Sometimes you can learn really valuable things—information, examples, and guiding principles, for instance—without knowing it at the time. The importance of those lessons become apparent years later, and you can only chuckle and shake your head at the transparency of hindsight, proving once and for all that life really should come with a built-in rear view mirror.
A Short Life Lessons List
In no particular order, below are just 10 life lessons actually learned long ago but ones that are often remembered much later:
1. Change v Evolution: Changing for the sake of changing doesn’t mean you are getting better. It merely means you’re indecisive and let others make decisions for you. Don’t follow the crowd if the crowd isn’t going where you want to go. Besides, changing all the time just makes the laundry pile up.
2. Excuse v Reason: You have to have a dog in order for your dog to eat your homework. Don’t use an excuse to try to justify actions or beliefs. Have a valid reason for actions or words before issuing them. Know your paradigm and live it without excuses. Reasons withstand the test of time while excuses fade before a suntan does.
3. Leader v Frontrunner: Not all leaders are always in front, but leaders aren’t afraid to take the lead when necessary. Leaders also know when to let someone else take the point position and cut new trail. Leaders can lead quietly. Leaders always lead by example, but they don’t always need the limelight or attention. Bright lights can make mascara run, too!
4. Bumblebees v Pigs: Bumblebees shouldn’t have been able to fly, but they did and do. Pigs, on the other hand, really can’t. Just because someone says you can’t do something, you don’t have to accept someone else’s limitations. Bumblebees kept flying until one day a humble college student, a physics major, proved all those hallowed and revered experts had for decades been using the wrong formula. Bumblebees really could fly, after all!
5. Accuracy v Truth: Your best friend bought a garish, truly ugly blouse engaging in shop therapy to get over the boyfriend that left her last weekend. She asked you what you thought of it. Did you hurt her feelings or did you spare her and still avoid a falsehood? Find accuracy when truth would be cruel or hurtful, but never lie. You might have told her the blouse was…an interesting choice.
6. Economical v Skin-Flint: When you had six days before your next paycheck, no money in your account, and you still had to eat, you didn’t think twice about discounts, coupons, and generic food items. A buck had to stretch farther, but you found a way to make it last. Forego brand names when needed. The Joneses next door don’t have your budget, and you’re a good enough cook to make mac and cheese taste great!
7. Question v Challenge: Debates were always stimulating. Ideas were exchanged, argued, and rebutted. You may not have always agreed in the end, but you probably remained friends. Value effective communications, but use tact when possible. After all, that college freshman you might have otherwise offended could be your boss one day. And they always remember.
8. Rich v Happy: Yes, this is the truism that money doesn’t buy happiness. How many times did you enjoy a soul-deep laugh in college? How many do you have now? Yes, having money may make finding happiness a little easier for some, but having it doesn’t make happiness. You’d probably be happier having more money, but you were happy having little. Remember that the simple things in life count.
9. Look v See: ‘Two blondes strolled down the sidewalk. One ran into a building. You’d think that one of them might have seen it.’ That may be a blonde joke, but you used to know the difference between the verbs. Look where you’re going, but see what’s ahead. Pay attention to where you are in life, but keep your eye on where you’re headed. Impact with buildings usually hurt. At the very least, they’re darned embarrassing!
10. Time Management: Ah…The Good Old Days when you shouldered a full class load, were the captain of the basketball team, volunteered at the hospital two weekends per month, and still wrote poetry in the moonlight before falling asleep. What happened? Wait…That’s right. You’re a parent. You juggle home and work, run a taxi service for the kids and spouse, organize Neighborhood Watch meetings, serve at the soup kitchen, and you still sew your own clothes! Well done!