On Tuesday, my personal odometer will roll over to 78 years. On this occasion for the past few years, I have reflected on what I have learned in my life. I tinker with the list a little each year. Most of what I have learned, I learned from others.

  • Love lasts; stuff doesn’t.
  • Family is your greatest blessing.
  • Don't die with any “I love you’s” left unsaid.
  • Hug your friends often.
  • Prayer works. When you want friends to pray for you, ask them. When friends need prayer, pray for them, and tell them you are praying for them.
  • The older you get, the more offers of help you will get, whether it is taking your groceries to the car or extending a hand when you stand up from a soft sofa. Accept the offers.
  • If you want to write a book, write it. If you want to get rich, buy a lottery ticket. Your odds of getting rich are better with the lottery.
  • There is a time to lead and a time to follow; do both gracefully.
  • If you pursue a political career, keep your ego in check (and your hands to yourself).
  • Keep your temper.
  • Listen to people who disagree with you. You can learn a lot from them.
  • Getting the job done is more important than getting credit for it.
  • Giving credit to others is more important than receiving credit yourself.
  • Pick your battles carefully; some things really aren’t worth fighting over.
  • Be careful when making enemies; one of them may be your boss some day.
  • Make lots of friends. Like chocolate chips, you can never have too many.
  • Life is too short to drink cheap Scotch.
  • Be on a first-name basis whenever possible; it is a great equalizer.
  • Keep your cell phone charged, and enough gas in your car to respond to an emergency.
  • Start saving for retirement when you figure you are too young to do so. It’ll come sooner than you think.
  • Don’t live on borrowed money.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness; neatness is next to impossible.
  • Wave at strangers when they drive past.
  • If someone is wearing a name tag, call them by name.
  • Use “sir” and “ma’am” a lot, and not just with folks who are higher than you in the pecking order. Those who hear it least will appreciate it most.
  • When traveling in a country whose language you don’t speak, learn how to say “please” and “thank you.”
  • You will spend more time with nurses than with doctors, and with hygienists than with dentists. Cultivate their friendship.
  • Be careful what you put in writing. Unlike the spoken word, there is no way to deny that you said it.
  • Be careful what you say when angry. The hurt lasts.
  • Do not raise your voice to your children unless they are in danger.
  • Don’t put anything on electronic media that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see; some day the whole world might see it.
  • A little genteel swearing is okay, but don’t take God’s name in vain. Ever.
  • Be nice to people who are rude to you. You may change them; if not, you will certainly confuse them.
  • You will make mistakes in your life; most people will forgive you, and you should forgive yourself.
  • If you always wanted to learn something — painting, golf, playing the guitar — take a few lessons. You are bound to learn something, even if it is that you will never be a great artist, golfer or rock star.
  • Always tell the truth; remembering what lies you tell to whom is too hard on the memory.
  • Tell your kids what life was like when you were a kid; when they can’t stand to hear it again, tell your grandkids, or your nieces and nephews.
  • The one who dies with the most toys leaves a heck of a lot of work for his heirs.
  • Always do the right thing.

(S. L. Frisbie is retired. One other thing he has learned: his capacity to give advice vastly exceeds the interest of most people in receiving it.)


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