I just finished reading a biography on one of my heroes, Albert Einstein. The good professor loved his early work at the patent office. Each patent was the work of individuals who worked off the beaten path, and he went down that path himself. He commented that the work gave him time to think about curious things–and to change the world. His life was an accomplishment of hubris and humility. He believed that the freedom to think is the road to feeding the soul. He was a smart man, but he was also very wise.
Then there’s the rest of us. Most of us live lives of quiet desperation and look forward to the little vacation time allotted to us by society. One of my favourite questions to ask a person is: “How many weekends were yours and yours alone last year?” (This does not include obligatory family ventures or occasional business trips.) Most people answer one or, at the most, five full weekends that they owned. My dentist keeps 10 weekends a year open for his exclusive well being. He may have a date with his wife or go fishing with the boys, but the choice is his. I have a weekend with my two brothers once a year, just the three of us. We eat spaghetti and see at least one “guy” movie. We each take turns hosting the reunion. My brothers and I are in our early seventies. Our age gives us wisdom to compensate for our diminishing IQs, so I thought I would pass along some of the wisdom garnered over our collective 225 years of flawed memories.
• ‘Tis better to be lucky than smart
• Instant gratification is too slow
• Don’t look under the light
• If two people always agree, there is no need for one of them
• TANSTAAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch)
• Wealth is choices
• Spend less than you earn
• Lawyers and accountants give advice, not permission
• You get it all, not just the good parts
• Deal with it, but sleep on it
• First you gotta make a hole
• You are the CEO of your life
Most of these are easy to understand, but some deserve further explanation.
For example, “Don’t look under the light” comes from an old joke: A drunk lost his car keys. “Where did you lose them?” a buddy asks. “Over in the bushes,” says the tipsy one. “Why are you looking here when the bushes are over there?” says the buddy. “The light is better over here under the street lamp,” responds the drunk. What this means is that we live life for comfort, not for solutions. An old saying states that most of us have good and valid reasons for being on the wrong road.
We seem to want to justify our reasons for not changing. We continue to subscribe to short-term comfort and not long-term goals.
“Wealth is choices” also needs expansion. Wealth is not money, but it is the ability to make choices. I left formal employment in 1964 to go skiing. Should I have waited until I had enough money? Freedom is the ability of the individual to choose the best road. For me, this was the best solution. My bride of 50 years and I never regretted the decision. It created a new and exciting future for us. That is true wealth.
“First, you gotta make a hole.” Let me explain this one. This came from a Christmas Eve early in my marriage. My bride did not want the dishwasher I purchased for her (a typical example of the male having no concept of the female mind). The boxed dishwasher was banished to the porch. A drinking buddy stopped by and listened to my tale. He suggested that we install the dishwasher immediately so that it would be too much of a hassle to return. The logic was unassailable. It was to go next to the sink in a space occupied by the silverware and cleaning chemicals. In my fogged mind, I reached for a pencil to sketch out the installation with due consideration for the pipes and cabinet hardware. My buddy had a better solution. He took the power saw and cut a hole. Spoons and forks flew everywhere, but the hole allowed us to see the problems concerning installation. After we got the dishwasher running, we were expelled from the kitchen forever and our vodka allowance was severely cut.
These are just some bits of wisdom that I thought I would share with you.
Einstein probably would have said it better, but the bottom line is that we all need to follow the simple rules of life: follow your road, have a vision and apply the tools of solution.
Dick Morley is the inventor of the PLC, an author, speaker, automation industry maverick and a self-proclaimed ubergeek. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.