When H. Brown Jackson turned 51, he sat down to write down what half century of living had taught him. It became a cherished weekly ritual and soon he began asking his family, friends, acquaintances, and students of all ages to answer this compelling question: what valuable lesson has life taught you?
Over time, he collected all these pearls of wisdom in a little book titled Live and Learn and Pass It On published in 1992. “This book,” he writes in the introduction, “contains the combined wisdom of thousands of years of living… It is lessons learned from loving and winning and… losing, from the school of hard knocks, and the old method of trial and error… Regardless of how much we know, it is never enough… with every new experience, we are offered new opportunities for discovery and growth… School is always in session and life challenges us to excel at being both enthusiastic student and inspired teacher.” Amen, brother. And the beautiful thing about personal wisdom is that is priceless — and free. As Jackson pleasantly discovered, you just need to have the curiosity to ask — and the willingness to learn from it. Here are some highlights (age of contributor in parenthesis).
I’ve learned that deciding whom you marry is the most important decision you’ll ever make. (95)
I’ve learned that most of the things I worry about never happen. (64)
I’ve learned that the great challenge in life is to decide what’s important and disregard everything else. (51)
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do, but to the best you can do. (68)
I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice. (66)
I’ve learned that nothing of value comes without effort. (64)
I’ve learned that even the simplest task can be meaningful if I do it in the right spirit. (72)
I’ve learned that enthusiasm is caught, not taught. (51)
I’ve learned that in every face-to-face encounter, regardless of how brief, we leave something behind. (45)
I’ve learned that you can’t hug your kids too much. (54)
What valuable lesson has life taught you?
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