In 1991 H. Jackson Brown Jr. published a book about living. He hadn't started out to write a book, having sat down to pen some advice on life's continuous challenges and travails for his son, who was heading off for his freshman year in college. The book is called Life's Little Instruction Book, and the publisher, Rutledge Hill Press, found in very short order that it had a big hit on its hands.
One day I called the author to compliment him on his book and to ask him if he would be willing to give me some words my publisher could use on the jacket of my second book, Reach for the Stars. He agreed to do so if I would send him a copy of my manuscript, which I did. He got back to me with some nice comments about my work.
I tell you all this because I still refer to Life's Little Instruction Book for inspiration and common-sense instruction. The book is timeless, its wisdom and practical ideas for living as relevant today as when they were first written in the fall of 1990.
But there is more to the story. Because of the success of the first book there were two additional volumes (all three now are available in a single book), both as successful as the first. People loved the books for their simplicity and sound reasoning.
For obvious reasons, I thought you may enjoy some of the advice Jackson Brown wrote to his son: "1. Compliment three people every day. 2. Have a dog. 3. Watch a sunrise at least once a year. 4. Remember other people's birthdays. 5. Overtip breakfast waitresses. 6. Have a firm handshake. 7. Look people in the eye. 8. Say `thank you' a lot. 9. Say `please' a lot. 10. Learn to play a musical instrument."
Those are the first pieces of advice in the book. The advice about saying "thank you" and "please" really hits home because I don't hear it enough in the workplace and in personal relationships. For some reason good manners and civility almost have disappeared in our society, and yet when I read management books one of the first things the authors suggest is that a leader should treat his employees as well as the company's customers.
We all seem to take so much for granted, especially the people with whom we are closest. No one likes to be taken for granted; everyone wants to be recognized and made to feel special.
One of my favorite exhortations in Brown's book is "Be brave. Even if you're not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference." People can't really tell the difference. They say that one of the most stressful things anyone is called upon to do is to give a speech. The idea of doing so sends chills up people's spines. But I know very accomplished speakers who tell me even after years of success they still feel nervous every time they speak.
Other favorite quotes of mine from this book are:
"Every day show your family how much you love them with your words, with your touch and with your thoughtfulness." "Judge your success by the degree you're enjoying peace, health and love." (As Brown does, I think that too often we take all these things for granted. I know people who have made fortunes who would gladly give you all their material things if only they could have their health back.) "Be wary of people who tell you how honest they are." "Rekindle old friendships."
One day I called an old friend in Canada I hadn't seen in more than 40 years. The next thing you know he and I and about eight of our old buddies got together for a reunion. We had great fun and I still keep in touch with my old friend. Go ahead and pick up the phone and tell your old friends how much you've been thinking of them. You'll be surprised at the reception.
From the second volume of the book come these observations: "Believe in love at first sight." "Never laugh at anyone's dreams." "Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt, but it's the only way to live life completely." (Life is meant to be lived completely, but many people seem to feel they can wait until tomorrow to say they love someone. But tomorrow may never come.) "Don't let a dispute injure a great friendship." "Don't be surprised to discover that luck favors those who are prepared." "When opportunity knocks, invite it to stay for dinner." "Never ignore evil." (Especially appropriate today, I think). "Remember that a good example is the best sermon."
In the third volume, there is more good advice: "Forgive quickly." "Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others." "Don't hand out your troubles to your friends and co-workers." "Remember that life's most treasured moments often come unannounced."
If you haven't read Life's Little Instruction Book, you may discover a treasure you can share with family, friends and colleagues. Boiled down to its essence, the work is about emotions and feelings. They make the world go round.
You might even find the books contain the type of advice you would like to send with your daughter or son when they go off to school, a new job or some other adventure. But it isn't only for kids-it's for all of us. H. Jackson Brown Jr. talks about the really important things in life. I'll leave you with one last piece of his advice:
'Never resist a generous impulse,'
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Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles. For more information, go to www.chucklauer.com