Top Ten Things I Learned After 30

This post was first written as a message to a close friend of mine. With a few revisions, it reads as a guide on how to cope with daily life. It's a set of maxims harvested from several media sources, including websites and books. Whenever I read this post, I feel a renewed spirit. So, I figured I should share it with the rest of the blogosphere.

10) In life, there are two paths to success: working hard and being nice.

I enjoy success. I like being successful. But constantly being nice is a real drag. More often than not, I prefer to work really hard. Looking at my career and friendships and how I've invested my efforts to understand myself and to improve the lives of others, diligence has benefited me more so than being polite. In other words, it takes hard work to stay consistent with people, building their trust in me.

9) Organization is key.

Making the effort to schedule, prioritize, and plan for my clients, family, and friends is probably the most mature thing I've ever done. After that, all other tasks (i.e. drawing up lesson plans and running errands) seem to fall into place. Over time, organizing becomes a habit. My thoughts become structured to the point where I'm better able to multi-task and to perform most actions more efficiently and thoughtfully. For example, my conversations run much more smoothly than they did ten years ago.

8) Speak slowly but think quickly

In the past, I had the habit of speaking in a scripted manner where everything I could possibly say had to be rehearsed in my mind beforehand. For example, when arguing a point, I would sometimes keep repeating the same thing over and over again but speak louder and/or faster in hopes this technique would prove me right. Nowadays, I find it easier to listen to someone, think about how I feel about what he/she said, organize what I want to say (how to articulate it), and deliver my response in a timely fashion. I work on this all the time (except for those instances when I've had two or more drinks). It's important to me to listen to others. That way all parties can exchange ideas and learn from each other.

7) The best way to learn is to teach.

To quote from William Glasser:

We Learn . . .
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss
80% of what we experience
95% of what we teach others

Here's my theory: Very knowledgeable people, those who stockpile facts in their minds and who spout out information effortlessly are not usually doing it to show off. To them, it's a matter of habit. The more they use these facts in conversation and in writing, the more they'll remember them. So, whenever given the chance, these "smarties" push the conversation to their area of expertise. Which means intelligence is as much a matter of tenacity as it is inherent ability.

6) Persistence is key.

Admittedly, my focus is not always the best; I have a tough time sticking with complicated tasks for any extended period time. Not surprisingly, my focus improves whenever I engage in a cause, person, desire, or principle which I feel is important to me; I become more motivated for a longer period of time. This does wonders for my willingness to perform more mundane tasks (e.g. writing emails). By the way, taking time to share this with you is a good case in point.

5) Caring about others is more rewarding than being cared about.

In whatever relationship, it's great when there is mutual respect and empathy between two people, but I feel that active caring, regardless of reciprocation, is the best way to learn selflessness and humility. This makes it easier for me, in particular, to handle any type of authority, whether it comes from a government, a religion, a person, or even my physiology.

4) Listen to your body.

My body, the one authority I never question, is my primary guide for living in the moment. For example, if my sinuses feel clogged, I'm stressed. Tightness in the chest? I'm really stressed. Sharp ping of shock running through my nervous system? I'm feeling embarrassed. Warm fuzzy feeling in my lower abdominal region? I'm feeling great. In order to prepare for these sensations, some of which make me feel whole and others which tear me apart, I invest time into chronicling any and all perceived inner stimuli, physical or otherwise.

3) Music is what feelings sound like.

Sometimes, when I get emotional, music pops into my head and it doesn't stop until I tie that song to a specific person. Sinatra and Dean Martin belong to my college roommates. The Beatles belong to my little sister. When these songs pop up, I try not to indulge in them, but tie them to a specific person instead. It's a good way of knowing when and why I feel emotional.

2) What annoys me about others, annoys me about myself.

There's no quicker way of figuring out what makes me tick than figuring out what ticks me off. When someone annoys me ( e.g. by being late, unmotivated, apathetic, or disorganized), I flashback to the time when I annoyed myself with that same behavior. When this happens, I first pat myself on the back for being more disciplined now than in the past and then I try to calm down. I don't preclude myself from getting to know the “annoying person” better.

1) People are meant to be understood.

The only person I can judge or fix is myself. Everyone else, I simply try to understand. For, inevitably, there will come a time when a friend or a long-term client does something, I feel, is really dumb or idiosyncratic, something that really gets under my skin. If I'm still confused, after analyzing the circumstantial, psychological, biological, and sociological reasons for their behavior, I throw away my logic, embrace my humanity, and accept the fact that I care about them.


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