I have often said that it would have been awesome to have had the insight and knowledge of some of the lessons of life that I have now thirty years ago when I was in my late teens. I think we have all said at one time or other “I wish when I was young that I had known what I know now!” How different our lives could have been if we would have been armed with adult wisdom in the years of our youth.
The truth of the matter is that it normally isn’t the times when we do things right that lead us to acquire wisdom, but it is by our failures and our mistakes that we learn the ever important lessons of life. We end up wishing that we would have had the knowledge of sooner, and want so badly to ingrain it into the minds of our children and grandchildren. But, just as we did, our children and grandchildren will have to learn the lessons of life in a similar fashion; by making mistakes and learning from them. However, there are a few lessons I have learned as I have taken this journey we call life that I would like to share. My hope is that in sharing some of the things I have learned it will be of benefit to someone, and help them to have a few less speed bumps on their highway of life. So, with that said, following are some of the nuggets of truth and best lessons I have learned that I wish I would have learned sooner.
1. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems…Life has taught me that much of the things that we spend so much time worrying and stressing out about normally end up not being nearly as bad as we initially feared. There is the old saying “ Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair….it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” This is so very true. Worry, which is essentially the same as fear, is a prison. Fear has been said to be “False Evidence Appearing Real.” It will prevent you from taking chances and stretching yourself, and will cause you to settle for the status quo and a life of mediocrity. That is no way to live. Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. I wish I had not wasted so many hours and days when I was younger with worry and fear about things that ended up never materializing into the nightmares that I thought they would. Nothing ever ends up being as bad as it seems.
2. Never be too quick to form opinions of someone… There have been several times in my life that when I first met someone, my initial impression or opinion ended up being quite different from what was actually the truth about the person in question. If I had continued to be close minded about some of the people who have been part of my life, because of my initial preconceived opinions about them, I would have missed out on some friendships that have meant a great deal to me. So often we tend to “Judge a book by it’s cover”, and don’t take the time we should to open the book and actually read some of it. If you will just give a person a chance, and avoid making premature assessments about them, you will often find a diamond in the most unexpected places. Several people who have been a great blessing in my life are people who I initially misread. When I took the time to actually “read their book” instead of just “judging their cover”, I realized that I came very close to missing out on a valuable friendship.
3. Things happen for a reason….There are many times in my life that I went through situations that I did not understand at the time. In some of those rough patches in my life, I felt like God had forgotten about me, or had turned his back on me. I had failed to realize that God had promised in the Bible that he would always go with me and never leave me or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) As I got older, some of the “bad times” that I had endured in my earlier years made sense to me when I looked at the big picture. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. Some of the times I considered being low points of my life, ended up working out for my good. I have learned that even the “speed bumps” in my life were for my benefit. Those times helped to strengthen me in my faith, and to learn that God really is in control of it all. The Bible says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ( Romans 8:28) Notice it says ALL things. That means the good and the bad times work together in the end to make us the person we were meant to be. All things happen for a reason.
4. The best things in life are things money can’t buy…..I like most people have tried in the past to find happiness through things and possessions. I eventually managed to acquire a great amount of debt, buying things I didn’t need, with money I didn’t have, to impress people who didn’t really care. After getting those things, and amassing all that debt, I realized that it didn’t really satisfy. I thank God that my wife Janet and I have managed to greatly reduce our debt in the last few years, and are well on our way to being debt free. The things that bring real happiness and satisfaction in life are things that are free for the taking, and things money can’t buy. These things include strong relationships with your spouse and kids, a life free of worry and regret, and spending time appreciating the beauty of things God created like rivers, streams, mountains, sunrises and sunsets, and all the wonders of the world we live in. I guess as I have aged, I have learned to take time to smell the roses.
5. Trying to please everyone will make you miserable…Bill Cosby was once quoted as saying, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” There is a great deal of truth in this. At one time in my life I was so overly concerned about living up to what I perceived as everyone’s expectations of me, that I always felt inadequate. It wasn’t until I decided that the only one I was going to concern myself with pleasing was God, that I started to grow in my self-esteem. It is a total waste of energy and time to go around always worried about what someone thinks about you. There are always people who are going to love you and appreciate you for your good qualities, and there are always going to be people who don’t like you. That is a lesson that I learned later in life than I would have liked to. The way I see it now is that as long as I am pleasing to God that is all that really matters. He is the only one that I am one day going to have to stand before and make account for how I have conducted my life. I have come to the place in my life where I say to the people who choose not to like me…..” Take a number! There are more besides just you!”
My final thought to my friends would be a quote I have often tried to apply to my life. That quote says, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” How profound that is! There are some things we will encounter in our lives that we have no control over. But, real success in life is less about what happens to you, and more about how you react to what happens to you. Never forget that happiness is a choice! Do yourself a favor…..choose happy!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,