It's that time of year again. As one year comes to a close and another awaits, many of us pause to reflect on where we are in life. I know I do. There are always things I regret, things I might have done but didn't, things I did but wish I had done differently. There are also the many blessings I have received in my professional and personal life. Mostly there is the sense of time passing like wind through a tunnel. The older one gets, the faster it blows. It is simply amazing to me how time flies and how much change you can experience in such a short period of time.
I believe that as you get older you can continue to learn, if you have the right attitude. There is a lot of talk about the wisdom of older people, but wisdom isn't really about what we know or any fixed opinions. It's more about knowing that we don't know everything, that there is always more to learn. It's an openness to new ideas and information. People who have their minds made up seldom learn anything new.
I have always believed that people grow up too fast. There is an idea that in order to seem mature, we must act a certain way at 20 and a different way at 30. At 50 such people often resemble old coots. I admire those in their 50s or 60s who say, "Someday I am going to grow up." Such people are still vibrant, curious and seek personal growth.
For those who think they're simply grownups and that's it, I recommend reading the works of H. Jackson Brown Jr., a former advertising executive turned author. Beginning around 1990, he took his own insights and observations and those of many people he had met and penned successive volumes called Life's Little Instruction Book and Live and Learn and Pass It On. I have treasured these books for years.
For Brown, it all started when he sat down one day in his kitchen and "jotted down a few pages of instructions and personal observations for my son, Adam. He was beginning his freshman year at college, and I felt that a collection of the insights and discoveries which had positively influenced my own life might be an appropriate gift to commemorate this important event," as he wrote in Life's Little Instruction Book.
From this humble beginning, the books have taken on a life of their own. They are collected in The Complete Life's Little Instruction Book and The Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On.
Live and Learn is filled with the wisdom of the ages--things said by kindergarteners, high schoolers, young married couples and senior citizens, all of them friends and acquaintances of Brown's.
Here are some snippets:
* A 73-year-old says, "I've learned that the trick is to live a long time without growing old."
* From a 51-year-old: "I've learned that you shouldn't do anything that wouldn't make your mother proud."
*A woman in her 50s: "I've learned that you should keep an open mind, but don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out."
* A 30-year-old: "I've learned that it's not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts."
* And a precocious 19-year-old says, "I've learned that a good friend is better than a therapist." How right she is. Good friends are far and few between. Some say if you have one friend in your lifetime you are lucky. Someone you can level with without having your confidences shared with others. Someone who is there for you no matter what the circumstances are.
Another person follows up friendship with this important observation: "I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch--holding hands, a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back."
An 18-year-old really put friendship in perspective: "I've learned a best friend is someone who loves you when you forget to love yourself."
Meanwhile, in Life's Little Instruction Book there is this admonition: "Don't let weeds grow around your dreams." Think about that. How many people dream of writing a book or traveling to a foreign country and don't do it? There are so many things to dream about we let those dreams wither away because of all kinds of factors.
Brown also writes in the Instruction Book:
* "Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others." I could not agree more. We have to respect and cherish other people, something that is falling out of practice these days.
* "Ask yourself if what you're doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow." Sometimes people are going in so many different directions without focusing on their goals.
* Finally, "Don't live with the brakes on" speaks for itself. Unless you are willing to try new things, hear new ideas and meet new people, all the opportunities in life will pass you by.
As a new year starts, the ideas in these books can serve as inspiration for living each day to its fullest. Never think you have seen it all or know it all, because whatever age you happen to be, trust me, you are just getting started.
Make each day count,
Charles S. Lauer
Vice President-Publishing/Editorial Director