Thomas O'Hara of Cooper + O'Hara Photography

10 things I’ve learned in the first 23 years of life.

Thomas O'Hara of Cooper + O'Hara Photography

Yesterday was my birthday.  23 years ago I was brought into this world and my oh my does time fly. I have been very fortunate right from the beginning to be born into an amazing family and born into a world where anything that I could dream up is possible.  I will never take for granted the opportunities that have been giving to me because of my geographical location.  Because of this, I have had the luxury of travelling a fair amount and having a number of once in a lifetime experiences. Here are a 10 of my beliefs and random thoughts that have developed over time.  I do not expect you to assimilate these as they stand as my own thoughts.  I merely am sharing a piece of me.


1. Everyone has a story – One of the basic things we forget is that everyone has a story.  Often times it becomes easy to devalue other people if you don’t know their story. All basic emotions are the same and chances are if you have felt a certain way everyone else has felt that way as well. Challenge yourself to learn people’s stories instead of inventing your own.


2. Life is Short – A funny cliche sentiment, especially coming from a 23 year old.  In all honesty though it is something we forget far too often.  We let the small insignificant aspects of our day prevent us from smiling.  Prevent us from trying something we’ve always wanted to. Everyday is filled with possibility; explore it.


3. Don’t let fear cripple you – Fear is a basic human instinct that is awesome because it keeps us alive.  Too often though we let fear stand in the way.  Let yourself dance in public. Try that one thing that you’ve always wanted, but are too afraid to start.  I think everyone is afraid of heights, I just think certain people have learned to oppress that fear while others let it control them.  Don’t let fear control you.


4. Find out what’s essential to you – Too often we feel this need to appease people.  We often say yes to things we don’t want to do, or for activities we don’t have money for, just because we don’t want to let people down.  If you learn what is essential to you it becomes easier to say no to free up time for things that are truly important to you.  If it is friends or family you shouldn’t have to worry that the immediate let down will transpire into longterm resentment.


5.  Be present – It has become too easy with technology to not fully engage with people.  We can hide behind our phone screens, which seem to be getting larger and larger probably for this reason.  We cannot control the future or the past, so make the present as good as you can.  The internet will always be there, but the people and experiences around you will not. Cherish them


6. Be bored – It is too easy now to never be bored.  Whether we are waiting at a clinic or sitting at home. There is Netflix, or the internet, or that new cellphone game to make sure that we are never bored.  I think it’s okay to sometimes just be bored.  Let your mind wander.


7. Try to learn, Not win – I have gotten into pointless arguments where people just want to win and not learn anything.  I think arguments can be incredible eye opening, but only if people are doing it to learn.  Too often our egos take over and instead of getting a new clarity or a different viewpoint we get hurt feelings and resentment.


8. Don’t Compare yourself – you are you.  It becomes very easy to wish we had what other people have. Just create goals and aspirations and follow those.  You don’t need other people to determine your value.


9. Don’t get addicted to money – Money is great!  It, for better or worse, drives economy and life.  Learn how to manage it and obtain it; just don’t get addicted to it.  Many people let money drive decisions and even careers. Don’t be one of these people.  You will not get a medal for dying with the most money or the most material things. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be remembered for things I’ve done and not the final number on my bank slip.


10. Read more – Think of every historical figure.  Think about anything you have ever wanted to learn more about.  Guess what!  Anything you have thought about, someone smarter than you has written about it.  Don’t limit yourself by not reading.  There is an abundance of knowledge in books that is just waiting to be explored.  A book is investment in  yourselft, which I think is the best investment you can make.


There you have it.  Ten basic principles that I truly believe and am trying to learn to implement in my life more effectively. It’s a slow process, but everyday I just try and be a little better then the last day.  As my birthday approached the future became daunting and I found that focusing on these goals helped to keep things in perspective.  Hopefully 23  will be as exciting as 22 was!  It was Michael Jordan’s number and the title of an Adele cd, so I think I’m in good company.




  1. I think that being bored is absolutely essential! But we don’t know how to be bored anymore. I see this in the kids that I work with all of the time: “Jessica, I’m booooored.” And it is like the worst thing that has ever happened to them. But I refuse to immediately shove something to do in their hands. I just shrug and say, “That’s okay.” Because I don’t want to stigmatize them against boredom, like boredom is this big, evil thing. Boredom is something that we should embrace way more often; especially since boredom, and the wandering brain that comes with it, are crucial to creativity.

    Great post, Thomas! And I hope your birthday was fantastic. 🙂

  2. Pingback: 24th birthday thoughts - Cooper & O'Hara|Edmonton Commercial Photography - Advertising, Editorial, & Travel

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