Wednesday 26 January 2011

21 tips for life

I recently met with a family friend who very kindly offered me some advice.  We spoke for an hour and he has since introduced me to several very interesting people and new opportunities.  He is 77 and has lived an impressively varied life, most recently becoming a film extra.  As we parted he passed me an A4 sheet with a list of aphorisms which he had collected together to offer at the 21st birthday of a friend of his.

Here they are:

  1. This above all - to thine own self be true. (Hamlet Act I Sc 3)
  2. Half the battle in life is to decide what is important and what is not.  Have a sense of priorities.
  3. Reflect a lot and then take action absolutely secure. (Pope John Paul II)
  4. Ambition should be to make the most of oneself, not only for one's own sake but for one's family, friends and the world in general.
  5. Never be too proud to listen to advice, remember, you need not take it.
  6. Try not to indulge in self pity; others will have even bigger crosses to bear.
  7. Always carry a little slate with you and wipe it regularly clean of all grudges. (Sir Winston Churchill)
  8. Regardless of how much or little money you may have, it is a subject best talked about only selectively.
  9. Be a good listener; it will help you develop an enquiring mind.
  10. I think one has to be ready to start all over again any number of times. (Abbot Herbert Byrne)
  11. Try to be an independent thinker.  It is necessary if you are to keep your personal integrity.
  12. Make the best rather than the worst of people; it is both right and rewarding to do so.
  13. Live as if you are to die tomorrow, learn as if you are to live for ever. (Erasmus of Rotterdam)
  14. Imagination and patience solve many problems.
  15. Always try to turn adversity to advantage; it usually can be, sometimes dramatically.
  16. Why use a five dollar word, when a ten cent one will do. (Ernest Hemmingway)
  17. There is a right and a wrong way of doing most things in life be they personal or practical.
  18. Life is made up of opportunities few of which recur.  Remain alert.
  19. What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others. (Confucius)
  20. A sense of humour enhances life as also does a smile.  They cost nothing.
  21. Use your mind as well as your emotions in all important decisions, especially in matters of the heart.
  22. One extra - In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. (St Paul I Corinthians Ch 13)
What advice would you give - or wish you had received?


  1. Great post, if everyone sticks to these we should be OK :)

  2. What a wonderfully thought-provoking list. It's refreshing to see something useful rather than the trite and unrealsitic rubbish many so-called 'gurus' spout.

    My favourite naff aphorism came from a contestant in a Miss America pageant and was actually held up as a valuable goal in a personal development workshop;

    "I think we should all hold hands; because if we're holding hands then we can't hold guns."

    Perhaps I'm being a little harsh because to be fair, she's right about not being able to hold someone's hand and a gun simultaneously. But hopefully you get the point.

    Here's a few other suggestions to add to this already impressive list:

    - Generally speaking, if you treat adults like grown-ups, they will respond in kind, making working and social relationships much happier and greatly valued.

    - Anyone who tells you there's no such word as 'can't' has never found themselves in the same situation as the millions of people facing truly difficult circumstances like war, poverty and disease. Advise them to get some perspective.

    - There are very few personal problems that cannot be solved through a suitable application of high explosives. (Dilbert)

  3. Great post Ben. I love being reminded of what's most important.

    When I was setting up Mango, I got the great advice: listen to advice from everyone; make your own decision. Glad to see it resonate with some of your wise sayings!

    And on the personal side, having first met my wife in 1992 and not married her until 2010, I'd say: marry before you're thirty!

  4. That's a pretty comprehensive list - and not one on there that I'd disagree with.

    A personal favourite of mine I might add: "He who spends time regretting the past loses the present and risks the future."

    Thanks for sharing Ben - I must remember to check by this post every once in a while for a spiritual kick up the arse ;)

  5. what an inspiring list Ben. Thank you for sharing :)

    My personal motto is: "Life is too short for fears & compromises. What are we waiting for? What are we fighting for?"

    I first started thinking about this when I lost a childhood friend 6 years ago. It came back into the forefront couple of weeks ago when I lost another friend. Life is indeed to short to waste on our irrational fears.

    Another personal favorite is "There is no such thing as 'I can't' only 'I don't want to'". This is what my mum always used to tell me & piss me off as a kid, but she was so right!

    And lastly I have to have a Greek philosopher in the mix:
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Thus excellence is not an act, but a habit" Aristotle