On the 8th of this month, I will reach the age at which William Pitt became the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Jack Dempsey became the Heavyweight Champion. I’ve accomplished significantly less than those men, but I’ve gathered some interesting lessons on the journey so far. Below are 24 things I’ve learned in 24 years. Most were learned quite recently, and most I still struggle to apply. These are also the things that work for me and I don’t necessarily mean for them to apply universally, so chilaxe if you disagree. I’m not sure I want everyone to be like me, anyway.
Here we go…
1. Aristotle devotes one book each of the Nicomachean Ethics to the topics of virtue, happiness, and justice, along with every other topic he covers. Friendship, however, gets two books. There’s good reason for that.
2. Everything that Marlon Brando says in Last Tango in Paris is pretty much the truth.
3. When I lay on my deathbed I’m probably not going to lament that fact that I didn’t have a fancy job title that brought in lots of money, nor will the people I care about.
4. The greatest benefit of contemplative silence and meditation, and the one that is almost never acknowledged publicly, is coming face to face with just how much of yourself is made up those thoughts, feelings, and forces that you condemn and claim to despise.
5. Living every day like it’s your last is not feasible. I’ve tried it a few times and I’m lucky none of those days actually turned out to be my last.
6. Be weary of those who have the answer before they’ve heard the question and wearier still of those who have more answers than questions.
7. The road to Hell is paved with “positive thinking.”
8. There is no such thing as the self-made man.
9. The best people to be around are those with passions that border on unhealthy. Whether it’s a passion for a sport, music, books, history, politics, science, film, etc., spending time with someone whose knowledge of a subject is encyclopedic and whose love of that subject is contagious is time well spent.
10. We may have reached the point at which subsequent generations will reap more of the consequences of what we’ve sown rather than the benefits. Our environment might just be the prime example of this fact.
11. When I ponder what’s really evil in this would, I conclude that if forced to choose I would rather give a kid a joint than a gun any day.
12. We are creative animals and we ignore that fact at our peril.
13. The worst leaders are those desperate to prove that they’re the smartest person in the room.
14. Guinness is indeed good for you.
15. It’s best not to have more friends than can be counted on both hands.
16. Becoming a good writer is a process of unlearning everything they taught you about writing in school.
17. The most beautiful place on Earth can be visited with little expense or effort. I go there about 20 minutes into a session on the piano. By that point I’ve shaken off all the anxieties and worries of that day that along with all the restlessness of my own mind and as clichéd as it might sound, it’s just me and the music at that point. When I get there, even mistakes, and I make many, sound good. Go where the music is.
18. Trying not to offend people just isn’t worth the effort. Some people just take themselves too damn seriously.
19. People are best enjoyed with scotch, but scotch most certainly does not require people in order to be best enjoyed.
20. Too many of our leaders have failed to drink deep from the well of history and understand that war is an instrument that is extremely limited in what it can accomplish and even when engaged requires an incredible sacrifice on the part of an entire population, including the leaders themselves. Somehow we got to the point where a few people could be sent to fight seemingly endless wars while the rest of us were able to ignore it because its effects never seemed to land on our doorstep.
21. My Father always jokes that his name should be printed above mine on both my degrees because he “worked extremely hard to earn those degrees.” He’s right.
22. 90% of real-life human conversation is frivolous. People seem to think that this is only the case on the internet.
23. There will always be great writers. Whether or not they will be widely read is another matter.
24. You gotta give ’em hope.