Advice For A Young Man

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Apr 242011
 

I was asked for advice by a young man. He did not specify what kind. He may have had in mind his career, or his health, or relationships, or politics, or religion, or any other subject. Not knowing, I took it as open ended and that he was interested in any lessons learned or words of wisdom I might wish to have heard and heeded when I was his age. 

Question marksGetting no initial response, he reminded me once of his request and then gave up. He likely thinks I forgot, but obviously I didn't.

I have pondered my reluctance to give advice. One reason is that I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of talking someone into something. I like to make up my own mind, and I like to let others do the same. If I have a used car for sale and you are interested, I will spend more time telling what is wrong with the car than why you should buy it. I would not do well as a used car salesman.

Another problem with advice is that even if we are able to see things clearly from our own view point, it is still our view point. Each sitz em leiben (life situation) is different. Regardless of the proverb, what is good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander. 

Despite these reservations, I decided to give it a try. I will spare you the disclaimers I'm tempted to begin with. 

(1) Live modestly and within your means. Do not place yourself in debt to expensive cars or houses or expensive anything. Do not allow the banks to enslave you with credit card debt. Charge only what you can afford to pay off before they begin adding interest and penalties. 

(2) Whatever you decide to do, do it the best you can. There is a right and a wrong way to go about most things. Find what you think is the right way and give it your best. If you discover you were wrong, learn your lesson and move on. Don't miss opportunities by hesitating to act. Learn something from every mistake.

(3) Abstain totally from drinking alcohol and using harmful drugs. Addiction to those is a grave risk. No one was ever harmed by living free of them. Many are enslaved and ruined by their abuse, and you could be another.

(4) Do not continue being troubled by hurts, embarasements, or setbacks. Let these go and move on. It is better to forgive than to carry anger and resentment. Cultivate a happy and positive attitude in everything you do.

(5) Try to engage in vigorous physical exercise every single day. Eat natural, healthful foods and cultivate restful sleep. Mind the health of your body more than physical appearance. Nature starts us out healthy but as we get older we must work to maintain it.

(6) Do something generous and unselfish every day. Do something unexpected that helps another person. Treat others as you would like to be treated in their situation. Take it as a challenge to get along with difficult people. 

(7) When you face a decision, you will be tempted to choose what is easy, or profitable, or popular, or desired of you by others. Instead, consider what is the right thing, the moral thing, the worthy thing in this situation. I cannot tell you what that will be, but I can tell you that a guilty conscience is a heavy load to carry.

(8) Study and learn the things that bring you joy and satisfaction, and cultivate those things. Reward yourself for completing an unpleasant task. 

(9) Understand that something which is popular is usually either silly or harmful. Pay little attention to popular opinion. Ignore advertising, and especially that of politicians and corporations. 

(10) Avoid comparing yourself with others. Someone is always smarter or richer or more attractive. Others will always fall below you by these measures. None of this matters much. What matters is what you make of yourself and your opportunities. Do not envy those who seem to do better or pity those who seem to do less. Appearances are superficial.

(11) Educate yourself as broadly as possible, including history and art and music and geography and science and literature and countless other subjects that some may call useless and impractical. Learn to sit still and alone and unhurried, and be pleasurably occupied with your thoughts. 

(12) Appreciate the natural world of which we are part. Be kind to animals and a friend, especially with a good dog. See as much of the world as you can before you die. Sleep out in the wilderness and wonder at the stars. 

(13) Do not keep your opinions to yourself, even when you know they will be unpopular. Something dies when you bury your feelings and go along when you believe the group is wrong. It is sometimes risky to speak the truth, but it is always hurtful to surpress it.

There you have my list for now. I may add others later. I wish I had done better with these.

 

 

 

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