Alas, I’m at an age of reflection.
After Centre, I went to Yale, moved to Australia, worked in ministry, psychiatry and business.
Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.
1. Life’s a persuasion, a negotiation. Abe quibbled with God over the number of righteous people in Sodom (Genesis 18). I had to lobby my professors for the grades I deserved. (Just because a prof says it’s a B+ doesn’t mean it isn’t good enough to be an A.) Understand the nature and limitations of authority. Ingest few decrees uncritically.
That reminds me of a joke: all my life I fought against authority, now I am one.
2. Style is not to be despised. Drink wine from a wine glass, not a paper cup. Wine glasses have a function. Most things do if you look closely enough. Appreciate purpose, role, and raison d’être and employ objects accordingly. Travelling on the road to style is as fun as the arriving. (Full disclosure: I wore flip flops to my graduation. I was a fool. Now I wear cashmere socks. Better!)
3. Don’t cling: to books, clothes, CDs, DVDs, beliefs, opinions, prejudices, people, suffering, slights (real or imaginary), trophies, relationships— anything, really. Souvenirs slow you. Everything comes stamped with a “best used before ….” date. Before acquiring a new wardrobe, empty your closet.
True joke: I once went on an opinion diet, forgoing some of my favourite, fixed opinions. Friends loved it because it reduced the size of my fat head.
4. Most people can’t support themselves emotionally let alone you.
5. Husband your attention. Attention is perishable; it requires replenishment. Deploy it wisely. Don’t fritter it. Guard it. How you marshal your attention is a testament to your intelligence. Industries (advertising, marketing) exist to leach precious attention from you. Inoculate yourself accordingly. Anthropologist Edward T. Hall says, “Intelligence is paying attention to the right things.” I say, watch who you let near your mind.
6. Every person is a foreign country. People differ. They speak English in Alaska and Australia, South Africa and Singapore, New Zealand and Nova Scotia, but those speakers experience the world very differently. You visit foreign countries (or people) precisely because of those differences. Oddly, this fact is forgotten frequently.
7. Just tell yourself the truth. Clarify your life with these five little words. The only truth you’ll ever really know is how you feel at any moment (hint: it’s bad, mad, sad or glad). Don’t tell others. Just tell yourself, aloud preferably. It’s the antidote to self-deception.
8. Never engage in civil war, ie, the war between your inner states. You cannot win a war within. Refrain from commencing hostilities. Negotiate, treaty with yourself, sue for peace if you must but avoid belligerence and abstain from combat.
9. Above all else, do not panic; it never helps, always hurts and is seldom warranted.
10. You deserve happiness as much as any person on this planet. Not more, that would make you a victim if you have less than you think you deserve; not less, that would make you a martyr; only as much as anybody else, that’s all.
Duff Watkins lives in Sydney, hosts the AmCham Business Podcast, is Director of ExecSearch International- Australia. He speaks at conferences, weddings, parties, anything.