You can learn something from everyone who crosses your path. Some people provide those what-not-to do lessons, and others will offer you little gems of wisdom. I love soaking up thought-provoking insights and bits of wisdom from other people. Not too long ago, I was at the art studio of painter Jonas Gerard who told me you have to silence your inner critic to create. Too much thought will mess up what you are creating, he said. So true for artists and non-artists alike! Back in college, my favorite journalism professor and National Geographic photographer, Yva Momatiuk, taught me never to regret painful experiences because it means you are truly alive. She said it’s where I will find my best writing. She also believed travel is where your real education occurs. I couldn’t agree more.
I guess you could say I am a pearl of wisdom collector. There are some books that offer great life lessons in small bites: What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self and another book titled Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, that has lots of letters from famous people … What a great concept to think of what we would tell our 16 year-old selves now … as adults. The late movie critic Gene Siskel used to ask celebrities: What do you know for sure? in interviews. Oprah loved the idea and started her own list of what she knows for sure.
I put together my list of 48 things. Some I learned from the school of hard knocks, some I collected from wise souls, others are quotes I memorized because they resonated with me. If we all shared our life lessons we could use wisdom to zoom through the tough parts of life a little easier and a little faster and arrive where all the joy happens sooner. Not everything has to be learned by getting beat up in the arena. If you are open to it, you can learn from others. Here’s my list of 48 things I know for sure . . .
1. Fix yourself first.
2. Wisely choose who you spend your time with because they will influence you.
3. When people show you who they are, believe them.
4. If the person you are in a relationship with is really into you, it won’t be a mystery.
5. There’s a difference between feeling better and getting better.
6. Always be reading a book you don’t want to put down.
7. Continually work to reduce the things that irritate you. Scale down that irritation list.
8. If you have a job you dread, find another job and quit the one you dread. You should wake up with joy, not a knot in your stomach.
9. Every decision you make shapes how you feel about yourself.
10. Don’t do tension. Just don’t do it.
11. Life only stays the same if you do.
12. Live with the awareness that a single decision can change everything.
13. Your strengths are your guideposts to your purpose.
14. If you were taught that life is difficult and has to be endured, reject the notion.
15. Don’t date someone you also want to fix.
16. Don’t get in a relationship with someone who doesn’t show signs of empathy.
17. Ask yourself if you are in denial about anything. Then do what most won’t do: Run toward it. Expose it to light. Fix it.
18. Decide what kind of life you want and then construct your life according to that vision.
19. Learn from the success of others so you don’t waste time.
20. If you are in the right relationship, life improves.
21. Be more interested in what other people have to say than what you have to say.
22. Marry your best friend.
23. Face the darkness, stare it down and own it.
24. You can learn something from everyone.
25. Don’t be a victim.
26. Design your own day and fill it with tiny things that make you happy.
27. Set boundaries with the people in your life.
28. Shatter your external mirrors. Don’t let other people determine how you should feel about you.
29. Don’t neglect your needs for the sake of other people.
30. Share your imperfections, it connects us to each other on a real level.
31. Don’t try and fix your parents for what they did or didn’t do. Just claim responsibility for fixing yourself.
32. You teach people how to treat you.
33. Do at least one thing every day you love.
34. Always be honest, it lightens your load.
35. If you are broken, you will choose someone who is broken.
36. Never emotionally react to something right after it happens. Think first.
37. Leave something unsaid every day.
38. What people say and do has a lot more to do with them than it does you.
39. If it has to be a secret, don’t do it.
40. You are stronger than you think you are.
41. Smile and say Hello to strangers.
42. Never hold your fork with a fist. Proper manners tell a lot about you.
43. Learn how to comfort yourself.
44. Lots of problems could be solved if people just talked openly about things.
45. Anticipation is a big part of happiness. Plan things you can look forward to that will make you happy.
46. Living with gratitude is the pathway to joy.
47. Nothing works until you do.
48. You already know the answer.
So … what would you tell your 16-year-old self? What gems of wisdom have you collected from others? And what do you know for sure?