In Honor of My 51st Birthday, 51 Things I Have Learned About Life and People
"When a lion wants to go somewhere, he doesn't worry about how many hyenas are in the way."
1) If life wasn't harsh and uncertain, it also wouldn't be meaningful.
2) At a certain point, it makes sense to stop trying to be the exception to the rule and just adhere to the damn rule.
3) Our relationship with God is much like our dog's relationship with us. We set rules for our dog, we take care of it, and we want what's best for it although we have to sometimes punish it. Dogs understand some of what we do. They like it when we rub their bellies and give them food. They seek out our company and become excited when we come back into their presence. But they'll never truly be able to reason out most of the things we do. Why don't we give them steak for dinner every night? Why do we go to work instead of staying home all day with them and playing fetch? Why don't we let them bite the mailman? How could we possibly want to watch TV instead of going outside and chasing cats? Why do we make arbitrary moral decisions like "No dead squirrels in the house?" They no more have the capacity to figure out what we're doing than we can truly understand why God does the things he does.
4) If you don't broaden your horizons and improve your capabilities, eventually your world will narrow until it suffocates you.
5) When a lion wants to go somewhere, he doesn't worry about how many hyenas are in the way.
6) "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." That sounds good, but it's not really true. Merit will usually take you a certain distance, but beyond that, the most talented and best qualified often lose out to the better connected and those who do a better job of marketing themselves.
7) There's no need to take revenge on mediocre people. Their mediocrity is their own punishment.
8) You will seldom overestimate how shallow, easily impressed by status, and deeply desirous of rank most human beings are.
9) Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to say, "Not my problem," and let people figure out their own issues.
10) Do you know why most successful people and nations fail? They stop doing the things that made them successful. You'd think that would almost never happen, but ironically, many people don't even understand the roots of their own success.
11) An object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest. That applies not just to objects, but to people, philosophies, habits, and lifestyles. It's much, much easier to stop than to start. It's much more difficult to start than to keep going.
12) One of the flaws really smart people tend to have is that they're so used to being right when other people are wrong, that they have trouble realizing when they're blowing it. They also tend to underestimate the value of specialization. Someone with moderate brainpower and tremendous experience will beat someone who's much smarter and more talented in that same area 99 times out of 100.
13) Life is a complex business. It has an unlimited supply of twists, turns, shades of gray, nuances, and surprises for you to deal with. No matter how smart you are, you'll never have an easy answer for everything. Heck, even you and the 10 smartest people you know won't have an easy answer for everything. So, don't expect to have all the answers, and moreover, don't expect anyone else to have all the answers either.
14) Accepting that you create most of the problems in your own life is the first step towards real freedom.
15) One of the best pieces of advice I've heard about women: Change her mood, not her mind. It's really good advice not just because it's true, but because it's something that's not intuitive to men.
16) I've found that optimism is usually more realistic than pessimism as long as you're willing to plan, work, and prepare.
17) Sometimes, there's no "right answer." There are just almost even competing options and you have to pick one and not look back
18) Life is a challenging business that never really gets easy. You have to work when you're tired, deal with the uncertainty of change, stay open after you've been hurt, push yourself when you'd rather rest, keep going when you want to quit, and as a reward, you'll receive no respites or guarantees that your effort will be rewarded. You can either react to that news by trying to run from the responsibilities of life or by accepting the challenge and learning to love it. The latter path isn't the easiest, but it's the one that produces the most growth, success, and happiness.
19) The biggest factor in how happy most people's lives turn out to be is the quality and number of connections they have with other people. A poor, ugly person, who lives a short life with a loving family, a wife who loves him, and lots of good friends has lived far better than a handsome, rich, successful man who lives to a hundred without a soul who's close to him.
20) The key to avoiding depression is to reframe the way you think of things in a way that gives you hope and optimism. Did you lose your job? Great, you have an opportunity to find something that better fits your abilities. Did your girlfriend dump you? Awesome. That means you have an opportunity to find the real love of your life. Did you have your leg broken? That's inconvenient, but into every life, a little rain must fall, and soon enough, you'll be well. There's good and bad in EVERY situation. If you look hard enough for the good, you will find it.
21) Maybe not today, tomorrow, or next week, but character is destiny.
22) If you spend money you don't have to get what you want, the time will come when you don't have money for the things you need.
23) You can't be charitable if you don't raise yourself up enough to have something worth giving away.
24) One of the best rules to live by is if you realize there's something you should do, but you're afraid to do it, you MUST do it. It's hard at first, but after you overcome your fears enough times, you learn to live a life without fear. Not that you feel it, you do, but once you believe you can force yourself to act even though you're afraid, fear isn't that troubling of an emotion.
25) Unless you understand both sides of the argument, you don’t understand the argument.
26) When someone gets a person to do something morally shameful they don't get mad at him, they get mad at the people who won't go along with it.
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27) When you're improving your life, gradualism beats grand gestures most of the time. Better to make a small improvement each day and build on it rather than try to "fix" things in one fell swoop.
28) Everything comes with a cost, one that people often don't see when they lack a thing. Want to be a genius? Then get ready to feel like most of the human race is dumb and slow. Want to be rich? Then you'll be treated like a villain and always wonder if people like you for you or for your money. Want to be extraordinarily beautiful? Enjoy it while it lasts because you'll have to go through life knowing that one day, much sooner than you want, your beauty will fade. Everything comes with a cost.
29) Once you start catering to people's pathologies, it seldom ends well or at a reasonable point.
30) Willpower is a finite resource that is used up each day, with each activity, and replenished after resting. There are many ways to conserve willpower. Avoid opportunities for temptation, rest and relax, nap, and one of my favorites: Pre-planning activities. Making a decision, for example, that you will get up, eat breakfast, and immediately go for a walk saves willpower because the decision is already made, and you don't need to make it again the next day.
31) A lot of times, you'll get exactly what you put up with, no more and no less.
32) High self-esteem coupled with mediocrity is actually considerably worse than low self-esteem.
33) A lot of people are under the impression that good is less fun than evil. If you embrace goodness, think how much fun you'll miss out on! Of course, even the Bible says there is pleasure in sin for a season. Over the long haul, evil isn't so much fun, and its adherents tend to have that desperate look of an animal with its leg caught in a beartrap.
34) A rule without a way to enforce it is merely a wish.
35) Lifestyle tends to expand to meet rising income, which is why so many people go broke even with lots of money coming in.
36) The average person isn't mean. They're just so wrapped up in their own little world that they don't think much about other people's problems.
37) Human beings are instinctively savage, cruel, and brutal creatures not much different from wolves. The reason we're fit to live with each other despite that is it's socialized out of us through school, church, stories, and values we pick up almost by osmosis from our parents and from society. However, some people run across other human beings who haven't been properly socialized and they get raped, molested, beaten, or otherwise by these inhuman animals. Often, having that mask ripped away, even for a short time, leaves the victims with mental scars they carry until the day they die. They don't have the same illusions most other people do. They've seen the mask of humanity come off and they know how ugly it is under there.
38) When things get controversial, the heat is on and people are criticizing you, you can usually expect to stand alone. Then, after it's over and you're safe again, people will creep back into the picture. Don't blame people too much for not making your problems, their problems, but do really appreciate the ones who stick up for you when it matters.
39) No matter what you do in life, you're going to suffer. You might as well suffer to get what you want.
40) If you listen to God when he whispers, he won't have to lead a whale into your life to swallow you in order to get your attention.
41) If someone couldn't tell what your priorities are by watching you for a week, maybe you're fooling yourself about your priorities.
42) People's words will often lead you astray. Their track records seldom do.
43) Sometimes obnoxious people need to be put in their place, but if you don't like or respect someone, 99 times out of 100, you're better off just ignoring them.
44) The more effective people are, the bigger the problems that they can handle without stressing.
45) People will always find a way to justify things they do, no matter how horrible it is.
46) There is no ceiling in any mansion or palace as beautiful as the unclouded sky full of stars that God gave to every man for free.
47) Modern society is where everyone has a voice, and most people have nothing of value to say.
48) There are a number of sins you should avoid exactly BECAUSE they're a lot of fun.
49) When people can't deal with the major issues in their life, they often become obsessive about minutiae as a distraction.
50) Men have a natural urge to tame the wild, spoil the pure, and assert dominance over their environment.
51) Religion estranged from science produces morons. Science estranged from religion produces Mengele's.