30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 years

I turn 30 years old today. So I’ve jotted down some things I’ve learned along the way and things to remind myself of for the next 30 years. These are in no particular order.

1. Just go Dancing– I got to go on a cruise with my in-laws a few years ago. Within the first hour of being on the ship, one of the ship employees got people together to learn some 70’s dance moves. I don’t like to dance. I personally think that 70’s dance moves are hideous. Ginger begged me to go on the dance floor with her and I refused. I look back now and wish I would have. Life is not about us. Being cool wears out after 7th grade, anyway. So, go ahead. Wear your tie like a sweat band and dance like you don’t care… even if it shows up on Facebook. Do the John Travolta, and go to work.

2. Play Catch– One of my favorite things to do growing up was to play catch with my dad. We’d spend hours out there playing catch. It was the best way Pop could keep three lads occupied before sending us to bed. There is always pleasant conversation and light exercise in the game of catch. I think that obesity rates and debt-ceiling debates would be resolved over a good game of catch. I can’t wait for when our kiddos are ready to play catch.

3. Go overseas– I took a trip to Brazil in 2003 and it changed everything for me. It was a gentle nudge towards realizing that I needed to re-think how I thought the world worked.

4. Listen to people older than you. They definitely have a more realistic perspective.

5. If you have siblings, keep in touch with them. I haven’t done a good job at this, but hope to do better the next 3o years.

6. Try to find laughter in rejection. I know a person who applied to Harvard and got a rejection letter. They decided to frame the letter. Cool idea! I applied for a position at a huge church once and after I received their “Thanks, but no thanks” email, I decided to frame it, too. It reminds me that I’m not a big shot, and that my life is not over because someone said “no.”

7. Play a sport. Sports have been a big part of who I am. It was a good lesson to learn that one can work really hard and end up losing and not getting a trophy for it. My favorite sports experience was playing football in college. I walked on to kick field goals for one year, my senior year. We didn’t win a single game that year. However, showing up everyday and getting to work with those other guys was transformational. It was the only sports experience that I’ve had where I cried at the season’s end.

8. Deal with relational issues as naturally and as quickly as possible. Relationships go haywire when we try to either manufacture resolutions or when we wait to deal with it later. Stand tall, look at each other in the eyes, listen, speak truth with gentleness. Seek a win/win.

9. School is important. Some say that school isn’t for everyone, and it may not be. However, I know that without a challenge, our brains go into couch potato mode. I’ve appreciated all of the education opportunities I’ve had and have grown tremendously as I continued to learn.

10. Go get a dog. No explanation needed. Just go get one and find out why.

11. Run a marathon. I didn’t think that I could finish one either. It may take a while to be ready for one. Run to complete, not to compete. It is a catharsis experience. Plus, people will leave you alone after you have run one because, more than likely, they haven’t run one. If they have completed one, they won’t give a care about your time, but will embrace you because you did it.

12. Go get a black belt in something. There have been a few times where I felt that I was in a sticky spot and thought, “If I knew a couple of things about self-defense, I’d be ok… Just in case.” I find that black belts don’t really ever use what they are trained in, nor do they go looking for a fight. They know a few things to help them if they are in a bad spot. It is still on my bucket list to get a black belt. I hope to start soon.

13. Find a “usual” restaurant. Ginger and I have found a couple of places that we were usuals at for a while. It is nice to get to know people who worked there and to know we were stimulating the economy to help those certain people.

14. Learn to say, “You’re right.” It is awkward to be in conversations with people who have an opinion or a rant on every topic. I don’t want to be that guy. Plus, people are often more right than you are, just saying.

15. Go to weddings when invited. Weddings are unique events. For many, the day they get married is one of the most honest, sincere, and humble moments of their lives. It is awesome to see your friends in this state of mind. When Ginger and I go to weddings together, it reminds us of our day and, more importantly, why we decided to choose each other. On a side note, Ginger and I like to ‘discuss’ the wedding theology of the homily afterwards. So, if you are officiating a wedding that I am attending, keep in mind, I’m taking mental notes.

16. Show up early. I learned from my dad the importance of being early. He is early for everything. “Early is on time; on time is late.” It’s true. What is the probability that any one of us are going to show up in the 60 seconds of the minute when we are supposed to be there. 60 seconds is nothing. I’d rather be there early than late. Lateness puts off an arrogance about you without even saying a word. Leave early. Bring a book to kill the extra time.

17. Get into a prank war in college. Prank wars are fun; they build good community. The stories are fun to tell your kids later in life. The stories also grow over time. The next thing you know, you were a part of a legend in a school’s history. I’ll always remember “Operation Furniture Freedom.”

18. Volunteer to pray for someone. People share their needs all of the time. My usual response is to pray for them on my own. Good things happen when you pray for them, right there. We all are fighting a battle. It is nice to know that someone follows through on praying for you.

19. Be responsible “to” others, not “for” them. I’ve only learned this recently. In ministry settings, in particular, it is easy to assume that we are responsible for people’s moods, responses, feelings, etc. This posture leads to burnout and insanity. Show up; be a calm presence in the moment. Offer help. Don’t be a martyr for someone else’s need to grow up.

20. Learn to spend time alone. I’ve learned that I cannot make the best decisions without withdrawing away from everything and spending time alone. When alone, I can’t lie to myself, pretend like I haven’t had time to think it through, and (most importantly) listen to God. Jesus had a pattern of getting alone and retreat to personal meditation. We should do the same. Blaine Paschal said, “All human evil comes from a single cause, man’s inability to sit still in a room.”

21. Try to do 1 thing each day to make your spouse have a lighter load. Take out the trash, finish the dishes, go by the store on the way home. 365 little things a year will go a long way for a marriage. Oh yeah, never leave the house without saying “I love you.”

22. If it makes sense, propose to your future wife in public, and make it a surprise. There is no particular proof that this method is better; it was just a lot of fun.

23. Realize that a person is not just a collection of decisions. That’s all I have to say about that…

24. Write letters to your kids. I still have many letters from my parents. I even kept my dad’s “Don’t do drugs” letter he wrote. When my parents are gone, I will have something that I could hold in my hands that reminds me of them.

25. Coffee is good. Not everyone thinks this. However, I think that I am a better person because I have coffee in my life, ha.

26. Go on a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage can certainly vary from person to person. However, it is a life-giving event when you can go to a place that has intense meaning. We are a bit uncertain of where the Skillen past is from, perhaps Ireland. I read on the internet some research that another Skillen had been doing. We may be from the Hebrides off of Scotland, Ireland, or maybe Scandinavia. We may have been associated with the Norsemen. Makes me want to go do a caber toss or something.

27. Discipleship is a long, slow process. Jesus doesn’t put us on a conveyor belt and manufacture growth. Growth happens through shaping, carefully over time. Find some people who aren’t scared to grow with you for the long haul.

28. Try to learn how to surf. I find surfing difficult. The process is exhausting. However, even if one wave is caught, it is all worth it. You’ll smile the rest of the day.

29. Smuggle food into the movie theatre. I have the moral dilemma every time I go to the movies if I should or should not pack my own snacks… I bet that they are not missing my $4.00 for candy after I buy a $4.25 cup of Pepsi. I might be wrong here… just don’t rat me out when you see me at the theatre.

30. Mercy triumphs over judgment. There is certainly a time to confront and challenge. However, God seems to be all the more eager to embrace instead of reject. He shows us this through the atoning work of Christ. If Christ can be infinitely patient with me, I should be able to be patient & merciful too.


Published by joeskillen

I'm a husband, dad of 2, Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, KS.

5 thoughts on “30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 years

  1. That’s a great idea Joe, thank-you for sharing it. Now Joe ,
    I see that Steve has posted # 31. I’d like to post # 32…
    A trip to Canada, to visit and spend time with all or most
    of your Brothers & Sisters in Christ. Also to see and experence
    more of GOD”S beautiful creation. ( Brighton Ontario ) haha
    Congratulations on your 30th Birthday Joe,Blessings to you on this ,
    your special day. ( Sha-zam )

    Your brother in Christ,
    Doug Ewing

  2. RE: #12: Wichita School of Karate. Tell Mickey Gomez and Sam Price Dr. Matt Skillen sent you.

    Happy Birthday, Joe. You are a great brother.

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