Forty Things I Learnt Before Turning 40: Lesson Thirty-Five

Mitch Robertson
4 min readSep 11, 2021


I’ve learnt that you only get out of life what you put in. As cliché as it is to say, but Britney Spears got it right when she said

You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati? You better work, bitch

Whatever it is you want in life, you need to put in the work; what comes easy won’t last and what lasts, won’t come easy. Former American swimmer, Olympic gold medallist and former world record holder, Lenny Krayzelburg, said it best, when he said, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” I often see people whinge and complain about where they are in life, when they haven’t put the effort into getting where they want to go. In most cases, success doesn’t happen overnight. In this day and age of social media where people are only presenting their highlight reels, the fact that so much is instantly accessible, some fail to see that it takes consistent effort to be successful. Artist Vincent van Gogh, who created about 2, 100 artworks once said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

One thing that I have learnt over the years as an educator, is that it’s oftentimes the little things that you do that can have the biggest impact. Some of the most heart-warming stories come from a graduating student, or one who has returned months or years later, to thank me for the impact I had on them. More times than not, they thank me for the little lessons I passed on, or the simplest fact of allowing them to be seen and heard as they were; not their past mistakes or failures, nor their bad behaviour. And giving them opportunities to be better than they thought they could be at the time. By showing them that when they consistently set the intention of being just a little bit better than they were the day before, by taking one small step out of their comfort zone, over time, it culminates into something incredible.

Sometimes it’s easy to look at other people’s success and think they were just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. And sometimes that might be true. More times than not, there is a lot of work in the background, that’s happened over a long stretch of time beforehand. ‘The Iceberg Illusion’ does a great job of illustrating this. When it comes to success, most people only see the tip of the iceberg, what’s above the water. What they don’t see is all that is underneath; persistence, failure, sacrifice, disappointment, discipline, hard work, dedication, risks, criticism, doubts, the list goes on.

To an extent I believe that there is some sort of plan for each of us, that is our destiny, but I’ve also come to believe that you can’t expect for it to just unfold they way we want just because we have some belief and faith that it will. Taylor Swift sings in ‘Daylight’, the “Luck of the draw only draws the unlucky.” I’ve come to learn to not put your blind faith in luck, but to put it on yourself and the belief that you have the tools you need to do what you want to; to pursue the dreams you have, whatever they are, quit the job that you hate and go after what really fuels your passions. If there isn’t a seat at the table, you need to go and create one. And if they still won’t let you sit there, you need to find another table.

Author of the upcoming book ‘Radically Content — Being Satisfied In An Endlessly Dissatisfied World,’ Jamie Varnon sums the notion of life being what you make it up nicely, saying:

Your life belongs to you. It’s not selfish to want your life to benefit you. It’s not selfish to ask: What am I getting out of this? And if the answer is “not much,” it’s not selfish to walk away. It’s amazing to be humble and empathic and understanding, but you are not a martyr. You are allowed to be first on your priority list. Your life is something you create, not something you have to endure. You have to work hard to create the life you want, but it’s better than living on autopilot, letting other people decide what your direction will be. I hope that you realize that it’s not selfish to want the best for yourself. It’s not selfish to create a life that makes you happy, that isn’t waiting for validation from others. It’s never selfish to build a loving, beautiful home within yourself.”

To get the best out of life, we have to be the best version of our self and for that to happen, the hard work needs to start within. Being self-reflective, self-aware, self-improving, grateful, celebrating your own success and self-loving are the ways that I’ve learnt to put the work into myself so that I can go on to get the most out of life. At the end of the day, “the grass is greener where you water it.”