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26 Lessons in 26 Years - Including where not to put a rock when you don't have pockets.

When I was at the ripe ol' age of three, I considered myself to be very resourceful. At this point in time, I was in daycare, had a wonderful and loving family, toys that could easily fit under my pillow that I could continue to play with after my parents tucked me in, a cute dog that actually didn't really like me because I would pull her by the tail, lightning fast speed that allowed me to beat anyone to the swing when we were let outside for break, and an exciting game of chess that would occupy me most evenings by myself. (Not what you are thinking… I am not one of those self-taught chess-playing child-geniuses that grew up reading classic novels authored by Proust and listening to Beethoven before bedtime.) No - I actually played house with the pieces: the Queen and King would obviously be married and the pawns were all of their children. You might say I was an oddball but we are just scratching the surface here, people. I was very fortunate. And life was good. I had everything in my tool-belt that one might need for a happy life.

I also had a secret. No one knew this secret, and I wanted to keep it that way.

You see, I collected rocks from a young age… but not just any rocks - little, shiny, black rocks! Now, you may think this was strange – but I believe you are wrong. There was something utterly captivating and magical about shiny, black rocks. I could never quite put my finger on it. But at that point in time, I felt like I had a special secret that I didn't want to share with anyone. Not because I feared that if I told someone, I might be visiting the friendly child-psychologist the next day, or for fear of having my hands taped closed whenever we went on family nature walks.  No - it was because I thought that if other people knew my secret, then they too would become aware of the magic of shiny black rocks! Then they too, would start collecting them… and there would be fewer for me.

“Smart” may not be my middle name, friends… But I trust that you appreciate my impeccable logic.

So imagine the excitement of my little three year old self, the moment our daycare leader - Teacher Loraine - informed the class that we were going on a nature walk down in the coulees! (For my readers who have never been to the beautiful city of Lethbridge - coulees are a series of river valleys, carved out by ancient glaciers that divide the city.  They are breathtakingly beautiful.)

Anyway, with excitement boiling up inside of me like a dog who has just discovered that the back gate was accidentally left open, I was bursting with joy! A sly smile creased my lips…I knew what would be awaiting for me down in the coulees!

So on the day of the walk, I, of course, dressed myself in my very best outfit. This was a special occasion. At this point, my parents were letting me dress myself… as they should. I considered myself to be fairly "fashion forward", even at that young age. I was a big fan of the “layered” look. Probably not the layering typical of today - I had my own style. This included corduroy pants, (most likely pink or purple), and a nice sweater with my fluorescent wind breaker jacket over top. I might toss a nice t-shirt on over that (often purchased from Northern Gateway – always a popular spot for price-conscious parents). And if I was feeling a little spicy - my floral bikini would top off the whole ensemble, fitting overtop the windbreaker and corduroy pants. Yes, on top. Like I said – a big fan of the layered look, with a keen sense of fashion.

So there I was, dressed to the 9's: pants, sweater, fluorescent jacket, a pink Power-Ranger t-shirt/ and my outrageously bright bikini to top it all off.  I was ready to go shiny black rock hunting! I breathed in deeply…it was time.

Several hours later I was down in the coulees. We were walking down a paved path, surrounded by trees, flowers, and accompanied by the twitter of birds and the chirping of crickets hiding within the tall grass. Most of the kids were walking in pairs or small groups, but I was on my own. My eyes scanning the ground feverishly, waiting for a shiny black object to catch my eye.

That's when I saw it.

There before me was the most beautiful and perfectly shiny black rock that I had ever encountered. It was small, perhaps the size of my pinky finger nail, and rounded on all sides except one, which was perfectly flat. It was undoubtedly made and delivered from the heavens above for me to find, and to sit proudly on my bedside table.

I know exactly what you are thinking: "What in God's name was wrong with that child?" Well, among many other fine lessons, my parents encouraged me to be curious about anything and everything - God bless their brave souls - and evidently I took them quite literally.

Now, back to my exciting tale.

Lo and behold, I had just stumbled across the “Cadillac” of black shiny rocks.  I had to have it. I cautiously looked around to see if anyone was watching me, and, with the coast clear, swooped down to pick it up. It was, indeed, perfect.  All I needed now was a safe place to hide my treasure – since as we had been told, “Nothing can be removed from a Nature Reserve!”

Horror of Horrors!! As I looked down, I cringed with despair and desperately patted myself down, hoping to find something I knew wasn't there. How in God's name could I be wearing over seven particles of clothing and not one of them have pockets??? That seemed absurd. I needed to have a serious chat with my mother about her selection of corduroys. Well, this was indeed quite the pickle.

We were still in the early stages of our nature walk. It was warm out (warmer than I had anticipated when I layered up that morning) and I was an unusually “clammy palms” kind of person. I couldn't just hold the rock in my hand for the rest of the afternoon, as it would get sweaty, my hands would get dirty, and beyond that it was just plain inconvenient! How could I explore and pick up other valuable items I encountered if I already had one hand full?

So, naturally I did what any intelligent, resourceful three year old would do in that position…

I shoved it up my nose.

Right up there, right up the left nostril. I was right-handed so naturally I assumed my right nostril did most of the breathing.  After carefully considering my options, I opted to put it up my left nostril, and then, happily, continued on with my nature walk.

Well, a few hours later and back at daycare, I excitedly realized that it was time to pull it out. I thought I might rinse it a bit and take another look at its beauty. So I reached up there, and, nothing.

I dug around a little further.

Still nothing.

I began to panic.

Where was my rock? Where had it gone? I knew I would have noticed if it had slipped out. There was only one horrible possibility as to what MUST have happened! It had been sucked up through my nose and was now floating around in my brain! I needed help.

Well, like many embarrassing and shameful experiences that we like to block out, the details about what happened next are still a bit foggy. All I know, is that neither Teacher Loraine nor Teacher Staci could get it out, and I had to be taken to the Emergency Ward at the hospital.

Anyway, I remember a friendly young nurse coming in and peering up my nose with one of those light stick things. I would have given my left arm for one of those things to put under my pillow with my toys and books. As she peered up my little nose, she inquired:

"What do you have up there, Sarah?"

Without hesitation, as if I had just won at Bingo, I replied enthusiastically, "A rock! A big, black, shiny one!"

Well, the nurse seemed to find this humorous and she chuckled a bit. But after a bit of digging with her tweezer tool - she seemed stumped. It appeared as though she too, had been foiled by the black, shiny rock!

In comes the Doctor, and the same conversation ensued. “It’s a big, black shiny rock… I didn't have any pockets… What else could I do?” He peered up my nose with his little flashlight thing and exclaimed, "Oh yes! It is a black, shiny rock!” But he too, had no luck.

At that point, desperate times called for desperate measures. They had to call in an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.

Well, the specialist had a special little tool and it took her no time at all to get the rock out. Honestly, if I had that tool back at daycare, I could have just done it myself.

So the question I am sure you are all waiting to hear the answer to is, "Well Sarah, was it worth it?" Short answer, “YES!” - they gave me a red sucker on my way out. The long answer would be to say that I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. Nothing in this world happens "by accident" and what’s more, every situation or experience is presented to us because it was meant to, and there is some type of lesson that we are supposed to find in every inconvenient and unplanned circumstance. I believe that each situation we are given in life, is to help us learn, help us grow, and help us change into the person we are meant to be.

So, to answer the one question that you've be mulling over in your head for the past 30 minutes while you've read through this terribly long blog post, which is, "How could she possible tie this into her 26 lessons? Further, what lesson did she even get from sticking a rock up her nose?" All good questions. My answer is, this story has nothing to do with anything. I still don't know what I was supposed to take from that adventure and what I learned and how I grew from it. I just thought it was worth sharing. At the very least, I never put another object up my nose, and that's an invaluable lesson in itself. In the meantime however, I have assembled a list of 26 of the most valuable lessons I've learned in my short 26 years, through both experience and reading the wisdom of some incredible authors and coaches. If you're still with me, and I hope you are, read along below!

1.) Spend time on your own - Take time to relax and reflect. This will allow you to recharge your batteries.

2.) Get sleep - You will be happier, more productive, more fun to be with and have more energy to do the things you love.

3.) Be mindful of what you put into your body…whether it’s food, booze, news, TV, toxic people, or negative thoughts. Just be mindful, and cut out the things that don't serve you.

4.) Do yoga - I firmly believe that if every member of the human race had a regular yoga practice, the world would be a better place. Yoga helped me to be more grateful, positive and compassionate.

5.) Read a book - There are so many incredible self-development books out there that have inspired new ideas, new goals, new dreams and even better - ways to achieve them.

6.) Build a routine - Every day. One that allows you to learn and be productive. The wildly successful people you hear about typically have one thing in common, and that to begin every day with a routine.

7.) Exercise every day - Being in the best shape of your life will not only make you happier, but more confident in every aspect of your life.

8.) Carry a journal - So you can document quotes, art, information, conversations or anything else that motivates or inspires you in your day. It’s too easy to forget these gems unless you record them.

9.) Listen - Listen twice as often as you speak. Plus, people love talking about themselves, so make sure you ask, and make sure you listen. Listening is a rare and treasured skill to have, and people will remember you for it.

10.) Do one nice thing a day for a stranger - Buy a coffee in line for the person behind you in the drive through, hold the door open, or just smile at someone on the sidewalk. It will lift both their spirit and yours, and could create a domino effect of kindness.

11.) Travel often - Travel is the most rewarding thing that money can buy. Choose experience over items. Those memories will last longer than any purse or pair of shoes.

12.) Do things that scare you - Something that puts you out of your comfort zone and pushes your limits. Something that makes you nervous as hell beforehand but so grateful you pushed yourself to do it, afterwards.

13.) Life is short - If you want to do something, do it now. Do you think on your deathbed you'll be saying, "Wow, I'm really glad I didn't pursue my dreams and just chose to play it safe - I bet I avoided all kinds of embarrassment and pain..."? Mmm.. probably not.

14.) Develop yourself - Spend time listening to podcasts, reading books, watching TED Talks, going to workshops or seminars and constantly develop yourself. It is important that you never stop growing.

15.) Go on a “Technology Fast” - Staying away from all technology for a day would be great.  Even if it’s just a Saturday morning or on a date with your partner. Devote your full attention to whatever you are doing. The world can wait.

16.) Be selective in your social circles - We become most like the five people we spend our time with. Be selective and choose the friends that will boost you up and hold you to the highest level of standards. You rise, or fall, to the level of the people with whom you associate.

17.) Be patient - Great things take time, regardless of what anyone says. You might fail, three, four, maybe five times. The people that keep getting up and keep trying are the ones that succeed.

18.) Limit your complaints (ideally get rid of them in general) - Would you want to hang out with someone that always complained or bad-mouthed people in their lives? Be the person you would want to spend time with.

19.) Limit social media - These days it is the number one confidence and self-esteem killer. Go on a social media cleanse for a couple of days. I bet you, and your self-confidence will feel a whole lot better.

20.) Make time for self-care - At least once a week. A walk, a bath, a candlelit yoga class or just sitting down for a latte and reading a book. You should treat yourself for all of the incredible work you are doing.

21.) Be curious - Ask questions as often as you can. Experience new things, try new hobbies and learn new skills.You never know what you might stumble upon that brings you joy.

22.) Limit the booze - It clouds your judgement and kills your productivity.

23.) Cherish your family - Everyone is guilty for taking their loved ones for granted. Cherish your family and cherish their love. They won't be around forever and you will regret it when they are gone.

24.) Stop worrying about what other people think about you - they actually don't care. Seriously, they don't.

25.) Time is precious - One of my favourite quotes by Robin Sharma is, "The time that ordinary people waste, extraordinary people leverage". Think about all of the things you could be doing to become your best self, instead of sitting in front of the TV or cruising your social media.

26.) Don't settle - For a crappy job, partner, friends, city or life. You cannot afford to settle, and you don't deserve to settle. If you hold on to the crappy things that are currently in your life, you aren't opening yourself up to amazing possibilities that could be just around the corner.

If you have any lessons that YOU have learned and grown from, then please share in the comments box below! I would love to hear them. Or, at the very least, let me know what kind of lesson I can take from shoving a rock up my nose, I am still trying to figure that one out.