Here are some of the things I believe I have learned about life:
1. The most important resource is time. Not money or material things. Because if you have time you can fix whatever is wrong. If you don’t then all the good things in the world won’t matter. So you need to take care of yourself and give yourself as much time as possible.
2. Learn what you are good at (and what you are not good at) early enough in life that you can build on these points later. Don’t kid yourself. Most people will go through a mid-life crisis of one kind or another. I certainly did. When you are in a period of drift it is good to know the kind of solution you are looking for.
4. Intimacy is much more important than most people think. A lot of people think of themselves as mentally and/or physically tough. Tough as nails—that is their self-image and the way they want others to think about them. But to have a complete, satisfying and fulfilling life there must be a soft part somewhere, even if only one other person (or even a pet) can see it.
5. What goes around comes around. Once again this is hardly original with me. But I have learned that life is full of surprises. Someone or something that you do not see as very important at a particular time may become very important later. Always act as if each person, each activity, each thing you come across is potentially important in the future.
6 .If you want to avoid getting stale, keep re-inventing yourself. Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if you are a basically conservative person. This is especially true for me now, approaching retirement, or at least semi-retirement. I believe that when a person retires he (or she) should do something completely different from what he has done before. That is so that it is understood as the beginning of something rather than the end. Nothing could be more depressing than sitting around waiting for the end.
7. Don’t expect everyone to love you. Life is full of difficult choices which are inherently zero sum games. Some of these you have to lose because it is more important for you that the other person wins. But there are some where you really do have to win. So don’t be afraid to step up and win.
8. Maintain your ability to compete. Everyone loses some battles. But if you are so depressed that you are unable to compete you will enter an inexorable down-spiral where some kind of disaster will be waiting for you at the bottom.
9. Know when to think ahead and when not to. Part of our cultural programming is to think and plan ahead. Am I saving enough money? Am I doing the right things for my children? But there are some, easily recognizeable situations where you really can’t predict the outcome. In a case like that you must discipline yourself not to think too far ahead. Just deal with what is immediately in front of you. Believe me, the situation will change.
10. The true measure of what someone brings to the table of life is what his or her descendants accomplish. It is nice that such and such a person earned millions of dollars or accomplished some incredible physical or mental feat. But the part of him or her that will go on afterward will be the children and grandchildren. So set a standard of accomplishment and appropriate behavior that will hold up—that will provide for you a legacy that is a lot more important than just giving them some money.