He is the author of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. Out of his lifetime experience, he has extracted thirty bedrock truths, including:
1. If the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong.
Lao-Tzu said ‘He who know others is wise; He who know himself is enlightened.’ Perhaps to know oneself is a task which lasts a lifetime, or even more, but it’s the only path if you wish to know who’s in front of you.
We are accustomed to thinking about character in the most superficial ways. ‘He has a lot of personality’ is usually a statement about how engaging or entertaining someone is. In fact, the formal definition of personality includes our habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and relating to others.
Most of us understand that people differ in certain characteristics such as introversion, fondness, for detail, tolerance for boredom, willingness to be helpful, determination, and a host of other personal qualities. What most people fail to realize, however, is taht the qualities we value–kindness, tolerance, capacity for commitment–are not randomly distributed. They tend to exist as constellations of ‘traits’ that are recognizable and reasonably stable over time.’
This is the map we wish to construct in our heads: a reliable guide that allows us to avoid those who are not worthy of our time and trust and to embrace those who are. The best indications that our always-tentative maps are faulty include feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal, surprise, and disorientation.
2. Life’s two most important questions are ‘Why?’ and ‘Why not?’ The trick is knowing which one to ask.
‘The unexamined life is not worth living,’ Socrates said. I am a very reflective woman, and I know that sometimes raising the ‘Why?’ is a double-edged sword, because in one hand, it allows us to acquire some understanding of why we do things, but, on the other hand, we cannot get the answer of why some people behave in a certain way.
To change such habitual and maldaptive patterns of behavior requires first some recognition of the pattern. People tend to resist this, preferring to invoke coincidence of simply focus on individual events in a way that places responability on tohers.
If people are reluctant to answer ‘Why?’ questions in their lives, they also tend to have trouble with ‘Why not?’ The latter implies risk.
3. The most secure prisons are those we construct for ourselves.
Before we can do anything, we must be able to imagine it.
From my experience, I would add, ‘and to write it!’
The disconnect between what we say and what we do is not merely a measure of hypocrisy, since we usually believe our statements of good intent. We simply pay too much attention to words–ours and others’–and not enough to the actions that really define us.
The walls of our self-constructed prisons are made up in equal parts of our fear of risk and our dream that the world and the people in it will conform to our fondest wishes.