Life, so they say, begins at 40. You may find that idea cold comfort as your hair grays or thins, your paunch fails to shrink after a few weeks of dietary austerity, and you wake up feeling creaky. In fact, these signs of wear and tear testify that you’ve been around long enough to have learned some stuff, done some things, accrued memories and assets and fostered and strengthened relationships while gaining perspective on this brief and crazy trip we call life. Now’s the time to take your past and use it to fuel the successes of all the life yet to come.
1. You’ve settled on a wardrobe
Your 20s were a time to experiment with personal style. Your 30s were a time to get comfortable with your look while making important life moves. Your 40s are time to take the results of that success and reinvest it in you. By the time we reach our fifth decade, most of us have decided that cling onto our youth by dressing younger is a bad move. “Dressing younger only serves to highlight your advancing years,” says Alex Wilcox, co-proprietor of New York men’s clothing store Lord Willy’s. “You end up looking like a old head on a young body. This in contrast to dressing classic — albeit with a few playful little touches — which tends to do the opposite.”
2. You’re better in bed
The 10,000-hour rule refers to the amount of time it takes to master something. By the time you’re in your 40’s, you’ve likely logged up some serious love hours and all that experience is paying off for you and your partners.
3. You can see all your favorite bands live again
Terrible record deals signed in the ’70s and ’80s have an upside for you if you didn’t get to see your favorite bands the first time around. These guys have to hit the road to make some scratch. Plus, without so much sex and drugs, the rock and roll is sounding better than ever. Just don’t look at them too closely.
4. You can make a difference
What do you stand for? Your 40s are time to put your money, time and/or effort where your mouth is. Instead of commenting on an issue that you’re passionate about from the sidelines, have the courage of your convictions and make the difference you want to see.
5. You care less about more things
Confidence, experience, wisdom and knowing what you do care about converge in our 40s. That has the cumulative effect of making us devote far less time, effort or energy to that which we realize is banal, superficial or uninteresting — like a good amount of contemporary pop culture.
6. Contemporary pop culture isn’t important anymore
A new album dropping, a celebrity feud, an intoxicated red-carpet appearance, a wardrobe malfunction… Incredibly, at some point all this stuff sort of mattered on some level, and maybe, occasionally something someone made, did or said will pique your interest, but in your 40s you realize there are other things worth devoting that time to.
7. People think you’re an adult
You may feel much the same as you did when you were 15, but perception is reality, and with a few gray hairs and some laugh lines, you’re being perceived as a full-on grownup. You find that people call you “sir” with more sincerity, defer to you when a decision has to be made and think you know what the hell you’re talking about.
8. Your relationships are more mature
Stormy arguments, passive-aggressive standoffs, taking actions intended to screw with your partner’s head. By the time you’re in your 40s your tolerance for drama should have hit absolute zero and you’ll be much happier for it.
9. You’ve carved out a career
You’ve done things, made things happen and had a discernable impact on the lives of your co-workers, bosses and the people who report to you. You’re now in a zone where the depth and breadth of your experience and the relationships you’ve forged makes you more valuable an employee than at any other time in your career.
10. People seek out your opinion
Whether it’s at work or in another area of your life, you notice that people actually care about what you have to say. Maybe they always did, but now they’re not shy about picking your brain. Just by virtue of living, you’ve become someone whose opinions are sought after.
11. You realize that experiences are more valuable than things
Now that you own property, a car or two, even a boat or a second home, you come to the realization that although it’s nice to have things, their true value is really the enjoyment that you get out of them.
12. You’ve got an arsenal of anecdotes
You may not be the most interesting man among your peer group, but spend a moment among people a few years your junior, and you’ll start to realize just how much you’ve accomplished, what you’ve seen and where you’ve been, and you’ll feel pretty good about it.
13. Most things you yearned for in your 20s are within reach
Remember when you wanted that Gibson Les Paul, that vintage Vespa, that crazy weekend in Vegas, but could only dream of having the money? Those days are gone. Now that you have a healthy bank balance, revisit your old want list. Anything on there still look tasty? Snag it.
14. Your rough edges have been smoothed out
Chances are, you were somewhat of a jerk in your younger years (or at least showed some jerky qualities). You’ve been busy accruing accolades, wealth, anecdotes and assets, but if you’ve been paying attention, it’s likely that you’ve picked up some humility along the way and have settled into being a kinder, more compassionate, more thoughtful you.
15. Whiskey tastes good now
How many features have you seen on the news about octogenarians, or people who’ve crossed the century mark, who attribute their long life to good whiskey? It’s no coincidence: Studies show that people who drink moderately live longer than those who don’t, and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and stroke than teetotalers. And it’s better to develop a taste for whiskey than wine: The amber spirit contains no added sugar.