ISBN: 0452298482

After slogging through some old texts recently, I craved something more practical that focused on living well. This book did not disappoint, offering the wisdom of senior citizens who share what they have learned in their lives.

The beginning of the book deals with marriage, stating that the key to a happy marriage is having shared values and a friendship beneath the initial passion (many seniors suggested establishing a seed of friendship first). Once the passion fades—and it will—the friendship will help sustain the marriage into a lifelong partnership with someone you genuinely like being around and doing activities with. There is no mention of raw attraction and tingles in creating marriages that last into the decades.

Too bad that such advice doesn’t help men today. It was almost depressing to read a woman saying that when she was 20 years old, in her prime, the key to winning her heart and hand in marriage was actually through friendship (in all likelihood such women were virgins). This tactic, still used by beta males today, no longer works except for when the girl is over 30 years old and saddled with massive monetary debt and a promiscuous past that makes her wearing a white dress on the wedding day nothing short of farce.

Another important note:

What couples must avoid— if they wish to remain together as long as the experts— is keeping score regarding who is getting more and who is getting less . This kind of economic attitude is one we would use, say, with a vending machine: if I put in my dollar, I will get a candy bar of equal value. According to the experts, this approach does not work in marriage.

Maybe I speak from the perspective of having sowed my oats, but having a generous or giving mentality with Western women today, especially in the early stages of courtship, is the fastest way to not receive sex at all. The more carefully we dole out rewards, and the more methodical we are about only giving value when we are sure to receive it, is what men must now do just to engage in sex.

But the sad part is, too many young people now are giving up too early, too soon. They’ll say, “I don’t need this. I’m going to get a divorce.” We didn’t do that. In our day we stuck with it. Divorce was not in our language. We tried. We kept at it and we tried. He lived for twenty more years, and the two of us— it was wonderful. It was a great life.

Goodhearted strategies that worked in the past in securing a faithful wife is not what women today seek. It should cause us to wonder if such relationships that we read about in this book are even possible anymore. The current generation can confirm beyond any doubt that the culture we find ourselves in is broken, possibly beyond repair.

There’s also advice on how to approach career:

…that most people who decide on a profession because of the material rewards at some point look back and gasp, “What have I done?” In their view, we all need a salary to live on. But the experts concur that it’s vastly preferable to take home less in your paycheck and enjoy what you are doing rather than live for the weekends and your three weeks (if you get that much) vacation a year.

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…individuals who are motivated by goals that emphasize personal growth, contributing to the community, and meaningful relationships are typically much happier at work.

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There will always be many who are richer or more distinguished than I am, so if my purpose in working is to attain these extrinsic rewards, I will be disappointed, for I will always compare myself to those whose attainments are greater. But if I work principally for the pleasure or the fulfillment it gives me, my success is assured. There are few blessings greater than finding such work and keeping it.

[…]

When the experts discuss their work lives, two themes go hand in hand: purpose (beyond earning a salary) and autonomy. Neither one can be found in every job, every time, but without them work can become a miserable burden.

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…you have to be a risk taker. Because if you don’t take any risks, you don’t get any sweetness out of life. And the truth of the matter is that the sweetness in life comes with the risk. It doesn’t come with playing four aces in a poker hand.

Another interesting chapter is on health. The seniors described how a YOLO approach actually leads to more suffering instead of less. Many young people today, for example, may not care about not smoking or exercising because they don’t want to live long. The problem is that such a bad habit will not cause you to drop dead with pain in your sleep—it will instead give you chronic illnesses like cancer and diabetes that you may have to deal with for decades, greatly limiting how you live the last phase of your life.

One of the most poignant regrets comes from those who destroyed their health through smoking. The former smokers would do anything to wave a magic wand and change that one choice.

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The moral of the story: stop yourself when you explain poor lifestyle choices by saying something like “So what? You’ve got to die sometime.” Because there’s no guarantee of an easy way out after a life of overeating, inactivity , or smoking. The experts are telling you that you can’t choose whether or not to die, but you can to some degree control whether you spend the last decades of your life in healthy productivity or in a downward spiral of physical misery.

Another piece of advice is to be honest in your dealings with people. Regret has a way of haunting you into old age:

…our elders assured me that when you get to the eighth decade of life and beyond, you will look back and rue both your own acts of dishonesty and those that were done to you. The legacy of dishonesty, I learned, has a long reach.

Lastly, stop worrying:

What possible difference did it make that I kept my mind on every little thing that might go wrong? When I realized that it made no difference at all, I experienced a freedom that’s hard to describe. My life lesson is this: turn yourself from frittering away the day worrying about what comes next and let everything else that you love and enjoy move in.

This book offered the practical advice I sought. Much of it was review but it served as a good refresher that I’m on somewhat the right path in understanding how a life well-lived is the best reward there is. It will help you see the big picture instead of focusing on the day-to-day dramas or mini-outrages that we allow to distract us in modern times, while reminding us that opting out of marriage is a rational decision based on living in an environment that is very different from that of our grandparents.

Read More: “30 Lessons For Living” on Amazon