30 Lessons for Living Notes & Summary

30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest ...

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This book takes a novel approach: take the people who have lived the longest and ask them for advice on how to live. In sum, more than 1,200 elders (or “experts”, as the author calls them) were interviewed. Much of the advice in this book is intuitive. But the way the author weaves personal accounts with life lessons makes this piece a masterpiece. Also offers advice for interviewing the elders in your own life. Thoroughly enjoyed.

On Happiness

  • “Young man, you will learn, I hope, that happiness is what you make it, where you are. Why in the world would I be unhappy? People here complain all the time, but not me. It’s my responsibility to be as happy as I can, right here, today.”
  • Life on this Earth is but a nanosecond. “And believe me it came so quickly I couldn’t understand. It came so quickly I didn’t know it was happening.”
  • Each day is a gift. Each day has love, joy, and beauty that we miss.
  • Happiness is a choice, not a condition. “My single best piece of advice is to take responsibility for your own happiness throughout your life.”
  • Worry is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment. Worry takes place when we have nothing to actually worry about.
  • “What possible difference did it make that I kept my mind on every little thing that might go wrong? When I realized that it made no difference at all, I experienced a freedom that’s hard to describe.”
  • A fulfilling life without faith is a contradiction.
  • Belief in God and engaging in religious practice are seen as a path to greater happiness in life.
  • “I guess the main thing is love. Give love, let your kids and grandkids know you love them and their families. If I could anything differently in my life, I would be more compassionate about people in general.”

On Marriage

  • Choosing a partner is perhaps the most important decision you will make. Make this decision carefully (it is better to not marry than to marry the wrong person).
  • You are much more likely to have a satisfying marriage for a lifetime when you and your mate are fundamentally similar.
  • Qualities people look for: sense of humor, making good money, good looking. What we actually should be looking for: similar core values.
  • Be friends.
  • Unless you’re sure about it, don’t do it. (Reminds me of Derek Sivers ‘hell yes or no.’)
  • Your spouse should be the kid you most wanted to play with in the playground
  • The only way marriage works is if both parties give 100%
  • When you wake up in the morning, think, “What can I do to make his or her day just a little bit happier?”
  • On problems/disputes:
    • Go somewhere you can talk – maybe a park or restaurant. Don’t settle disputes in your own home.
    • If you become terribly upset, write a letter to your spouse. Read it the next day and throw it away. It helps to write it out.
    • Ask “to which one of us is this more important?” Good way to settle conflict.

On Work

  • Is more than money. It is a primary source of meaning and purpose in life. The way we gain a sense of self-worth and achievement and it’s a way to make connections with others.
  • The elders strongly advise against choosing a career based on money.
  • Does your work align with your personal values?
  • Eudaimonia – happiness derives from the activity itself
  • Not one person (out of more than 1,000 elders) said that to be happy you should try to work as hard as you can to make money to buy the things you want.
  • “But if I work principally for the pleasure or fulfillment it gives me, my success is assured. There are few blessings greater than finding such work and keeping it.”
  • Learned more from failures than successes. Play the game, don’t sit on the sidelines.
  • “If you can’t have the job you love, honey, find something worthwhile about the one you’re in.”
  • No matter what the task is, whether you like it or not, it’s very important to learn everything you can about what’s happening around you. Be present.
  • If you hate a job, get really good at it. You probably won’t hate it as much.
  • You can learn from everyone – not just the successful people but also toxic colleagues.
  • Getting along well with others is a key life trait (empathy!!).
  • Peer relationships, not hierarchical (even from the boss). Elders reject the idea that leadership emanates from an overseeing boss who knows best, instead, they believe leadership is about learning from everyone
  • One elder believes his success is due to the following principle: take yourself down a peg (or two).
  • The mirror vs. the window. The mirror – you are looking at yourself. The window – you are looking out at others.
  • Work can be a miserable burden without purpose and autonomy.
  • You should ask yourself: do I wake up in the morning looking forward to work?

On Parenting

  • You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.
  • Time spent is more important than any other factor.
  • Among the saddest elders were those whose children were so deeply estranged from them.
  • When there is a serious argument, the parent has to compromise more than the child. Parents have more to lose than the child.
  • Leave your door open when for their friends so you know who they’re playing with and you know where they are and what they’re doing.

On Aging

  • Just because you can’t do all the things you used to do, doesn’t mean you can’t grow.
  • “Find the magic. The world is a magical place in lots of ways. To enjoy getting up in the morning and watching the sun come up. And that’s something you can do when you are growing older.”
  • Being old is much better than we think it is.
  • Many elders report a sense of serenity, a lightness of being, a sense of calm and easiness in daily life that was both unexpected and difficult to describe. This is similar to a child.
  • Every age, every situation, presents a new opportunity.
  • What you do for your health is critically important for your future. However the motivator should be not how long you’re going to live but how you’re going to live.
  • Lower death anxiety with advancing age. Many experts expressed comfort with their own death.
  • “If you go to heaven, how wonderful. But if you go to sleep, what’s wrong with that?”
  • Greater networks of social involvement helps promote health and happiness.
  • Around 150 of the 1200 live in senior living communities. With very few exceptions, they described the move from their home as one of their best decisions of their lives.
  • Even at old age, have something you can look forward to doing every day.
  • “You are freer than you can ever imagine yourself being,” said one 77 year old.

On Living Without Regrets

  • Be honest. “Just one price– one just price.”
  • Embrace new challenges, say yes to every opportunity. According to the elders, the greatest reward you can receive in your career is the opportunity to do more.
  • Life is looking for opportunities to expand you.
  • Not deciding is a decision.
  • Taking risks led to fulfillment; cautiousness led to regrets.
  • “People in their twenties and thirties get stuck in professions they don’t like because the material rewards are so great. By the time you get to be forty or fifty, I think some of the brighter ones are having second thoughts.”
  • Little man syndrome – imagine sitting out on the beach. The water washes up on you and it says, “Little man, what happened to you? Look up, the Big Dipper doesn’t care how much money you made working for JP Morgan. It just doesn’t matter.”
  • Even in a globally connected world, we sometimes forget just how big it is.
  • All elders wished they traveled more.
  • When your traveling days are over, they wish they had taken one more trip.
  • Do it now. “Send flowers to the living, the dead will never see them.”

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