Originally published in Flourishing October 2010.
My grandchildren are back in school. Their preparations have moved me to consider what they should learn. Here are seven lessons that come to mind:
First, everyone should study the lives of George Washington and Mohandas Gandhi. Both were men of self-made character, and each won the unfailing loyalty of his followers by his willingness to accept responsibility for being a grown-up. Each was willing to speak truth to power. Each was willing to act in accordance with his most deeply held beliefs. Each led the way to free minds and free markets.
Second, learn to use a dictionary, and develop the habit of defining your terms. Demand that others define theirs. “What do I (you) mean when I (you) say______?” The answers may surprise you, and, at a minimum, give you the advantage of knowing what you’re talking about (hearing).
Respect boundaries, including your own. That’s lesson number three. Everything belongs to somebody. Everyone’s life, time, and property are his own – families, friends, gangs, and governments, notwithstanding. Sharing and trading, certainly – but always by mutual consent; never initiate the use of force.
Actions have consequences. That’s lesson four, and its corollary is: There is a reason for everything.
Lesson five: You never have “nothing to do”. Wasted time is premature death. Think back to your best day, and strive to live at that level or higher every day from now on.
Lesson six: Help the deserving – and be deserving of help.
Lesson seven: Have a mighty purpose and set meaningful goals. If someone tells you he has no purpose, no goals, no struggles, and no worries – check his pulse. He’s a dead man walking. Tell him, “Here’s a goal for you: Earn my respect! Or better yet, earn your own respect!”
These lessons are not all-inclusive. They are a start and possibly a life’s work for those who want to reach their fullest potential. Oh! I just thought of another lesson, and I’d better get to it: Don’t tell, show! mh