“I’m so good at life!”
It’s a silly expression that my son, Luke, sometimes playfully uses to congratulate himself on something he has said or done that greatly pleases him. It always makes me laugh when I hear him say it.
Lately I have been thinking more about that phrase and what it means. Good at life. There are a lot of people who are good at a lot of things: good at math, good at singing, good at sports, good at business, and good at making people laugh. I know lots of people who are good at many things but who are nevertheless not good at life. Some of the most talented and successful people I know are also some of the unhappiest and most dysfunctional.
In offering this guidebook on how to be good at life, I am, of course, appearing to present myself as some sort of expert on the subject. I will hasten to add, therefore, that I am nothing of the sort. After more than 50 years of life, I am still on a process of discovery, and I intend to be for the rest of my life. A friend and mentor, Dr. Jerry King, one of the most learned men I know, said to me at the age of 78 that he is on the steepest learning curve of his life. That’s how I feel right now as I write this book.
Even so, I have learned a thing or two in 50 years. I have grown and developed and become successful in some respects, I suppose. And while I understand that I don’t know all that I will someday, I have also learned one important principle in life is to “pay it forward.” In other words, when life blesses you with some sort of gift from heaven, whether it be a free meal or the treasure of a nugget of wisdom, take that with which you have been blessed and pass it on. That’s what I’m doing here.
I have made many mistakes in my life, and I have a lot of regrets. I have learned from many of those mistakes, however, and I hope that what I have learned will help someone else, particularly my children and grandchildren. It is my goal with this book to become your own personal landmine sweeper. In the military there are people who are trained to identify and eliminate landmines so that others can march on without being severely injured or killed. In many respects I have already walked the landmine field and been blown up numerous times myself. If I can show you, the reader, how to avoid these same landmines, then I have accomplished my mission.
It is my aim with this book to help you to someday feel a twinge of embarrassment about the person you are right now, as well as a sense of satisfaction. That might seem contradictory, but everyone who grows as a matter of habit experiences both. As we develop in knowledge, good judgment, and life experience, we look back over the landscape of our lives through the lenses of the wisdom gained over the years and roll our eyes at how foolish we were at times. Nearly everyone experiences this to a degree, but some more than others. The ones who have applied themselves to being students of life may feel the greatest degree of embarrassment at the poor judgments of their youth simply because they eventually learn to identify rashness, recklessness or inconsiderate behavior more than others. However, it is also these who enjoy the enduring profits of the wisdom they have gained and the good choices that have accumulated as the years roll by.
If you are a young adult, on the other hand, and you begin applying yourself to gaining wisdom while in your youth, you will avoid many of the landmines of life that cause the agonizing regret plaguing much of humanity, and you will feel much less embarrassment in comparison as you contemplate your short time on this planet. That’s where the satisfaction comes in. If you are a young person reading this book, my prayer is that the principles you are about to read will one day cause you to look back over your life feeling a little silly about youthful imprudence, but also help you to experience that thankful sense of satisfaction that you did, even in your youth, often practice the discretion that leads to a wonderful life.