Middle age gets a bum rap. Sure, when you get older your testosterone slips, your hangovers sting a little more, and you have to really start listening to your doctor during your yearly check-ups. But you know what? Putting your youth in the rear view also means you’re wealthier, you let less stuff upset you, and you’re probably in a better place where you can have a lot of fun. And one of the best perks of getting older? Gaining wisdom. You know how to treat a woman, you know that “new” doesn’t always mean “better,” and you can take bad news better than any-damn-body. Here are more of the things you can only know by reaching your fifth decade. And once you’re caught up on these, be sure to purge your life of the things no man over 40 should ever own.
1. The Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance
“There really is a fine line between confidence and arrogance,” says Jim White, founder of dating site Singles Over Forty. And it’s 40-somethings who have had the life and dating experience who appreciated the difference between the two. “While it’s great to sound confident and to even show a little ego while on a date,” White says guys in their 40s have matured beyond youthful bluster and know the value of taking “a second to listen to yourself and observe your own posture and mannerisms.”
2. The Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom
Another distinction that older guys come to appreciate: lessons from books versus lessons from life. “Wisdom is education plus experience,” says David Bennett, a relationship expert and author of numerous books including Be Popular Now: How Any Man Can Become Confident, Attractive, and Successful (and Have Fun Doing It). “Younger guys often have the education part down, but lack experience. Experience provides needed perspective and complements education, creating more relationship success.”
3. To Never Stop Learning
A 40-something has come to appreciate that he needs to keep acquiring education, whether that’s updating his skills for work or simply boosting his dinner-party skills (a recent Pew study found that the older people get, the more they read). A guy in his 40s has seen firsthand that learning is not something that’s only done in class—it’s a lifelong essential for success.
4. When He’s Achieved Maestro Status
A guy in his 40s finds himself in a strange new position: Young people asking him for advice. Where, earlier in life, he used to be a sponge—soaking up any and every tidbit of info about his industry, or just life in general—by this point, he’s more likely to be the on answering questions rather than asking. And he’s comfortable with that.
5. Not to Sweat the Small Stuff
“Younger guys often get worked up over little things, like a girl rejecting them, a job not working out, or not getting a high enough GPA in college,” says Bennett. “Forty-something guys know that in the long run, most things are little things, and getting worked up over them is a waste of mental energy.”
6. It’s OK to Be Nervous
By the time he hits 40, a guy’s been through his fair share of nerve-wracking moments: interviews, big dates, major life changes. And more often than not, things turned out all right. Even when these moments didn’t go so great—that hot date never called him back—he came out of it most prepared for the next big thing. (And of course, when things went swimmingly, his life changed for the better.) The man over 40 knows that life is best lived outside the comfort zone.
7. To Focus on What’s Important
Even those who have high-pressure jobs have learned to recognize what is truly worth getting stressed about. White says those in their 40s have learned “to take the weight of the world off of their shoulders and have some fun with those you love.”
8. When To Keep His Mouth Shut
But there are plenty of times when a grown man’s hard-won wisdom is not helpful. Whether it’s chatting with a spouse about her frustrations (at work…or with him) or taking a lecture from his boss, the wise man knows it’s best to sometimes just nod and listen. No need to offer advice or go on the defensive.
9. That Family Comes First
A focus on what’s important extends to personal relationships, as well. “Life in your 40s can throw big changes your way without warning,” says White. “These changes can come in many forms, from career upsets to relationships turning themselves upside down. And when these changes knock you off of our feet, it’s usually family who catch us.” Millennials and even those in their 30s might still find themselves seeking approval from new friends or trying to constantly expand their group of acquaintances. Once you’ve hit 40, you’ve usually figured out the people you can really rely on.
10. That Friendship Takes Work
A guy in his 40s has had enough friends come and go to understand why the good ones stick around. Just having common interests or a similar sense of humor isn’t good enough: It takes continual interest in the other person, their life, and family, as well as regular demonstrations of trustworthiness and reliability.
11. But It’s Well Worth The Effort
Few feelings are more exciting than hosting a party and having dozens of people—friends, lovers, casual acquaintances—arrive. But as a guy gets older and sees how tangential many friendships can be, he realizes that it’s worth it to invest in the ones that truly matter. It’s great to know lots of people, but true friends require true investment.
12. How to Treat a Woman
As guys age, they become more established, both in terms of material wealth and greater level of influence—all of which can be brought into one’s dating life and relationships. “Many 40-something guys have ‘arrived’ in life, and have good careers, maturity, life experience, and more confidence and charm than they had in any other decade,” says Bennett. “This makes them highly attractive to women and successful in relationships.”
13. That Good Things Are Worth Paying For
Whether it’s pens, luggage, or appliances, a guy in his 40s has gone through his share of sub-par products and learned to appreciate a truly quality product. He’s willing to spend a bit more on the good headphones, knowing one of the ears won’t stop working a few weeks later, and that a jacket he’s going to wear more than one season is worth splurging on.
14. And Stuff From Urban Outfitters Isn’t
It was the go-to option when he was in his 20s, with hipster wardrobe options that went over great at parties and on dates. But once he walked in and spotted the new line of canvas overalls—or “norm-core” sweatshirts—it clicked that this is not the sort of thing he should be wearing anymore.
15. That His Clothes Don’t Need to Make A Statement
Along the same lines, the wise man wants to make a strong impression—but he knows that people remembering his personality and charm are far more important than remembering his sartorial decisions. No one cares about the funny one-liner on a dated graphic T. By 40, wearing clothes that “make a statement” are more likely to be seen as a way to cover up what’s lacking underneath them.