I turned 52 last month. While this doesn’t mean I’m old, one might expect that by now I’ve learned a thing or two. I might debate this stereotype; frankly, I feel less certain of what the world is all about now than when I was 26 years old. Oh, to have the certainty of youth!
As we age (if we are paying attention) we do acquire some knowledge that is worth passing on to others. My son recently graduated college, so I was looking around for some wisdom that I could plagiarize and pass on to him. One piece of wisdom I can pass along to him is that usually somebody has already come up with wise things to say and you just need to repeat it to make it sound like you thought of it yourself!
So here is a list I found that I thought was excellent, written by some genius whom I can’t credit because I don’t know who it was:
Ten Fundamental Truths
- Great success is often preceded by failure
I have very often said a variation of this to my kids. You learn nothing by winning. We all want to win, and that is the goal, but you only learn by failing. You try, you fail, you make changes and you move on.
- Being busy does not equal being productive
I remember having some jobs where there wasn’t enough to do. I even remember trying to look busy when bosses were around, which was even worse. Just looking like you are doing things or crossing menial tasks off the list is not doing things. Better to tell the bosses you don’t have enough to do; either you become more productive or you quit and find a more meaningful job.
- You’re only as good as those with whom you associate
This, of course, goes back to when you’re a kid. If you are around smart people, you will try to be smarter. If you hang around people who drink all of the time, you’re more likely to get drunk. People are social animals who want to fit in, so you tend to be like those with whom you hang. Try to hang with good people and get away from idiots.
- You’re living the life you created
Zig Ziglar used to say that you can do ten things right now to ruin your life: cheat on a spouse, lie to a friend, blow off an assignment, run a red light, to name a few. You have that power. So why do you think that you don’t have the power to make your life better? In my opinion, 90% of our lives are determined by what we do with what we have. Sure, we all get buffeted by life’s randomness, and I don’t minimize that. But your life is, mostly, in your hands.
- Fear is the number one source of regret
I flat out have decided I will not jump out of a working airplane. I’m pretty sure at the end of my life I will regret that decision, but I’m just too afraid to do it! There are lots things we don’t do (go back to school, ask the girl for a date, ride the roller coaster, quit a bad job…) out of fear of what will happen. However, we fear the wrong things! You should fear the certainty of what will not happen if you don’t do those things (you won’t get a new degree, find your future wife, have a fun memory, or get a better job…). Fear the certainty of regret rather than the possibility of it.
- You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive
Forgiveness is as old as any religion. Grudges kill the person holding the grudge. Leave vengeance to God or nature or karma. I’d add to this that you should also be quick to apologize. In 100% of the arguments I’ve ever had, I’ve never been 100% right. I felt better about myself every single time I apologized or forgave. Every. Single. Time.
- Live in the moment
This must sound insane coming from a Financial Planner. After all, my entire job is to get people to plan for the future. But this advice is not “spend for the moment”...it’s "Live" for the moment! You can plan your money for future goals, but also be present here today! I can tell you from personal experience that your kids won’t be kids that long. Today is fleeting and one day you’ll wake up at 52 and hear about some 53-year-old dropping dead and you’ll think, “huh”. And maybe living in the moment will help you make better decisions about today and the future.
- Your self-worth must come from within
All the praise in the world doesn’t change your view of yourself. Seriously. Either you already agree with the praise you receive (in which case it’s redundant) or you don’t agree and you feel like a fraud. I don’t mean you should withhold praise of others; praise is a gift you give to others and it should be taken as such: the best gift is something you’d have never thought to buy for yourself. Be worthy of your precious gift of life; you owe it to yourself.
- Life is short
Well, duh. But this statement is completely lost on 26-year-olds. To them it’s taken FOREVER to get to this point in their lives; school, then starting a career and maybe a family. They get to 26 and think they have this long stretch of time to do all the things they want to do…It all zips by in an instant. Do things. Spend some money on memories. Give yourself to others. Run for office. Make changes. With apologies to all those Buddhists out there: this is your one life, so stop watching The Real Housewives and live your own life!
- Change is inevitable-embrace it!
We think things never change that much; I still wear clothes, drive a non-flying car, and don’t live on the moon. Yet things are constantly changing in so many ways. Your job probably won’t exist in 10 years. The way we communicate, feed ourselves, buy things, travel, get educated, or find friends is different than it was a decade ago. There are five objects on my desk right now that literally did not exist in 2010. “The good old days” are a myth! Life has always been a struggle, but we are always improving. If you pine for days long ago, you’re not living in the present and you’re basically already dead.
Ok, that’s it. Stolen wisdom for you and yours. Good luck.