I’m torn. My mother died of cancer five months after her 40th birthday. This was the thought that sat on my shoulder as I was approaching this milestone myself.    

I was 12 years old at the time. When you’re a kid, anyone who’s not in your grade is old.  And your parents, and your friends’ parents, are “ancient.” But I realize how my mother’s life was cut short at such a young age— which didn’t sink in until I became an adult.

Now, I’m a mom, too, wife, and business owner. I usually have some form of food or snot on my clothes at any given time (thanks to my sweet and loving son). Happy hours with friends that ended late into the night have turned into early brunches. And a good weekend is one without any plans and sleeping past 7am.

But was I getting OLD? Some days I thought, “YAY, I’m going to be 40! Woot, woot!”  Other days were more like, “I’m. About. To. Be. 40…WHOA!”

Then entered Brooke Baldwin: a successful journalist, CNN anchor — and friend in my head. She was also turning 40. I stumbled on her own journey through Instagram where she started sharing #40before40 posts.

Intrigued by her public red carpet treatment of this new decade, I couldn’t resist wanting to connect and share her inspiring story. Here are three lessons from our conversation that you can apply to your own life.  

Do something new every day (and say it loud)

When I asked Brooke how the idea of her #40before40 intentions came about, she said, “It was a really organic idea. I mentioned it to my husband and another friend and wanted to count down the days in a public way, and it was Instagram. I wanted to push myself to do something new and uncomfortable every day. I wanted to do things that were doable and for it to be things for people who were following along to say they wanted to do it too.”

Brooke sure made a statement with the #40before40 posts, doing everything from prepping food as a volunteer in the food kitchen at God’s Love We Deliver, picking up her guitar that was neglected for two years, learning about the Stonewall riots on the 50th anniversary the week of NYC Pride, and hanging out with legendary designer Dapper Dan in Harlem.

“I had no idea what to expect but the best messages were the messages where people said, ‘I wanted to do that myself’ and this inspired me,’” she shared.  (This made me smile, since I was one of the people who had messaged Brooke.)

Leading up to her birthday, Brooke felt like she was in good health — doing things physically to feel stronger and younger. But she really wanted to “own it and say it loud.”

Reflect on the lessons you learn from the past

Even with Brooke counting down the days to 40, I also wanted to know about what stood out in her 20s and 30s. She talked about her humble beginnings of her career in her 20s when she worked her way in local news with the goal of being on air.

In reflecting on her journey, Brooke shared this advice: “Put in the time, don’t be too big for your britches, and keep your nose to the grindstone. If you really work really hard, it will pay off.” (Clearly it did for her since she recently celebrated nine years as a CNN anchor.)

So, what about her 30s?

Brooke said she’s glad she waited to say yes to the right man (Brooke is happily married and tied the knot with her husband in 2018). “In your 30s, you’re comfortable being comfortable with yourself by yourself. And then in doing that you get to know yourself; you get to know who you want to spend your life with. (We shared an “amen” moment with that since I also married the love of my life in my 30s and he was well worth the wait too.)

Hindsight is like a hug that assures you that everything happens in its own time and the lessons prepare us for what’s meant to be.     

Build a bold future that pushes your comfort zone

Entering into a new decade makes it almost a requirement to rethink the norm and shake things up—just like Brooke did by sharing her #40before40 posts with 100k+ followers on Instagram.

No pressure, right? But what I loved about Brooke’s advice is that she stressed that doing something different doesn’t have to be done as big or as public as she did it—and it’s never too late to set intentions that will push you to grow.

Be intentional about taking action and get your goals out of your head. Telling other people makes it easier to stay accountable, but even just writing them down on paper can make a difference.

As our conversation came to a close, I asked, “What do you want to learn at this stage?”

“My selfish answer is going on more of a journey with myself to do a lot more. I finally found my person and want to go deep to know myself more and learn my purpose for the rest of my life. In getting to know myself and where I want my purpose to be, I want to use my voice in ways that are more vulnerable but more powerful,” Brooke declared. 

I felt the water build up in my eyes as I soaked in her response—because her answer could have been my own. “Turning 40 is not my end; it’s a new beginning,” I thought.

So, cheers to entering a new milestone decade OUT LOUD (thank you, Brooke, BRAVA!).  


  • Marietta Gentles Crawford

    Writer, Personal Brand Strategist, Speaker

    Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and speaker. She helps people spread brilliant ideas and build profitable personal brands on LinkedIn (like humans).  Her words and ideas have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, The Muse, Fast Company, Inc., Thrive Global, and HuffPost, among other websites. Want to learn more? Visit www.maribrandsforyou.com