Life is a tube of toothpaste
Why I’m writing this book
Throughout my life I, like everyone else, have been influenced by events and people I’ve known.
It has been an absolute privilege to love, work with, play with and learn from most of the people I’ve known. Most of the people I’ve known in my life have been wonderful people and I thank you all from the depths of my soul.
However, I’ve probably learned more from the other less pleasant people and events of my life so I guess I owe them all a big thank you as well.
I have learned a great deal from my grandparents and parents. I have tried, as best as I can, to pass on some of this wisdom to my children but know that very often that timing is the most important thing. There is little value in discussing the pitfalls of live with a ten year old and money matters will have far more impact once my children are earning their own money.
I am only too aware that my time on earth is limited and that I will not always be there to help my children when needed. I have, therefore, written down a collection of things I have learned so that they may read them at any point in their lives. If only one point in this book is of value to them I will regard the effort as having been of value.
It is also my desire to share these thoughts with other young people in the sincere hope that I may be able to help them through difficult times or help them avoid making some of the dumb mistakes I’ve made.
There is nothing in this book that is “rocket science” or that is likely to be a totally new revelation to anyone. It is just repeating well known lessons and presenting them in what I hope is an easy to read format so as just to remind the reader of the truths he or she is consciously or unconsciously aware of.
My qualifications for writing this book are significant. I have made most of the mistakes a man can make and still survive. I’ve lived a life full of successes and failures, hope and despair, have loved and lost, have two wonderful daughters who have experienced both the best and the worst of me. I’ve known so many wise and wonderful people and learned a great deal from them. I’ve known many fools, crooks and tyrants and have learned even more from them.
I’d stress that I am far from perfect. Most of the mistakes mentioned in this book are ones I’ve made at least once, sometimes frequently. My only saving grace is that I’m at least honest enough with myself to recognise my many failings and would honestly love it if my children (and everyone else) could avoid the doing the dumb and bad things I’ve done.
I’m just a pretty average sort of man who has listened, observed and remembered. I’m above all a man who cares enough to want to share what little I know with anyone and everyone you wishes to learn.
I am trying to “Pay it Forward” (c)
My paternal grandmother
My Mom and Dad
My late Father in Law
Various other colleagues who have provided great negative examples. I’d name them but am fearful of law suits.
Alan Campbell – History Teacher
Miss Vuurhout – Standard 5 Teacher
Tom Hopkins – The greatest sales trainer ever
The author of the Desiderata – Max Ehrmann
Richard Bach – Author of Illusions and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull
Catherine Ryan Hyde – Author of Pay it Forward
Most of the things I say are obvious to any thinking person. This, however, does not guarantee that they are always the best action or approach. Throughout any one person’s life circumstances change, different people with different approaches enter your life, the weather changes, your moods, other people’s moods and so on.
There are many things I say that contradict other statements made in this book. This is mostly intentional. Life is not that simple that one set of rules governs every aspect of life all the time. For example I both tell you that a quick decision is better than a delayed decision but in another chapter also tell you to weigh up the consequences carefully and take time over significant decisions. Basically different times and circumstances can demand a different approach. The fact that you are even reading this book implies you have the skills required to sift through the book and apply the more appropriate response to whatever issue faces you.
I also tell you how much I hate the use of the words “Never” and “Always” yet I’ve used them over and over in this book. Why? Well I differentiate by saying that those words when applied to behaviour or used in an argument are seldom, if ever, 100% true and therefore should not be used. However, there are principles in life that can validly have these words applied to them. For example the principle that it is never acceptable to steal or cheat can’t really be faulted.
Example. I firmly believe that to delay an angry response is usually the right thing in every respect. It allows us to regain our composure, organise our thoughts, gives the other person a chance to get less emotional and so on. However, there have certainly been occasions in my life where an instant explosion did help to resolve an issue where, if left alone, it may well have ended in a drawn out festering problem. So it is not entirely true to say “Always cool off before engaging in an argument”
Use your brain, use your instincts, and take the best of what you read here as well as in the thousands of self improvement books and find the best fit for each event.
Read and learn the words of the Desiderata – it will add great value to your life
Read “Illusions” by Richard Bach – there are some wonderful lessons hidden therein.
The Readers’ Digest contains wonderful stories and lessons in every issue.
The great religious books of the world (including but not limited to the Bible, The Koran, The Bhagavad-Gita, etc) contain immeasurable wisdom particularly in terms of moral and ethical issues. Read them all. If you retain just a small percentage of the truths and wisdom contained in those books you can only be a happier and better person.
This is just a variant on the “Life ain’t fair” theme. At times in your life things will go wrong as a result of things and events beyond your control. When this happens you have two basic choices – bemoan your fate and become miserable about it or simply shrug it off saying “Shit happens” and make the best of the situation. This obviously is not always easy and takes a conscious effort to achieve.
It’s all down to the incredible power of your mind. When you think negative – things go bad and stay bad. When you start thinking positively then things improve. Try it. Look for the brighter side of any bad situation. There is almost always a brighter side. Once you find it make a concerted effort to ignore the bad and focus on the good. It does work.
You are entitled to have your own experiences, both good and bad. You ARE entitled to make mistakes.
As a father it is my duty to, as much as is possible, protect my children from hurt and danger. Most parents feel exactly the same way.
Often parents will drive kids crazy by constantly correcting them, not allowing them to do certain things or go to certain places. KIDS! -Please be patient with them, although they do make mistakes they are just trying to protect you. There are very few things harder for a parent to do than to let their children go off “unprotected”. Every instinct nature has given us rebels against this.
What we all (me particularly) tend to forget is that children, just like everyone else, are entitled to make their own mistakes. How else can they learn? I know that the best learned lessons in my life usually came with a cost or some pain.
What you can do to ease yourself through this situation is not easy. You have to sit down and present a carefully thought out argument to your parents explaining how you appreciate that they are only trying to help but please, you need them to cut you some slack so that you too can make decisions and your own mistakes. Take care, though. If either you or one or more of your parents are inclined to let arguments become emotional competitions then rather write them a carefully worded letter.
One other thing, remember this when you have children of your own.
Crosby, Stills and Nash had a great song called “Teach your children” In this song they tell parents to teach their kids well but to understand the kids position. They then turn this around and tell the kids to try to understand their parents’ position. It is quite a thought provoking song.
Whether the bullying is physical, mental or emotional it is an ugly unpleasant thing. If you feel bullied, get out. Be it a relationship, a job, a social thing – don’t tolerate it. Either take action to stop it (report it to the appropriate authorities) or leave.
Equally so, take care that you don’t bully someone else – it is invariably a sign of your own insecurities and inadequacy.
A really good friend of ours tells how he and his wife had a whole list of things that they wanted to do “later”. All sorts of great things after he retired. Unfortunately his wife died a few years before his planned retirement. He has a constant regret (and guilt) over this.
I’m afraid I would once have been classified as a sex pest. I was obsessed with sex and did not miss the opportunity to use sexual innuendo. I was too selfish and stupid to appreciate what a problem I was. In particular there was this one very attractive girl I worked with, Joan, who whilst embarrassed by my behaviour never stopped me.
One day she did! For good! She got her Mom to call me at work. Her Mom, very nicely, but firmly, told me I was making Joan unhappy and that I was doing her, my company and myself a disservice. I could have died I was so embarrassed. Well I stopped my nonsense immediately. (Personal note, Joan if you read this, I really am sorry)
This is what you need to do. If there is a sex pest making your life unpleasant first tell him so. If that does not work get your Mom to call him. In the unlikely event that this does not work, make a formal written complaint to your company. Most companies are so terrified of sexual harassment charges that they will either stop him or fire him immediately.
Although the sex pests mentioned before do fall into the category of sexual harassment, what I want to cover in this section is the more serious aspects of this problem. Sexual harassment includes:
Touching in any unwanted way
People “hitting on” you after they have been told you are not interested
A boss stating or implying that your advancement or job is dependent on you “being nice to him”
Suffering discrimination because you have rejected sexual advances.
Firstly, South African Labour Law is pretty good in this respect. Rely on it. The very first time you feel sexually harassed write a formal letter of complaint to your company. Even if the problem person is the boss or owner. Make it official and make it public. If the matter is not sorted out to your entire satisfaction quickly or if you then face other forms of harassment and/or discrimination go and see a lawyer specialising in labour issues. He will certainly solve the problem. You could end up with substantial financial compensation and will have taught the bastards a lesson.
Warning, do not allow even the slightest degree of harassment to go unchallenged. You may be very tempted to let things go because you love your job, think it’s a passing thing that will go away, because you don’t want to be regarded as a spoil sport or tattle tale. DON’T. With every advance that goes unchallenged, the harasser will get bolder and worse. I promise you; once it starts you have two choices – lie back and take it or face the fight at some point. Rather face it up front. It’s good for your self esteem and most people will respect you for it.
Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies are no joke. Especially not if the couple involved are very young and/or still at school.
Now I’m sure you’ve already been told how this “will destroy your life!” I’m also pretty sure that a lot of you will regard this statement as being over dramatic and a little on the lame side. Well, real world, it will not “destroy your life” unless you let it. What it will do is destroy your immediate hopes and aspirations which is nearly as bad.
For heaven’s sake, if you reckon you are mature enough for sex then be mature about sex. At the very least use condoms but girls, for your own sake, practice additional birth control such as an IUD or the pill. (For the sake of avoiding HIV/AIDS use a condom as well. But, should you slip up and fall pregnant or get your girl friend pregnant then PLEASE don’t face this somewhat terrifying situation on your own. Tell your parents, please!
What is the worst they will do? Like all parents they will be disappointed and probably at least a little angry – maybe very angry. So what! They will undoubtedly yell a little, cry a little; probably say a few angry but ill considered things. You will survive this, it will only last a short while. What happens then is that they will share the problem and help you with the burden of some very serious decisions that need to be taken.
I can think of very few things that are sadder than the thought of a young girl, aware that she is probably pregnant but waiting another month hoping and praying that she is wrong. The turmoil, stress and pain are far too serious for any one person to have to bear on her own. Please speak to someone.
If, however, you really believe that you are unlucky enough to have the very rare set of parents that will entirely reject you and provide you with no help or support then how about your boy/girl friend parents? How about other relatives? Or your priest? Or any one of the organisations that exist to help people in your position? There is a list of them at the back of this book.
The good news is that YOU WILL SURVIVE! Many others have faced this situation and have still lived full and complete lives. It would have been a little harder for them but they coped. SO CAN YOU.
Facing it on your own is not an option
Suicide is not an option
Back street abortion is not an option
I cannot and will not even try to tell you what the best option will be for you. I don’t know you, your lover or your circumstances well enough to even try. This is for you, your lover and BOTH sets of parents to talk through and help you make the right decision for all concerned.
I am not including the sections in the order they appear in my “book”
I’m exercising my divine right to be whimsical and including what appeals to me right now. As they say here in Malawi, “Sorry for that”
I don’t know who originally said this but it is great. Remember that while it is no sin to try but fail you have to constantly strive to succeed. Don’t for a moment believe that you can shrug off failure after failure as being a learning experience without very negative consequences to your life and career. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying but do your very best to succeed. Don’t plan for failure.
This is the price you pay for love!
We all will have to face it at some point. The extent can be greater or lesser depending on the circumstances but let’s face it, unless you die real soon, you will have to face the loss of someone you love.
It hurts! More than you can imagine. I’m sure most of you have suffered the death of your pets before. Remember how bad that was? Well losing a parent, a child, a spouse is indescribably painful but you not only have to deal with it but, and here’s the good news, you will eventually get over it.
Different people have varied ways of coping with grief. Some internalise it and put on a brave face to the world, others break down entirely and for a while become virtually dependant on their friend and family. Still others go for grief counselling.
Which is the best? I cannot answer for you. Before it happens to you it is highly unlikely that you will be able to predict what you will do.
All I can recommend is to draw strength from those who love you. They want to help. They need to help. Let them help.
The other thing is that our society hides death away from us. Someone is sick in hospital or is in an accident. The moment death occurs the body is rushed off to the undertakers who hide it away in a pretty, but impersonal box. A few days later the box is buried or burned. Where does that leave you? Most everyone I know goes through a long and painful period of virtually denial. “I just can’t believe he is gone” “I keep expecting him to walk through the door” Just last week he promised to take me to the theatre” etc.
I sometimes think that the concept of an old fashioned death at home followed by a traditional Irish Wake is not a bad thing. Everyone sees the death, sees the body. Sees the body being placed into a coffin and then gets a sense of closure when they see the coffin buried.
Death is almost always a traumatic experience for those left behind (probably no great fun for the departed either) this is always that much harder to bear when it is a younger person that dies. After all, our whole life experience leads us to expect to have to bury our parents but nothing gears us for burying our children or spouse.
The hardest thing to bear about death is that there are always so many things we feel we should have done and worse still, things we wish we had not said or done. Death is unfair. It does not allow us closure of so many things.
Make a point of trying to treat each occasion with a loved one as being possibly the last time you will ever see them. If you could do this you would find yourself telling them that you love them often. You would apologise for the wrongs you do. You would avoid silly fights. You would be far more generous with your time and affections. You know what, it works.
I have dealt with two very different deaths thus far. In the one case I was left feeling guilty and wishing I’d been a better grandson and had spent more time with my Granny. I regretted my impatience at her eccentricities and feebleness. It took me a long time to deal with it.
When my father died things were different. In his case he had emphysema and it was a sure thing that he would die soon. I spent as much time as I could with him, told him I loved him and just talked and talked and talked. I cannot tell you how much comfort I derived from this. I still grieved for him and still miss him but at least am not faced with all those “if only …………”
There will be times in your life where everything goes right. Where you are on the top of the pile. Happy in your job, in your relationship – life is just perfect.
Bad news – this is never permanent. You will go through cycles, good ones as well as bad.
The good news is that bad times are also not permanent. You will get through them.
The trick is to appreciate that times will change. Don’t get too cocky when things are good nor get too despondent when bad.
Ecclesiastes states that to everything there is a season, a time to be happy, a time to be sad etc. This is oh so true
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” This was said by President Roosevelt and then later on by President Kennedy
What a crock of shit!
Of course he had nothing to fear. He was warm, comfortable, well paid and happy in the White House. He was not going to starve or be in harm’s way. He would send other people’s children out to die!
Whereas this was a dramatic statement made by a politician and is not, I believe, true there is merit in examining how fear itself is the killer.
Think back on your life. Think of all those times you waited in fear for something to happen.
There were times that it did – waiting outside the Headmaster’s Study to be punished. I’m sure that you will all agree that the waiting was worse than the actual punishment. This is because the mind is such a powerful organ. At times like that it goes, quite naturally, into a negative mode and nothing that actually happens can rival the creations of the brain.
There were many times that your fears were groundless – whatever it was you were expecting either never happened at all or was anti-climatic. In other words, you paralysed yourself with fear for no good reason. More often than not, fear of the unknown falls squarely into this category.
So what does this mean? There is a strong message here, half the time we endured these fears we found that what we actually feared was not that bad after all. Other times we feared nothing happened at all. So why waste time, energy and emotions on fear? I know it’s not easy, but try to be positive. “I did such and such wrong. I was caught. The headmaster will now inflict the following punishments. I CAN survive them. They are not that bad” Honestly, try it, it does help.
What is worse is when some of us (the natural born worriers of the world” start getting into a state over things that might never happen (See the story of the traveller and the fuel)
Once again, a positive frame of mind does help. Like anything else you practice, the more often you work at being positive the easier it gets. Example. “Wow, what if the economy takes a dive? I may lose my job. Then I’ll lose my home. Then I’ll lose my wife etc.” If this type of thought intrudes rather say to yourself “Well it is possible that the economy might take a dive. Then again it might not. In any event I can do nothing about it. I will simply concentrate on doing my job so well that even if it should happen, my boss will never let me go”
The previous section dealt with fears that were either exaggerated or irrational and could therefore be easily overcome by thinking positively.
There are of course dangers in life that truly evoke real and deserved fear. Facing an armed robber. Driving with a drunk. Being told you have a serious fatal disease. Going into battle.
Fear in these circumstances is not only natural but is a very clever defence mechanism. You’ve heard the expressions “scared stiff” and “paralysed with fear” Believe me, I have been in a situation, facing a gun, where I was so scared that I could not, and did not, move. It probably saved my life.
Do not even think about being a hero. Heroes get themselves and others killed or hurt. The only people who are not scared at times like those are probably too slow and stupid to understand the consequences.
MORE COMING LATER
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