This is a list of some of the things that a person should know by the time they turn fifty, which I have just done.
They are not deep philosophical issues about the meaning of life but practical insights and rules that anyone reaching a half century of life on earth could benefit from knowing.
Of course you don't need to be fifty to know these things. They are useful to realise at almost any age. However, if you do not know them by the time you turn fifty then it is particularly important that you take the time to absorb and understand them.
1: If someone says "Smell this," don't.
2: Know how to lose weight and keep it off.
(Eat less and exercise more!)
3: We are all really, really small, in the grand scheme of things.
4: Know how to give someone a compliment and how to take a compliment.
- A compliment is a gift. It's not relevant that you may not agree with the giver's opinion of you. In some ways the compliment is not even about you; it's about the fact that someone else cared enough to think of you and to share his or her thoughts in a positive way. So the best way to handle one? With a heartfelt "thank you."
5: You are not going to win division one lotto!
6: Don't try to talk like a teenager.
- By the time you understand their lingo, it won't be cool any more.
7: Smoking is bad for you. (still)
8: Know how to forgive.
George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes): I grew up in U.S. internment camps during World War II. We were surrounded by barbed wire fences and machine guns. We took communal showers and meals, and a searchlight followed us on night runs to the latrine. After the war my mother and father couldn't find housing, and I had a teacher who called me "little Jap boy."
That stung. But my parents taught me that being bitter only pickles the one that stews in the brine. Good advice. The bullies were the ones stewing in their own spite and ignorance. Once you realise that those who hurt you also hurt themselves, it is easier to forgive them. And that's liberating.
9: Know how to save money.
10: Know how to speak in public.
- Visualize. It's easier to do something if you've done it before. Imagine the toast going well, and by the time you get to the podium, you're actually giving your spiel a second time.
- Be genuine. You're funny? Great. But if you're not, don't force it. Concentrate on your strengths. Tell a touching anecdote, those can often work better than half funny jokes anyway.
- The "picture the audience naked" thing? Doesn't work.
11: Know how to deliver bad news.
- Do it in private. And don't cram it in between other things you have to do. Nothing hurts worse than "Now that I've broken your heart, gotta run!" Making yourself available will reassure the other person that you care about his or her feelings.
- Go slowly. When people are in shock, they don't process information well. Pause between bombshells to ask "Are you understanding what I'm saying?"
- The six worst words to use in this situation are "I know just how you feel." Better: "I can't imagine how this feels."
12: Know how to say sorry.
- Look the person straight in the eye and say "I'm sorry." Don't embellish it by making excuses or trying to explain why you did whatever you did. Just ask for forgiveness.
13: Know how to die.
- The point of the party is not your leaving it. Apologise for any breakages, thank your hosts, listen when they say they were glad you could come, mean it when you say you had a wonderful time, then grab your coat and go. Make sure the door closes behind you. Don't forget your hat.