40 Observations

I'm lucky enough to be starting my 41st trip around the Sun this year. So to mark the occasion, I've decided to jot down 40 observations that seem to have held up pretty well from the last 40 years. Some are my own, and others I've adopted from people smarter than me:

  1. Family+ is the most important thing in life.
  2. Family+ includes the family of your birth and upbringing, but also the family you choose through marriage and other close ties. Your true "family-plus" is anyone to whom you would donate a kidney without a second thought.
  3. As you get older, you need the friends who knew you when you were young.
  4. Kids deserve loving, engaged adults in their lives.
  5. Time is the most valuable thing. It is totally democratic, totally egalitarian, and it always expires.
  6. Beliefs and values matter, but heterodoxy often beats orthodoxy. Don't be afraid of an idea just because you don't like its source. Sample ideas from everywhere, consider them with an open mind, and don't be afraid to adopt the good ones, even when they surprise you.
  7. Decisions usually last longer than you expect. We devote too little time to teaching people how to make good decisions. Decision-making is a skill that takes time and practice to develop.
  8. The time to start correcting a mistake is the moment you realize it exists.
  9. It's fun to be part of a team. Being part of any group can feel good -- but in the end, we're all just people. Never let your membership in any group diminish your respect for the intrinsic humanity of other people.
  10. Chicago-style deep dish is the best type of pizza.
  11. Most people are trying to do their best for themselves and their families. Incompetence is everywhere, including most places where it looks like malice. Give people the benefit of the doubt until you have no choice otherwise.
  12. Travel is better than most material things.
  13. There is no substitute for caring about your own health.
  14. Nobody knows enough. The smartest people are the ones who realize their own limitations exist.
  15. Learning should never stop. A diploma is not a destination.
  16. Choosing the right industry at the right time beats most other paths to material success.
  17. Nobody else is going to floss your teeth for you.
  18. Stretch. Moisturize. Wear sunscreen.
  19. "Airplane!" is the funniest movie of all time.
  20. Learn self-defense. Mercy is a privilege of the strong, and it's far better to know your own strength and restrain it than to live in fear. The people who are least merciful are usually the biggest cowards.
  21. Everyone should read more books.
  22. Everyone is a prisoner of some widely-held ideas that will later prove to be backwards or wrong. Humility is always in order. The best way to clarify thinking is to put it in writing.
  23. The best characteristics of a leader are curiosity, competence, and humility.
  24. Technology is merely a set of tools. Whether the tools are used well or not depends on the character of the user. It's a failure to teach people how to use tools without also teaching them ethics.
  25. Clean up after yourself.
  26. The most important idea to emerge from Western philosophy is the dignity of the individual.
  27. It's impossible to be unhappy at a Mexican restaurant.
  28. Even weak ink will outlast a good memory.
  29. If you're going to do something more than once, and there are more than three steps involved, make a checklist.
  30. Young or old, everyone needs friends who differ from them in age, background, faith, and perspective.
  31. What's urgent shouldn't displace what's important.
  32. Warm weather is nice, but nothing beats seeing the seasons change.
  33. Tall trees are the best.
  34. Always save a backup.
  35. Like love, respect multiplies as it is given freely.
  36. Phil Collins is a musical genius.
  37. Everyone needs at least one good mentor to help them through early decisions in a career.
  38. "Do what you love and the money will follow" is really bad advice. Whatever you do, find something that you love about it.
  39. Enjoy the journey. You never know when it might end.
  40. Process matters exactly as much as results. Do right things, and do them the right way.
Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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