25 lessons I learnt during the past 25 years | Happy Quarter Century to Me!

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Left: 20-year-old Danielle
Right: A little bit ‘younger’ and wiser Danielle

I just turned 25.

I thought I would have “it all” by 25:

A ‘ convertible’ red car – cue my 12 year old dreamy self.

A million dollars saved – hi, 16 year old whimsical self.

A dog – OK, talk to my boyfriend – I really should have one right now ;).

Most of all, I thought I would be everything I wanted to be by this 25th birthday. Apparently my sense of time was a little skewed.

When I was young, I imagined so many things in my possession by now and thought I would have achieved so much of the influence in my industry by now.

Fortunately, I have accomplished so many things I am incredibly happy to have achieved: such as co-publishing a book, travelling across South East Asia and Belgium as well as graduating from design school.

Well, I ended up with none of the material goods I listed and only some of my lifetime aspired achievements by this age, but, I ended up with so much more: lessons and values and character traits that I never thought mattered or existed, but wow, I can’t believe how much I have learnt and who I have become because of it.

Throughout the past twenty five years, life has humbled me to the very depth of my core, but it has also shocked and surprised and left me in awe at how wonderfully, juicy and abundant this life truly can be if we are open to it.

Sure, I didn’t end up with the red convertible car, but I did end up with a lot more, including a lot of amazing lessons.

I had an incredible year. I am so grateful for the times I travelled & spent time with family, for the moments being quarantined with my partner & graduating school. Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday –- you are so thoughtful and kind. 🎂

So, in honour of my 25 years creating, laughing, working, crying and living while on this beautiful spinning globe, here are some of the major key lessons I learnt (many of which I would LOVE to go back and tell my 20-year-old self and younger).

  1. Take life seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

    Remember the time you were ten years old and ran on the beach with your underwear on and realized nope — wrong bottoms? Laughing at yourself is a beautiful trait, and so is taking your dreams and goals seriously. Also, there is too much too accomplish and fulfill to not take life seriously. Some may say that you should “go with the flow” and “take what life hands you” but I say the opposite –– grab it full hands barred on and go after you want fearlessly.
  2. Authenticity is everything.

    This is something I wish I could go back and tell my younger self: all the time you spent straightening your hair and curling your eyelashes wasn’t for much and was probably done for the wrong reasons. The people who love you will cherish you no matter what – and those are the ones who matter. Yes, your weirdness, wackiness and alternative interests are what will attract the most beautiful connections, places and moments (cue: the coolest experiences in South East Asia). Your quirkiness is what actually inspires other people to step into their own gifts, purpose and authenticity.

    When you step into your own authentic personal power, you actually attract the people who are meant for you. I love the metaphor I heard from another creative who said, “when you are yourself and you turn off some people – that’s OK because you are picking through the trail mix to get to the M&M’s of people”. The people who do not support your true self were never really meant to be in your life anyway, so the path to authenticity is truly a purposeful one.
  3. There are no rules to life. You create them yourself and once you do –– live by them.

    You create and construct your own values; whether you derive that from different parts of a set of already created beliefs, or the people and places and experiences you have. You decide what to do with the experiences that you create and happen to you. Whether you want to get plastic surgery, to stay home and be married, to travel the world or to start your own business. Whether you value honesty, fun, integrity or creativity –– you create your own rulebook to life and this is something you should both take seriously and have fun with!
  4. Never victimize or play the blame game.

    Life is a ‘game’ and you define whether it’s fun, hard, or enjoyable to learn from. You decide how you show up to each experience. There were moments in my life including a mental health turmoil when I had an IUD and had no idea what was happening to me –– I thought life would never go on, I remember thinking to myself, “How could this get any worse? And most of all, why me? Why is this happening to me?”

    Of course, sometimes not being the victim – this isn’t easy and can be next to impossible.

    However, it was ultimately by accepting the messiness of the situation and circumstances I was in and then ultimate acceptance of how bad things were that it took to say, “OK, this is my reality, but this doesn’t define me. This darkness doesn’t equal my worth.”

    From that point on, I took responsibility for my super terrible circumstances and brilliantly, things got so much better because I took responsibility for what was happening to me, even if it wasn’t my fault.

    There is magic in never playing victim or the blame game, because it gives you power to move past it and grow from it.
  5. Continually show up on the ‘stage’ of your life.

    I remember singing on a stage for the first time at age 22 and it was the most terrifying moment –– but it was also the most liberating.

    Metaphorically speaking, to keep showing up no matter how hard it is, is such a powerful act to do for ourselves.

    As Joseph Campbell says:

    Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave, that was so dreaded, has become the center.”

    Do what scares you and keep showing up even if you are in the darkness of the tunnel even if you do not know where it is leading. I believe the world throws us hard times to build up our character, no matter how dark you feel or how unclear the tunnel seems – it all connects and the troubles make sense in the end because it is building your growth and your destiny for the better.
  6. You won’t marry your high school boyfriend.

    (Or maybe you will, which is super awesome and beautiful but this is directed at 16-year-old Danielle)

    I learnt that it takes time and experience and hard lessons to learn how to become the right partner.
  7. Being the most authentic, unapologetically genuine version of yourself will get you ahead in life.

    I am practicing this more and more everyday, I truly believe that there are too many people pretending to be something else or copy others –––I have so been here and I now feel bad for people still living this, because they are feeling the pain of not being true to their unique selves and style and instincts. It’s tragic.

    I 100% believe that the more you are yourself, the more you will not only attract the people and places meant for you, but you will completely inspire others to step into their own authenticity. This creates a community and world that is a little more genuine, honest and brave each day and what is better than that?
  8. TRAVEL! (It’s OK to take a gap year or pursue that adventure)

    The world is such an expansive place full of ideas, concepts, people and places who will remind of not only who you are but who will inspire you to see and feel things you never thought existed. The world is too big and time is too short not to go –– there are also far too many people and places to connect with in my opinion.

    Furthermore, we as the Millennial Generation and Generation X have the capability to see the entire globe and what a wonderful place it is –– we are so lucky. There can’t be a more exciting time to be a live, so grab your backpack, notebook, camera, plan the trip and go!

    You will not regret it.
  9. You never know what battle someone is facing –– so be true, and be kind always.

    My mental health journey has taught me so much, so much so that I would never wish what I went through on anyone, however I wouldn’t change a thing –– because it taught me so much compassion for people. The journey itself shook me to my core and carved a belief in me so deep and it is this: compassion is the answer and we never know what demons and battles someone may be facing inside of themselves, or even externally. I truly believe every one of us has a story that is so tragic that it would make you cry.

    We are all connected by this and it is all the more reason to generally always be true and kind to others.
  10. Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and SpongeBob will always be super cool.

    This comes back from my childhood –– watching Mork & Mindy, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and SpongeBob with my Dad has had a huge influence on me. It reminds me of all the times laughing with my Dad –– it taught me not to take life too seriously and that silliness is a beautiful value.

    There is a lot of brilliance behind a show like Pee-Wee because in all of it’s insane silliness and like SpongeBob –– it holds true to values like play, community, enjoyment and laughter. I will never be too cool for shows and goodness like this. They are also inherently such pure and good characters and teach a lot of lessons about kindness and generosity and the power of lightness.
  11. Follow your passion project! (Publish that book!)

    When I wanted to write a book at 10, I created the first draft –– but never ultimately published it. I definitely had a limiting belief that I was too young, too unqualified and quite frankly, not worthy of publishing the book. I wish I could go back to my young self, get the support I needed and write & publish the damn thing!

    Passion projects are such a breath of life into creative work. They inspire you, motivate you & allow you to build something (maybe even a career!) around what you truly LOVE. What is better than that?!

    I have seen many speakers who have transformed their career based on passion projects. One of them, Lauren Hom, a talented letterer ended up basing part of her career off of her passion project by chalklettering on restaurants chalkboards for a free lunch – this fun project actually entirely launched her career!

    Following my personal passion projects has become and I have realized this, one of the biggest joys of my life. It gives me life and energy.

    I can speak on and on about this subject, but no matter what your hobby, side project or passion pursuit is –– set a daily reminder to work on it 20 minutes a day, you will thank yourself!
  12. You are the only person you can depend on at the end of the day.

    My good friend from university was a go-getter. He was in multiple clubs, a bold leader in the pre-business school class and always seemed to be a person with an extremely bright future. We bonded over business and art and the possibilities of their intersections but we mainly shared a connection over art. He wrote me a super lovely letter at the end of the year and I remember reading it over and over again because it was so thoughtful and it meant a lot from someone like him. He gave me a really key piece of advice, “Always assume anonymity”. I still to this day don’t know exactly why he gave me that piece of advice, but it always stuck with me. This is something my therapist always reminds me –– that no matter what happens in life, you will always have yourself, and that’s OK.
  13. Growth is not glamorous – but it is cool.

    Growth does not look like bubble baths, candles and Netflix (although these can be a form of self-care). It comes from the moments where you feel so alone, exhausted or pushed to your limit –– this is where you make the choice to keep going and expand your mind and physical as well as emotional limits. It feels awful in the moment but it truly is so expansive. That’s why I truly believe growth does not look like something you would find on Pinterest or Instagram — it comes from the hard moments, that is real life and growth comes from the moments of feeling uncool- less-than and ultimately coming through as smarter, wiser and stronger. This is so underrated in our society based around social media and outer perception.

    Also, growth is boring. Growth is structure and routine and cleaning and taking care of your personal responsibilities, debts and messes. I truly believe this key aspect is super liberating.
  14. Everybody has an amazing story that will change someone’s life. (So do you: so write that book!)

    I can’t speak highly enough about this point. At a certain point in my early adulthood (especially around the time I started travelling) – it occurred to be how every single person in this planet has such a rich, vibrant and distinct experience of life itself. We all have different songs and movies that make us cry and move us and remind us of our incredibly unique experiences. We are all so similar in many ways, but different in our experiences that morph our life story. It was at this point of realization that I developed the belief that everyone is worthy and should absolutely create a blog or write a book or some type of biography of themselves, and at any age too!

    Every single one of us has a unique story (no matter how think our lives our boring). It doesn’t come from copying what we see online. Our unique story and experiences make us so incredibly amazing.

    So start that blog, initiate that YouTube video channel or business or Etsy shop –– just start creating because we are all inherently passionately creative in some way, we just have to find and nurture it. Your voice is unique and special and is worthy of being shared.
  15. Outside sources (food, substances, drinking, being a bar star) are never the answer.

    Although a fun night can sometimes be the cure, generally speaking external substances end up burying a hole within you.

    There is magic in aloneness and looking deeper.
  16. Your mind is precious. Be kind to it.
  17. ‘Pyramid schemes’ aren’t that bad. You will learn so much networking and life skills that you need.

    Hear me out 😉

    I pushed myself to have coffee dates with strangers every week and cold-call and if that did not teach me the ability to sell, talk to people, marketing strategies and thinking on my feet –– then I don’t know what else would. It gave me a structure to build a small business with and this was a playground of abundant knowledge I took with myself and to this day in all of my experiences. I met wonderful people. I probably scared off a few friends from so many Facebook invites but I gained so much wisdom from it ;).
  18. YOU. ARE. WORTHY.

    I self-sabotaged for a long time without even realizing it.

    My therapist pointed it out about three years into my self-publishing book journey and I shockingly and disturbingly recall realizing that I was repeating patterns of self-sabotage out of fear. I was literally destroying my deepest goals and reality of achieving my dreams because of my mindset.

    I have done a lot of work on this since then and I still do it. I would love to write and talk more about this topic in my life.

    When I finally published that book, Messy Minds, and spoke about it in front of over a hundred people at a local restaurant during the launch, I swear my heart and mind could not have expanded more from so much pride and joy of finally accomplishing it.

    Even after my erratic mental health journey, I shrunk and shunned away opportunities to speak my mind and receive what I want and need because I was just so happy to feel alive and ‘normal’. For a long time, I truly honest believed (subconsciously) that if I make others more comfortable, I will live a better life. I said and acted how I thought others would want to just because I was so grateful to be alive and well. As good as it is that I was happy to be alive and well, the fact that I lived for like this for any amount of time gives me chills now.

    Facing your fears and your mind is the best gift you can give to yourself. Put yourself in the right mindset because this is the base. It is 90% of the work. I promise you. Most of all, when you start to believe you are worthy of your deepest and richest version of your best life you will be shocked at what happens.

    You are abundant and worthy of your dreams: of the trip, of writing that book with your story and wisdom, of good mental health, a healthy body, that yoga class, of the dream office space, of stepping into that Instagram Live story, the massage, and of the business and life of your dreams.

    I LOVE this notion that my Dad brought up to me as the “thought of the day” last week: the world has money and experiences and whatever you want and it’s waiting for you to take it.

    Sometimes all we need to do is believe we are worthy of what we want, and the rest is magic.

    You.

    Are.

    Worthy.
  19. It’s OK to be happy (and yourself!).

    When I was around 16, I remember being always vivaciously bubbly, uplifting and bright. You could easily define me as someone who was just always, well –– happy!

    I remember receiving judgement around this and for some time I felt inclined to shell myself into a smaller version of myself to make others comfortable. I never did, but I remember how uncomfortable the judgement felt from others. I remember experiencing true envy from external forces and it was eerie. This taught me that true friends are supportive of your genuine happiness and nothing less.

    I went through a couple of other experiences similar to this that have quite frankly taught me to accept nothing less than my authentic self.
  20. Never cheat, or lie.

    Honesty is a rare trait and when you lie you are selling your soul times a million.
  21. Take risks for love.

    Always go with full purposeful intention. Kiss when you’re still scared. Trust when it feels hard. Go on the big (or small) road trip or camping trip even when you don’t know them that well. Taking risks when you’re excited but afraid in love is the most rewarding thing: good relationships are the keystone to, in my opinion, a beautiful life.

    Trust your gut and you will never go wrong in love.
  22. There’s nothing cool about being purposely and intentionally ‘nihilistic’.

    I remember when I bought into the trend of being overly philosophical and analyzing everything to death in my very early 20s. I read too much news, I studied some philosophical ideas that probably didn’t serve my wellbeing and I thought it was ‘cool’ to be extremely well-informed on everything. I talked with a lot of people who at the time did not help my personal growth and state of positivity and outlook.

    I even got to the point where I would analyze the music I listened to, the movies I watched and even how I talked. Although this is OK and I accept that I was this person at one point in my life, I am so grateful I grew out of this belief and state of living.

    Most of all, I thought that it was OK to glorify the depression I was dealing with at the time as part of the creative struggle. I thought it was ‘cool’ to be the dark and deep artist, that this somehow made me better and more thoughtful and different and this is normal.

    Little did I know, I was actually showing less respect to myself and my growth and well-being. Becoming smarter, more creative and compassionate comes along with taking care of yourself – however that looks to you.

    I wholeheartedly now believe through this lesson that the best artists believe in taking care of their creative tank, their minds and their well-being – they show up replenished and as their most high and purposeful selves.

    I truly believe self care and mindful consumption is super freaking cool now!
  23. It’s OK to be a college drop-out (it’s also OK to start fresh, no matter what age).

    I actually learnt this one in theory a long time before I experienced it myself. My Dad is a college drop-out too, but he is self-made and I love this story because he truly taught me that you don’t need a formal education to succeed. I ended up experiencing this after leaving one year of completing art at Western University. Oh man, was it terrifying, —- but completely liberating.

    Please note that I am not by any means encouraging dropping out –– I truly believe that a diploma or accreditation can build amazing reputation and rapport with people. I also believe that a university experience can expand our beliefs and consciousness in so many ways. However, I believe we put WAY too much emphasis as formal education as the answer and real experience is where we truly shape our character, values and beliefs, and so on.

    Not to mention, we as millennials have the incredible opportunity of living in the expansive digital age. YouTubers and influencers and so on are making money in ‘career’s that were non-existent in our parents day. We can build online businesses and travel the world. We can make money off our super quirky niche passion online. We can build influence by showing up in our IGTV’s.

    If you have ever watched Gary V., he talks often about how the best business owners are drop outs.

    You do not need to be ‘qualified’ or ‘educated’ enough to start on your dream passion project or business. The experience, lessons and values you learn from the real world is invaluable.
  24. HAVE FUN!

    Here’s a myth that we can often believe: “life is a hard, difficult path and I cannot make a beautiful life for myself”.

    Life is a rollercoaster but it is also a fun, crazy whirlwind of an adventure and you can have fun while being creative and building an abundantly juicy life for yourself.

    There have been so many moments in my life so far where I have taken life so seriously in which getting anything I wanted or trying to achieve any goal was like trying to pull a tonne of bricks by myself.

    The moments I surrendered to trusting my self and simply trusting the process by having fun became the moments that I began stepping into my authentic creative flow and true desires.

    On a different scale: have the water gun fight, jump out of a closet to scare someone (personally this is the most fun for me), watch your favourite standup, say the joke that’s on your mind and just allow your goofiness and silliness to emerge. Don’t shun this playful side of you because this is where your true personality and character will shine.

    Most of all, remember that having fun is the key ingredient to creativity and being able to let things go is so liberating to your personal well-being.
  25. Remember that red car that you wanted at age 16? You did not really want a red convertible car. You wanted the feeling of excitement.

    I wanted the feeling of risk-taking, travel and adventure.

    This did not emerge from material goods.

    My Dad taught me this at a very young age and it really and always has deeply resonated with me.

    We often want to get into something so large and extreme such as extreme sports, sailing the world, going on this a luxurious trip, etc,.

    By no means am I discrediting dream-planning and abundance – I’m just encouraging an extra step:

    Hear me out.

    For example, when I was ten years old, my Dad wanted to buy a sailboat and go into sailing. He ended up buying one. After sailing for one season and learning all of the ins and outs with my Mom, he realized that he did not want the sailboat at all –– in fact, he disliked sailing.

    What he was looking for, in fact, was the feeling of freedom that is so often associated with sailing.

    Holy shit is my internal reaction every time I hear this story.

    This taught me that on a larger scale, the things and experiences and places we desire are symbolic.

    They are representative of our values and our larger purpose.

    I think this belief is so true and has taught me a lot about recognizing what I truly want from life.

    We often believe that by moving to a certain location we will fix our ‘unhappiness’. Taking a step back also allows you to look within yourself and seek out the tools, resources and mindset that you need to fill whichever void might be inside of you will do wonders.

    Thanks Dad!

I am so happy to have shared these twenty five lessons that have shaped me into the creative individual I am today.

I hope you enjoyed reading them, they have truly morphed me into someone I am proud to be today and I am so excited to see what I learn in the next 25 years — and beyond!

Please feel free to send your comments in the box below or send me what you think at danielle@daniellep.com. What do you think? How have you changed in the past 25 years, 10 or 30 years?

I would love to hear from you!

With love,

Danielle

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