Mainstream American culture loves youth. It led me for most of my 45 years to expect life to get worse. Instead it's gotten better. Much better, at least for me.

Inc.'s median age is 37, so I'm ahead of most of you, but time marches on for all of us. I bet your life is getting better too, contrary to the mainstream message.

How do these changes resonate for you?

Food is better now

I just got back from shopping at a farmers market. I bought cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, which I love. The farmer's picked them last night. I haven't had a slice of pizza in months.

I don't even think of eating candy, which I used to love. Fresh fruit tastes incomparably better (even the unique way I eat it).

I skipped ice cream at Thanksgiving, though I did have a finger of scotch, which I consider the better choice. A younger me would have chosen the sugary, fatty dessert, and a lot of it. Not that scotch is healthy, but it's rich and complex and enjoyable in much smaller amounts over a longer time.

I'm more fit and exercise more than ever, hence the exercise picture above. I enjoy exercise more now too.

Fun is better now

A younger friend visited a few weeks ago. We went to trendy bars in the Lower East Side, where I used to go for fun.

I saw the same crowd I used go out with. Different people, but the same. They were doing what I used to do but I saw them differently.

I'm impassioned by my work, that, as an entrepreneur, I created. I love what I do, buoyed by a strong sense of ownership, caring about my customers and students, and expectation of success. Staying out late interferes with that success and helping my customers.

They looked like they were looking for something but didn't know what, and therefore didn't know how to get it.

I didn't miss not going out. I'm not searching any more. In fact, it reinforced how much I enjoy my projects and passions.

Work is better now

When I started my first company in my 20s, I also didn't know exactly what I was getting into. The media talked about CEOs and closing investment rounds, so I followed.

Over the years, I've grown more confident in myself. Business has become for me about people and relationships. Titles and investments are means to an end, or more often distractions. Satisfied customers and teammates are more rewarding goals.

Even better: repeat customers and teammates who continue to multiple projects together.

I'll grant I have less physical energy and recovery takes longer now, but I get more done with less work and enjoy collaborating more. I don't fear mistakes like I used to. After all, I keep recovering.

Instead of following others' hype, I pursue my passions and serve my customers and teammates.

Relationships are better now

I used to spend a lot of my relationships--friends, family, colleagues, significant others--trying to figure out what I wanted and overcoming my insecurities. Now I communicate on what we find meaningful and valuable.

I talk less about weather and traffic on the way over and more about common passions and how we can help each other.

I've never been a woman, so I can't speak from experience, but when I was younger the women I knew seemed to fear aging, which they claimed was worse for them. But the women I know today seem to love life as much.

I know my values better now

I think at the root of everything being better now is that I don't judge things by a young person's values. Aging happens slowly enough that my values adjust as fast as my life does.

By the time I couldn't play team sports like I used to, I'd already started loving coaching adults. By the time I missed learning as a student, I'd already started loving teaching as an adjunct professor.

I find myself telling clients a similar refrain. As they learn new techniques and skills with me, they keep saying things like, "Now I realize why I lost that customer/job/spouse/etc. I wish I could go back and do it differently now."

I say, "If you look backward, you always see what you lost and how you could have saved it. On the other hand, if you look at the present or look forward, you'll see opportunity."

After a pause, I add, "I recommend looking forward."

That's been my key so far: as long as I live my life by my present values, life keeps getting better. I look forward. I didn't turn 45 from 20 years old. I turned 45 from 44 and had decades to adjust from 20.

If you don't live in the past, you never get old.

Published on: Nov 30, 2016