• Mark Villani


It’s my 26th “trip around the sun!”

It’s weird to think of life like that... as if I’m some sort of passenger inside the vehicle that is this crazy planet we all live on, but technically I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned a thing or two a long the way.

I’m a year older this week, perhaps a little bit wiser, and definitely with a few more grey hairs than I’m used to.

This time of year always makes me super anxious as I celebrate a new 365 days of big goals ahead, although it’s also exciting to realize how far I have come and to look towards a promising future ahead.

With that in mind, it’s time to reflect on all that I’ve learned this year and the lessons that will continue to make me a better and strong person each day.

So.. follow along! In no particular order.. here are 26 things that I’ve learned all before my 26th birthday :)


#1) Perfect is “great”, but “done” is better!

Ok, so I’m a bit of a perfectionist (that’s an understatement)... I don’t like disorder or having things out of place even in the slightest at time. I’m super picky about the way I do just about everything and that can be a problem at the best of times.

I’ll often keep my life as organized as possible and attempt to get every single project or assignment done with the utmost attention to detail.

It’s a blessing, but also a curse! I end up putting way too much pressure on myself and often losing sense of the real purpose or objective of my work.

Taking the time to slow down and just get things “done” is something that has really benefited me and will help me not to overthink ideas in the future.

#2) Fail to prepare... “prepare” to fail (but expect the unexpected)

I read this in my Inogo Montoya “prepare to die” voice... but it’s true!

Whether it’s in work, everyday life, or in relationships... it is so important to show up each day with an ideal version of how a situation could go and an absolute worse case scenario.

Things can always go horribly wrong and of course I’ll never be 100% fully “prepared”... but it never hurts to plan ahead.

I often follow a routine to prepare for work in the morning, a program to train for marathons or a study schedule to learn, seek out new opportunities, and grow.

I’ve found throughout the years that life is about the “process” of figuring things out, staying accountable to one’s self, staying consistent and committed to reaching a goal.

Perfect example:

I’m 0/8 on qualifying for the Boston Marathon... I’ve prepared every time, but I’ve never considered myself a failure! The pain of receiving that “participation medal” is always more valuable.

#3) Don’t sweat the small stuff

“Take time to smell the roses” — Aldo Villani (my father) … quote from Nov 12, 1994

Since I was born I’ve always been in a rush to get everything done all at once and often I worry about even the tiniest of details that have little impact or implication on the big picture of my life.

I can only control what’s in my control... everything else doesn’t matter. It’s something I’m constantly learning and discovering, but the “small stuff” won’t matter when I die.

#4) Always say “I love you”

“Ti Amo”... “I love you”... “je t'aime”

In whatever language you say it... these words are the most important in life.

Whether it’s over the phone to a family member.. to a close friend...or to that special someone you deeply care about...

I can’t imagine not expressing my love for those that have been there for me from the very beginning and if these are the last words I ever say to you, then at least you’ll always know how I felt.

Love is patient, love is kind...

Of course “Love” isn’t a word you can just throw around... it’s a true feeling built on a foundation of compassion, trust and respect.

I’d do anything for those that I love and they would do anything for me.

It’s unconditional....

#5) Take breaks

I should really follow this advice... I’m always on the go during the week and sometimes I find I can’t stop!

Between work, running, meetings, counselling, French lessons, volunteering, coaching, family, friends... and everything in between...

Life gets busy... but sometimes it’s about taking time to actually “live” life and enjoy playing a game of FIFA on XBOX, grabbing a coffee with a friend, making a boujee dinner, meditation or my personal favourite... TAKING A NAP!

More self care is in store in this next year of my life!

#6) Get off your phone!

He said while writing this blog post... “ON HIS PHONE!”

I often look at those weekly screen time reports on my iPhone and cringe at how I could possibly spend 8 hours of my life looking at a screen...

It upsets me and makes me realize that aside from using my personal device for work purposes... I’m truly missing out on the finer things in life.

I’m committed to living more “in the moment” this year by taking in every smile, laugh and important connection from each conversation I have.. simply by “disconnecting.”

#7) Do the “little” things

Something as simple as an act of kindness can go a long way...

Whether it’s holding the door for a stranger, giving out a genuine compliment, buying someone their groceries, taking out the trash or doing a simple task to make someone’s day — it’s always worth it.

I’ve learned that all those “little things” might not mean a whole lot in the moment, but they add up and truly make a difference.

Someone bought me dinner a couple weeks ago and although they may have thought nothing of it... it was truly one of the kindest things I ever experienced.

Sometimes it’s the smallest gesture that can mean the absolute world to someone..

#8) Make the phone call

Get off your phone... but make the "phone" call... I know, I contradict myself.. but this one is important.

I could write a novel with these thumbs and send text after text after text... but nothing will compare to a real conversation (go figure!) I find that some of the best moment in life are found in deep conversations with friends over the phone…

I call my best buddy Andrew every Sunday and we usually talk for an hour… I connect with my friends in Russia, Winnipeg, Norway, Germany, Australia, the United States and beyond...

No matter what’s going on in their end the world… I find that phone calls give me perspective and especially during this pandemic, I’ve realized that I’m actually closer than ever to some of the bravest, brightest and creative minds.

#9) See a counsellor

I always thought that seeing a counsellor meant I was weak and that I should be embarrassed because I couldn’t handle my emotions.

For years, I was ashamed to go to one and afraid if anyone were to find out that I truly needed help.

I deeply struggled with depression and anxiety as a child and never really understood “why.”

Seeing a counsellor has genuinely helped me connect with my inner self, it’s taught me to embrace challenges, that it’s OK to “feel” what I’m feeling and come to terms with my emotions.

I’ve always though anxiety was my greatest weakness, but today it’s what I’ve grown to love more and more about myself.

Every obstacle has made me stronger.

#10) Drink water/ Eat healthy


I am constantly reminding myself to drink water… at least two litres a day is essential with my sweaty Italian body and active lifestyle! Meal prepping has also taught me how to create sensible meals (my "serious" skills below), but I definitely need more variety than chicken and rice all the time! Suggestions?? Send them my way please!

#11) Indulge and enjoy the finer things in life

As I talk about eating healthy… I also remind myself that even though my body is a “temple”… I should still EAT THE CAKE! I love tiramisu if anyone wants to make a special birthday delivery 😉

I also love chocolate, sweets, an ice-cold beer, and a classic burger (or three) milkshake, and fries is my post-marathon haven!

Other than food… clothes are my second weakness… I love shopping for designer items, but I rarely splurge beyond my means… I think sometimes (responsibly of course) it’s OK to buy things that make me happy and feel good.

Everything in moderation… but I’ve saved up for years and life’s too short not to enjoy a little luxury once in a while!

#12) Laugh at yourself

I’m losing my hair… it’s happening and my friends constantly remind me of the “culdesacs” that await… I cheer for the 0-8 NY Jets and the defending 1967 Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs… I can’t parallel park to save my life… and I once choked on pancakes on live television…

LAUGH!! I need more of that in my life… to embrace my wacky and weird sense of humour, the things I can’t control and all of my failures!

PS... The Jets are just as bad in real life as they are on TV...

#13) Go with your gut

I’ve made a lot of major decisions in my life, but one rule I’ll always live by is the classic “coin flip.”

While I don’t recommend making important decisions via the heads or tails 50/50 chance narrative… I’ll always do it and see how I feel after the result.

If I want to flip the coin again after it rests on the floor… then I’ll often know I should probably “go with my gut.”

#14) Be thankful for the things that “never worked out”

In the moment it sucks… That feeling when you want something to work out so badly and you’ll do anything to make it work, but it just doesn’t!

In life, I’ve realized you can’t force outcomes and as cheesy as it sounds… “everything happens for a reason.”

Sometimes you don’t get the job… the relationship ends… a personal project is deemed a “failure”

When one door closes, another one opens and while I could dwell on all of the “what ifs”… I look forward to all of the real possibilities that lie ahead.

#15) Volunteer

I was never one for volunteering until I did a shift at the drop-in centre earlier this year before the pandemic. You realize that you’re so lucky to have running water, food on your table, and a bed to sleep in.

The people I spoke with were grateful for everything they had. It wasn’t about having the “luxurious” items I was talking about a few lessons ago in this blog post. Instead, it was about having each other.

Volunteering has been more difficult during the pandemic, but I’ve found time to collect items and donate this holiday season instead.

It makes me feel better knowing I can make a small difference.

I’m not usually open about giving back to the community because it should be completely selfless, but I’ve learned that giving one’s time and generosity is truly impactful.

#16) Explore

Despite driving endless kilometres around the city for my job, I often get lost and require a GPS to get just about anywhere! Whether it’s a 45-minute drive or just around the corner… I’m gonna need directions!

Although, I have learned that to genuinely explore and connect with a place, you can’t just drive by it or run past it.

The key to understanding where we come from is by taking the time to walk, touch, feel, smell, listen, and see all the beauty around us.

I’ve found some true hidden gems in this city by taking a moment to breathe… taking a stroll along the train track are a new fave in Edworthy park... and I can’t wait to discover the rest of the world once travel restrictions are lifted!

#17) Try new things...

I hate saying “I’ve never been” or “I’ve never done that” … Those two phrases are said too often in my life and I hope to change that! Some of the best experiences have occurred in my life when I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone.

When was the last time you did something for the “first” time? I look forward to all of the “firsts” this next year!

My last first? Carving a pumpkin... can you guess which one is mine?? And throwing an axe! (What a stress release!)

#18) Treat others the way you would want to be treated

I’ve received a lot of nasty messages during this pandemic. I’ll be honest, it can be tough sometimes being a journalist as we work to provide the public with factual, unbiased information that impacts those in our community and beyond.

Hate mail is difficult to receive and tough to hear in person, but I have learned it is important to always respond with a smile and a genuine “thank you.”

Respect is earned, never given… but kindness will always go a long way in showing others how strong you are.

Keep your sword down, pour your energy into those that really care about you and they’ll do the same for you.

#19) Stand up for yourself and others

Ironically as I talk about kindness and respect… I have to add that there are moments in life where I’M TIRED OF YOUR SHIT!!

Oooo.. did I say that in ALL CAPS?? Honestly though… if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything (add another cliché to the board please)…

In life, I’ve learned that I need to pick my battles, but I will always stand up for what I believe in. I will always protect my family, my friends and stand by the values most important to me.

#20) Always say “hi”

I always play this game while running on the Bow River pathways… how many people will say “hi” or wave at me if I greet them?

Often times I’m surprised to see so many amazing Calgarians actually smile back or engage in a quick conversation… (yes I’m that awkward dude who says hi in the elevator and asks what book you’re reading on an airplane)…

We’re human beings and interaction is important. You never know who you might meet and maybe a simple “hi” could be the difference maker in someone’s day... or even their life.

#21) Be a leader and “give back”

I remember how scared I was for my first ever live report as a broadcaster… the shining lights… the sweat dripping down my face… and my stuttering voice as I attempted to phrase a sentence.

I look back on some of my old broadcasting tapes and I CRINGE!!! Oh man it was ugly… but I’ll never forget the mentors that supported me and encouraged me to follow my passion.

The most humbling experience over these last couple of years has come in the form of receiving messages from broadcasting students asking for guidance. I don’t know if my advice is helpful, but it means the world to have others that look up to me and I hope I can be a small part in helping them achieve their dreams too!

My first ever broadcast btw…. Almost 6 years ago in the SAIT basement! Time flies!

#22) Embrace discomfort, anxiety and fear

DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY THAT SCARES YOU!! – Some quote on a Lulu Lemon bag

I joke about this one a lot, but I plan to put myself into situations this next year where I’m intentionally uncomfortable… I have social anxiety, I’m scared of heights, and I don’t know the first thing about teaching a running clinic… but I plan to overcome all of those fears!

SIDE NOTE... Whoever thought glass floors were a good idea.. is INSANE!

#23) If you don’t ask, you don’t get

Apply for the job... ask for advice… take the shot! I’ve let too many opportunities pass me by in life because the fear of rejection was too much!

I’ve learned over the years however that sometimes all you need to do is “ask” to open up a new door. I remember asking to broadcast hockey games, asking to volunteer as a switcher/director for community TV… asking to anchor the overnight news… which led to a job offer, which led to a practicum… which led me to Saskatoon… which brought me back home to Calgary working my dream job!

Of course, when I say “asked” I really mean “nagged” in some cases… but if it’s important to push for the things you want and find not to take “no” for an answer.

#24) Question the world around you and think for yourself

Life is filled with questions… and sometimes there’s no definitive answer. I’ve learned over the years that my opinion on the world has changed and that it’s important to understand all sides of an argument.

Education matters and ignorance is bliss – understanding others is why I love telling stories… it makes me feel alive to know I get to hear what you really think!

#25) Be honest and always say how you really feel

I wear my heart on my sleeve... I’m a hopeless romantic… I can be pretty blunt (in a bad way sometimes)… and I’ll never sugar coat the way I feel.

Being genuine is part of who I am and that’s really been the purpose of this blog – to share my thoughts and ideas and true self to the world even to the few readers I have.

#26) Believe in yourself

I’ve struggled with confidence my entire life… I always sought validation from others and cared deeply what people thought of me…

There have been a lot of ups and downs during this past year of my life as I’m sure many can relate… but if there’s one thing I’m most proud of… it’s the fact that I feel like I’ve finally found my true self in 2020.

This was the year I became “Mark”… the year I found true confidence in myself and believed for once that I have so much to offer the world!

So here’s to turning 26… I can’t wait for what’s next!

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