99 Life Tips – A List

I keep a running list of life tips. Here are 99 Life Tips.

Some of these need amplification, clarification, or general unpacking and I will turn them into their own posts and link them. As with all such advisory tips, no matter from what quarter, your mileage may vary. Without further ado:

  1. Show up. This is 90% of a job, a relationship, parenting, you name it. Be present.
  2. Do not ignore your discontent. Identify and embrace it.
  3. Own it when you’re wrong. Accepting fault that is yours is the hallmark of character, maturity, and humanity.
  4. Learn to apologize well – that includes not just what you did, but also how what you did made the other person feel. 
  5. Practice your strengths.
  6. Know your imperfections – You won’t get over them or get past them, you’ll drag them with you through life. You must learn where they live and what brings them out of the dark corners ready to embarrass the hell out of you if you let them escape.
  7. If you’re a guy, hold doors open for women. For that matter, if you arrive at door first, hold doors open for anyone. This way, if you meet the rare woman offended by your offering, you can explain, ”Hey, I hold doors open for anyone when I get to the door first.”
  8. If you’re a guy, open car doors for your date, girlfriend, wife, lover. It’s a small way to say, ”I’m aware of how lucky I am to have you in my life at this moment in time, and this is a simple way I can show it.”
  9. Be kind to waiters, waitresses, and service personnel. By kind, I mean, tip well. They are human beings doing a tough job. If you’re comfortable with it, ask for a first name, I do.
  10. Do not waste emotional energy over anything you cannot control. This does not apply to sadness or grief over tragedy or loss.
  11. Do not be afraid of feeling bad. There are things to feel bad about, and the contrast is a wonderful reminder of why gratitude is so important.
  12. Gratitude works its magic in the moment you become aware of something for which to be thankful. The more aware you become, the more the magic of gratitude will follow you throughout your day. It doesn’t work the same when practiced as a generalized, “I’m thankful for my life.” No, gratitude works best and strongest within the context of contemporaneous specificity.
  13. In keeping with the above, lift your eyes throughout the day to change your focal point, especially when outdoors. Americans, especially, are ”head hangers” habitually looking a yard or two in front of our feet. We even do this indoors, looking at the flooring. Look up. You’ll thank me.
  14. Drink coffee fresh. Preferably within 20 minutes after brewing. A brewmaster once told me that after 20 minutes, coffee’s chemistry changes, turning it into something else. As an addendum to this tip: don’t serve old coffee to a guest in your home. Make a fresh pot, or offer them something else.
  15. Buy yourself a good burr coffee grinder when you can afford one. This is the one I’ve used for 20+ years. Use whole beans. You’re welcome.
  16. Realize what it is you’re trying to buy when you spend money. The higher the expenditure the more this is necessary.
  17. Read for the sheer joy of it. If you cannot read due to time constraints, look for time leaks to plug so you can make time to read. If you still cannot get the time to sit with a book or good magazine, listen to audiobooks at every available moment: when walking, when commuting or on a drive of any distance.
  18. ”Try to learn something new every day,” is often included on lists like this. Instead, try not to. By trying not to, you’ll become aware of how much you learn everyday without even trying, you just have to be awake enough to catch it.
  19. Anger will not achieve the result you want. If you’re angry, keep your mouth shut.
  20. When asked for advice, rather than giving the inquirer a solution to their problem, give him a new way to think about his problem.
  21. Accept life as it shows you it is, not as you wish it was, or as you want it to be. The same goes for people.
  22. Problems, mistakes, and shortcomings are your friends. How else will you know what to work on so you can grow into a better, more complete version of you?
  23. Music bypasses your thoughts to affect your emotions directly. It is unique among art forms for this quality as far as I’ve discovered. Take care then, what you are inviting to stir your emotions.
  24. Reading about something is not the same as doing something. Reading a story about Paris is not the same as actually visiting Paris. This applies to every aspect of reading. As valuable as it is, it is no substitute for actual experience.
  25. Never pay for top shelf liquor in a mixed drink. You’re only going to taste the mix anyway. Use house (well) liquor for any mixed drink.
  26. Tequila can be sipped, savored, and enjoyed like a fine scotch or bourbon if you get an anéjo. Save the blancos and reposados for mixing.
  27. If you know you’re going to enjoy a night of drinking, have a cup of milk an hour or two before you start.
  28. Become an early riser… it’s the only possible chance you have to start the day being proactive and not reactive. If you start the day reactive (alarm>shower>commute>schedule>work>boss>Inbox), none of the day will feel like it was yours.
  29. No amount of navel-gazing, self-reflection, or self-help is Spiritual. That is CBT.
  30. Given the above premise, it follows that: Spirituality begins and ends by looking and remaining focused outside yourself.
  31. Beware of the confidence that you know what is good for you.
  32. The Bible is a menu describing a life that is available. Memorizing a menu won’t feed you.
  33. The Bible, while true, if rightly understood in terms of scope and purpose, is not a science book, nor is it the sole repository of truth.
  34. The love of God is like light from the Sun. If you turn your back on the Sun, the light will hit you in the back.
  35. There is a Grand Canyon between you on your best day and Jesus on his worst. Being ”Christlike” is a fallacy. Genuine Christianity has never been about imitation or method acting.
  36. No one would want what he truly deserves in life.
  37. If practicable, learn to play a musical instrument, and stick with it. It makes demands on a different part of your brain, and the rewards for even simple repetitive actions like practicing scales are zen-like.
  38. The best time to pursue your artistic or creative dream is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.
  39. Surround yourself with people with whom you can be authentic and still be accepted and loved.
  40. You most certainly can choose your family. See above.
  41. Limit your exposure to people who wouldn’t like your authentic self.
  42. Learn to differentiate quickly between acute and chronic problems, and the strategies for dealing with both. 
  43. Learn to listen,…no, really listen. You want to be able to summarize not just a list of facts the speaker is relaying, but how the person feels about those facts.
  44. Allow everyone in your life to feel how they feel, they’re going to anyway. If you tell them they shouldn’t feel a certain way, you’re alienating yourself by your own emotional ignorance.
  45. In the face of negative emotions, go as granular as you can to analyze and identify exactly what it is you’re feeling. Generalities like, ”I’m just sad,” won’t work.
  46. When another person comes to you with negative emotions, acknowledge how they feel. Tell them you understand why they feel that way given the way they see it. Then, help them with the above.
  47. All emotions are valid. All responses are not. Borrowed from John Gottman.
  48. Emotions cannot be directly controlled by the will. Try to be scared now. You have to first think of something scary, right? All emotions are this way. They are the fruit of your thoughts.
  49. To change how you feel, you must either change how, or what, you’re thinking.
  50. Get outdoors and move every day that weather permits. It’s likely you won’t always be able to. Don’t take this for granted.
  51. Treat people as if their interests are exactly as important as yours. They are. (But they are not more important.)
  52. Invest in yourself without apology by reading, exploring, learning, exercising.
  53. It is a trap to care too much what other people think about you. There are only 2 or 3 people who matter, and one of them is you.
  54. The good opinion of some people is not worth having.
  55. Conflicts are unavoidable. Sometimes the most moral stance possible is to engage.
  56. If a Hitler-like figure shows up in your life, or in the world, do not be Switzerland.
  57. Do not wash your hair more than 3 times per week. Aim for twice at most.
  58. Do not treat the word or concept of Family as a sacred, magical word that justifies either inflicting, or suffering, emotional, mental, or physical abuse. A family, or family member like that is not worth being joined to.
  59. Do not tolerate behavior in yourself that you would not support and respect in a friend.
  60. You cannot solve any problem without having a clear picture of the solution in mind. Ask, ”what would it look like fixed?” borrowed from David Allen.
  61. Know this about people: Everyone chooses what they prefer at all times from the menu of choices available to them.
  62. Know this as well: Everyone’s ways are right in their own eyes, including yours.
  63. Learn to preface statements with, ”I could be wrong,” as needed. Recognize how true this is.
  64. The wise know that they do not know, are not afraid to admit that they do not know, are wiser for this, and remain undeterred in the effort to know.
  65. You cannot trust your eyes for all that is real.
  66. Logic is a useful scaffolding to climb the tower of truth, but it is not the tower, and will not necessarily result in what is true.
  67. Do not take yourself too seriously. You aren’t the same you as you were at five, or perhaps at twenty-five. You are fluid and dynamic. The you of today may be gone tomorrow, just as a stormy, wind-tossed ocean may tomorrow be as smooth as glass.
  68. All salesmen are selling. They are a part of the experience you are buying. If you don’t like the salesman, don’t buy the experience he is part of.
  69. A college education is a useful context for exposure to knowledge you may not be familiar with. As such, you may discover your cup of tea.
  70. A college degree is unnecessary if; you have an innate, voracious appetite and capacity for knowledge, you also have the personality and skill to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Otherwise, a degree is proof that they can teach you and can stick to something long enough to be considered a credible candidate for employment.
  71. Attempt to gain mastery at something, whether it be a topic or a skill.
  72. Remember that anxiety is making payments of worry in the present for a future outcome that hasn’t occurred yet. There will be plenty of time to feel bad about that outcome when it arrives. 90% of the time, it won’t.
  73. Happiness = Reality – Expectations.
  74. Think less about how you feel and more about what you should do.
  75. Living well involves extracting every positive thing of value from inevitable failures.
  76. Use your intelligence to pursue Truth. Do not use your intelligence to produce misinformation.
  77. When you discover Truth, accept it, adopt it, and act on it. This is the essence of wisdom.
  78. Wisdom is also the application of the best means for the most valuable ends. See above.
  79. Sequential thinking is a life-skill that must be practiced and mastered over a lifetime.
  80. When contemplating a home, ask yourself, ”What kind of life do I see myself doing here?” Does the space match the anticipated activity?
  81. Focus your attention and energy on making a life worth living, more than on making a living and hoping one day to match it to a worthwhile life. That day may never come.
  82. Never ignore your conscience. It is the only internal compass you have to accuse or excuse your behavior. Ignore it at your peril.
  83. Expectations are resentment waiting to happen. Under promise and over deliver. Rinse and repeat.
  84. Don’t adopt every stray (thought, belief, person, animal, opportunity) that shows up in your life. Choose well.
  85. Know why you like what you like. Learn to identify the feeling of liking something before you have the words to tell yourself you like it. That resonance, that connection, that is your home.
  86. Hate is way too powerful an emotion to give to the people deserving of it. It attaches you to them the way love does. This is not a good thing.
  87. There is nothing more magnificent in creation than a tree in a forest. I learned this way too late.
  88. Develop trusted capture methods for things you need to remember. I use Siri, Reminders, Evernote, and OmniFocus (for projects)
  89. Use a password manager for your online passwords. I use 1Password.
  90. A good relationship is a good fit. The broken pieces and whole pieces interlock.
  91. You are commanded to love your neighbor, not to trust him.
  92. Respect a person (or not) based on a.) who they demonstrate they are. Respect authorities based on b.) what they can do to you. It is not required to respect the person in the uniform or office, refer to “a.” for that.
  93. If you want to dance, you have to pay the piper.
  94. As much as lies within you, be motivated by hope rather than by fear. 
  95. Learn when to explore and when to exploit. Know how to do both.
  96. Do the hardest thing first. Move the heaviest thing first is like it. Always be working towards easier.
  97. Do not borrow problems not yours to solve. Life will give you enough to do.
  98. Parent so your kids seek your advice. If your kids ask your opinion, you have been a good parent.
  99. You can learn everything you need to know in life from listening to the Grateful Dead…but you must also dance.

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