5 Life Lessons From JFK
November 22nd was the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy. The news was full of conspiracy theory rehash, pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald on the perp walk, and news stories from Dealey Plaza in Dallas. There is so much more to President Kennedy than his assassination, however. JFK was the epitome alpha male, and his life is a great instruction for many reasons.
Here are some of the lessons that studying this dead president has taught me:
1. Stop complaining
JFK was sick so often when he was younger that his brother Robert joked that mosquitoes would die from drinking JFK’s blood. From his colitis, a nasty intestinal problem, to nagging and debilitating back pain, the youthful and vigorous pictures and movies of JFK were a manufactured veneer. Behind the scenes, JFK needed back injections and surgeries (one of which nearly killed him) just to deal with the pain.
Through it all, JFK rarely complained to anyone, and certainly didn’t let on to the outside world that much of his life off camera had been spent in hospital beds and under a doctor’s care. Kennedy would deal with it through recuperation in Florida, reading, and frequent sex with many attractive women that were not his wife.
JFK also had to deal with deaths of beloved siblings. His older brother Joe, Jr. was killed during World War II in an aircraft explosion and his younger sister Kathleen was killed in 1948 in a plane crash. JFK wouldn’t complain, and would just press on.
2. Look good
In this day and age of untucked dress shirts and an epidemic of jeans, looking better than most men around you is just so darn easy. JFK would cringe today if he looked out on the obese, dingy clothed masses.
Google “JFK pictures” and here’s what you will see: suits and sport coats, slender ties, and a white dress shirt. He almost always wore that white dress shirt. Whatever he wore fit him well.
I wear a crisp white dress shirt frequently, and always when wearing a tie. It requires no complicated decision matrix to match tie to shirt colors. I wear sport coats often, never jeans, and occasionally don a slender tie with my white dress shirt. I get nods of respect everywhere I go, just due to the way I am dressed.
3. Become a faster reader
JFK studied speed reading, and consumed multiple newspapers per day. He enjoyed many genres of books and would constantly be recommending something he had read and enjoyed to others.
In the case of Guns of August, which was a book detailing mistakes leading to World War I, JFK had copies sent to his military officers all over the world.
To become a faster reader, I have learned to speed read. The best speed reading technique I have tried is what I call the “grouping” speed reading method. Instead of reading letter by letter, or word by word, learn to group words together, so that your eye moves just a few rapid times per line. This method takes some practice, but it has sped my reading ability by leaps and bounds.
4. Be in a hurry
JFK had a keen awareness of his own mortality. This forced him to live his life as if in fast forward. He was a U.S. Congressman at age 29, Senator at age 35, and President at age 43. Yes, JFK had a wealthy dad to bankroll his campaigns, but the energy needed to campaign for even a local U.S. House seat is tremendous.
A flurry of activity surrounded the man, rendering him irresistible to both men trying to gain his favor and charmed women willing to give him a notch. I apply this “be in a hurry” tactic to my business ventures. Latest business idea of mine doesn’t take hold? Abandon it, and on to the next one without looking back.
5. Question the experts
Kennedy started out his presidency with the Bay of Pigs, a military and intelligence disaster. He had assumed that the “wise old men” in the CIA and military were expertly advising him, and he was burned badly in the fiasco.
As a result, JFK gathered opinions from a variety of sources following Bay of Pigs, even going around the military chain of command occasionally to get first hand accounts of events. My own proudest bucking of the experts and conventional wisdom was deciding to eat the paleolithic diet. I have never felt and looked better.
While the rest of the world has recently focused on JFK’s death, remember instead the valuable life lessons that he left for men of vigor.
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