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75 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Over My 75 Years

Tags: family

I can’t believe it, but I’ve been on this earth for 75 years. As I celebrate my 75th birthday, I thought I’d reflect on 75 lessons I’ve learned along the way and share them with y’all in the hopes that they may be exactly what someone out there needs to hear.

  1. Waste not, want not. Growing up with parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, I was taught at an early age not to be wasteful.
  2. Help those you can because you can’t take it with you when you go. Giving back to my community and communities where I operate businesses has always been a goal of mine. There was a time when I had very little, and now that I’ve been so blessed, I want to help those whose shoes I’ve been in.
  3. Goals don’t mean anything if you’re not willing to put in the work.
  4. When your time comes, you’ll wish you had spent more time with loved ones and less time working. Having had a thriving career later in life, this is something I’ve really come to embrace in the past few years.
  5. Money can’t buy happiness or solve your problems. Take it from me, you’ll still have problems—some of them may just look a little different.
  6. True friends stick by your side no matter what.
  7. If you can read, you can cook. Cooking can be as easy as following a recipe (and paying attention). Once you’ve followed enough recipes, you’ll likely feel more comfortable to start experimenting.
  8. Say yes—you never know where it can lead you!
  9. Follow a recipe to the T the first time. After that, you can make it your own to suit your family’s tastes. If you jump the gun and make changes before you really know what to expect, you’ll never know if it was for better or for worse.
  10. Don’t take everything so personally. Not everything bad that is done to you is done out of spite or cruelty. It often says more about the person doing the bad thing than it says about you.
  11. There’s no more special relationship than grandchild and grandparent. There’s less pressure and a lot more spoiling when you’re a grandparent rather than a parent. I’m a proud Guinny to eleven of the sweetest children you’d ever meet, and my relationship with each one is so very different.
  12. Check the expiration dates on your spices. Most of us keep our spices well past the expiration date and end up with spices lacking in flavor.
  13. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
  14. Find what you’re passionate about and pursue that as a career. If I’d known when I was younger I could make a career out of cookin’, I may have had an easier go of things in those years before I started The Bag Lady.
  15. If you can’t forgive yourself, you can’t expect others to do the same.
  16. Accountability is important, but so is grace.
  17. It’s never too late to find true love. As someone who found the love of her life in her late-fifties, I’d encourage those of y’all who haven’t yet found your person to keep the hope alive!
  18. Family isn’t just blood—it’s those you love unconditionally. Michael and his children aren’t my blood, but I love them just the same. My friend Bubbles is the sister I never had. We all need to just open our hearts and expand the definition of the word “family.”
  19. Food isn’t just fuel—it’s comfort, love, and kindness too. Food can say a lot if we let it!
  20. Moderation is the key to life. A friend of mine told me about the 80-20 rule in nutrition where you eat healthy 80% of the time and can enjoy those less healthy items 20% of the time, but I’d say that rule applies to all aspects of life.
  21. Admit when you’re wrong. Nobody is perfect.
  22. There will always be someone better than you at something, so accept that fact and learn from them because the more you compare yourself to others, the more unhappy you’ll be.
  23. Surround yourself with positive people because positivity is contagious.
  24. Don’t take your loved ones for granted—you don’t know how long you’ll have them. Having lost my parents at an early age and my brother Bubba in 2019, this lesson is one of the most important I can share with y’all.
  25. You can’t let fear hold you back. Speaking as someone who suffered from agoraphobia for years, I can tell you that it’s easier said than done, but working through that fear helped me to change my whole life.
  26. You never know how your smile or laughter can brighten someone’s day, so do it as often as you can.
  27. Aim for minimalism or at least your version of it. Having a lot of things won’t make you happy, so try to just keep what you need, what you use regularly, and those few items that truly do bring you joy.
  28. Everyone has something to teach you. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from, I promise you that you can learn something from them.
  29. Always be prepared for unexpected guests. I always keep a pound cake or some other baked good handy and my freezer is always stocked with the basics.
  30. God always has a plan.
  31. Learn from your failures, and if possible, learn from the failures of others around you.
  32. Speak less and listen more.
  33. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lord knows I don’t! Life is more fun if you can laugh at yourself.
  34. Take a stand for what you believe in.
  35. Words mean something, so think before you speak.
  36. Cook with love, and you’ll taste the difference.
  37. People deserve second chances. I’ve been given my share, and I work hard every day to prove I’m worthy of ‘em.
  38. Follow the golden rule: treat others as you’d like to be treated.
  39. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
  40. Be humble—we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Having more fame, success, or money doesn’t make a person better than any other.
  41. You’ll never please everyone. Instead of focusing all your attention on those that take issue with you, focus on the positive relationships you have.
  42. We are all worthy of love. God made us in his image, and there’s no better image than that.
  43. The best kitchen tools can be found right on the ends of our arms. That would be our hands, if there was any question.
  44. It takes as much bravery to walk away from something as it does to stay. “Quitting” gets a bad rap, but leaving something toxic, whether a bad job, a bad relationship, or something else, takes real courage.
  45. The only thing in life that is constant is change.
  46. Forgiveness is free.
  47. You can forgive someone without making excuses for or approving of their behavior.
  48. Don’t judge a book by its cover—you don’t know their story, where they came from, or where they want to go.
  49. Stick an oven thermometer in your oven to make sure it’s calibrated properly. Your baked goods will thank you!
  50. Mental health is just as important as physical health.
  51. Bad habits can be hard to kick, but it’s worth doing! It took me years to quit smoking, but I’m so very glad I did it.
  52. Take a good long look at your priorities. If you aren’t prioritizing what is most important you, you need to work on rearranging your list.
  53. Everyone has a story to tell—be an advocate for them to tell it. Not all of us have a voice, so if you do, help amplify the voices of others.
  54. You’re your own biggest critic.
  55. You don’t have to know everything. I may be a cooking “expert,” but I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t have a good answer! After all, no one likes a know-it-all.
  56. Your past doesn’t have to define your future.
  57. Show gratitude to those who help you, whether they do so in a big way or small. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without help from friends, family, and strangers, and I always do my best to give thanks.
  58. The best things in life are free. Kindness, love, compliments—they don’t cost a dime!
  59. You can’t be in control of everything—you’ll waste a lot of time and energy trying to be.
  60. Everything happens for a reason. We may not like it and we may not understand it in the moment, but in time, we will.
  61. Stop wishing time away because before you know it, it will all be gone.
  62. Learn to say no—you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t have to.
  63. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. People are capable of change, and it’s up to all of us to encourage that growth.
  64. Leave your comfort zone—greatness never comes from staying in your own little box.
  65. Stop making assumptions. I know y’all have heard that old saying…
  66. Experiences are better than things. My family has been fortunate to take some wonderful trips together, and the memories we made on those adventures mean so much more than any material gift ever could.
  67. Friendship is a two-way street. I’ve had friendships that fizzled over the years because I was afraid to reach out first.
  68. You’re only as old as you feel—and it’s ok if you feel older some days than others.
  69. It takes more energy to hold a grudge than it does to forgive.
  70. Count your blessings—you may be surprised at how blessed you truly are.
  71. Simplicity is often better than complex—especially where food is concerned. Some of my favorite recipes in the world are some of the easiest I’ve tried.
  72. Success rarely happens overnight. Even if a big break can change things overnight, the hard work had to start long before.
  73. In my book, kindness and compassion trumps success and intelligence any day.
  74. Healthy, open and honest communication is the key to any good relationship, whether that’s personal or professional. The other person isn’t a mind-reader, and it’s important to remember that.
  75. Take time for yourself. You can’t be there for everyone else if you’re never there for yourself.

Did any of these lessons speak to your heart? Do you have any to add to this list? I sure would love to hear ‘em. Leave me a note in the comments section. Until next time, this 75-year-old is sendin’ y’all love and best dishes.



Paula Deen - As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream — married to her high school sweetheart and raising two adorable boys — when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul and started The Bag Lady, a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen's professional cooking career. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering lunch-and-love-in-a-bag, beginning in June 1989, Paula turned her life around by sharing what she knew best, traditional Southern cooking.