In 1991 H. Jackson Brown Jr. decided to write a book called Life’s Little Instruction Book: 511 suggestions, observations, and reminders on how to live a happy and rewarding life. Although the bulk of them have not changed in just over 20 years, technology has changed a few of them, and a few of them were slightly inaccurate. I decided to rewrite his book with changes, elaborations, and annotations as to make it more applicable 20 years later. I also don’t necessarily agree with the order they are in either.
#1 Compliment three people every day. This one can remain the same; whether it is your wife, child, father, or a stranger, I suppose three is a good minimum number of positive remarks to make to people in a given day. Ironically, that does not happen in the work place. If managers stopped micromanaging, and stopped belittling and stopped criticizing their employees and started using positive reinforcement and compliments, their production and efficiency would improve 10 fold.
#2 Have a dog. Absolutely, in fact it should say have TWO dogs. One dog is a man’s best friend, because it never talks back or argues, like women do. But one dog is lonely when its owners are at work, or cooking dinner or playing with the children, so it needs a playmate. It should also say, have a BIG dog. Little dogs are annoying yippers who if ever bit someone, should get boot stomped to death, and the owner would really be upset. Little dogs never are as affectionate as big ones, let alone protective.
#3 Watch a sunrise at least once a year. This is a good one to follow when you are at the beach in North Carolina, or even better when you are at the beach in Jamaica, having stayed up all night. However, watching the sunrise once a year is not nearly as important as watching a meteor shower whenever possible. They are much more rare, and it seems that most of us are inevitably always missing the Perseid Meteor Shower.
#4 Remember other people’s birthdays, and your own anniversary. This one is ironically no longer needed due to Facebook keeping track of them all for you. However, there are a few social networking boycotters that are avoiding Facebook and social networking at all costs. Usually you can stick to the basics: wife, children, parents, and close family. I only need to remember a few birthdays, and I don’t need Facebook to do it either. (Note: This doesn’t mean you need to “hand write” 6,000 birthday cards every year, to strangers. Even the most ignorant employee, knows what bullshit smells like and “fake empathy” is.) It’s not like there were 6,000 birthday “Gifts” or birthday “checks” with those cards.
#5 Overtip breakfast waitresses. This one is ironically sexist. I agree that it is probably unfair that breakfast is probably the cheapest meal of the day, and that if you are eating out, the wait staff are working equally as hard as the lunch shift for probably less money, but if the service is shitty, all bets are off, unless she has a really cute smile or ass and then I suppose a good view is worth a few extra nickels.
#6 Have a firm handshake. Unfortunately a handshake in business is no longer worth much. There is so much double crossing, back stabbing, and flat out thievery, that this one should say have a firm contract.
#7 Look people in the eye. I find it funny because, I hate looking people in the eye. I suppose after running a business for 10 years and having to be the bearer of bad news to customers over and over again, I got tired of looking people in the eye because I got tired of seeing their reactions when I had to explain why the unexplainable happened and it is going to cost them more money to get their job done.
#8 Say “thank you” a lot. #9 Say “please” a lot. I was raise firmly on both of these, and have firmly raised my child on both of these as well. You can never be too grateful for whatever it is that is given to you.
#10 Learn to play a musical instrument. I think this one could have been cut out to get the list down to 500 even, because while it may be enjoyable to many people, it also costs a lot of time and money, and when you finally become an adult… it just doesn’t seem to pay off in any way shape or form, but I guess in High School it is a good way to keep occupied and stay out of trouble. This one definitely should not have been #10 on the list either.
#11 Sing in the shower. This is another one that should have been eliminated to get the list down to the 500 mark. I suppose if you have a radio in the bathroom with some rockin’ MP3’s to listen to, no one wants to sing without actual music in the background.
#12 Use the good silver. This is three in a row that could have easily been eliminated to make this the Top 500 list, and if you keep reading this book, it actually is contradicted by later “instructions”.
#13 Learn to make great chili. This one really should have been changed to one of two different ones. Learn to be a grill master, or learn to be a great cook. I happened to marry the most amazing woman who happened to be the most amazing cook.
#14 Plant flowers every spring. This one brings us to the point that planting flowers that die each year is pointless. Annuals and perennials are two words that people should know the difference between, because there is no point of planting a plant that is not going to come back, one of these being pansies.
#15 Own a great stereo system. I guess this could have been combined with #11 and read: Own a great stereo system, and use it to sing in the shower. I also find it funny that my mom still owns and listens to my Panasonic Boom Box that I got sometime in the 1980’s, and easily 25 years old it still works, though I’m not sure she can find any tape cassettes to play in it now that all music is digitized.
#16 Be the first to say, “Hello”. I’m not really sure, I guess it’s because society has shit on me so many times that I tend to shy away from conversation and people in general, though being outgoing is an important characteristic, I suppose this one is a good one for my son to follow.
#17 Live beneath your means. See this one contradicts #12 using the good silver, most middle class and lower class and in fact probably most of the 99% of Americans who are not greedy like Tim Tebow and Sheldon Yellen, don’t own any silver to eat with and are living well beneath their means.
#18 Drive inexpensive cars, but own the best house you can afford. Sure why not, but again let’s take a look at Sheldon Yellen and Tim Tebow, both examples of living in ridiculous sized houses, and it’s not the size of the house that matters, as #XXX points out, it’s location, location, location J.
#19 Buy great books even if you never read them. Again, it’s 2012 and in this digitized world, no one buys books anymore unless they are on a Kindle or a Nook, or some other e-reader. Also not many people have the time to read books, and if the point of this one is just to impress the people who are in your house, hopefully they are more impressed with your cooking than what is sitting on your book shelf.
#20 Be forgiving of yourself and others. I suppose being a person who has been forgiven for so many different indiscretions, and having forgiven so many people for theirs, this one is kind of a catch 22. At some point, you have to put your foot down, unless its family (and I mean TRUE immediate family), because “family is forever”.
#21 Learn three clean jokes. Well, dirty jokes are much more entertaining, but I can see the point of knowing three clean funny jokes. I only know the worst and most disgusting joke on the planet. I guess I can try to learn three clean funny jokes at some point.
#22 Wear polished shoes. This one can be discarded, but apparently people still do wear shoes that need polishing, because they still have the place at the airport to get it done.
#23 Floss your teeth. Excellent advice. Unfortunately in 1991 there was only floss, now with the invention of plaquers, it makes flossing easy and convenient for everyone, and there is no excuse to not floss anymore, since it is no longer a pain in the ass to do.
#24 Drink champagne for no reason at all. This contradicts a few of the earlier ones, like living beneath your means. Further that what a couple of Olympic Officials did at the London 2012 Games, and it created quite the uproar.
#25 Ask for a raise when you feel you’ve earned it. Good luck with that. In this economic crisis, and with however many tens of millions of unemployed workers out there, and the U6 unemployment rate at something like 25%, while people like Sheldon Yellen and Mark Zuckerberg are living well above their means, no one is getting a raise, especially if they are asking for one.
#26 In a fight, hit first and hit hard. This could be my most favorite, though it is contradicted by others later on in the book, it is very important. This brings back memories of O’Charley’s and the drunk guy that talked shit to my wife. I hit first and I hit so hard, he was left laying on the pavement, but that was 10 years ago, now I just hit first and hit hard with my intellectual muscles.
#27 Return all things you borrow. This is a good rule, along with don’t borrow things without asking. I always return everything I borrow, and once upon a time lost a friend for borrowing a ladder without asking, despite being able to prove I called him to ask.
#28 Teach some kind of class. I coached basketball, I guess that counts. I do love teaching kids, but I could never do it for a career, kids don’t appreciate it, or respect it anymore especially in 2012.
#29 Be a student in some kind of class. Is it me, or is this a stupid one? Don’t we all have to be a student in quite a few classes growing up? Maybe this should be changed to attend some college classes even if it’s not to obtain a degree, or attend some vocational tech classes to expand your knowledge, or take some classes even after you have completed High School or College, just to learn some more on a topic that you know very little about.
#30 Never buy a house without a fireplace. Put it this way, never buy a house with a gas fireplace, they are pieces of shit, and provide no warmth. After having no power for 4 days in the middle of a winter ice storm, that gas fireplace wouldn’t have cooked a hotdog if we had tried. So we bought an outdoor stone fireplace to over compensate for the fact that the indoor gas fireplace is a piece of shit.
#31 Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards. Or in this case in 2012, buy framed four leaf clovers, because you never know when the next chance to find some will be.
#32 Once in your life own a convertible. I miss it so much, when we had our child, I had to be practical and sell it because we needed money, but it was the most pimp convertible ever, not to mention, I had it 3-4 years and only put 18,000 miles on it, because I only drove it when it was worth having the top down.
#33 Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated. I can argue this one all day long, but for the most part it is a good rule of thumb.
#34 Learn to identify the music of Chopin, Mozart, and Beethoven. Unless you are Ken Jennings and planning on appearing on Jeopardy, I don’t see the point of this, in 2012 you ought to know Lil’ Wayne, Eminem, and Fort Minor instead.
#35 Plant a tree on your birthday. Not a bad suggestion, I found and saved two seedlings that were going to be chopped up by lawn mowers and relocated both to our home. The one is nearly 10 feet tall now and the other is almost 3 feet tall. They were both _____________ trees.
#36 Donate two pints of blood every year. This one is especially interesting in 2012 because I recall my father always donating blood when I was a kid. However in 2012 with HIV/AIDS spreading like wild fire, there is an even bigger shortage of blood donors, and I will assume that is also because people don’t want to find out that they have HIV/AIDS because once they are aware that they have it, and then if they transmit it to someone else, they can end up in prison for the rest of their lives. HIV/AIDS cases have skyrocketed over the last 20 years and I suppose that is an even bigger reason to donate blood if you are HIV/AIDS negative. So this one should reference ALWAYS WEAR A CONDOM, practice safe sex, and get tested for HIV/AIDS and give blood if you are negative and get treated if you are positive.
#37 Make new friends but cherish the old ones. I hate making new friends, especially after so many friends turning out to be back stabbing two faced douche bags, I prefer to keep to an especially small close knit group of people who know me.
#38 Keep secrets. For real, keep secrets, and keep them to the grave. My best friend blackmailed me for more than a year because he knew a secret, he eventually spilled the beans, but the amount of control he had over me because he knew my secrets was too much. Don’t ever let anyone have that power.
#39 Take lots of snapshots and photographs. In today’s technological community, with cell phone cameras, it really has been a great luxury to be able to get a photo at the right moment in time. A photo is worth a million words.
#40 Never refuse homemade brownies. The exception… unless they have nuts.
#41 Don’t postpone joy. If you knew what I know, you would know that joy only comes from our family and children, and that a career is no longer enjoyable, if you can even find a career.
#42 Write “thank you” notes promptly. If you are Sheldon Yellen, you can lie and claim to write 6,000 of them each year, but just like with compliments, employers are doing everything they can to cut costs and it is having a significant impact on morale, efficiency, and production.
#43 Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day. However, you can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change, so while you may not give up on that person, it can be painstaking to sit around and watch someone self destruct before your eyes. My life is a proof that miracles do exist, and my son is proof that miracles exist as well, but miracles are usually based on luck, and everyone’s luck eventually runs out.
#44 Show respect for teachers. I covered that earlier.
#45 Show respect for police officers and firefighters. Everyone already shows respect for firefighters, but police officers are the epitome of what is wrong with this country. You give a guy a gun, a badge, and a book of laws, and next thing you know, he is lying, cheating, and stealing, because he thinks he is above the law. I have yet to meet a cop who did not abuse his authority in some way shape or form.
#46 Show respect for military personnel. Sure, it’s not their fault they are fighting wars and dying in countries that we have no business being in.
#47 Don’t waste time learning the “tricks of the trade.” Instead, learn the trade. Point taken.
#48 Keep a tight rein on your temper. I think we could all stand to step back and take note of this one.
#49 Buy vegetables from truck farmers who advertise with hand-lettered signs. With obesity and overpopulation both at all time record highs in 2012, I don’t even think people eat vegetables anymore, and there certainly are not being bought or sold on the side of the road with hand written signs anymore.
#50 Put the cap back on the toothpaste. Before I read this book, I had already had to tell my son 25 times in the last few years to do this one. Maybe now that he has read this book, he will finally take me seriously.
#51 Take out the garbage without being told. Fortunately, my wife is the amazing cook, and being the failure in the kitchen that I am, I can honestly admit that I do always take out the trash without being told, and I even do it when I am at someone else’s house as well.
#52 Avoid overexposure to the sun. I hate the sun. I was overexposed to it for years, and I could go the rest of my life without seeing or being in the sun.
#53 Vote. Ironically, I told my son I wasn’t voting this year, and he read this book and told me I needed to, but what he doesn’t understand is that my vote doesn’t matter because no matter who I vote for, none of these politicians can fix decades of problems and red tape at this point. It is a lost cause.
#54 Surprise loved ones with little unexpected gifts.
#55 Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.ws