For the Ages: Shifting Focus on 40th Birthday

I remember when I turned 25 years old.

I was a narcissistic mess – in the midst of a depressing downward spiral of woe is me. I was single. I was working in a job that I didn’t whole-heartedly love. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I really thought I was the most pitiful bastard on the face of the earth.

In reality, I was just a little lost and a very self-absorbed, but I couldn’t recognize that OR do anything about it.

To celebrate turning No. 25, I decided to do it in the most depressing way possible:

• I drank a whole bottle of cheap chardonnay all by myself…

• Called a girl that I had a crush on and pronounced my love, and then…

• I prayed to the porcelain god of PleaseLetMeDie the rest of the night.

Happy birthday to ME!

To be honest with you, it was the perfect way for that Drew Myers to celebrate a milestone birthday.

Fast forward 15 years…

I turned 40 years old a couple of months ago, and I celebrated this benchmark birthday a little differently. Instead of drinking cheap wine, embarrassing myself and lying on the bathroom floor because “the cold tiles help keep the room from spinning,” I decided to be very intentional about my 40th birthday celebration.

I decided to make it as impactful as possible.

Here are a couple of disclaimers before I share some of the highlights:

• I planned everything myself

• The celebration lasted an entire weekend

That preface may imply that I haven’t completely outgrown my narcissism, but hopefully after I explain everything, you’ll realize that I’ve come a long way in 15 years.

– – –

Wade BowenSome people might think the pinnacle of my birthday weekend was meeting Texas country music star Wade Bowen, which was No. 50 on my current life list.

Nope!

Meeting Wade WAS over-the-top awesome, but definitely not the best part of my 2-day extravaganza. It was simply the cherry on top of a wonderfully great day – a day where I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the whole world.

That’s what I wanted my birthday weekend to be all about – my family and friends. Ironically enough, the last thing I wanted my 40th birthday to be about was…ME!

After coffee at sunrise and an early morning group run through the countryside, I planned a brunch for 25 of my family and friends. It was at a local restaurant in downtown Glen Rose.

It was my goal to put an emphasis on gratefulness. I even took the liberty of branding it a “Gratitude Brunch,” and I planned a brief presentation to tie it all together with a pretty red bow.

Yept…I stood up and gave a speech at my own birthday party.

I wanted every single person in that room to know how much I appreciated them being there AND how grateful I was that they were a part of my life.

It’s important to know that the group included immediate family members, extended family members, longtime friends and new friends. (My wife even surprised me by flying in my lifelong friend from St. Louis.)

It was a motley crew, but it was a wonderfully great crew.

It was MY crew.

As I stood in front of everyone, I didn’t waste a lot of time. I jumped right into the meat of my speech. “Many of you know about the initiative that I’m working on… the Live the List Project, which puts people’s goals, dreams and aspirations in the spotlight.

“Well…I used the foundational pillars of Live the List to plan my 40th birthday celebration, specifically this brunch.”

It was important for me to talk fast and be extremely poignant. I didn’t want to lose anyone.

“The four principles of Live the List are contentment, gratitude, motives and relational joy,” I continued. Then I hit them with a quick bullet-point breakdown.

• Contentment: “I’m extremely happy where I am in my life. I feel extremely blessed. Am I rich? No. Am I famous? No. BUT do I have any regrets? None. Do I love waking up every morning? Absolutely.”

Live the List• Gratitude: “I’ll even take it a step further, I’m extremely thankful for where I am in my life.”

• Motive: “Reminder…motives are what define us – why do we do what we do? Why did I invite you guys here for a ‘gratitude brunch?’ Because I wanted step out of the spotlight and put the emphasis on YOU today. Each person sitting in this room – whether I’ve known you my whole life or just a few months – has impacted my life in some shape, form or fashion. I wanted to show my appreciation today. I didn’t want my 40th birthday to be all about me – I wanted it to be about you guys.”

• Relational Joy: “This is about laying up treasures in heaven, and those treasures are the people we touch and impact while we are alive. It’s the people we spiritually invest in. It’s the people we love. You guys are part of my relational joy. I wanted each of you to know that.”

“Those four things inspired me to bring you guys together today.”

I thanked them again for being there and told them to enjoy their brunch.

Right before I sat down, I said: “I do have gifts for each of you, but we’ll do that after you order your food.”

Yept…I bought gifts for every single person who attended my “gratitude brunch.” Like I told the group, it was MY birthday celebration. I could do whatever I wanted to do!

Giving out the gifts was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Here are some examples of the gifts:

• Gratefulness journals – to help provide positive perspective every day.

• Autograph books – so people could have loved ones write heart-felt messages inside (NOTE: This used to be a thing back in the day).

• Thank you cards for people to send out, each one with a personalized message inside. Examples:

– “I just wanted you to know….that I’m grateful that you’re in my life.”

– “I just wanted you to know…that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.”

Into the WildThe rest of the guests received copies of some of my all-time favorite books. It included everything from Into the Wild (J. Krakauer) and The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) to The Radical Leap (S. Farber) and The Noticer (A. Andrews).

I explained that each of these books had a positive impact on my life, and I hoped they enjoyed them as much as I did.

The brunch was already wonderfully great, but I wanted to take it one step further and reiterate my gratefulness. I gave four people from the group a $25 donation to a charity of their choice. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Special Olympics were a couple of the organizations that received a gift.

Side note: The Riverhouse Grill, who hosted the brunch, jumped on the gratitude bandwagon as well. Out of the blue, they presented me with a $50 donation to a non-profit of MY choice. It was a wonderfully great bombshell. I donated it to Texas Lions Camp.

All in all, it was a perfect “gratitude brunch” – a perfect launching point for Part II….

Wait! There’s more…Click to see read about Part II

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