On bad advice—and turning 40

Executive and life coach shares personal advice on how to thrive


I just turned 40, a milestone I’m celebrating in many ways.

One of those ways is by reflecting on advice and opinions offered to me in my 30s. Much of it was good—and I’ve shared that with you before. However, I can remember with clarity and confusion a bit of the bad.

I’m reflecting on that today because, as you likely know, bad advice can be just as transformative as good. Whether you listen to it and later discover that it was bad, or you use it as motivation to keep pressing forward, it can, at the very least, put you somewhere new.

I appreciate each of these examples because I believe they all reflect one simple truth: You don’t have to be a certain age to do anything. Stop asking for permission or affirmation. Follow your genius. Click To Tweet

Here’s why.

“You can’t do it until you’re 40.”

I was 37 when I heard this. I was on a call with a woman who worked for a coaching company, hoping to get on their list of consultants as I was starting my own coaching business.

The first question she asked me—“How old are you?”—caught me off guard. Why did it matter? She believed, with confidence, that I needed three more years of work experience before I could coach.

I was indignant when I got off the phone, but wow, did I feel motivated. At 37, I had already acquired experience in several arenas, from nonprofits to creative agencies to corporations and entrepreneurship. I was hungry to coach. My gut told me three more years wouldn’t matter when it came to being a successful coach. At 40, I can assuredly say my gut was right.

“Focus on your baby now—and your business later.”

I ran into an old high school friend around the same time. I was pregnant and tired, telling her I was trying to figure out how to start a business AND have a baby all at once. Her answer, while well intentioned, annoyed me: Baby now, business later.

What worked for her—pausing her career to raise a family—is a great choice. There’s no question that motherhood and entrepreneurship are tiresome by themselves. Put the two together and you’re likely to have some testing moments.

But I didn’t want to press pause on my dream. I was, and am, energized by this work. Luckily, I was sound enough to understand where my old friend was coming from—and that I had to choose for myself what would work for me. I pressed forward, and I’m so glad I did.

“Did you have help with that?”

When I was in the nonprofit world, I worked for a young organization, so my job as chief storyteller was to build the brand from the ground up. As it took shape, positive feedback started to roll in, and the nonprofit’s founder noticed. She approached the CEO, asking if I had heavily relied on my board counterpart to produce the work, assuming I was too young and inexperienced to do so on my own.

At the time, this was discouraging. I’ve always felt that one of my strengths is connecting and corralling talented people to produce a product, and I felt frustrated by her suggestion that I might need help doing that. Our whole creative team deserved credit for its work.

But in the end, I became incredibly conscious of talented youth—and I still am today. I love meeting young, smart people who know what they want. I’m so eager to lift them up and help them achieve big goals, and I have the founder’s comments to thank for that.

As I continue pursuing my own passions, I’m sure I’ll keep receiving both good and bad advice. If there’s a useful lesson somewhere, I promise to share.

If you’re looking for GOOD advice on pursuing your passions, I can help. I’m an executive coach who works with clients nationwide. You can reach me at regan@reganwalsh.com.


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