Monthly Archives: July 2012

51 Thoughts…

{I wrote the list below for my 50th. That is, the first 50. I’m not sure if I can keep adding to it without the messages becoming trivial or repeats, but this list has one more than that one because…well…I’m one year older.}

I wanted to put in writing some life lessons for my sons and anyone else who cares to read them.

  1. Never stop learning. School is only a starting point; some people never go beyond high school – in worldview or knowledge – and are much sadder for it.
  2. Enjoy the people you meet. Learn from them; listen to them; share with them – you may make a new friend.
  3. Enjoy the people you know. There are some friends you can go for months or even years without talking to, hook up again, and pick up right where you left off. Treasure them.
  4. Try different foods – you may be surprised. Tastes do change. Where spinach and squash or…cooked tomatoes…were “disgusting” to the child, they may well become quite good when that child becomes an adult. But that doesn’t apply to okra. It will always be “not good.”
  5. Read. That goes with never stop learning. At the least, it will keep the brain cells firing. At the best, you’ll see worlds you might never have seen otherwise.
  6. Always try to improve; raise the bar; push the envelope. If you’ve achieved everything you want to be, then you’ve sold yourself short.
  7. Set the bar high while recognizing your limits. But don’t let someone else set the limits – that’s not the same as someone else raising the bar. Coaches, mentors, loved ones can help you realize more, but you should never let someone tell you what you can’t do.
  8. Be generous with your knowledge (but not a know-it-all); sharing is good. And don’t mistake opinion for knowledge, for while sharing opinion is fun, it can also be not fun.
  9. Think outside the box. Don’t let a problem get the best of you.
  10. Remember that there is always a box.
  11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is not a weakness.
  12. Love much.
  13. Accept love. This is one of the hardest, particularly for men.
  14. Holding puppies, kittens and babies makes #13 easier, and all worth it. And the order doesn’t matter.
  15. Laugh. Let it go.
  16. Tell jokes. Humor has wonderful side effects. And puns are only the lowest form of humor when they’re not yours.
  17. Question that which doesn’t make sense. Check the sources; if someone says or writes something that sounds wrong somehow, dig into it. Don’t accept something at face value; you may end up a human spam email. Skepticism is healthy…until it isn’t healthy. As with all things, moderation is the key. And don’t stop if the first thing you find agrees with your view – read both (or more than “both”) sides – that is truly difficult, and offers the most potential for growth.
  18. Think of how what you do today will affect the future for your children. Believe that it can affect the future. Know that it will affect the future.
  19. Mistakes are how we learn. Making the same ones more than once probably means you didn’t learn, but fear of making mistakes should never limit you from trying anything.
  20. Apologize when you need to; and sometimes when you don’t. Regardless, be sincere when you do so.
  21. Have a purpose, but don’t let it have you.
  22. Tolerance is not a good word in a social context. It implies superiority, whether intended or not. Promote, rather, acceptance. Accept others for what and who they are, regardless of differences. “Tolerating” others or others’ beliefs is a dark stain on one’s character.
  23. Take the time for your children; there will be a time when they won’t need you, but they’ll come around. Don’t be annoyed at an interruption (sometimes, that is hard not to do, but…)
  24. Look around; it’s an amazing world. If you find yourself looking down, look up. If you always look up, look left and right. Try to see things from another perspective.
  25. Resist peer pressure. Sometimes wisdom is clearest in retrospect, but remember that no one acts like high school after high school (or if they do, do you really want to hang out with them?)
  26. Things that don’t make sense aren’t generally worth wasting time on. Still, the things that no one can know for sure are fun to discuss and can help intellectual growth but are never worth losing friends over, never worth alienating others. Remember that religion and culture are products of geography as much as anything else…someone here born in another part of the world would likely have a different religion, a different culture, and to keep that in mind is to be a better human. Also remember that one person’s religion is another person’s myth, and vice versa.
  27. Travel. Get out of your tiny little world; recognize that other countries are equally deserving of “blessings”. Break the parochial chains. If you can’t do it physically, see #1 and #5.
  28. Be grateful. And show it.
  29. Angry people are not worth the time, even if their ugliness is directed at a loved one. You can’t change them and trying to will drive you nuts. You can be civil without sinking to their level. And while it doesn’t hurt you to not like someone, don’t dwell on it.
  30. Go see the lights (i.e, Christmas and fireworks). It will feel good.
  31. Dress up every now and then just for the fun of it. Delight in being overdressed. Or, delight in being the only one in a leprechaun costume – others will delight in it as well. Go trick-or-treating…it’s not just for kids.
  32. Enjoy flavors. See “#4, try different foods”, but also, try mixing things up – one of the most interesting combinations I’ve enjoyed was dark chocolate truffles with dehydrated bleu cheese crumbles and sea salt. Not your everyday Hershey’s, nor should it be.
  33. Not all jazz is bad. Nor, I’m given to understand, is all country music. But passing on it (country) won’t have a negative effect. However, a little Dixieland can put a jump in your day. {Update: swing band music really puts a jump in your day!}
  34. Put yourself in the shoes of others. Pass no judgments that you are not willing to have passed on yourself. The differences that you think offend you are just differences, and offense goes both ways…unless the other person is more compassionate. Set aside your cultural arrogance, for it is an ugly mantle.
  35. Learn to relax. But if you can’t, don’t stress about that. Do something that makes you happy.
  36. Enjoy fine chocolate. Or just chocolate (but take it from me: fine chocolate is much more worth it!….kind of gave that away in #32.)
  37. There are no disorders, only differences; make the best use of yours. My particular difference, undiagnosed as a child, is labeled “attention deficit disorder.” To me, it is neither a disorder, nor a deficit, but it sure does make for some interesting days!
  38. Embrace diversity. Some of my wife’s and my best friends have views very different from ours. Teach your children to accept everyone (who is not hurting them). Skin color, age, gender, sexual orientation may sometimes be used as descriptions, but NEVER as labels.
  39. Even if you don’t (or will never) understand opera, go see at least one. And a classical concert. Bask in the breadth of human compositions. Oh, and a Beatles tribute (I dare you not to sing along with “Hey, Jude”.)
  40. Value honesty and integrity. Strengthen the character that is you.
  41. Read the comics; there is often great wisdom in three panels. Or at least some things very funny. Note: comic books and graphic “novels” don’t count.
  42. Sarcasm is not welcome. I often struggle with that. See #41 above. Try to avoid it (counterexample: sarcasm – graphic novels are mostly okay.)
  43. Tolerate no cruelty, whether to people or animals. Silence is only golden when you’re on the top of a mountain. Or have spent two hours trying to calm a screaming child.
  44. Don’t try to do everything. Do what you can, enjoy what you do, and don’t fret about what you can’t do. (And don’t twist that into not trying to improve or set the bar higher – the concepts are not mutually exclusive.) Super-mom, super-dad, super-co-worker, super-whatever all lead to not enough time for yourself, and often not enough time for the others in your life (despite what “super-“implies.) Rest is important, and a lesson I need to pay more attention to.
  45. Take care of your health. Visit the doctors. Listen to the doctors. And question the doctors – they know much, but they don’t know everything, and can be wrong. And that sunburn of youth may come back to haunt you as much as the skipped cholesterol meds of post-youth.
  46. It’s never too late to re-invent yourself.
  47. There is no “I” in teamwork (but there are four in “pontificating platitude”.) I am a firm advocate for playing nice in the sand box – dictatorial methods might achieve similar results, but the costs are high. Working together toward common goals brings its own sense of accomplishment, regardless of the outcome.
  48. Think for yourself.
  49. Be comfortable with yourself. This is not in conflict with trying to improve.
  50. Life really is too short to worry about how short life is; enjoy the time you have. More to the point, enjoy the time you will have.

I’m looking forward to the next 50….


… and starting the next 50 off…

51.   If you are like me and analyze (a word too close to “criticize”) movies as you watch them, try watching them a second time before you watch them for the first time. I’ve discovered that the “flaws” in the first are usually less annoying that way. Of course, I have yet to heed my own advice and have earned a “curmudgeon” moniker for that failing, but I still offer the advice to perhaps save a few.