I turn 38 today, and while I always like to keep a student mentality and learn from others, I think I'm seasoned enough to share some lessons learned. Here are my "rules of the road" for life thus far:

  1. Start viewing all the bad or inconvenient things in life as the tax you pay for the great things, and pay it with a smile.
  2. Read every day. CEOs read like fifty books a year! The most interesting and admirable people I’ve ever met are all well-read. People are reading so much less nowadays, so this is your secret weapon.
  3. The secret to accomplishing anything is to view it as working a jigsaw puzzle. Try a piece, it doesn’t fit? Turn it around and try a different angle. Repeat. Set aside and try another. Enjoy the challenge, even the setbacks. Patience, focus and tenacity are rewarded with progress, and it’s always harder at the beginning than the end.
  4. The next time someone makes you angry, imagine that they are a dog that has bitten you. Does it make sense to wrestle a dog down and bite it back? Has anger ever helped or solved a problem? Take a deep breath and try to choose dignity and patience instead.
  5. Freedom lies in our choices. Do you think you own your body? It could crumble tomorrow. Your job? Your significant other? Your routines? Fate can swoop in and disrupt anything. We are at the mercy of more than we realize. However, you can always choose how you react. Always. Will you choose anger and blame and frustration? Maybe, but wisdom, dignity, patience, and righteous actions are right there for you to choose as well. Always, and without fail, they are waiting for you, and freedom lies in the fact that no one can make you choose otherwise.
  6. You can react or respond to anything. If you’re reacting all day, you’re stuck in the current of emotion. You’re a passenger. Choosing a response? Now you’re the driver.
  7. Never leave a joke unsaid, don’t leave a good idea unwritten, don’t pass up an open three, and when you’ve got a 3-1 count in slow pitch softball, swing hard.
  8. And when the love of your life sees you from across the room, smile. Write long notes inside all her greeting cards, forever. Have some in-jokes, your own secret language, and never let it fade. Build a life that is so stable and nourishing and fun it’s easy to take it for granted—and then the real trick—try your best not to take it for granted.

Your mileage may vary, but even if you find one of these useful or insightful, it's been a joy to share it with you. 

About the Author

Fred Venturini is an author and freelance business consultant. He grew up in Patoka, Illinois. In 2014, his story "Gasoline" was featured in Chuck Palahniuk's Burnt Tongues anthology. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South. The Heart Does Not Grow Back, published by Picador in 2014, is his first novel. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.

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