On March 2, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors sprained his ankle for the third time this season. On March 8, he sprained it again. On March 14, he turned 30.
When you’re in your 20s, 30 seems like such an adult number, which is another way of saying it seems like an old number. The stereotype is that your body starts breaking down, and it’s time to settle down and grow up if you haven’t already.
The stereotype is that 30 is when your fun and your dreams die. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The boy gathers materials for a temple, and then when he is thirty, concludes to build a woodshed.”
I wrote a blog post recently on turning 40, and I got a ton of responses. Milestone birthdays strike a chord with people because they often bring to the forefront thoughts and decisions and issues that are significant in a specific season of life.
In other words, yes, you’re turning 30, but it simply draws your attention to life issues that are circling around you from 26-33. In that sense, the birthday is a gift because it makes you focus on what you otherwise might ignore.
So with that in mind, let’s look at 30. For me, it’s certainly in the rearview mirror, but as I’ve thought about it, watched my kids begin to approach it, and talked with my friend, Dave English—he’s a long-time ministry leader who’s written and taught on the seasons of life—a few things keep coming up. Consider them tips to succeed in your 30s.
- Stay grounded to your core beliefs and behaviors.
There’s no shortage of things you could choose to build your life on—family, faith, work effort, connections, charm, etc. I’ve written about this elsewhere, and at its core, it comes down to the 3 S’s. Where will you choose to find security, success, and significance?
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the old author (probably King Solomon) looks back at his life and declares, “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments.”
Between 30 and 40, I guarantee that things will happen that rock you to your core. A lost job, a marriage in crisis, a failed venture, a sick child, a questioned faith, a moral failure. One or more of these things will likely happen to you or someone you love—and because of it, your life will not look the same at 40 as it does at 30. To handle these things, you will need to stay grounded to your core beliefs and behaviors and even deepen your foundation. If you ignore the foundation, the storms of life are that much more destructive. Trust that God directs your steps, and you can’t mistake your way out of His control.
- Ensure you are doing life and work in community.
My friend Dave says that the “turning 30” season of life is one of confusion. Speaking to men, he says that you need men to steer you through the confusion, and a mentor to affirm you and give you hope.
It’s another way of saying, “Don’t be a lone ranger.” The writer of this article is 40, but the idea is the same. Research shows that we peak at friendships around 25, and then it steadily declines after that.
If you’re in the 28-32 age category, cultivate deep friendships. If your children are in the 28-32 age category, make friendships one of the things you ask them about and encourage them to do (which can be tough when you pretty much want them to hang out with you and provide you with grandchildren).
- Lay down some tracks to steer your life.
C.S. Lewis said, “Thirty was so strange for me. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult.” You don’t have to have it all together by the time you’re 30, but if you haven’t already, it’s time to start making determined progress.
If you’re still single, commit to only dating the kind of people you would marry. If you’ve been an occasional Sunday morning attender of church, become committed and start serving. At your job, press into some professional development. If you have children, read some books on parenting. Determine that you’ll wake up at 35 or 40 a more disciplined, faithful, rooted, character-driven individual.
The Apostle Paul put it this way, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
I recognize that there is not a universal “turning 30” experience—especially as we approach 2020 and the millennial workforce is marrying later, starting businesses, joining start-ups, chasing dreams, etc. For every 29 year old who’s married with a child and one on the way, climbing the corporate ladder at Google, it seems there’s a single 29 year old running a non-profit, living six months a year in the States and six months a year in the third world.
The three realities of turning 30 that I’ve described here should apply in all frameworks, though. Hard things will come, so you need a center. Community will be necessary in life and work. Growth won’t happen solely by accident.
Western culture says that 30 is a bad thing. How can you avoid its effects? What do you need to make sure you do before you hit 30? It’s treated as if it’s approaching doom. There is a scary piece to it, but choose not to allow the fear of having a wasted life overcome you. Instead, remind yourself that it is a transition.
My challenge is to use 30 to your benefit. Let it be a year, and a decade, that challenges you to press forward.
What about you? Got any thoughts you want to share?
- If you’re approaching 30, what are you thinking about and wrestling with?
- If you’re past 30, look back and give me some perspective on what you would say to your 29- or 30-year-old self.
- If you are the parent of a 30 year old, tell me what you see in his or her life as they approach this milestone birthday.
Send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for sharing. Happy birthday!