Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 900

I could tell you about my blood test this morning. I could tell you about all the vacuuming I did this afternoon. I suspect you've heard all that before. Maybe I'll try to give you a little advice instead. After 899 days of telling you what I do, it might be time to tell you what I think. I don't give advice very often. Why should I? Absolutely nobody listens. Humor me though. It's Day 900 and it's time for  something different. My advice to you...

1: Quit spending money you don’t have.

So many of today’s problems are caused by a national desire for instant gratification. High school kids think they need a car. College kids expect a high paying job when they graduate. Young couples get a $300,000 mortgage on a “starter home. Our entire country spends more than it takes in. It wasn’t always this way. Our grandparents didn’t live like this. They managed to raise families in modest homes with a single bathroom. Instead of using credit cards with reckless abandon, they typically paid using cash, while occasionally putting something special away on layaway. Ironically, our grandparents were probably happier than we are. Rich is a relative term. If you always spend a little less than you make, you’re eventually be rich.

2: It’s not a secret if you tell anybody.

I grow weary of people telling me that something is confidential. I’m bemused when I see someone who still believes that privacy even exists. Privacy left the building long ago. Do you ever watch MI-5 on the BBC channel? In this show, top British spies continually solve puzzling crimes and mysteries by snooping on people’s activities using the country’s burgeoning CCTV network. This is where we are headed. If the IRS doesn’t already know everything about you, Google and the credit bureaus can certainly fill in the blanks. It’s just a matter of time before Google creates a global panic by revealing that it has compiled a database with the personal porn preferences of over a billion men worldwide. Hey, if you really want to keep something a secret, don’t tell anyone. Ever.

3: Learn to compromise.

It’s not all about you. Everyone thinks they’re special these days. They were brought up that way. Parents told them they were special. Teachers told them they were special. A cult of individuality was born and several generations of very self-centered children entered the adult world thinking, “It’s all about me.” These spoiled children expected to get exactly what they wanted in the workforce and in their relationships. That’s what they had been taught. When everyone was going for the gold, the bronze had no value. Slowly, the art of compromise was lost. Our politicians became deadlocked. Our relationships increasingly ended in divorce. Our employers got disgusted and began looking for a more agreeable workforce in China. Hey, it’s not all about you. It never was.

4: Believing in something doesn’t necessarily make it true.

Christians. Jews. Obama supporters. Global Warming. The Tea Party. The Taliban. Isn’t it all a bit confusing? If anyone actually had the answer to anything, why would there consistently be so many conflicting points of view? It’s comforting to believe in something, especially if others believe the same thing. Belief isn’t the same as truth however. Belief is just another manifestation of mind over matter. At least religious people understand that their beliefs are nothing more than blind faith. The worst believers are the secular humanists, who have somehow managed to get faith, religion, science, objectivity and prejudice muddled together in an unholy stew. Believe in yourself! Don’t get a big head about it though. It’s still not all about you.

5: Don’t aspire to be happy. Just choose to be happy.

A lot of people think they’d be happier if they had more money. Others want to be thinner, more popular, or in a better relationship. We are an aspirational society, but sometimes our aspirations can be counterproductive. I’ve known multi-millionaires who were catatonically depressed. I’ve known people with one leg who seemed much happier than I was. I think the happy people around me just chose to be happy. We can’t really select the cards we are dealt in life. We can fight and struggle and attempt to swim upstream, but eventually the current always wins and we are swept out to sea. Happy people just enjoy the journey.

6: Success doesn’t mean much if you have never experienced failure.

Is success learning to read road signs in French, or discovering that E=MC2? I think any successful person will tell you that success is entirely relative. Without a few setbacks along the way, you probably won’t even be able to recognize success when it finds you. Success can be large, or it can be small, but it you are afraid to fall, you probably won’t experience success at all.

7: Don’t wait too long to do the things you want to do most.

My Dad was a zoologist. He always wanted to travel to Africa and see giraffes and elephants. When he died and I was settling his estate, I cleaned out his safe deposit box and discovered an expired passport and visas to all the countries he wanted to visit. Dad knew where he wanted to go. He just kept putting off the journey. There were books to write. There were kids to put through college. The passport got dusty and Dad got Parkinson's disease. He waited too long. Don’t wait too long to do the things you want. Your time on this earth is limited.

Abby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day


  1. John, You are a wise man. Many children are told to save their money. They are instructed to only use their credit card for things that are absolutely necessary or if they can pay it off as soon as they get the bill.

    Some of us learn the hard way and clean up our debt and credit cards before we get too old. Others never learn and are always behind on payments BEFORE the problems start.

    I was talking to my brother (with early onset Parkinsons) and his wife the other day. Their regret. They hadn't traveled when they were young they were too busy working two jobs each buying trinkets.

    This is a great philosophy of life. Put this on a t shirt and give it to everyone in the world. We would all be better for your advice. Thanks.

  2. Good stuff! I read every word, and I think you nailed it. It makes me sort of want to re-run my "From the Shark's Wisdom Tooth" list.

  3. Great post. I especially like the final three on the list! :D