WISDOM FROM A 41 YEAR OLD GEEZER:
These are all things I have learned on my 41 revolutions around the sun. I have learned them by experience, trial, error, and the consequences of both. The good, the bad and the very bad.
My mother always said, “Don’t make my mistakes. Make your own.”
With that logic, nobody would ever make mistakes. Every success and mistake has been recycled many times.
So, without further ado, I give you Wisdom From a 41 Year Old Geezer.
A: The world is full of people who want to be singers, who want to be artists, who want to be writers, who want to be students. And that’s the problem. They want BE these things. But do they want to sing? Do they want to create art? Do they want to write? Do they want to study? Don’t strive to BE anything. Strive to DO the thing. Don’t strive to be the person who does it.
B: And on that note, stop trying to be successful. Try to be valuable.
C: The idiom “Work smarter, not harder” is a strategy, not a hack. It will not get you off the hook from working hard. It will just make your hard work more effective.
D: Contrary to what you may have been told, other people’s opinions of you DO matter, if it is likely they’re right.
E: You should eat the garnish on your food, if it is edible. If you are eating a meal that is fancy enough to get a garnish, you should also think of needy people who would be happy to eat that garnish.
F: Authenticity is not a measure of quality. Something can be authentic and still be crap. That just makes it authentic crap and you probably paid too much for it.
G: Related to F. Contrary to what you may have been told, you shouldn’t ALWAYS be yourself. For example, if an integral part of who you are involves burning other people’s stuff up, you should retire that part of your identity that is an arsonist. Your identity is not a static thing, and it’s ok to rebrand if you look in the mirror one day and don’t like what you see.
H: With very few exceptions, everybody deserves a pass for stupid shit they did in the first twenty years of life. I’d even give an extra couple of years for slow learners.
I: Forgiveness is a noble thing, but remember to genuinely forgive, you waive all claims to retribution. You are under no obligation to forgive, so think long and hard about what you are giving up before you forgive.
J: You should always exude having your shit together, even if you don’t. Have your shoes polished, even if you didn’t change your socks. Iron your shirt even if you didn’t have a shower. Answer questions in complete sentences and a clear voice even if your answer is that you are not sure. Walk in straight lines even if you don’t know where the hell you are going. If you aren’t sure how to do something, learn as much as you need to keep a step ahead of the process and never let on you don’t know what the hell you are doing. However: do not put yourself in the position of not being able to deliver the goods.
K: Related to J: If you are going to present your shit, make damn sure your shit is presentable. Promise conservatively, deliver generously. Under promise, over deliver.
L: Related to J & K. Be optimistic, but avoid the trap of letting your optimism cross the line into wishful thinking.
M: “Nice” is a pleasant and gracious demeanor. “Altruism” is doing good deeds. The sweet spot is “kind”. To be kind, you must not only do good deeds, but do them graciously.
N: Think of various aspects of your life as strings. Every now and then a string will get a knot you must undo. The secret in untying a hard knot is knowing what to pick at, what to pick at it with, what to pull on and when to pull on it.
O: Smile if you are happy, but never smirk. Frown if you are displeased, but never sneer. If you are angry, convey your displeasure clearly and firmly even if it means raising your voice. But don’t ever make snide comments.
P: In order to be involved in politics, a minimum requirement should be that you are “of good moral character” (And yes, I am aware this, in practice, would cost the jobs of about 85% of government officials). If you intend to vote for a particular person, stand up, and say in a clear, sincere voice:
” [This Person’s Name] is of good moral character.”
If you cannot say that and keep a straight face, you shouldn’t vote for them.
Q: There is an abbreviation in the transit industry: MDBF. That stands for Mean Distance Between Failures. Closely related, there is another abbreviation: MTBF. That stands Mean Time Between Failures. It refers to how long and how far a piece of equipment, on average, can go without malfunctioning. A piece of equipment is most valuable when it has a high MDBF/MTBF and less valuable when it has a low MDBF/MTBF.
We should extrapolate that to ourselves and anything we accomplish. We are most valuable when our average ratio of distance and time to screw ups is high. That is our MBDF and MTBF.
R: We all know we should avoid distractions while completing a task. However sometimes the biggest distractions come from within the task at hand. These are also the toughest to tackle because they covertly present themselves.
S: In conveying a message to someone, the onus is on the person conveying the message to make sure it is accurately received by the person to whom it was given. Everybody has their own way of receiving and processing information, and may end up with a different take-home than what we intended. We should never assume our delivery was crystal clear and we should never berate the person for “not listening” It is our responsibility to ensure the information was transmitted and received accurately.
T: If a food item is deliberately misspelled (as in Froot Loops, or Cheez Whiz), it is a fair conclusion that the food does not contain a crumb of the ingredient it wants you to believe it has. With that in mind, choose carefully whether or not to put it in your body. Not only will it be used as an energy source, it will also be used to construct part of your body.
U: There is a fine, but clear line between initiative and presumption. It is of the utmost importance to be on the correct side of that line.
V: There is no such thing as sex with no strings attached. If you end up in bed with somebody, the relationship changes, and it may not change in a way you want or expect. If you think if won’t, refer to item L about wishful thinking.
W: You should never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm, but if there is a problem you could easily fix, and you fail to do so, that makes the problem, by default, 100% your fault.
X: Everybody knows you should never make important decisions if you have been drinking, but you should never make important decisions when you are hung-over, either. How you feel affects your mood, and your mood affects your decisions. That means you should only drink in any serious quantity if you are sure you have no major decisions to make in the next 24 hours.
Y: the embodiment of a gentleman or a lady did not disappear with progress. It evolved. We should strive be aware and execute that which constitutes gentlemanly or ladylike behavior.
Z: You are born into this world with two things: Your naked ass and your good word. If you get to a point where your word is no longer good, your ass is not worth anything either.
BONUS: When I was student teaching, the professor associated with that part of my education, Mr. Axel Norden, described the four types of success and failure. To paraphrase what he said:
“I am interested in your:
PRODUCTIVE SUCCESS: You succeeded, and you know exactly what you implemented to succeed, so you now have the tools to replicate the success.
And, yes, also your:
PRODUCTIVE FAILURE: You didn’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish, but you have the insight to look at your process and see where you went wrong so you DON’T replicate it.
I am very concerned about your:
UNPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS: You accomplished what you set out to accomplish, but you have no idea how or why, and therefore lack the tools to replicate the success.
(application of a blind squirrel finding a nut sometimes)
And, of course your:
UNPFODUCTIVE FAILURE: You failed to accomplish your goal, and more depressingly, you have no idea how to get out of this mess. History will repeat itself until you learn.”
The hierarchy here is clear, and it always stuck with me. Many times I have applied this to other facets of my life. Success is a good teacher, but Failure is a great teacher, despite being harsh and unforgiving sometimes.
Do with this what you will. There is nothing new under the sun, and you will make your own mistakes, mistakes that I’ve made, and mistakes my mother made. And likely her parents before her, and before them and before them.
History is a crooked, but ever upward line.