Forty things I’ve learned

I’m sure some of these thoughts have been expressed better and more eloquently by others, but here are a few things I’ve figured out so far:

  1. Life is better with a dog next to you.
  2. Don’t be afraid to try new things.  But it’s okay to try some things only once.
  3. Wonderful things can emerge from broken plans.
  4. 95% of the time, you should be honest and tell the truth.  The rest of the time, it’s better to say something agreeable or keep your mouth shut.
  5. You don’t really appreciate your parents until you are an adult.  And you appreciate them even more once you have children of your own.
  6. The best pizza in the world is served in Chicago, at Giordano’s or Gino East.  No other place comes close.
  7. It is not a good idea to split a bottle of Tequila with someone before heading out for the night.
  8. Star Wars is not as good as I though it was when I was a kid.  It’s actually goofy.  That said, when Han shows up in the last second to save Luke and help him destroy the Death Star, I still get chills.
  9. Everyone should read Catcher in the Rye twice.  Once as a teenager, once as an adult.
  10. There are few places more beautiful than the hills in Tuscany, the beaches of Bermuda, the humbling glory of Grand Canyon, or the view from Highway One as it winds around the northern California coast. 
  11. If you want to really get to know someone, drive across the country with them 
  12. You will hurt people — sometimes by accident, sometimes out of thoughtlessness, sometimes on purpose.  The important thing is to own up to what you’ve done and try to atone for your actions.  Some people will forgive you, some won’t.  But you should try either way.
  13. Poker taught me that you’ll rarely have all the information you need to make a 100% perfect decision, in cards or in life.  The best you can do is slow down and think, consider the likelihood of possible outcomes, then make a decision.  Major life decisions are often more of a gamble than anyone tells you.
  14. The challenge of being a parent isn’t making the big decisions. It’s the thousands of tiny, micro decisions that are hard. 
  15. Petty, cruel, and evil people are everywhere, but they are vastly outnumbered by individuals who are kind, generous, and compassionate.  It may not always seem that way, but only because bad people get more press.  
  16. Most friends will eventually drift out of your life. That includes most of your “best friends.”  It’s sad, but natural: people change, start families, or  move to different places.  If you’re lucky enough have friendships that remain close after decades, hang onto them.  The older and busier you get, the harder it is find true friends.
  17. When playing Texas Hold’em, it’s almost always a good idea to fold Ace-Jack preflop.
  18. You’ll win most of your games in Madden if you learn to play defense, run the ball, and hit your tight ends on crossing patterns.
  19. If you see a restaurant that makes sub sandwiches, Chinese food, fried chicken, pizza,  and seafood, stay as far away from it as you can.
  20.  If you follow sports, even a little bit, you can make small talk with almost any stranger.
  21. Naps are good.  Take them whenever you can without apology.
  22. Raisins have no business in oatmeal cookies.  Macadamia nuts need not be paired with white chocolate, either. Raw cookie dough added to ice cream, however, was a stroke of genius.
  23. When you’re stuck in the wrong job, you dread the morning alarm, the clock creeps, and lunch becomes the most important event in your day.  We aren’t made to live like that.  If that’s your day, it’s time to quit and do something else.  
  24. Sometimes, people deserve second chances.  Third chances, on the other hand, are almost always a bad idea.  If life gives you a second chance, don’t miss it.
  25. You can believe something your whole life, only to realize that you’ve been wrong all along.  Don’t be stubborn and ignore reality.
  26. Winning always feels good, whether it’s pool, air-hockey, or skee-ball.  But when you worked hard to get better at something — practicing, studying, training — and then you win, it’s ten times more satisfying.
  27. If you want to feel alive, climb into a roller coaster.
  28. Coney Island, Las Vegas, and South of the Border are cheesy, tasteless, and creepy places, but if you don’t spend some time in all three, you’re missing out.
  29. Dating is tricky.  People generally want a partner to be four things: attractive, smart, fun, and sane.  98% of the time, you’ll find someone with three or fewer of those qualities, though it may take a while to know for sure.
  30. It’s okay to go to the movies alone.  Vacations, too.  Sometimes it’s actually better.  Just don’t make it your lifestyle.
  31. Everyone should climb up and leap from a high dive at least once.  The moment between leaving the platform and crashing into the water will be one of the longest and most thrilling seconds of your life.
  32. You’re  much better off giving a college kid a beer than a credit card.
  33. There are few better ways to spend a sunny afternoon than snorkeling on top of a warm ocean, watching colors shimmer, wriggle, and dance beneath you.
  34. When you’re stumped creatively, get up and take a walk.  Somehow moving your legs and breathing in fresh air helps jar loose new ideas.
  35. Most people, even your friends and family, don’t really know you.  They have a perception of you based on how you were as a child, a roommate, a classmate, or a co-worker.  Their notion of you, and what you are capable of, is based on memory.  But who you were isn’t who you are, or what you can be.  You decide that.
  36. You can help people, give them encouragement and love, but you can’t change them.  People have to change themselves.
  37. It’s hard to top the sound of your own child’s laughter.
  38. You aren’t trapped.  You may feel stuck or trapped in a bad place, but things are rarely as hopeless as they seem.  Decide that you will change your situation — whatever it takes — and as Joseph Campbell said, "doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be."  Sounds like mystical hocus focus, but I’ve seen it happen.
  39. Some things you’ll only see or do once.  Slow down and take it all in.
  40. The voice in your head that tells you that you can’t do something can be loud and persuasive. It is also, quite often, wrong.

3 thoughts on “Forty things I’ve learned

  1. Thank you for this. Very thoughtful and uplifting. And also funny. I really enjoyed it.

    You clearly are a student of life. Kudos to you for paying attention.

    Thanks,
    M

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