19 Bits of Wisdom for an Ethical Life

19 Bits of Wisdom for an Ethical Life

Here, I want to look back on the lessons I’ve learned and the wisdom that will guide me for the rest of my life no matter where I am, and what I’m doing.

To that end, here are the 19 bits of wisdom that will guide me in my quest to lead an ethical life. You’re own mileage will vary with each one.

Return phone calls from your friends. Life without friends is like an unsharpened pencil… no point. I’ve never been the best at this, but as I’m getting older I’m learning how much I really cherish the friends I have. Paul, Jackie – consider this my official apology for every phone call I’ve forgotten to return.

Stand up for your familyOne of the best gifts in life is a family who loves you. If you have a close family, treat them like gold. Protect them, defend them, stand in their place.

Delayed gratification is the best kind. In a culture of quick fixes and cheap thrills, you can’t go wrong by taking the high road. The delayed pleasures are often the ones that really matter: study for that test, protect your good health, plan the perfect surprise a year in advance.

Hard work can be very satisfying. When I worked last summer in a warehouse I decided to do an experiment. One week, I worked as hard as I possibly could in that sweltering metal building for 8-10 hours a day. When I got home I was exhausted but for some inexplicable reason I felt so satisfied in a way I never had before. I even looked forward to work the next day. I truly believe there’s something magical about a hard, honest day’s work.

Do it now. I’m the king of procrastination. Well, maybe not the king, but like most other college kids I can put things off like the best of them. The problem with putting things off is that it gets easier and easier. The best place to kill this bad habit is right at the source… do it now.

Make a choice and stick with it. Man, how many times have a I tinkered with the web design on this blog? Too many to remember, that’s for sure. There is one lesson I’ve learned: time is precious, make a decision and stick with it.

Don’t be afraid to change course. In running the risk of contradicting my last bit of advice, sometimes you learn as you go. Sometimes you have new information that warrants change in direction. Maybe a long held belief is challenged by new evidence. Whatever it is, it’s ok. A real man can admit a mistake and steer a new course.

Do the little things. Being engaged to a young lady is different from dating.  It’s more secure and it’s easy to feel like you’ve accomplished everything you need to accomplish (i.e. win the girl’s heart). I’m learning not to forget the little things that made her feel special and loved. I’m learning that those things might matter more than anything.

Don’t be too predictable. Routines and habits are great. I’m all for them. But sometimes you need to break the mold. Sometimes you need to kick discipline to the curb and take a road trip. Or drink soda and play board games all night. Or not study and spend the night talking with a friend. Make these a rare treat and you’re life won’t get stagnant.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not happy now, you probably won’t be happy after you get that dream job. Or after you meet that new girl. Or after you move to that new town. Happiness, in my experience, is much more stable than people like to admit… you either choose to be a happy person or you chase endlessly after circumstances that you think will make you happy. It’s your choice.

It’s not rocket science, it’s consistency. This is a line my cross-country coach used to tell us about once a week. When you’re running 60 miles a week it’s easy to imagine a quicker, easier way. But really, it’s about doing the right thing day in and day out. It’s about doing the things that work and not chasing the latest fad or false promise.

Traditions matter. I’m a bit troubled by the way technology is rapidly changing our world. I’m not anti-progress but I can’t help but think when I see something new, “What’s wrong with the way things were?” I look at the strong Amish communities that live nearby and wonder to myself if maybe they’re the ones who’ve got it right.

Keep things as simple as possible, but not simpler. That’s been the focus of this blog since day one. Find the things that work, the things that matter, the things you love… now slowly let everything else fade away.

Stay informed about the world around you. This is one of many lessons I’ve learned from my father. He feels a strong sense of duty to stay informed of the local and global political stories that directly and indirectly shape the world we live in. I think doing so helps us to become better neighbors and citizens. And it helps us to play an active role in making the world a better place.

Don’t have a hidden agenda. One of the reasons I’m drawn to marketing and business as a career is because there is so much room for improvement. What would the world look like if companies were transparent and honest and more human? I’ve experimented with that approach here on this blog and I’ve received an overwhelming positive response. Much of my thinking on this subject was spurred by this funny, but thought-provoking feature article on Esquire: I Think You’re Fat.

Success is often sticking it out longer than everyone else. I could be wrong about this judgment, but I think one of the things that makes Joshua Becker such a great blogger is that he keeps writing about what he knows best. For almost 3 years he’s been writing about the same topic and doing it well. Some bloggers come and go, but Joshua remains. He doesn’t write about the latest gossip, he writes about minimalism. He doesn’t chase the big bucks, he’s kept his day job. He succeeds because he sticks it out.

Give and you will receive an abundance. When you put others before yourself, without fail, you will find that all your needs are met as well. Don’t think you can game the system and trick others into giving to you. Your reward will grow out of a deep, genuine concern for the well-being of others. It’s called selflessness and it can’t be faked.

Show up for the job. Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,362 consecutive baseball games. He’s now a member of the prestigious Hall of Fame and a legend among baseball enthusiasts across the country. He was an exceptional ball player, but that alone would not have made him one of America’s favorite players. What made the “Iron Man” legendary was his toughness and ability to show up day after day. I want that same discipline and toughness in my own life–the ability to stick with the things I start and finish the job no matter what.

First walk a mile in their shoes. Everyone has a story. Before you make a snap judgment, try imagining things from their perspective. The guy who ignored you may be having one of the worst days ever. The professor you despise may be in the middle of a painful divorce. Give others the same grace you will want some day.