The List, As It Stands
My post the other day about Back in Black got me thinking about a text file I’ve been keeping for some time. It’s a list of “life rules” or aphorisms or whatever that I have been trying to keep in mind as I avoid becoming a meat smear. From time to time I’d add something to it and promptly forget that the list existed.
Not all of these are originally mine; I thought they were great comments when I first heard or read them and have since adopted them. Where possible, I’ve included notes.
I keep adding to it.
1) Avoid starting sentences with “Basically…”
This is just irritating. Well chosen words imply this.
2) Change comes from will and will is enforced by symbolism. If you need to change your life, start by changing your brand of cigarettes or the furniture layout in your apartment.
I have found this to be true for close to twenty years now. It came from an off-the-cuff remark from a high-school friend of mine (Mike) when I remarked that I needed to change some things in my life and he said, “start with your cigarettes.”
3) If a litigious jerk is threatening to sue you, ignore him. If he actually had a case, you’d already be in court.
This I learned from Lafe Chafin, my family’s lawyer (he is now dead). I was being threatened by some asshat and he pointed this gem out to me.
4) Life is too short to smoke bad cigars.
A great bit of advice from Mike Powell. It’s about more than simply smoking cigars.
5) Never trust the music taste of a man who does not own a copy of “Back in Black”.
Seriously. If you don’t own a copy of this. . .
6) If you keep looking behind you while walking, you’ll eventually back into a pole and smack your head.
Don’t dwell too much on the past.
7) The horizon is infinitely more interesting than your feet. Keep your head up when you walk.
This is a rewording of an old Amerindian saying I heard once. I used to walk staring at my feet. I realized, though, after seeing someone else do that, that you look insecure. Head up = confidence.
8) Keep an adequate supply of band-aids, ibuprofen, and neosporin on hand at all times. Don’t bother with acetaminophen; it’s efficiency as a pain-killer is overshadowed by its likelihood of causing kidney failure.
Better to have too much and not need it than need it and not have it. I almost killed myself once with an accidental acetaminophen overdose, so I avoid it.
9) When in a leadership position, be willing to make mistakes now and analyze them later.
This comes from bitter experience. Leaders make decisions. That’s what they do. If one is constantly questioning one’s own decisions, the soldiers won’t have any faith in the orders.
10) Make sure to pad your estimates by 2 times. Sometimes you come in early, but managing expectations are more important than being quick.
Well, it’s actually more important to do it *right* than *quick*, but that’s a whole other discussion. It’s a bad habit brought on by desire to appear like a bad-ass to have low estimates – but regardless of how good you are at your job, you will eventually screw yourself.
11) Never say, “I don’t know what to say” to someone who is grieving. Of course you don’t know what to say. Be a silent pillar; don’t be a the dumbass who constantly pokes the wound, asking if there is anything you can do.
It’s a reflex. People always do this. It doesn’t mean they don’t care – they do. It doesn’t help, and may hurt – so why take the risk?
12) No one cares about your sexual escapades.
Talking about them just makes people uncomfortable. At best, bragging about them makes you look like you’re overcompensating for something; at worst, you’re a high-risk sleaze. It’s tedious. Don’t do it.
13) It’s okay to get irritated at bad drivers.
Just mutter “dumbass” under your breath. Better than holding it in and allowing it to fester.
14) Never tell anyone your IQ or your SAT scores.
If they’re below average, you’ll be seen as a simpleton; if they’re average, a schmoe; and if exceptional, you’ll come off like an arrogant ass.
15) Biological conditions like alcoholism, ADD, Asperger’s, OCD, etc. are not *excuses* for behavior. They are *reasons*. Overcome them.
This comes from some experience. I realized that I was blaming mistakes or dumbassery in my life on things like alcoholism as a way of trying to excuse the behavior – so that I could continue behaving like an ass. That’s crap. ADD may be the *reason* why I can’t focus sometimes, but it can never be an *excuse* as to why I don’t get something done. Everyone has problems.
16) It is more important for a leader to show loyalty to his soldiers than vice-versa.
From experience both as a leader and a soldier. I have always been more loyal to managers who showed a loyalty to me, and I’ve found that by being loyal to my soldiers – by fighting for them – that they perform better as a team by having trust in their leadership.
17) When sitting down at a game of poker, look around at the players and find the sucker. If you don’t see him, get up and leave, ’cause you’re him.
Words of wisdom from my father. This is true of many things, not just poker.
18) Never play nine-ball with a man who grew up next to a pool hall.
Something I learned from my dad. I used to think I was hot shit at pool. Then I played him. He plays two games a year, both of them for 200 bucks, against this one guy who fancies himself the shark at the bar he hangs out at. Dad grew up next to a pool hall.
19) Don’t try to hand-feed squirrels. They’ll bite you and you’ll end up having to get a bunch of shots “just in case.”
Learned this in college. Forgot everything else.
19a) Raccoons are not cuddly.
Seriously. They aren’t. They’re vicious.
20) It’s easier to just tell the truth all the time than remember the lies.
Again, something I learned a while back, though mostly from observing this guy I went to high school with. He’d lie about *everything*, and the shit just kept getting deeper and deeper until it crumbled with inconsistency.
21) No matter how smoking hot a woman is, some guy somewhere is sick of her.
I forget where I heard this one, but it’s absolutely essential to remember when one is faced with a goddess.
22) Let your soldiers do their jobs.
This, too, comes from experience on both sides. A soldier won’t trust your decisions if you don’t trust his ability to execute them – and doing his job effectively neuters him. Leaders have ten minute tasks; soldiers have two hour ones.
23) Whenever your employers start requiring ID badges, you should start looking for a new job.
A bit of a rephrasing from Heinlein. Small companies are awesome. Once they get to a certain size, though, the culture that made them awesome has to go away. This usually coincides with everyone getting photo IDs.
24) Don’t argue with people who have made up their mind. Save yourself the stress.
Advice from my philosophy advisor in college. I would get in these huge, frustrating arguments with other students and he pointed out that I just simply didn’t need to continue the conversation once I got frustrated. A choice.
25) Always keep a pair of jumper cables in your car.
More useful than not.
26) There is no value in buying cheap shampoo or conditioner over the expensive stuff. Change your brands every three months.
I learned this from Michelle. I’d buy all this cheap crap and my hair would break and was generally unhealthy. Change is good.
27) Send your condolences or congratulations to someone in a card or letter, never by email.
This just seems like common sense to me. Physical letters – writing – carries more emotional power and importance than just dashing off an email (or worse, a comment in someone’s blog). It shows that you actually care and are willing to take time.