25 Things I Know at 55 that I Didn’t Know at 25

This is a guest post written by Penny, a regular reader of our blog.  Inspired by a recent article my father wrote entitled “What I Know at 64 that I Didn’t Know at 24”, Penny decided to write a list of her own.  Here are 25 things she has learned over the last 30 years.

I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
– Eartha Kitt

  1. Life Lessons at 55Competition against individuals is really competition against the teams that support them.
  2. People become brainwashed by the media in the most basic ways.  For instance, think about gender roles.
  3. Having good credit is crucial, because otherwise you will be bled to death by lenders when you need to borrow money.
  4. Medical doctors can be ill-informed, incompetent morons.  They are just people.
  5. I get better scientific research done when I sleep more, calm down, and think less about social “motivators” and more about having fun.
  6. Adults are just older children.
  7. A great deal of history is eventually proven to be inaccurate.
  8. Many self-proclaimed experts are not experts.
  9. Any quick-fix scheme for relationship and social utopia is a scam.  True happiness involves the long-term.
  10. Trusting your emotions can be dangerous.
  11. Life is not a video game, a play by Euripides, a short story, a TV episode or movie.  It’s what YOU make of it.
  12. Gilding the lily leads to insanity.
  13. I may never be a great chess player, but I love it, so I should never stop playing.
  14. Bad schooling is a root cause of adult social problems.  Misguided minds alter social reality.
  15. There are many times when popular science gets it wrong.
  16. If a book on physics doesn’t have more equations than text, throw it out!
  17. Common sense is baloney.  What you really need is uncommon sense, often the product of uncommon experiences, ideas, or interacting with uncommon intellect.
  18. Many inventions and discoveries are credited to the wrong people.  For example, Telsa didn’t invent the “Tesla`Coil”.
  19. Linux beats the sox off of Windows… and yes, Virginia–sometimes there really is a free lunch.
  20. Even if you can read it at 2000 wpm, you shouldn’t.  Your mind cannot effectively absorb information at that pace.
  21. Discrimination is pervasive, insidious and real.  Having an open mind and an open heart is vital to the progression of humanity.
  22. Beware of being seduced by overly “sensible” and “reasonable” sounding ideas or solutions.  All angles must be evaluated first.
  23. Logic and arithmetic do not commute before breakfast.
  24. Doomsday never comes.  Nor does absolute Utopia.
  25. I still haven’t a clue.


  1. says

    Great list Penny! My favorites from your list are numbers 6, 17, and 25.
    6 – just try not to lose that child-like wonder.
    17 – right on — it is the uncommon that really gives us great direction (and great stories)
    25 – classic!


  2. penny says

    in Re: Donny’s Question:
    Elihu Thomson, who patented it earlier.
    He had 700 patents, many in A.C current–also not invented by Tesla.

    A.C. current was made practical by Charles Proteus
    Steinmetz–the mathematician.

    By, the way–Tesla also didn’t invent the Polyphase motor or generator–which was used in Europe. He did
    patent it in America.

    They don’t call radio waves ( first predicted by Michael Faraday, and proved mathematically by
    James Clerk Maxwell) Hertzian waves for nothing.
    They were first demonstrated experimentally by Hertz. Tesla also did not invent radio.

    The first really practical radio detector ( the coherer)
    was invented by the physicist Oliver Lodge.

    Lot’s of people know about Tesla–for some strange
    reason, but not about Steinmetz, and Thompson and a slew of other genius inventors–NOBODY works in
    a vacuum.

    That could be number 26–the myth of the lone genius–Nobody works in a vacuum.

    Here is a link to a copy of Thompson’s patent for the Tesla coil:

  3. Nauwond says

    I may be totally out of place in my interpretation. But just was wondering if there isn’t a conflict between # 10. Trusting your emotions can be dangerous and
    #21. Discrimination is pervasive, insidious and real. Having an open mind and an open heart is vital to the progression of humanity.

  4. says

    We’ll see if Penny chimes in… but here’s my two cents.

    Operating explicitly on emotion could lead person to draw close minded conclusions about a situation. Emotion is not usually based on current facts, but instead on past experiences or external influences. Thus, in certain situations this close-mindedness would lead directly to discrimination.

  5. says

    I couldn’t agree more with uncommon sense (is what’s needed). Common sense helps keep you functioning, but uncommon sense is what sets you free. How many folks, do you think, understand that the voice in their heads isn’t reality, its ego? How common is it to really focus on experiencing the moment, vs. focusing on future goals? Having spent about 50 years focusing on the common, I’m now committed to the uncommon. I sense I’m in for some real fun now!

  6. Sammy says

    Linux has its downfalls too, especially when it comes to software compatibility, and gaming support. There is no best OS, just what meets the needs of that particular person.

  7. Michael says

    misguided or unguided? The misguided mind is still being directed but not down the path it thinks it is taking. The unguided mind move through experience like a floating leaf.

  8. Rose says

    It’s not baloney – it’s bologna.
    Other than that, awesome post! Will surely take these into consideration.

  9. Taylor says

    It can actually be spelled either way nowadays. Bologna is the correct way, but baloney is also acceptable.

  10. Morgan says

    #16 : If a book on physics doesn’t have more equations than text, throw it out!

    I totally disagree with that. I read Feynman’s books which are 80% text 20% equations and I learned more than with all the books which were promoted by my professors at my university.

  11. Lena Roth says

    I turned 25 a couple weeks ago, and this post is going to help me get a head start on being a smart 55-year-old. I agree with a lot of this stuff- Feynman’s books aren’t that great, I use Linux, and I never skip breakfast. I think number 25 is the most important- always be open to learning more and challenging what you already think you know. Thank you for the post!

  12. Zack I. says

    Brilliant post! I’m only 24, but thoroughly agree with the validity of these items. I can sum them up in a sentence: “Think first, think thoroughly, and think often, but please, please, please take time to feel.”

    As a scientist at the beginning of his research career, I especially appreciate 5, 8, 14, and 15. So very true!

    Thank you so kindly for the wisdom. I’ve shared this on facebook.

  13. madeleyne says

    I don’t completely agree with #10 (Trusting your emotions can be dangerous). Trusting your emotions can be good and healthy in a lot of situations. If I had listened to my nagging/bad feelings when in certain situations or around specific people instead of trying to ‘talk’ myself out of my feelings, I wouldn’t have stayed in bad situations and relationships longer than I should have, which because I did ended up causing me more long-term emotional distress than necessary. I can’t tell you how many times NOT listening to my feelings have gotten me to stay in bad/unhealthy situations and relationships because I didn’t trust myself or my feelings. That being said, trusting your feelings should not to be confused with letting negative self-talk take over your mind and discourage you, which is bad and not good for you; that is a separate issue.

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