. You don’t find your purpose, you build it. Anything can be meaningful if we make it so. We have agency to create meaning in our own lives.

7. Purpose is plural. It’s not some single thing that gives all life direction — but a tapestry of love, avocations, beauty, professional pursuits, faith and service to others that can envelope every part of life.

8. Purpose changes over time. Our lives are not static. They change, evolve and grow. And our deepest sources of meaning change with them.

9. Work hard and show up on time. All we control is our effort. Be reliable. Be consistent. When you do something, do it well. Other things have a way of falling into place.

10. Acquire experiences, not stuff. Stuff won’t make you happy. Material things are an almost universally hollow pursuit. But experiences — particularly with people you love — are the fabric of a life well lived.

11. Connect with and invest in kids. Have kids, biologically or through adoption. Or be an aunt, uncle, big brother, big sister, mentor or volunteer. Nothing will open your heart, change the way you view life or teach you the nature of vulnerability and sacrifice more.

“Don’t accept bad behavior in yourself or others. But learn to forgive. Live justly, but love mercy.”

12. Develop good habits about exercise and eating. It won’t matter until it does. And it’s easier early in life than late.

13. Forgive yourself and others. In your life, you will make terrible, shameful decisions. You will hurt others and they will hurt you. Don’t stay in bad situations. Don’t accept bad behavior in yourself or others. But learn to forgive. Live justly, but love mercy.


14. Allow people to change. People can change. Let them. Don’t let a bad circumstance or a bad decision hang over the whole of someone’s life. All of us are imperfect. Almost everyone deserves a second (or third, or fourth) chance.

15. We can learn something from everyone we encounter. The janitor in your office. Your fourth-grade teacher. The cashier at the grocery store. Each of them knows something you don’t. Each is good at something you aren’t. Grow to see, appreciate and learn from them. Approach others with endless and open-minded wonder.

16. You have an obligation to dissentYou’re a smart person. Think for yourself. When you see something you don’t think is right, speak up. The world and your work improve through constructive debate.

17. Live a life of service. In humility, consider others better than yourself. If, in everything you do, you embrace a mindset of service, you will create enormous good in the world.

18. Money will not make you happy. Superficially, it feels like security. It can be used for good. But it’s also a false idol. It corrupts. It deceives. If money is the primary object of your life or work, it will ultimately let you down.

“If money is the primary object of your life or work, it will ultimately let you down.”

19. Each of us is always and at all times wrong about something. Right now, you believe something that is deeply, hopelessly false. So do I. Remember that and act with curiosity and grace.

20. Truth exists, but we see it imperfectly. There is an order to the universe. We should have great confidence in that. But in humility, we should acknowledge that our understanding of that truth is imperfect and act accordingly.


21. Try not to worry. Anxiety is part of all of us. But worrying doesn’t change our circumstances and can pollute our present. Accept the things you cannot change and act on those you can.

22. Kindness costs little. Go out of your way to treat everyone you encounter — store clerks, spouses, employees and others — with kindness. You never know how much someone may need it or when you will need it. Each of us acting with kindness would constitute a revolution.

23. Neither the peaks nor the valleys are permanent. At your lowest, try to see through the despair. At your highest, eschew the temptations of pride. Live each moment fully, but know that it’s just that… a moment.

24. Take regular digital sabbaths. Ditch your phone, TV and computer. Do something “IRL.” Technology and social media have positive uses but are slowly poisoning us, too.

25. Develop the capacity for focus and deep thought and exercise it regularly. We, uniquely, live in an era of distraction — phones, emails, texts and endless interruptions. In that environment, the capacity for deep, linear thought is a superpower.

“Don’t let your life become small in a world so big.”

26. Read. Leaders read. Reading helps you develop logical thought and concentration. It develops your empathy. It relaxes you. It brings the greatest thinkers in the world to your doorstep. Set reading goals each year and select quality books.

27. Travel. We live in a beautiful, chaotic, mysterious world. Get out of your comfort zone. Experience a new culture — the more exotic the better. Immerse yourself in the unfamiliar. Don’t let your life become small in a world so big.


28. Kindle friendship. As we get older, making (or keeping friends) gets harder. But it’s worth it. Make sure there are people in your life who are there for you no matter the circumstances, the kind you can sit and say nothing with on a Saturday afternoon. Be that person for others, and be ready to sacrifice out of love and loyalty for that simple bond.

29. Learn to celebrate others’ success. You’ll be a better friend. You’ll live freer and without jealousy. And you’ll find that others will want you to succeed, too.

30. Ask for help. I can be prideful. I don’t like to depend on others or feel I owe them. But none of us can face life alone. And our friends and loved ones want to help us. We just have to admit we need help and ask.

31. Embrace boredom. Boredom is the catalyst for reflection, creativity, and imagination. Our digital environment has extinguished many of the old opportunities we had to be bored. The discipline to endure boredom is the foundation of innovation.

32. That thing you’ve always wanted to do? Do it now. Tomorrow is not promised. Memento Mori. Procrastination is a life killer. Don’t delay what you don’t have to.

33. We really should listen to our elders. There is wisdom in age and experience. We live in an era that undervalues those things and overvalues youth. Find someone older than you and listen to them.

“Paying it forward to others is a privilege and responsibility.”

34. Find and be a mentor. Given that age and experience matter, cross-generational friendships are essential. Finding mentors to guide you is a cheat code for avoiding mistakes. Paying it forward to others is a privilege and responsibility.

35. Give generously. Material wealth means little. Generosity is liberating. Give more than you think you can.

36. Get outside. We were made for nature — sunsets, ancient forests, barren plains and bubbling streams. Your heart needs the open skies and your skin needs the sun. Don’t spend life at your desk.


37. Do less, better. It’s easy to spend our time on useless activities (social media, endless meetings) rather than true accomplishments. Most of us should do fewer things with greater impact. Focus on what you can do uniquely.

38. Try almost anything once, particularly food. Order a menu item you’ve never tasted, especially if it’s a little exotic, unusual or odd. Worst case, you have a story to tell. Best case, you discover something intriguing and new.

39. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Feelings fade. True love is a day-to-day battle to prioritize and value the other person. No one “feels” in love with another person for 70 years. They choose love.

40. Strive to be a little better every day. That’s all we can do. Life is a craft. For each of us, that craft is a bit different. Our calling is to perfect it gradually, consistently over time…to run the race as if to win it.

41. Journal. You won’t remember the unforgettable moments of today. You won’t recall the quiet prayers you whispered in the valleys or the answers to those prayers. You won’t recollect the funny things your kids said. Write them down.

42. Love God. Life is too mysterious, wonderous and tumultuous to lack an author and an order. Find Him and follow. Worshipping anything else has the potential to eat us alive. Connecting with our creator grants clarity and peace.

43. Love others. Happiness in this life is love. Full stop. Our fulfillment in life will be directly proportional to the depth and breadth of our relationships and the service we do for others. Love extravagantly, consistently and easily.

Coleman told Fox News Digital about his 43 points, “I reserve the right to change my mind on any and all of the above by next year.”

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However, he said, “these are the things I think I know today.”

He also challenged others to reveal their life tips: “What words of wisdom would you share with others?” 

Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

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