There is something about this time of year that drives people to lists — to compile, read and stick to the fridge for yellowing. Not even Santa is immune, and come to think of it, he is, perhaps, the instigator of it all. It’s the best of this and the worst of that and all the things that need to be done this coming year plus the things that were completed, or not, the last.
Worst of all are the predictions. I can’t explain the phenomenon — not even going to try. Instead, I am going to go with the flow and set out my list of the best pieces of advice I have received that I can recall at this very moment, up against my first deadline of 2014.
They are not exactly guidelines for good living; we have the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments and the Canary Initiative for that. Rather, these are just things that sounded good to me when I first heard them and have faded into soft and comfortable material after being run through the wash and spin cycles of life experience without shrinking. I wish I could remember who said them because I would like to give them credit. Oh well — life isn’t fair.
1. Being a good parent takes more than love. Almost all parents love their children, yet there are still lots of bad parents. Really good parents put their children first, ahead of careers, personal achievement, outside fulfillment, travel and recreation — even golf and yoga. It makes kids feel valuable because they actually are.
2. Contrary to common belief, strong relationships are not a balance of give and take. The calculating, weighing, keeping track and endless discussion involved with that does nothing more than limit what you can get out of it. To grow a relationship, you have to freely give and then give more without any expectation of getting anything in return. If you are in the right relationship, the other person will be doing the same thing back. There are no limits to how love can grow in this arrangement. Each gets more than they would have dared ask for in a negotiation.
3. Settle for being just good. To be the best, you have to give up something in your life of greater value than what you get out of achieving your goal. The top is lonely. The rise to the pyramid apex follows a track of sharply diminishing returns of happiness. Expect sticker shock and buyer’s remorse. Business leader, entrepreneur, politician, athlete, artist, academic — it doesn’t matter. The world is full of tortured geniuses, prodigies and people who make a habit out of working weekends to get ahead.
4. Complete self-reliance comes with a lot of pressure. A stress-free and satisfying life comes from choosing the things you think you want to do, using, to the best of your abilities, all the talents, tools and treasures at your disposal to accomplish them and then trusting God’s plan for the outcome, knowing his is better than yours, even if it is entirely different from Plans A and B.
5. True humility is not denying or downplaying the talents and strengths you possess. It is all about remembering and acknowledging where they came from and using them to make the world a better place in appreciation for your loan of them during this life.
You won’t care nearly so much what people think about you if only you stop and realize how little they actually do.
7. Always keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. You will never be disappointed.
8. If nobody is in charge of the universe, then everything is a coincidence. If an all-powerful, all-loving creator exists, then there are no coincidences. If some things are coincidences and some are not, then a really powerful but incompetent being is running the show.
9. You can’t take it with you when you go. We can absolutely prove this about every single thing except for our thoughts and feelings. Fill your hearts and minds to overflowing with love and kindness while you are here. It’s a chance worth taking; there’s no charge for extra bags.
10. Never put your complete faith in anything man has created or that a meteorite can destroy.
11. One drink is perfect, two drinks are too many, and three drinks aren’t nearly enough.
12. Skiing is the greatest pastime known to mankind, except for the boots and the jerks in charge.
Roger Marolt probably remembers more good advice he’s gotten over the years as he hikes up the bowl this afternoon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.