Life lessons: Wisdom from the old, looking back

1. 80-year- old Bob Hawke, former prime minister of Australia,  being interviewed by Andrew Denton, presenter of the TV program Elders.

ANDREW DENTON: Final question. To a young man, early 20s, the same age you were when you set out for Oxford, what advice would you give them about how to approach life?

BOB HAWKE: The thing I would stress first of all is education because education doesn’t finish at secondary school. Education is a lifelong thing, so I’d say to them keep learning, keep learning, keep learning.

Secondly, I would say helping others to develop their potential is just about the most satisfying thing you can do. So just don’t think about advancing your own interest but, in whatever way you can, try to help those around you. This is both the right and the good thing to do. Also it’ll make your own life more satisfying.

2. Pearls of Wisdom: a charming 6-minute video offering snippets of advice from some older folk:

Six commandments for a happy marriage


“A relationship is a contract of mutual nurturance…We identify six minimal beliefs as necessary:

  1. a belief that commitment is necessary for a long-term relationship to succeed;
  2. an agreement of romantic and sexual exclusivity;
  3. an agreement that there will be no secrets, deceptions, or betrayals;
  4. an agreement of fairness and care (e.g., when a person is sick, he or she will be cared for);
  5. an agreement to treat one another with respect and affection; and
  6. an agreement in principle to try to meet one another’s wants and needs.”

    (from Gottman Method Couple Therapy by John and Julie Gottman in Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy by Alan Gurman, p 162)

Wisdom from those who are about to die


Derek Miller died at 41 from cancer.  He was a husband and father of two girls, a  technical writer by occupation, and a musician by hobby.  He had been blogging for 10 years.  Just before he died, he wrote this piece and asked his wife to post it on his blog after he had died. 

The Last Post immediately went viral and is thought to have been downloaded  8 million times.

It’s very moving and reminds us again not to waste a day of what precious time we have left.

The Last Post

by Derek Miller

(originally published at


Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.

If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.

That includes my family and friends, and my parents Hilkka and Juergen Karl. My daughters Lauren, age 11, and Marina, who’s 13, have known as much as we could tell them since I first found I had cancer. It’s become part of their lives, alas.


Of course it includes my wife Airdrie (née Hislop). Both born in Metro Vancouver, we graduated from different high schools in 1986 and studied Biology at UBC, where we met in ‘88. At a summer job working as park naturalists that year, I flipped the canoe Air and I were paddling and we had to push it to shore.

We shared some classes, then lost touch. But a few years later, in 1994, I was still working on campus. Airdrie spotted my name and wrote me a letter—yes! paper!—and eventually (I was trying to be a full-time musician, so chaos was about) I wrote her back. From such seeds a garden blooms: it was March ‘94, and by August ‘95 we were married. I have never had second thoughts, because we have always been good together, through worse and bad and good and great.

However, I didn’t think our time together would be so short: 23 years from our first meeting (at Kanaka Creek Regional Park, I’m pretty sure) until I died? Not enough.  Not nearly enough.

What was at the end

I haven’t gone to a better place, or a worse one. I haven’t gone anyplace, becauseDerek doesn’t exist anymore. As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn’t make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.

So I was unafraid of death—of the moment itself—and of what came afterwards, which was (and is) nothing. As I did all along, I remained somewhat afraid of the process of dying, of increasing weakness and fatigue, of pain, of becoming less and less of myself as I got there. I was lucky that my mental faculties were mostly unaffected over the months and years before the end, and there was no sign of cancer in my brain—as far as I or anyone else knew.

As a kid, when I first learned enough subtraction, I figured out how old I would be in the momentous year 2000. The answer was 31, which seemed pretty old. Indeed, by the time I was 31 I was married and had two daughters, and I was working as a technical writer and web guy in the computer industry. Pretty grown up, I guess.

Yet there was much more to come. I had yet to start this blog, which recently turned 10 years old. I wasn’t yet back playing drums with my band, nor was I a podcaster (since there was no podcasting, nor an iPod for that matter). In techie land, Google was fresh and new, Apple remained “beleaguered,” Microsoft was large and in charge, and Facebook and Twitter were several years from existing at all. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were three years away from launch, while the Cassini-Huygens probe was not quite half-way to Saturn. The human genome hadn’t quite been mapped yet.

The World Trade Center towers still stood in New York City. Jean Chrétien remained Prime Minister of Canada, Bill Clinton President of the U.S.A., and Tony Blair Prime Minister of the U.K.—while Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Kim Jong-Il, Ben Ali, and Moammar Qaddafi held power in Iraq, Egypt, North Korea, Tunisia, and Libya.

In my family in 2000, my cousin wouldn’t have a baby for another four years. My other cousin was early in her relationship with the man who is now her husband. Sonia, with whom my mother had been lifelong friends (ever since they were both nine), was still alive. So was my Oma, my father’s mom, who was then 90 years old. Neither my wife nor I had ever needed long-term hospitalization—not yet. Neither of our children was out of diapers, let alone taking photographs, writing stories, riding bikes and horses, posting on Facebook, or outgrowing her mother’s shoe size. We didn’t have a dog.

And I didn’t have cancer. I had no idea I would get it, certainly not in the next decade, or that it would kill me.

Missing out

Why do I mention all this stuff? Because I’ve come to realize that, at any time, I can lament what I will never know, yet still not regret what got me where I am. I could have died in 2000 (at an “old” 31) and been happy with my life: my amazing wife, my great kids, a fun job, and hobbies I enjoyed. But I would have missed out on a lot of things.

And many things will now happen without me. As I wrote this, I hardly knew what most of them could even be. What will the world be like as soon as 2021, or as late as 2060, when I would have been 91, the age my Oma reached? What new will we know? How will countries and people have changed? How will we communicate and move around? Whom will we admire, or despise?

What will my wife Air be doing? My daughters Marina and Lolo? What will they have studied, how will they spend their time and earn a living? Will my kids have children of their own? Grandchildren? Will there be parts of their lives I’d find hard to comprehend right now?

What to know, now that I’m dead

There can’t be answers today. While I was still alive writing this, I was sad to know I’ll miss these things—not because I won’t be able to witness them, but because Air, Marina, and Lauren won’t have me there to support their efforts.

It turns out that no one can imagine what’s really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can’t expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won’t. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That’s neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that’s what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.

I’ve also been lucky. I’ve never had to wonder where my next meal will come from. I’ve never feared that a foreign army will come in the night with machetes or machine guns to kill or injure my family. I’ve never had to run for my life (something I could never do now anyway). Sadly, these are things some people have to do every day right now.

A wondrous place

The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don’t look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.

What is true is that I loved them. Lauren and Marina, as you mature and become yourselves over the years, know that I loved you and did my best to be a good father.

Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection. I don’t know what we’d have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.

Clever, witty quotes

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right. Henry Ford
Dreams don’t work unless you do. John C. Maxwell
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. William James
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Oscar Wilde
To understand all is to forgive all. French saying
We tend to get what we expect. Norman Vincent Peale
A skunk is better company than a person who prides himself on being ‘frank’. Robert Heinlein
Never try to have the last word. You might get it. Robert Heinlein
Never miss a good chance to shut up. Will Rogers
Arguing with a fool proves there are two. Doris M. Smith
The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend. Abraham Lincoln
The only way to have a friend is to be one. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait to hear the answer. Unknown
Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don’t say. Unknown
Friends are like melons; shall I tell you why? To find a good one, you must one hundred try. Claude Mermet
A true friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else. Len Wein
A true friend overlooks your failures and tolerates your success! Doug Larson
I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you. Roy Croft
It takes a long time to grow an old friend. John Leonard
My best friend is that one who brings out the best in me. Henry Ford
One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. Rita Mae Brown
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. Dr. Seuss
I don’t let go of concepts –I meet them with understanding. Then they let go of me. Byron Katie
I don’t miss him; I miss who I thought he was. Unknown
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. William James
The reward of a thing done well is to have done it. Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is astonishing how long it takes to finish something you are not working on. Unknown
Many people have a good aim in life, but for some reason they never pull the trigger. Unknown
An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. Ralph Waldo Emerson
You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do. Henry Ford
Action will destroy your procrastination. Og Mandino
Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is surprising what a man can do when he has to, and how little most men will do when they don’t have to. Walter Linn
Some fellows get credit for being conservative when they are only stupid. Kim Hubbard
A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt
I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward. David Livingstone
Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. John Kenneth Galbraith
If you want to make enemies, try to change something. Woodrow Wilson
To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often. Winston Churchill
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius
The world hates change yet it is the only thing that has brought progress. Charles F. Kettering
The real fault is to have faults and not to amend them. Confucius
If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot. Confucius
It is better to play than do nothing. Confucius
Straight-forwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes rudeness. Confucius
Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous. Confucius
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. Confucius
Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change. Confucius
Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats. Howard Aiken
It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company. George Washington
You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with. Wayne Dyer
We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. Unknown
Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Michael Leunig
Soul-mates are people who bring out the best in you. They are not perfect but are always perfect for you. Unknown
Want to know something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s really worth fighting for — risking everything for. And the trouble is — if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. Erica Jong
A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not. Unknown
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. Plato
To handle yourself, you your head; To handle others, use your heart. Unknown
No-one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Eleanor Roosevelt
To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable. Erich Fromm
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln
Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward. Soren Kierkegaard
The one who loves least controls the relationship. Unknown
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Confucius
The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that can not read them. Mark Twain
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. Unknown
Life is not one thing after another. It’s the same damn thing over and over! Unknown
A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave. Mahatma Gandhi
Once you have learned to love, you will have learned to live. Unknown
An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind. Mahatma Gandhi
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. Mark Twain
Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late Benjamin Franklin
The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about. Wayne Dyer
How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win. Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Wise men are not always silent, but they know when to be. Unknown
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion. Abraham Lincoln
The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else. George Bernard Shaw
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He believed in me. Jim Valvano (basketball coach)
There is never a better measure of what a person is than what he does when he’s absolutely free to choose. William M. Bulger
Dreams have only one owner at a time. That’s why dreamers are lonely. Erma Bombeck
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Tom Robbins
All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. Adlai E. Stevenson
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make a mistake. Elbert Hubbard
Playing it safe is the riskiest choice we can ever make. Sarah Ban Breathnach
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin
If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid one hundred days of sorrow. Chinese proverb
You will never find time for anything. You must make it. Charles Buxton
Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth. Benjamin Disraeli
He who wrestles with us, strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skills. Our antagonist is our helper. Edmund Burke
Don’t make someone a priority who only makes you an option. Unknown
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
We can’t always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did. Mark Twain
Knowledge is proud she knows so much; wisdom is humble that she knows no more. William Cowper
It is not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived. Helen Walton
Fools learn from experience. Wise men learn from the experience of others. Otto von Bismarck
People are made to be loved and things are made to be used. There is much chaos in this world because things are being loved and people are being used. Unknown
Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it. Katherine Whitehorn
The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. William James
The problem human beings face is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed. Michelangelo
All mankind is divided into three groups: those who are immovable; those who are movable; and those who move. Benjamin Franklin
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. Mark Twain
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard P. Feynman
I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Mark Twain
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw
What gets measured gets managed. Peter Drucker
Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. Robert J. Sawyer
Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece. Ralph Charell
I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow. Woodrow Wilson
By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day. Robert Frost
The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive. Thich Nhat Hanh
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. George Bernard Shaw
This too shall pass. Persian proverb
Whoever best describes a problem is the one most likely to solve it. Dan Roam
A successful business is either loved or needed. Ted Leonsis
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. Winston Churchill
Improve by 1% a day, and in just 70 days, you’re twice as good. Alan Weiss
Whenever an individual or business decides that success has been attained, progress stops. Thomas J. Watson
We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. Anais Nin
How do I know what I think until I hear what I say? E. M. Forster
To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered. John Ruskin
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Cyril Parkinson
It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. Mark Twain
We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all. Daniel Cohen
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The Serenity Prayer
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln
We find comfort among those who agree with us, and growth among those who don’t. Frank A. Clark
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done. Peter Drucker
The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year. John Foster Dulles
That which can be destroyed by the truth should be. P. C. Hodgell
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker
Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales. Byron J. Langenfeld
A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. Spanish proverb
Time is a great healer, but a poor beautician. Lucille S. Harper
Human beings aren’t rational animals; we’re rationalizing animals who want to appear reasonable to ourselves. Eliot Aronson ?
You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. Naguib Mahfouz
It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. Judith Martin
The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. Linus Pauling
No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking. Voltaire
Only he who attempts the absurd is capable of achieving the impossible. Miguel Unamuno
Take care that no one hates you justly. Publiius Syrus
Belief gets in the way of learning. Robert Heinlein
When one teaches, two learn. Robert Heinlein
One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh. Robert Heinlein

wisdom in an anecdote

  1. “My friend Stephen Post, professor of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook, tells a story about his mother. When he was a young boy, and his mother saw that he was  in a bad mood, she would say, “Stephen,  you are looking piqued. Why don’t you go out and help someone?”

    Empirically, Ma Post’s maxim has been put to rigorous test, and we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the simple most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”

    (From Flourish by Martin Seligman, 2011, p 20.)


  2. [Giovanni] endured himself to me forever the first night we met, when I was getting frustrated with my inability to find the words I wanted in Italian, and he put his hand on my arm and said, “Liz, you must be very polite  with yourself when you are learning something new.”

    (From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, p 59.)


  3. “My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe.  They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time.  Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree.  Everybody can see that.  But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well —  the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born. I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself.  I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me–I mean , this happy and balanced me, who is now dozing on the deck of this small Indonesian fishing boat–who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years.  The younger me was the acorn full of potential, but it was the older me, the already-existent oak, who was saying the whole time: “Yes–grow!  Change!  Evolve!  Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholeness and maturity!  I need you to grow into me!” (From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, p 344-5)..
  4. “I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men.  I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks.  I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential.  I have fallen in love more times than I can count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and then I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness.  Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”(From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, p 298-9)..
  5. “[Wayan] said, “I know cure for broken heart.” Authoritatively, and in a doctorly manner, Wayan ticked off her fingers the six elements of her Fail-Proof Broken-Heart Curing Treatment: “Vitamin E, get much sleep, drink much water, travel to a place far away from the person you loved, meditate and teach your heart that this is your destiny.” (From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, p 276)..

  6. Karma is a philosophy I have always liked.  Not so much literally.  Not necessarily because I believe that I used to be Cleopatra’s bartender–but more metaphorically.  The karmic philosophy appeals to me on a metaphorical level because even in one lifetime it’s obvious how often we must repeat our same mistakes, banging our heads against the same old addictions and compulsions, generating the same old miserable and often catastrophic consequences, until we can finally stop and fix it.  This is the supreme lesson of karma (and also of Western psychology, by the way)–take care of the problems now, or else you’ll just have to suffer again later when you screw everything  up the next time.  And that repetition of suffering–that’s hell.  Moving out of that endless repetition to a new level of understanding–there’s where you’ll find heaven.”(From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, p 274).

  7. “I keep remembering a simple idea my friend Darcey told me once — that all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people.  Not only in the big global Hitler-‘n’-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level.  Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me.  The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world.  Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way.  You cease being an obstacle, not only for yourself but to anyone else.  Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.”(From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, p 273)..

  8. “Three twelve-year-olds are heading to a soccer field for gym class. Two athletic-looking boys are walking behind–and snickering at–the third, a somewhat chubby classmate. “So you’re going to try to play soccer,” one of the two says sarcastically to the third, his voice dripping with contempt. The chubby boy closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. Then he turns to the other two and replies, in a calm, matter-of-fact voice, “Yeah, I’m going to try—but I’m not very good at it.” After a pause, he adds, “But I’m great at art—show me anything, and I can draw it real good…” Then, pointing to his antagonist, he says, “Now you—you’re great at soccer— really fantastic! I’d like to be that good someday, but I’m just not. Maybe I can get a little better at it if I keep trying.” At that, the first boy, his disdain now utterly disarmed, says in a friendly tone, “Well, you’re not really that bad. Maybe I can show you a few things about how to play.”That short interaction offers a masterly display of “social intelligence.” By keeping cool, the aspiring artist resisted the pull to anger from the other’s sarcastic taunt and instead brought the other boy into his own more friendly emotional range.”(from Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, p 82)..

  9. “A woman whose sister had recently died got a sympathy call from a male friend who had lost his own sister a few years before. The friend expressed his condolences, and the woman, touched by his  empathic words, told him poignant details of the long illness her sister had suffered, and she described how bereft she  herself felt at the loss. But as she talked, she could hear the clicking computer keys at the other end of the line. A slow realization dawned: her friend  was answering his e-mail, even as he was talking to her in her hour of pain. His comments became increasingly hollow, perfunctory, and off-point as the conversation continued. Aftter they hung up, she felt so dejected that she wished he had never called at all.  She’d just had a gut punch of the interaction the the philosopher Martin Buber called “I-It”. (from Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, p 105).

  10. Albert Ellis, founder of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, is affectionately regarded as the grandfather of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  At 19 he was painfully shy and eager to change his behavior. In one exercise he staked out a bench in a park near his home, determined to talk to every woman who sat there alone. In one month, he said, he approached 130 women. “Thirty walked away immediately,” he said in the Times interview. “I talked with the other 100, for the first time in my life, no matter how anxious I was. Nobody vomited and ran away. Nobody called the cops.” Though he got only one date as a result, his shyness disappeared, he said.He similarly overcame a fear of speaking in public by making himself do just that, over and over. He became an accomplished public speaker.“The trouble with most therapy is that it helps you feel better,” he told The New York Times in an interview in 2004.  “But you don’t get better. You have to back it up with action, action, action.” (reported in his Obituary in the New York Times)..
  11. “I was in a gym one time with a friend of mine who has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. He was focusing on building strength. He asked me to “spot” him while he did some bench presses and told me at a certain point he’d ask me to take the weight. “But don’t take it until I tell you,” he said firmly.So I watched and waited and prepared to take the weight. The weight went up and down, up and down. And I could see it begin to get harder. But he kept going. He would start to push it up and I’d think, “There is no way he’s going to make it.” But he’d make it. Then he’d slowly bring it back down and start back up again. Up and down, up and down.Finally, as I looked at his face, straining with the effort, his blood vessels practically jumping out of his skin, I thought,“This is going to fall a nd collapse his chest. Maybe I should take the weight. Maybe he’s lost control and he doesn’t even know what he’s doing.” But he’d get it safely down. Then he’d start back up again. I couldn’t believe it.When he finally told me to take the weight, I said, “Why did you wait so long?”“Almost all the benefit of the exercise comes at the very end, Stephen,” he replied. “I’m trying to build strength. And that doesn’t happen until the muscle fiber ruptures and the nerve fiber registers the pain. Then nature overcompensates and within 48 hours, the fiber is made stronger.”I could see his point.. It’s the same principle that works with emotional muscles as well, such as patience. When you exercise your patience beyond your past limits, the emotional fiber is broken, nature overcompensates, and next time the fiber is stronger.”

    (from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, p 290-291)


  12. Let’s consider your belief that it would be terrible if someone disapproved of you. Why does disapproval pose such a threat?. . .Suppose you were visiting the psychiatric ward of a hospital. A confused, hallucinating patient approaches you and says, “You are wonderful. I had a vision form God. He told me the thirteenth person to walk through the door would be the Special Messenger. You are the thirteenth, so I know you are God’s Chosen One, the Prince of Peace, the Holy of Holies. Let me kiss your shoe.” Would this extreme approval elevate your mood? You’d probably feel nervous and uncomfortable. That’s because you don’t believe what the patient is saying is valid. You discredit the comments. It is only your beliefs about yourself that can affect the way you feel. Others can say or think whatever they want about you, good or bad, but only your thoughts will influence your emotions.

    . . .Imagine that you made a second visit to the psychiatric hospital ward. This time a different hallucinating patient approaches you and says, “You’re wearing a red shirt. This shows you are the Devil! You are evil” Would you feel bad because of this criticism and disapproval? Of course not. Why would these disapproving words not upset you? It’s simple–because you don’t believe that the statements are true. You must “buy into” the other person’s criticism–and believe that you are in fact no good–in order to feel bad about yourself.

    Did it ever occur to you that if someone disapproves of you, it might be his or her problem? Disapproval often reflects other people’s irrational beliefs.

    (from Feeling Good:The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, p 291-2)

Clever, one-liner quotes

Never miss a good chance to shut up. (Will Rogers)

Don’t try to have the last word. You might get it. (Robert Heinlein)

A skunk is better company than a person who prides himself on being frank. (Robert Heinlein)

Arguing with a fool proves there are two. (Doris M Smith)

A true friend is one who overlooks your failures and tolerates your success! (Doug Larson)

One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. (Rita Mae Brown)

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want. (Ben Stein)

I’ve never learned from a man who agreed with me. (Robert Heinlein)

The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes. (Winston Churchill)

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. (George Bernard Shaw)

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. (Oscar Wilde)

A friend is a present you give yourself. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. (William James)

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. (Albert Schweitzer)

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. (Aristotle)

Men’s natures are alike. It is their habits that carry them far apart. (Confucius)

We must be the change we wish to see. (Gandhi)

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. (Albert Einstein)

Would you like me to give you a formula for success?It’s quite simple really. Double your rate of failure. (Thomas J.Watson)

A thousand words will not leave as deep an impression as one deed. (Henrik Ibsen)

As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do. (Andrew Carnegie).

Dreams don’t work unless do you. (John C. Maxwell)

Instead of worrying about what people say of you, why not spend time trying to accomplish something they will admire. (Dale Carnegie)

The best way out is always through. (Robert Frost)

Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Happiness is not a goal; it’s a by-product. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more. (Merle Shain)

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. (Marie Curie)

Fears are nothing more than a state of mind. (Napoleon Hill)

Ultimately, we know deeply that the other side of fear is freedom. (Marilyn Ferguson)

I’m afraid to show you who I really am. If I show you who I really am, you mightn’t like it — and that’s all I’ve got. (Sabina Ward-Harrison)

The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. (Richard Bach)

Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it…that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear. (Dale Carnegie)

One who looks for a friend without faults will have none. (Hasidic saying)

A true friend is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else. (Len Wein)

Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity. (Patti Wilson)

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. (Helen Keller)

No-one can make you feel inferior without your permission. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Respect yourself and others will respect you. (Confucius)

It takes years to build up trust, and just seconds to destroy it. (Unknown).

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. (Confucius)

We find comfort among those who agree with us, and growth among those who don’t. (Frank A. Clark)

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.  (Peter Drucker)

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. (Stephen Covey)

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.  (Peter Drucker)

Time is a great healer, but a poor beautician.  (Lucille S. Harper)

Robert Glover’s 10 solid rules to live by

Robert Glover wrote the book No More Mr Nice Guy.

Here are his “10 solid rules” he posted on his book forum. They seem like excellent principles to live by.

Ten Solid Rules

by Dr. Robert Glover

(1) Be honest — in all things.

Be honest with yourself and everyone else. Always tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Every time you reveal less than the truth, you perpetuate your feelings of fear and powerlessness. Every time you reveal less than the whole truth, you block intimacy and make it impossible for people to trust you. Even if you are honest 80% of the time, people still won’t know if they are getting the 80 or the 20. P.S., never make excuses, they are just a lie you tell yourself.

(2) Make your needs a priority.

This admonition makes most Nice Guys look a like a deer in the headlights. Making your needs a priority is a sign of maturity. Mature people create numerous cooperative support systems that help everyone involved get their needs met (friends, lovers, doctors, accountants, mentors, coaches, etc). Try this, for next seven days, ask three people per day to do something for you that you can for yourself. Practice soothing your neurotic guilt as you learn to become a good receiver (how can the universe shower you with abundance if you feel guilty about receiving?).

(3) Be careful of not making the “exception”, the “rule”.

It is okay to occasionally have an extra drink, an extra piece of cheese cake, to miss two days in a row at the gym, or to spend a night mindlessly channel surfing — just don’t make it a habit. All habits are nothing more than consistent behavior over time. It is okay to waste time and enjoy hedonistic pleasure, just do it consciously. When you start making the exceptions the rule, you run the risk of becoming fat, lazy, non-productive, isolated, dishonest, and easily distracted and frustrated.

(4) Welcome challenge and be a good ender.

The male brain is happiest when challenged. Develop a “bring it” attitude toward challenge and life’s difficulties. Find a way to turn every “oh no, I have to”, into an “oh boy, I get to!” While welcoming challenge, know when it is time to walk away. Successful people are good enders. Most suffering is cause by staying in bad situations or with chaotic people way too long. Don’t try and redecorate a pig sty. When it is done, it will still be a pig sty with nice paneling and carpet. Lean into challenge, but stay the hell away from toxic people.

(5) Be grateful.

Every morning and every night, take a few moments and think of the things for which you feel grateful. This practice creates an abundance mentality and peace of mind. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or what has been done to you, fill your mind with gratitude for what you have and what you have received. Every time you feel anxious or worried, pause, take a breath, and review your list of gratitudes.

(6) Exercise your body, mind, and soul.

Make it a habit to learn new things; learn to dance, learn a language, learn to knit, learn to cook, learn to juggle. Play scrabble, work puzzles, read the Sunday New York Times from cover to cover. Walk every chance you get. Get up at the same time every day. Match every cup of coffee, soda, beer, and alcohol with an equal amount of water. Find things that uplift you and make you a better person. Give generously to others without expectation. Slow down, take a stroll, read to a child, listen to classical music, watch a sunset.

(7) Break it down.

The human brain has the tendency to see the totality of any task that needs done. This leads to avoidance, procrastination, distraction, and a tendency to not complete things. Break every task down to the smallest part that needs to be done first. Do that thing. Then the next thing. Everything in life is easier is small pieces.

(8) Say “yes”.

Walk through open doors. I have dear friend who has lived an amazing 83 years. He frequently proclaims, “It is a sin to say ‘no’ when you should have said ‘yes’”. Make this your mantra for a good life. Every time you are stuck or feeling indecisive, just ask yourself, “would it be a sin if I said ‘no’ to this opportunity?’” Oh, another thing my friend frequently says is that the best way to spend your money is to throw a good party!

(9) Get out of the house.

I frequently state, “all miracles happen in the context of people.” So, unless you have a living room full of people, you have to get out of the house if you want to experience a miracle. I love getting up every morning not knowing how my day will end. As I tell my single guys; “get out of the house, expand your route, linger in public, talk to everyone, and walk through the open doors. Every time you walk out your front door, expect a miracle!

(10) Never take anything personally.

This is the cause of all wars and all personal conflict. People’s actions are always telling a story about them, not you. Whenever you are feeling victimized, ask the person to stop, remove yourself, or lovingly accept your situation in peace. In most situations, you are a volunteer, not victim. If you can change the situation, do something. If you can’t, accept it as one of life’s learning experiences.

The secrets of a happy marriage — from “Tuesdays with Morrie”

Have you heard of the book Tuesdays with Morrie?

It was published in 1997 and has sold 14 million copies.  It’s about American writer Mitch Alborn, who, every Tuesday visits his old professor, Morrie, who is dying, to learn what life has taught him.

One day, Mitch asks  Morrie about marriage:  

Mitch:  Is there some kind of rule to know if a marriage is going to work?

 Morrie:  Things are not that simple. Still, there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: 

If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.

If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.

If you  can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.

And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble.

Your values must be alike. And the biggest one of those values is your belief in the importance of your marriage. 


My comment: Morrie is talking about marriage, but his advice applies equally well to close friendships.

Witty quotes with a message

  1. Noise proves nothing–often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid. (Mark Twain)
  2. A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled. (Barnett Cocks)
  3. He who feels that he is too small to make a difference has never been bitten by a mosquito. (Unknown)
  4. If I knew grandchildren were going to be this much fun, I would have had them first! (unknown)
  5. The older I get, the smarter my Dad gets. (Mark Twain)
  6. Success has a hundred fathers and failure is a bastard child. (Unknown)
  7. Never miss a good chance to shut up. (Will Rogers)
  8. Don’t try to have the last word. You might get it. (Robert Heinlein)
  9. A skunk is better company than a person who prides himself on being frank. (Robert Heinlein)
  10. Arguing with a fool proves there are two. (Doris M Smith)
  11. A true friend is one who overlooks your failures and tolerates your success! (Doug Larson)
  12. One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. (Rita Mae Brown)
  13. I’ve never learned from a man who agreed with me. (Robert Heinlein)
  14. Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. (William James)
  15. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. (Albert Einstein)
  16. Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple really.  Double your rate of failure. (Thomas J.Watson)
  17. Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  18. Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week (George Bernard Shaw)
  19. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. (Jerry Seinfeld)
  20. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. (unknown)
  21. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.  (W. C. Fields)
  22. Why is it when I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached? (Henry Ford)
  23. How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?  (E.M. Forster)
  24. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be: “meetings.” (Dave Barry)
  25. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them. (Dave Barry)
  26. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me. (Dave Barry)
  27. The only way you learn to flip [pancakes] is just to flip them. (Julia Child)
  28. “Always” and “never” are two words that you should always remember never to use. (Wendell Johnson)
  29. How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.  (Abraham Lincoln)
  30. Everyone generalizes from one example. At least, I do. (Steven Brust)
  31. Most people would rather die than think. In fact, they do so regularly. (Bertrand Russell)
  32. We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. (Anais Nin)
  33. Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. (Abraham Lincoln)
  34. We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all. (Daniel Cohen)
  35. It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Mark Twain)
  36. It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. (Judith Martin)
  37. Shit happens ( Universal proverb)
  38. We find comfort among those who agree with us, and growth among those who don’t (Frank A. Clark)
  39. Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out. (original source unknown but used by many academic scholars)
  40. Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use. (Wendell Johnson)

Wisdom in an acronym

KISS: Keep it simple, stupid!

RTQ2: Read the question twice ( wise advice during exams!)

The 6 Ps: Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance

TOTB  ( and TOT-boxing): Think outside the box ( and the activity of thinking outside the box)

SUMO: Shut up. Move on. (focus more on the future and less on analysing blame)