I turned 50 a while back. Or maybe I’m going to be 50 soon. I forget which. I like to be coy. Nonetheless, I jotted down a random list of 50 things I’ve learned or observed in 50 years. These things may not be universally true, but they are true for me.
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1. If you want to be really really good at something, you will probably have to forsake something else in your life. The pursuit of excellence in any given field is not conducive to moderation or balance. Either balance is overrated or excellence is — I’m not sure which, but you can’t really have both.
2. Being average is not a bad thing – there’s a lot of good company in the middle of the pack.
3. In most matters, done is better than perfect. But done right is better than done fast, except for housework. Then good enough is good enough.
4. Never say “It can’t get worse.” It can get worse. It can definitely get worse.
5. It’s better to be content than rich. Riches are easier to come by than contentment.
6. You can disagree with someone and still like them.
7. You can dislike someone and still be kind to them.
8. Education is as much about enlightenment as employment. Education is never a waste.
9. You’ll never know how much your parents love you until you have your own child.
10. You’ll never know how much you hurt your parents until you have your own child.
11. No one will remember what shoes or earrings you wore to the party.
12. Getting drunk is extremely uncool. Always has been.
13. Honor your father and mother so that it might go well with you.
14. There are three things you can do to make your life very very difficult – making babies too young and without commitment, using drugs, and getting involved in credit card debt. I only know of one first hand; the other two I managed to avoid by the grace of God.
15. Teachers and nurses are two of the few vocations where you can really make a difference in the life of another human being. The rest of us are just pushing paper.
16. Maintaining flexibility is the key to aging well. Stretch your mind and body a little each day.
17. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. Like the weather, it’s always about to change.
18. Nothing in the mall will make you happy. For very long.
19. We can’t all be leaders.
20. If you can’t be a good leader, be a good follower.
21. Make sure the person you are following is taking you where you want to go.
22. Nothing good comes of a secret.
23. On the other hand, every thought does not need to be expressed.
24. Anger poisons the soul. A grudge prisons the soul. Forgiveness purifies the soul. Forgive with haste.
25. When you win an argument, you really lose.
26. Concede whenever you can.
27. Career is a fancy name for a job.
28. No matter how bad you think you look right now, 10 years from now you will wish you looked as good.
29. The only thing that makes me smarter than when I was 20 is that now I have an awareness of how little I really know.
30. Whatever stylish thing you are wearing right now will look ridiculous in 10 years.
31. Encourage more, criticize less.
32. Use the guest towels.
33. Television is anesthesia. Watch as little as possible.
34. Life is short. But it could also be long – start saving when you are young.
35. Quality Time is a big fat modern lie when it comes to your kid. Go for Quantity Time.
36. Life is too short to spend time trying to get curly hair be straight or straight hair to be curly. Find a hairstyle that suits your hair.
37. The only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more.
38. Fashion magazines are designed to make you feel badly about yourself. Save your money.
39. Speak less, listen more.
40. Every day, no matter how cruddy, is a great day to be alive.
41. Smoking is ugly, smelly, stupid and looks silly. Don’t smoke.
42. Anyone who says they have no regrets is lying. We’ve all done and said regrettable things.
43. If you haven’t done anything regrettable, you haven’t lived. Or at least not long enough.
44. The perfect purse is worth every penny.
45. Grocery store make up is just as good as department store make up, but if paying 3x as much makes you feel better, that probably makes it worth it.
46. Say please and thank you to everyone, but especially to those who do the cruddy stuff no one else wants to do. Your kids are watching.
47. Be quick to tell your kid you are sorry when (not if) you mess up. That in and of itself is a teaching moment.
48. Don’t underestimate the power of silence to make a point.
49. Let your children (and those you love) know every day that you delight in them, that they are a source of joy in your life; that you are glad they were born.
50. The person who most needs your kindness is likely the last person to whom you want to be kind.