So You’re Already in Your 40s. It’s Still Not Too Late!

Even if you’re not there yet, listen up

Frank Vaughn
4 min readApr 13, 2023
Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Your 40s can be a mind bender. I remember being a teenager who didn’t even know what to care about. Then I was in my 20s and caring about the wrong things.

Then my 30s came along and suddenly I was faced with something I’d never felt before: regret. When I hit 40, I started thinking about death.

We waste so much time either not worrying about anything at all, worrying about the wrong things, or worrying about things that we can’t do anything about. And what does that get us? Well, wasted time.

Time is a finite commodity

My wife asked me how my day was yesterday, and all I could think to say was, “we only get so many and this one is gone.” I braced for a stiff rebuke from her, but she actually agreed with me.

We had, in that moment, an unspoken understanding between us that the days we have are precious, and we can either redeem them well or just piss them away meaninglessly.

What I do today may not actually matter today, but it will absolutely matter tomorrow. As I look back on my past, I realize how many days I wasted when I should have been making the absolute most of them.

  1. I chased people, jobs, and material things that I don’t even have anymore.
  2. I sat and wallowed in misery over lost loves and opportunities instead of moving forward into new and more fulfilling things.
  3. I told myself all sorts of lies about how not-handsome enough I was, not-talented enough, not-worthy enough. I ground myself to a halt with self-constructed barriers that only served to freeze me in place when I should have been kicking ass instead.

I wasted time. Time I’ll never get back. I kind of like where I am at this point in my life, but I don’t want to still be in this place 10 years from now. So rather than waiting for life to evolve itself, I am determined to be INTENTIONAL about moving forward.

You can still do that thing

Whether you’re 20, 30, 40, or beyond, it is not too late to set lofty new goals and bust your ass to achieve them. My dad didn’t see that in his 40s, and when I tried to talk him into doing something he’d always dreamed of, he hit me with this:

“What’s the point now? It won’t help my career, and it won’t get me anywhere.”

He had always wanted to be the first person in our family’s history to graduate from college. He started well in his late teens, but eventually had to drop out to raise me by himself.

I was in my mid-20s when we had that conversation, and I was struggling at the time to get through college myself. I told him I was pulling for him to set the example for me. To show me that no matter how late in life you find yourself, worthy goals are still…worthy.

He never got that degree, but fortunately I stopped screwing around and got it done myself. At age 35. And here’s the thing: it didn’t really help my career either, but it did give my kids something solid to reach and go way beyond.

I won’t retire from my day job with Uncle Sam until I’m at least 50, and I might even be 55 or 60 when I finally do. Does that mean it’s time to kick back in the easy chair and drift off slowly to my grave with Matlock playing in the background?

Hell. No.

I’m already plotting the second act of my life, and I’m no longer worried about how old I’ll be or how little time I will (statistically) have left when it starts.

Stop planning your life around your death

Average life expectancy for Americans is around 76 years. Women tend to live longer than men by at least a 6-year margin. These are facts.

Ok. So does that mean I should start living at 60 like I only have 16 years left? Wait. I’m a dude, so make that 13.

In some ways, that may cause more urgency to my drive to get things done. To say what needs to be said. To leave the legacy that my kids will hopefully VASTLY improve on.

In other ways, though, it could also create that same malaise that my dad had about finishing what he started with college.

How about doing neither, really? Remember when I told my wife that we only get so many days, and the one we’re in is already gone?

Why not live each day on its own merits rather than counting them down on some mental abacus? I want to LIVE life, not treat it like some phase of existence that I need to plan to end.

Bottom line: if you only ever live with the idea in mind that you’re going to die, have you really lived?

So whether you’re 20 or 70, keep making plans. Keep setting goals. Don’t let your youthful arrogance tell you that you have all the time in the world to do it later. Don’t let your osteoporosis, arthritis, or the number of candles on your birthday cake tell you you don’t have enough time left.

Don’t worry about death. It’ll be here when it gets here. It’s what you do until then that matters the most. So DO IT.



Frank Vaughn

Regional Emmy- and AP-award winning journalist and writer. Everyone’s brother.