Gathered during 34 years of building a life
I have been on this planet for just over 34 years now. During that time, I’ve built a modest but fulfilling life. I have many close friends and family to thank for helping me build it. I have many more people to thank who did not directly help me, but gave me advice that influenced me greatly along the way.
Here are a few pieces of wisdom that I gained from others — in no particular order.
Strive to make people comfortable
We as humans strive for comfort. It is when we feel comfortable that we will let down the defenses and the fronts, and be genuine and open. No matter what you are doing — whether building friendships or attempting to defeat rivals — making people feel comfortable is always a great strategy.
When people feel comfortable, they will be more open, more honest, more patient, more willing to try to understand others, and more likely to collaborate.
Another thing that happens when you make others feel comfortable is that you make the kind of impression that is hard to forget — an emotional one. Take it from Carl Buehner:
They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Answers are overrated
The smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with have tended to ask more questions than anything. Many times, I got the feeling they knew the answers, but they asked questions anyway.
One professor I had did this to an extreme. When I asked her why, she told me that 9 times out of 10, even when she knew the answer, there was something about the answer that she didn’t fully understand that asking the question helped solidify for her.
Answers themselves are rarely even answers anyway. They are rarely the whole story. Usually, answers show themselves to be merely the preamble to a deeper question, which we didn’t bother to ask before.
Everyone has reasons
People do terrible things all the time. People do shady or questionable things all the time. It is part of life. But everyone has their reasons, and to forget this is to miss an opportunity to better understand individual people and human nature as well.
I don’t mean that everyone’s reasons justify what they do — that’s just ludicrous. What I mean is that everyone had a reason that compelled them to do what they did — no matter how thoughtless it may seem to us. They may not always be aware of the reasons — but they are there. Sometimes the most valuable work we can do is to dig for them, in order to gain an understanding of them and — often times — of ourselves.
This too shall pass
Buddhists have a word in Pali: anicca — which underlies the entire buddhist philosophy. Essentially, it means “impermanence”. Nothing remains as it is forever. On top of that, most things fade away or change radically within a short period of time. This is especially true of feelings and circumstances.
However you are feeling right now, it will pass. It rarely seems like it, but it will. Some sadness may remain, but it will not be as sharp. Loneliness may loom, but each passing moment doesn’t have the same intensity as before. You may be elated at having gotten that raise, bought that house, etc. — but that will also pass.
People get tired, systems lose energy, heart rates slow back down. It is the nature of things. Remember that and take some comfort in it.
Everything in moderation — even Moderation
Yes, living in moderation is good. But moderation doesn’t really look like most people think it does. It doesn’t mean always having only 1.5 drinks, always eating less than 2,000 calories, and having only the serving sizes. It doesn’t mean getting 7 hours of sleep every night, and saving exactly 10% of your income every month.
Moderation looks more like eating that whole huge piece of cake a few times, having a bit too much to drink at that one party with friends you haven’t seen in years — where you end up staying up all night and only getting 3 hours of sleep. Sure, to a short-term viewer, that didn’t look like moderation, but moderation isn’t a short-term game. Don’t beat yourself up for going to extremes here and there. The middle is nowhere to live at each moment, but a good life is made by a middle falling into place over the course of years.
You can learn something from everyone you meet
Seriously. Everyone has traveled a different road, has a different set of experiences, different expertise, and thinks differently. Your failure to learn something from them is due only to a lack of time or a lack of trying on your part.
The more you structure your casual interactions with people around trying to learn something from them, the richer they will be. The benefits abound. You’ll learn more, connect more, and make a better impression on people.
I hope this helps. And even if it doesn’t, at least I got it all down in one place for me to look at later.