post written by: Marc Chernoff

30 Lessons A Wise Man Once Shared


30 Life Lessons A Wise Man Once Shared

My father is one of the wisest men I know.  Over the past year he has been dispensing bits of wisdom to friends, business partners and family members via his Facebook wall and private Twitter stream.  Since much of what he posts is in line with the focus of our blog, I figured I’d share some of his advice with you today.  Here are my 30 favorite excerpts from his recent posts.

  1. You can’t make choices for other people.  Don’t let other people make choices for you.
  2. There are an unlimited number of ‘Dr. No’ folks that you will encounter in this life.  If you have a personal inspiration, idea or goal, don’t let a ‘Dr. No’ deter you!  Trust your gut, do the planning and then DO IT!
  3. Opportunities are often disguised as work, so most people don’t recognize them.
  4. The Chinese character for the word ‘crisis’ literally means ‘danger and opportunity.’
  5. Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small pieces. -Henry Ford -  Same concept configured as a question:  How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time.  Read Getting Things Done.
  6. Learn from the past, but don’t dwell in the past.  In other words, don’t abuse the precious ‘now’ by not being in it.
  7. Worry is a misuse of the imagination.
  8. Perfect is the enemy of good.
  9. Education and knowledge are invaluable.  But do we need to know everything?  Is it possible in a specialized world to know everything?  For instance, do you need to have a comprehensive understanding of dentistry to go to a dentist to have a cavity filled?  In many instances, ‘not knowing’ is a wise approach – it’s like cleaning out a crowded closet to make space for something useful.
  10. Big results come when you narrow your focus.  Concentrate your efforts on smaller and smaller areas.  When your efforts are diffused over a wide area they won’t have much of an impact.  So focus on smaller areas and your efforts will be felt more fully.  It could take time for change to happen, but keep that focus narrow.
  11. You can’t do it all yourself.  We live in a multi-specialized world.  For example, in building a house, plumbers specialize, electricians specialize, heating and air conditioning technicians specialize, roofers specialize, masons specialize – get it? These guys are consultant contractors who have mastered that component.  For any large project, find the right consultant or mentor.
  12. Don’t try to impress everyone.  Purposely impressing people is an act that brings nothing but a momentary ego boost.  Be real with people instead.  Connect with fewer people on a level that is deeper and more profound.
  13. Short lecture on happiness and contentment:  Check out what you do have and be satisfied with it for today.  There is an infinite list of what you could want and don’t have.  I like Shakespeare’s line in the play Hamlet, when the young prince tells us that “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space.”  The trick is what one emphasizes.  We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy.  The amount of work is the same.  -Carlos Castaneda  Read The Happiness Project.
  14. Manage your time.  Your situation and environment is ever changing, so be careful not to confuse things that are urgent with things that are important.
  15. A healthy paradox of life that I find personally challenging:  There is ENLIGHTENMENT to be gained from the ability to live in the moment, but if you don’t have a time management system, or an event control system, you are at a significant disadvantage in achieving goals.
  16. Keep it simple.  There is a world of magnificence hidden in simplicity.  Pick the five most important things in your life now and focus on those things.  Let the other stuff go.  Stop the busyness and really enjoy what’s important to you.
  17. Focus on goals, not obstacles.
  18. There is a major gap between knowledge and taking ACTION.  Mistakes and failures are necessary interim steps in the learning process.  Stop talking about what you have done or what you are going to do. Just do it and let your actions speak for themselves.
  19. Sometimes you just have to go for it.  Put your uncertainty and fears aside for a second and ask yourself this:  “If I try and I don’t get it right the first time, what will I have lost and what will I have gained?”  The answer is:  You will have lost nothing but a little bit of your time while gaining an important lesson that will help you get it right the second or third time.  People rarely get it right the first time.  In fact, usually the only people who ever get it right are those who continue going for it even when they’ve come up short numerous times before.
  20. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. -Japanese proverb
  21. Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. –Confucius  Read Quitter.
  22. In order to get, you have to give.  Supporting, guiding and making contributions to other people is one of life’s greatest rewards.  Everything you do comes back around.
  23. Not much is worth fighting about.  If you can avoid it, don’t fight.  Step back from arguments with your spouse, family members or neighbors.  When you feel anger surging up and you want to yell that vulgar remark on tip of your tongue, just close your mouth and walk away.  Let yourself calm down.  You don’t have to be right or win an argument.  It just doesn’t matter.
  24. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is always the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself!
  25. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
  26. People skills – I think the main one:  ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS AND LISTENING.  Practice as if you were a television interviewer.  Get other people to tell their stories.  A powerful communication skill that I call SCAFFOLDING in business or informal interaction with other human beings on the phone or in person:  Give the person your first name and get their first name in the first few moments of contact… which establishes rapport.  Example:   “Hi, my name is Marc; I didn’t get your name, who am I speaking with?” (Follow-up, depending on the situation, with “How are you doing today?”)  Then after this rapport context, move on to dialogue like, “I wonder if you could help me with a simple issue I am having with ABC… or you do you have any recommendations for XYZ?   Always in closing, let the person know that you “appreciate their assistance.”
  27. You don’t need an MBA, but take some courses or read some books on finance, economics, financial planning, investments (real estate, stock market), and accounting.  With these navigational skills, start to steer your ship through continually changing seas.  Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.  Don’t spend more than you make.  Don’t let your money manage you.
  28. It is your life, your body and mind.  Without necessarily getting a Ph.D. in nutrition, increase minimal culinary skills, accumulate some basic nutritional knowledge, and start experimenting immediately with what works for you.  Also concentrate on keeping your body active.  Cardiovascular improvement – your heart loves you when you take it there, deep breathing space, building muscle, stretching space.  Escape from confinement in automobiles and office desks and move around.  Read Eat to Live.
  29. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.
  30. Smile!  Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday… and you will be.

Photo by: Angela Sevin

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26 Comments

  • This is such an excellent list! Thank you for sharing :)

  • Thank you so much for this article Marc! Wow, what an awesome dad you have. Thank you for passing on his wisdom. I will print this and post it so my family can see it everyday.

  • Thank you for this wonderful list. I need to follow 23 and 24 in my life right now. It is going to be hard because I like to have the last word. I am angry and hurting and I need to move on and forgive. I want to feel that freedom of forgiving so that I can be happy within myself. I am not weak. I am strong!

  • great life lessons
    wish they become a part of the normal way of thinking of people who read them

  • Wow…really great thoughts….

    I was reading about this new startup an hour ago and I was feeling like how many people would like to go for publishing a wisdom book for themselves…Now I know why it is for…

    here is the link https://www.thewisdomofothers.com/

    You can print it into a wisdom book and gift it to your children or may be to people who respect your father in same way as you do….

    Keep writing…

    Cheers
    Neer

  • Interesting list of life lessons. True indeed… Thanks.

  • I love it! “Opportunities are often disguised as work” - I’ll have to pass that on to my kids :-)
    Seriously, though - great list.

  • I love number 7:

    “Worry is a misuse of the imagination”

    I never looked it that way, but it absolutely true. When we worry we imagine that many negative things can happen.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • I like the point about addressing goals, not obstacles. Really motivating :)

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I agree with Helena….this will be printed up and given to all of my friends!

  • Thank you for sharing. I’m smiling because I’m stronger today than I was yesterday!!

  • Aren’t dads the best?

    I hope that one day, I’ve seen enough, and heard enough and learned enough to impart this sort of knowledge onto my kids.

    Not just having read it and repeating, but having actually lived a life of constant adventure, wonder and learning.

    Its all about to start, and I’m so excited..

    Thank you for sharing your fathers wisdom!

  • Such powerful words. I am inspired. Thank you for sharing!

  • You have a wise dad, Marc!

    I like this one: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” It is also the enemy of completion and of satisfaction and of happiness and of progress. If I always waited for the perfect article before posting I would never hit “Publish”!

  • If someone were to ask me what treasures are, I will refer this list to him. The wisdom here is worth more than any gold can buy. I think everyone should carry this list conveniently somewhere so that when they are in need of guidance they can read through these wisdom and make a better decision. Ok I am putting this list on word and emailing myself so that I can read on my iPhone whenever I want.

  • You’ve proved one point I’ve long felt Marc; that older people have gold inside them and we need to help mine it. Trouble is Western culture views them as unuseful or a drain on resources when in fact they may hold the very solutions the modern world needs stored within the sum of their years. With age comes understanding and wisdom and we must never forget that. Give me five minutes an elderly person and you’ve given me months of insight.

  • “In fact, usually the only people who ever get it right are those who continue going for it even when they’ve come up short numerous times before.”

    I love this. Even if you fall short, just keep going!

    I’ve come to believe that the only good reason for stopping to pursue a goal is the realization that the goal is not something you want to pursue. Any other challenge can be overcome.

    Fantastic post!

  • I’m going through a rough time right now, and this post helps. Thank you.

  • This is great stuff.

    I have often told my kids… the three most important words in the English language are: Dream, Believe and Inspire. I truly believe if they live their lives by those three words… I have done my job. My son (who is 5 now) also has known since age 3 that..I can’t… are words that are not allowed in our home. We keep reminding him, if he wants something, he needs to believe he can and that he can do anything he really wants to.
    We have also shared with him life’s biggest secret… if you want to do something well… you need to PRACTICE. We hope by reinforcing this, he will believe he can do anything he dreams if he just believes.

    I know this sounds sound a little hokie, but I believe that we mold our kids from a young age, and if he has the foundation to believe he can do anything he wants and truly tries, than we have given him the best tool we can.

  • #29 I’ve never regretted anything because of #30 I am stronger for the experience.
    Excellent list, I particularly like #7 Worry is a misuse of imagination.
    To me it goes with “How can I get what I want” as opposed to “If I get what I want”

  • Thanks for this great post! To expand on the Chinese “crisis” character, in Chinese the word “crisis” is actually not a single character, but a single word composed of two characters that spell like “WEI JI” in English. WEI means dangerous, and JI means opportunity.

  • I wish I had this list some years back. I knew most of these rules but got sidetracked and lost everything. Hope it is not too late for some of others. Excellent list.

  • I like the one that said, ”Don’t try to impress everyone.” You father is a wise man! Good post with good advice from someone that has experienced life.

  • This list is fantastic, as are all of the others I have read here on your blog.

    I really appreciate the further reading suggestions. Do you (or any other readers) have any for #26? I have difficulty asking people questions that I fear might infringe on their sense of privacy. I am not sure why - this is not something that offends me when it occurs, but I seem to have an over-active sensitivity to others feelings about this. I know that in the past i have missed out on deepening relationships with people because of this tendency. I feel I am now in a situation where, developing intimacy with a person requires me to take that initiative, but I can’t figure out how to get the questions to come out of my mouth.

  • @erin:

    Read The Highly Sensitive Person. It’s a good book that I think might point you in the right direction.

  • Very inspiring. Your father has a great outlook in life and you are very lucky indeed to have him as your guide. I love this list. I think I’m going to keep this in my journal.

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