Lifestyle Advice for Those Over 30

Lifestyle Advice

The source of this lifestyle information might strike you as odd. It all started when one morning while I was listening to a lecture on Natural SelectionThe speaker reminded me of a quote I’d like to share with you. It’s taken from a letter that Charles Darwin — the Father of Evolution — wrote at the end of his life. He said:

“Up to the age of 30, or beyond it, poetry gave me great pleasure. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music several times every week. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

What Darwin wrote about making time really resonated with me. I realized that it’s so easy to get caught up in “work”, to the point where it takes over your life — especially when that work is well received.

When I read that quote, I was in the midst of another hectic product launch. It was the best program my company had created, and after three or four sleepless weeks of production it was finally ready to ship.

We were on the verge of what promised to be a big success. But I felt incredibly frustrated and trapped.

I was irritable a lot of the time, and often short-tempered with the people around me. Going to my desk felt like a chore, an obligation. I wasn’t enjoying it.

Darwin’s quote helped me understand why.

I was doing work that other people wanted me to do, working in order to earn a living. I wasn’t doing the work that scared me, or the work that fulfilled me, or the work that makes me dig deep into my resources and forces me to grow.

When you experience those angry, frustrated feelings, they are a good indication that you’re not pursuing your purpose. When I’m “on purpose” I’m excited to go to my desk each morning. I think about the work I’ll do the next day as I fall asleep each night.

I recognized it was time to heed those warning signs, to refocus, and to get my life back on track.

Darwin’s words are a reminder not to lose sight of the things that truly fulfill you, and not to marginalize that which you love the most.

For me, they are a reminder to always defend that precious hour of reading time each day, no matter how much the work piles up. Reading is the fuel of good writing, and it’s also a window into a larger world of thought, experience and ideas that span centuries. A life without reading is a life lived on the surface.

Darwin’s words remind me to make time to plug in good headphones and really listen to music that means something. I used to do that a lot. These days I only do it on airplanes. When wifi becomes ubiquitous in the air, I’ll lose that space too.

Darwin’s words remind me to leave on a regular basis. To drop off the map entirely, stop taking calls, stop replying to emails, and just wander alone in a country where I don’t speak the language — no matter what the “project timeline” dictates. To find those special landscapes and spend entire days sitting at a café table soaking up the feeling of that place, waiting for insights to float to the surface. Those are the only times I ever truly grow.

Darwin’s words remind me to spend distraction-free time with the people I care about most. Not “together time” spent monitoring my smart phone or thinking about work with half my brain. Time when the rest of the world — and the next important project —  ceases to exist.

The people I love won’t be around forever. Once those times are gone, they’re gone forever too.

Finally, Darwin’s words remind me that, while we each have many talents, we have only one true gift. You’ll recognize yours immediately because it’s the only one that doesn’t feel like “work.”

It can be easy to forget that core as life speeds up and pulls us each in.

Did you ever picture Darwin as a lover of poetry?

Neither did I. In my imagination Darwin exists as a hardheaded, clear cut, bushy bearded man of science.

But who knows what more he could have been if he hadn’t accepted that mold.

What do Darwin’s words mean to you?

[Ed. Note: Ryan Murdock is the author of Personal Freedom: A Guide to Creating the Life of Your Dreams. When not helping people find their own brand of personal freedom, Ryan travels the world’s marginal places as Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost magazine. His first book is called Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America.]

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  • Gerri Michalska

    This Darwinian example may finally be the push over the brink to get me to change and allow myself that hour or two each day of reading, music (and maybe even learning to play my flute?)
    But tell me why do you have to put earphones in to listen to music? Don’t you have a radio or CD player?

    Thank you for the great tip.

    • GM,

      Good on ya for making a change!

      I love listening on noise cancelling headphones so I can completely surround myself with layers of sound. I find it easier to float on its currents, and to hear those subtle nuances that I would otherwise miss.

      Best wishes,

  • Tim

    Even though it was apparently only near the end of his life that Darwin became a Christian, it’s evident that God’s wisdom was at work in him even before that – sort of the warm-up or foreplay.

  • Steve

    Darwin should have realized there was a God and Savior. Although his thoughts are intriguing, what the Lord can teach us in the Bible is much more powerful. I recommend you all put this Darwin clown aside and understand that reading your Bible for an hour a day will help your entire life become whole. I live an breathe the short work week, making a half million a year, and have physical fitness that will hopefully carry me for many blessed years on earth. It has nothing to do with evolving, it has everything to do with God. Maybe I should write a post that inspires the goodness and not the thoughts and theories of a mad scientist who believes we came from apes.

    • Hi Steve,

      Congratulations on your success, and thanks very much for the recommendation. I have read the Bible, as well as Greek and Roman mythology, the Bhagavad Gita and many Buddhist texts. I’ve always found that the Greeks and Romans spoke to me most strongly when it comes to wisdom about how to live one’s life, and in particular Stoic thinkers like Marcus Aurelius. And when it comes to understanding others, appreciating beauty, probing the depths of myself, and feeling compassion, I’ve never found anything as wonderfully humanizing as literature.

      Best wishes on your journey,

  • Darwin’s lifted the little cuilt I would carry whenever I took off from work to do something like read or listen to some music. I still do take an entire day to be with myself and spend some time with my family. I have sort of gotten away from listening to music, Now I promise myself that as soon as I get my own residence I will get back to that too, and no guilt feelings.

    • That’s great news Marion 🙂 I’ve always found that my best ideas and coolest creative breakthroughs come during that down time. And music has inspired my writing like nothing else.

      Best wishes,

  • It is so easy to get caught up into the important work that can make lives better for generations to come. But where would that leave a person surrounded by friends and family in the midst of life? While I feel it is so important to protect my mind from the trivial and absurd I also believe it more important as the years go by to truly meet people where they are even if you can’t imagine living like that. Remembering to take time for things that don’t feel like work keeps the importance of your life’s Purpose in perspective even during times when it has to lie dormant for whatever reasons. My favorite quote really helped me to get a grip on what Darwin said in the above quote, “I notice balance every time I swing past it.” Balance for me if just another way of being in the right time (in the moment) as some wise men and women have said, “now is the right and only time for living.”

  • Thanks very much Eric for such a thoughtful reply.

    “I notice balance every time I swing past it.” – I like that a lot. And I’ve noticed the same thing in my work, especially when it comes to balancing my online business with my writing. It always seems to be a work in progress, a constant balancing of needs. But with practice, the oscillations become less, and the pendulum doesn’t swing nearly as wide of the mark.

    “now is the right and only time for living.” Well and truly said.

    I came across a really cool TED talk by the philosopher Alain de Botton that you might enjoy. He spoke about rewriting the definition of “success” in your own terms and according to your own personal needs, rather than some image you’ve been sold. Well worth checking out if you’re interested