After recently accepting an offer to retire, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on long-term lessons learned throughout my 40-year career as a biomechanist in academia. These lessons formed the basis of my 2021 Geoffrey Dyson Lecture and are summarised within this article. Most of these lessons are targeted at early career researchers, although my recent transition into retirement revealed some unexpected lessons that apply to senior academics. The lessons presented relate to the need to be passionate and persistent about your research, the importance of being unique and embracing failure as a mentor, as well as running with opportunities that arise. Appreciating that a career takes time to evolve, strategies to nurture a committed and supportive research team, the importance of committing to a professional society, and the need to be kind to yourself are also discussed. Why so few women receive career awards in biomechanics and when should academics retire are also addressed. I hope that highlighting lessons learned over an academic career as a biomechanist, combined with suggested practical strategies to thrive in academia, ensure academics can savour a fulfiling career in biomechanics while producing high-quality research into the future.