Fifty-five more things I learned in fifty-five years

US Highway 55 sign from Wikimedia CommonsWhen I turned 45, I wrote a list of 45 things that I learned at that point in my life. In the ten years that passed, I still agree with most of them, although my opinion has changed for a few. So, for my 55th birthday this month, here is a list of 55 more things I learned in 55 years. (For a list of more things I learned, check out the 60 things I learned at Reseda High School.)

  1. The first version of any new product will be buggy.
  2. Travel outside of your country at least once in your life. The experience will broaden your perspective.
  3. Pay for quality. It’s cheaper to buy a $50 pair of slacks that lasts a year than $30 slacks you have to replace every six months.
  4. You can’t take care of other people unless you take care of yourself.
  5. Before you click Send, reread your message and decide if that’s what you really want others to see.
  6. Always have a backup of your files.
  7. Eat right and exercise, but enjoy that piece of cheesecake.
  8. You don’t have to be tolerant of everything. Be intolerant of cruelty, injustice, greed, bigotry, and willful ignorance.
  9. The older I get, the more I value the friends I made when I was younger.
  10. You don’t have to upgrade to the newest version. If you’re happy with the technology you have, keep using it.
  11. Don’t ignore that persistent pain. It won’t go away on its own. See your doctor.
  12. It is an act of love to let your children experience the consequences of their actions.
  13. Stop using those asterisks and dashes. We know what word it is. Spell it out or don’t use it at all.
  14. Don’t tell me to like your Facebook post. I’ll like it if I want to like it.
  15. Simply believing in something doesn’t make it true.
  16. Not everything you wish for comes true. Often, this is for the best.
  17. To find out if a person is right for you, walk through hell with them. If they’re still walking beside you, they’re the one.
  18. Yes, they can be used as a singular pronoun.
  19. You can’t break the rules until you’ve learned and mastered them.
  20. Don’t base your opinions solely on Internet memes, sound bites, and bumper sticker slogans.
  21. Be humble. Overconfidence, self-importance, and entitlement have led many people to catastrophic failures.
  22. Be your best self. You never know who is watching.
  23. I hate the term “grammar Nazi.” It’s not cruel and unreasonable to expect people to use language properly.
  24. Before you complain about Millennials, remember that your parents complained about your generation’s laziness, self-absorption, over-dependence on technology, and deplorable taste in fashion and music.
  25. Always be on time.
  26. When in doubt, look it up or ask someone. Don’t assume you are correct.
  27. It’s OK to fail. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
  28. Eliminate toxic people from your life.
  29. Take your time to do a task correctly, savor your meal, and enjoy the small pleasures that go by too quickly.
  30. Find something you’re good at and work to be the best at it.
  31. Don’t use your children to get vengeance on an ex.
  32. You can find happiness even in the worst of circumstances.
  33. When politicians offer their “thoughts and prayers” what they really mean is “we have no intention to do anything about it.”
  34. In any creative endeavor, you discard more ideas than you actually use.
  35. The worst racists aren’t the ones who blurt out racial slurs. The worst racists have learned to conceal their bigotry behind polite, coded language and make rational sounding arguments to encourage the discrimination and marginalization of others. Those are the racists you should watch out for.
  36. You have the right to say no.
  37. Pay your debts promptly, both personal and financial.
  38. Don’t buy a sports jersey with a player’s name and number on it. When that player goes to another team or gets in trouble, you’ll be stuck with an expensive piece of clothing you can no longer wear.
  39. And don’t get too attached to your local professional sports team. As soon as they can get a better deal in another city, they’ll move.
  40. When someone is talking to you, put the damn phone down.
  41. When you are walking in a busy parking lot, put the damn phone down.
  42. When you’re shopping with your kids and one is climbing out of the cart while the other is pulling items off the shelves, put the damn phone down.
  43. Donate your old items to charity. What is no longer useful to you can be beneficial to someone else.
  44. Great art comes from great pain.
  45. Create a soundtrack for the book you are writing. I found that it helps me get into the mood of the story and stimulates ideas.
  46. Check your coins. You may find one that is collectable or even valuable.
  47. When you’re nervous, take a deep breath before speaking.
  48. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped by who you were. Seek out new experiences, question assumptions, and redefine yourself.
  49. Get a good night’s sleep.
  50. Success can be more damaging to your future than failure. You may find yourself chasing triumphs you can never duplicate, sticking to the “tried and true” that no longer works, or pathetically clinging to past glories no one remembers or cares about.
  51. Like a book you just read? Post a review of it on Amazon, even if you didn’t buy it from there. People look to Amazon to decide which books to get, even if they buy it somewhere else.
  52. Accomplishing a task is its own reward.
  53. It’s good to help others. It’s better to teach others how to help themselves.
  54. I remain optimistic about humanity. We are capable of pettiness, stupidity, and cowardice, but we are also capable of nobility, wisdom, and courage. More often than not, the good sides of our nature overcome the bad.
  55. Enjoy the journey, even the rough parts.