A thought experiment that calmed my anxious mind

I woke up the other day feeling sad. And anxious.

“What could it be?” I wondered.

Probably the pandemic. Or maybe unrest in the world. Or the upcoming election.

In moments like this, it can be easy for me to slip into a hole — if I’m not careful. (I know this from experience.)

But, if I was being honest, I knew EXACTLY where the feeling was coming from.

My birthday is around the corner.

But birthdays should be a happy time, right?

I don’t know if it’s just me, but each year (around birthday time) my brain comes up with a mental checklist. It wants to know exactly how productive I’ve been over the past year. Have I accomplished what I want to accomplish? Have I just been messing around (PS, I’m a 3 on the enneagram. Enough said?)

Ideas bounced back and forth. “There is so much I HAVEN’T accomplished in my life up to this point,” my brain so graciously reminded me. “I’m not exactly where I want to be in life yet. I haven’t ‘made it.’ ” I couldn’t help but wonder, “what the f*ck have I been doing, not just this past year, but my entire adult life anyway?”

But then I paused.

I looked at that question again.

I repeated the question to myself again, only this time, instead of judgement, genuine curiosity. “What have I been doing?”

“In fact,” I thought to myself, “it’s probably actually been a lot. What if I sat down and wrote out all the ‘firsts’ I’ve done this past decade? There are bound to be quite a few.”

There were.

A lot more than a few, at that.

So I brewed me a cup of coffee, sat at my kitchen table, and started writing.

This little thought exercise surprised me.

In no particular order, below is the list of 63 “firsts” uncovered from the past decade. Here goes:

1️⃣ Had my first kiss.

2️⃣ Became the first in my family to graduate from college.

3️⃣ Got my first “real job.”

4️⃣ Got fired for the first time.

5️⃣ Had my first baby boy.

6️⃣ Had my first baby girl.

7️⃣ Saw the ocean for the first time.

8️⃣ Went surfing for the first time.

9️⃣ Snowboarded for the first time.

1️⃣0️⃣ Read my first books in personal development (some early favorites that hooked me: Rich Dad Poor Dad, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Richest Man in Babylon, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

1️⃣1️⃣ Became debt-free.

1️⃣2️⃣ Bought my first car.

1️⃣3️⃣ Then bought my first “cash” car (no payments).

1️⃣4️⃣ Left the corporate world to pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur.

1️⃣5️⃣ Started my first businesses.

1️⃣6️⃣ Attended my first business conference.

1️⃣7️⃣ Went to a Tony Robbins event.

1️⃣8️⃣ Hired my first business coach.

1️⃣9️⃣ Joined my first mastermind.

2️⃣0️⃣ Jumped out of an airplane.

2️⃣1️⃣ Moved away from home for the first time, and lived outside my home state.

2️⃣2️⃣ Traveled to a foreign country (Thailand, then Israel, then Costa Rica, then London, and Paris).

2️⃣3️⃣ Went ice skating for the first time.

2️⃣4️⃣ Read the entire Bible.

2️⃣5️⃣ Went to my first college football game at the University of Utah.

2️⃣6️⃣ Got in my first major car wreck — rolled off the freeway at 80 mph — walked away without a scratch.

2️⃣7️⃣ Created my first digital products with my name on it.

2️⃣8️⃣ Made my first high-ticket sale.

2️⃣9️⃣ Got sued for the first time (Beachbody, yup).

3️⃣0️⃣ Got my first apartment.

3️⃣1️⃣ Went to my first live play.

3️⃣2️⃣ Acted in my first play.

3️⃣3️⃣ Went to my first concert.

3️⃣4️⃣ Grew my first beard (still got it).

3️⃣5️⃣ Made my first $1 online.

3️⃣6️⃣ Had my first $1k day, and up to my first $10k day.

3️⃣7️⃣ Made my first 6-figures.

3️⃣8️⃣ Went broke for the first time, after multiple years of six figures (plus then rebounded).

3️⃣9️⃣ Left my religion.

4️⃣0️⃣ Had my first divorce.

4️⃣1️⃣ Had my first bout of debilitating depression.

4️⃣2️⃣ Spoke on stage for the first time.

4️⃣3️⃣ Got paid to speak for the first time.

4️⃣4️⃣ Flew on an airplane for the first time.

4️⃣5️⃣ I ran my first 10k race.

4️⃣6️⃣ I ran my first Spartan race.

4️⃣7️⃣ I ran my first marathon.

4️⃣8️⃣ I ran my first 50-miler.

4️⃣9️⃣ I learned how to swim.

5️⃣0️⃣ Wrapped up my 10-year goal of NOT eating at Wendy’s or McDonald’s.

5️⃣1️⃣ Got wasted drunk for the first time.

5️⃣2️⃣ Went to Las Vegas for the first time.

5️⃣3️⃣ Went to my first strip club.

5️⃣4️⃣ Posted my first video social media.

5️⃣5️⃣ Went to an amusement park (Lagoon in UT) for the first time.

5️⃣6️⃣ Sat in an ayahuasca ceremony.

5️⃣7️⃣ Did mushrooms for the first time.

5️⃣8️⃣ Tried molly.

5️⃣9️⃣ Got interviewed for the first time.

6️⃣0️⃣ Started my own podcast.

6️⃣1️⃣ Was in my first YouTube video with over 1 million views! (“Do All Ex-Cult Members Think the Same?”)

6️⃣2️⃣ Started living by myself for the first time in my life.

6️⃣3️⃣ Wrote my first book, Fish out of Water.

As it turns out, the list was a lot larger than I thought it would be!

(And the truth is, there are probably even more firsts I haven’t even thought of that were probably just as impactful.)

For me, this helped me realize that I actually have lived a whole lot of life in this short timespan so far.

Yes, some things haven’t happened as fast my anxious mind says that should have. Sometimes, it’s felt like a rollercoaster. But certainly, I’ve lived so much life I couldn’t have even predicted was possible.

And I also know that that, truly, my life is just getting started.

This exercise calmed my anxious mind. And it also made me super excited for this next decade.

Well, come on November 1st! Bring on the new birthday. I’m ready for more. Time to rock 33.

PS. I’ve since started compiling a new list of “firsts” that I want to do this current decade. Is that something you would want to see? If so let me know.

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