Life Lessons (and other unsolicited advice)March 02, 2021
I have always been loath to give advice. When asked about my secrets to success, my reply is that since I never listened to the advice of others when I was starting out or launching a new idea, why would I then tell people what to do? Truthfully, had I listened to most of the advice that’s been thrown my way over the years, I would have never achieved anything. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of the unwanted guidance bestowed on me was likely very sound and given with good intention. But as I see it, everyone’s life journey is different and the obstacles and opportunities each generation is faced with changes with time.
If I were starting out today, I wouldn’t know where to begin. The circumstances which led to my success are simply no longer available. Back when I was a broker, commissions were high and it was easier to make a good living. Today, everything is much more automated, commissions are practically zero and a broker like the old me would have to manage many tens of millions of dollars to make any money. The world is changing so rapidly, it will be practically unrecognizable a few decades from now. Then if you throw in the luck factor, which is unpredictable, it’s certain that it’s impossible to design a successful path for someone other than yourself.
Having said all that, I think I am now at a sufficiently advanced age where I can safely impart some general wisdom on those who care to listen. That is, how I interpret success with a few do’s and don’ts that worked for me. Take from these nuggets the ones that resonate with you and discard the rest. This advice doesn’t come with any guarantees.
First and foremost, success cannot be measured by wealth alone. Money is great but I know a lot of rich folk whose lives I would not want to live for any price. Life is about finding balance and peace. I try to live a very balanced life (read my 5 secrets to a balanced life). It means pursuing love, family, friends, hobbies, learning, adventure, and helping others. It also means developing passion for the things you do. Passion is what makes life fun and the one ingredient you need in order to succeed. It’s not a guarantee to success but is certainly a prerequisite. Whenever I take on something new, I first develop a passion for the subject, whether it be film, music, food, philanthropy or even quantum physics. It’s the passion that will carry you through the difficult moments that life will throw at you. Passion begets excellence, which in turn begets success.
Achieving peace in life is not an easy task. First, you must define what peace means to you. For me, peace is about knowing that I am living a life well-lived. I need to know that when I’m on my death bed, I will have no regrets about how I lived. That I’ve treated others well and that someone else’s life (or many lives) was better off given that that I was here. It gives my existence a purpose, and that gives me a sense of peace.
As far as more specific advice, I have a few tidbits that might be helpful. I certainly benefited from learning some of these lessons the hard way.
When making any important decision in life, check your ego at the door. I learned this the hard way when I made business decisions that were mostly to satisfy my ego. Allowing your ego to make decisions will almost always lead to bad decisions.
“It’s only hubris if I fail”
– Julius Caesar
Read lots of history books. Everything you want to know about the future has already been experienced by others in some manner in the past. Patterns are easily recognizable, especially in politics, economics and markets. Knowing this may not make you rich, but it might prevent you from losing everything.
“History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.”
– Mark Twain
Also, be aware that the world does not function as it ought to function because it’s run by humans. Watch how they actually behave, not some idealistic way in which they ought to behave. You can strive to be a good person but be aware that the world around you is not idealistic or fair. Be good, but with your eyes wide open.
"There is such a gap between how people actually live and how they ought to live that anyone who declines to behave as people do … is schooling himself for catastrophe."
Be positive. Don’t spend your life worrying about what can go wrong. They are hardly ever the things that will actually go wrong. Having a positive attitude will help make things happen. Enthusiasm is contagious.
“Don't worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying
Is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum
The real troubles in your life
Are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday”
– Baz Luhrmann
Be patient when you are building your dream. Success takes time. If you rush things to, say, get wealthier quicker, you will certainly make mistakes. And some mistakes can be lethal. It took me a long time to figure that one out. It’s counter intuitive, but I have found I have become more patient the older I get. (You would think you would become more impatient, the less time you have.)
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
Do business or have dealings only with people of good character. It’s much less stressful and life is too short to have to deal with dicks. People with good energy do good things, so hang with them. Treat all others with respect but keep your distance.
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
– William Shakespeare
Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you succeed in life, it’s likely that luck had a lot to do with it. Work hard to succeed but acknowledge that you’re not that brilliant.
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
– Samuel Goldwyn
Keep reminding yourself that you will die someday and that you take absolutely nothing with you. You might as well give away most of your wealth as it’s absolutely worthless in the end. And in doing so you are helping others, which will go a long way to giving you the aforementioned peace on your deathbed.
“Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box “
– Italian proverb
I hope you consider the above advice but it’s ok if you don’t. I don’t have a crystal ball, nor am I privy to the mysteries of the universe and our existence. I’m just stumbling forward like everyone else, trying to make sense of life and keeping a smile on my face.