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23 things learned in 50 years, a partial list in no particular order

Sunset in the Lake District

From this list I’ve picked a few selections from one journalist’s half century of life experience.

Promptness shows respect.

The most valuable thing to have is a good reputation, and it’s neither hard nor expensive to acquire one: Be fair. Be honest. Be trustworthy. Be generous. Respect others.

The Golden Rule is the greatest moral truth. If you don’t believe in it, at least try to fake it.

Keeping perspective is the greatest key to happiness. From a distance, even a bumpy road looks smooth.

It’s not “political correctness” that dictates that we try not to insult others’ beliefs and identities. It’s common decency.

It may not feel like it, but it’s good luck when you have people at home and at work who aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re wrong.

Don’t waste your breath proclaiming what’s really important to you. How you spend your time says it all.

Keeping an open mind is as big a challenge as you get older as keeping a consistent waistline.

Fear of failure is a ticket to mediocrity. If you’re not failing from time to time, you’re not pushing yourself. And if you’re not pushing yourself, you’re coasting.

Anyone who judges you by the kind of car you drive or shoes you wear isn’t someone worth impressing.

Grudges are poison. The only antidote is to let them go.

If you’re in a conversation and you’re not asking questions, then it’s not a conversation, it’s a monologue.

In everyday life, most “talent” is simply hard work in disguise.

The 10-minute jump start is the best way to get going on a big task you’ve been avoiding. Set a timer and begin, promising yourself that you’ll quit after 10 minutes and do something else. The momentum will carry you forward.

Goals that you keep to yourself are just castles on the beach. If you’re determined to achieve something, tell people about it and ask them to help you stick with it.

All the stuff you have lying around that you’ll never want, need, wear or look at again? It just makes it harder to find what you do want, need or intend to wear. File it, donate it or throw it out.

Exercise does not take time. Exercise creates time.

Almost no one stretches, flosses or gives compliments often enough.

When you mess up, ‘fess up. It’s the fastest way, if there is one, to forgiveness.

Be truthful or be quiet. Lies are hard to keep track of.

Your education isn’t complete until you’ve learned to take a hint.

Whatever your passion, pursue it as though your days were numbered. Because they are.

Readers love lists. You got to the bottom of this one, didn’t you?

What do you think? Please add your own set of three life lessons to the comments below.

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  1. love this!

  2. I love this list–thank you Alastair.

  3. Marc Lefevre Posted

    Wow – what a great list.

    Can I also add 3 of my own?

    – Phone your mum once a week
    – Worry what your friends think, not your enemies
    – Dance like nobody’s watching!

  4. Amaya and Mike – what would be your own amendments!
    Look forward to them…

  5. Thom Ghunn Posted

    Marc: good idea to add to the list! Ok, what would I add?

    1. Go to a Shakespeare play live at least once
    2. Put your iPod on shuffle – listen to those old songs you haven’t heard in years
    3. Smile at a stranger

  6. hey – saw this list on Stumbleupon. Neat adventures dude!

    OK – my list.

    Visit a mosque, a church, a synagogue, a temple before making any snap judgemnets
    Travel opens your mind
    Chuck away 10 things today that you really don’t need….


  7. Nice dialogue… OK guess I need to add 3 of my own:

    – Read a book of fiction, and a book of non-fiction every month

    – Take cold showers to kick-start your day and your life (might not be a popular one)

    – Sign up for an event (marathon, ironman, 5k fun run) TODAY

  8. Clarissa Posted

    Alastair, thanks for posting this again. The first time I saw it I copied it and sent it to my friend in Japan. He is the one who suggested your site and I have been hooked on your photos and blogs ever since!

  9. Clarissa Posted

    Funny story, when we first arrived in england in march, the first place we rented had a broken boiler. So no hot water for three days and then we left. it is possible! And you feel refreshed and energized for hours afterward. Didn’t a famous Japanese warrior or emperorer (philosopher?) take cold showers as part of his training?

  10. Love your body for what it does and where it takes you, not what it looks like. Dislike your legs? Pah. Cycle up huge hills and whizz down beautiful valleys; it is very difficult to dislike your body when it can power you up a mountain.

    If you don’t feel like going for a run/bike/swim, go anyway. You’ll never regret going out, but you’ll often regret staying in.

    Saying ‘Neeeeeoooooooow’ when you effortlessly cruise past trendy boys on expensive carbon bikes might seem funny in the moment (especially on a rusty bike, sporting pigtails and a dress), but often leads to Bad Times.

    It is almost impossible to go for ‘just one pint’. SCIENTIFIC FACT.

  11. Here’s 3:

    Instead of complaining about what’s wrong with the world, do something to change your little part of it for the better.

    If you haven’t been to a country, everything you think about it is almost definitely wrong. (Except Dubai.)

    You are capable of infinitely more than you think you are.

  12. Clarissa Posted

    My favorite quote from a famous American:
    Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.
    Roosevelt, Eleanor

    Live and Love Happy. Every day do something that makes your life more beautiful, more joyful and orderly.

    Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.

  13. A few of things I’ve learned/figured out:
    1. It’s alright to ask for help.
    2. It’s alright to say, ‘I don’t know.’ But figure it out eventfully.
    3. Be here, be now.

  14. Dean Hughes Posted

    – Make a list of 20 things you want to do before you die
    – Vote in Anger (give a shit for once!)
    – Unplug your TV for a month
    – Have a hero.
    – Meet your hero.
    – Be a hero.
    – Read War & Piece just so you can say you have read it!
    – Sell everything you don’t need

  15. nice idea guys!!

    1. Keep your promises.
    2. Sleep under the stars and learn a constallation
    3. Be nice to people!


  16. I’m approaching my 50th birthday.
    I realised ages ago that i was not omnipotent. That time is going to pass by and age is going to be a factor. So, I look at the decades that roll by as ‘Turkish rugs’. I figure if I have trouble rolling my decade long Turkish rug up, then it means I have packed loads of ‘stuff’ into that decade and hence, my life.
    i can happily say that the ‘decade’ rug I am about to roll up is a big f**ker !! packed with lots of intersting people and places, with emotions that have been both sweet and savory. I have run long distance, I have cycled far and wide, I have sailed many thousands of miles, visited dozens of countries, drunk beer in all of them, laughed with a huge variety of people and been very happy being on the ‘side walk of the real world’.
    That is a long winded way of saying….. live like you are dying, be respectful and try not to take it all too seriously.
    Best to all.

  17. -do what you love, life is too short and you can’t take it with you
    -remember that there are two sides to every story, and that you will be wrong some of the time. if you want your opinion to be respected, respect another’s
    -if you never learn from your mistakes your are doomed to repeat them. if you never make mistakes you will never learn from them
    just the musings of a 21 year old.

  18. I like the list but, doesn’t it seem like #7 and #15 could contradict each other at times?

  19. Geoff Hughes Posted

    This one is from a post war / war spirit lady of great gentleness and poise. Helps you get out of bed on dark days:

    “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up”.

    Sends a tingle down your spine!

    Ps thank you Alistair for all your years of inspiration. Burns night supper in Singapore perhaps??



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