Twelve of life’s most important lessons…

I don’t believe that I’ve read a better self-help post in the past year.  Tony Schwartz turned 60 and these are his reflections.  He is the author of Be Excellent at Anything.   This post is from the HBR Network and it’s titled: Turning 60: The Twelve Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far.  I find his insights remarkable…

  • Humility is underrated…deepening self-awareness is essential to freeing ourselves from reactive habitual behaviors…
  • “Notice the good – we carry an evolutionary disposition to dwell on on what’s wrong – take time each day to notice what right and to feel grateful
  • “Never seek your value at the expense of others…devaluing the person will only prompt more of the same in return”
  • “Slow down. Speed is the enemy of nearly everything in life that really matters. It’s addictive and it undermines quality, compassion, depth, creativity, appreciation and real relationship.”
    An on and on and on.  I’ve excerpted most of his post below so I can return to it frequently. (Now, only to execute…)

1. The more we know about ourselves, the more power we have to behave better. Humility is underrated. We each have an infinite capacity for self-deception — countless unconscious ways we protect ourselves from pain, uncertainty, and responsibility — often at the expense of others and of ourselves. Endless introspection can turn into self-indulgence, but deepening self-awareness is essential to freeing ourselves from our reactive, habitual behaviors.

2. Notice the good. We each carry an evolutionary predisposition to dwell on what’s wrong in our lives. The antidote is to deliberately take time out each day to notice what’s going right, and to feel grateful for what you’ve got. It’s probably a lot.

3. Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.

4. Never seek your value at the expense of someone else’s. When we’re feeling devalued, our reactive instinct is to do anything to restore what we’ve lost. Devaluing the person who made you feel bad will only prompt more of the same in return.

5. Do the most important thing first in the morning and you’ll never have an unproductive day. Most of us have the highest energy early in the day, and the fewest distractions. By focusing for a designated period of time, without interruption, on the highest value task for no more than 90 minutes, it’s possible to get an extraordinary amount of work accomplished in a short time.

6. It’s possible to be excellent at anything, but nothing valuable comes easy and discomfort is part of growth.Getting better at something depends far less on inborn talent than it does the willingness to practice the activity over and over, and to seek out regular feedback, the more precise the better.

7. The more behaviors you intentionally make automatic in your life, the more you’ll get done. If you have to think about doing something each time you do it, you probably won’t do it for very long. The trick is to get more things done using less energy and conscious self-control. How often do you forget to brush your teeth?

8. Slow down. Speed is the enemy of nearly everything in life that really matters. It’s addictive and it undermines quality, compassion, depth, creativity, appreciation and real relationship.

9. The feeling of having enough is magical. It rarely depends on how much you’ve got. More is rarely better. Too much of anything eventually becomes toxic.

10. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and don’t expect anything in return. Your values are one of the only possessions you have that no one can take away from you. Doing the right thing may not always get you what you think you want in the moment, but it will almost always leave you feeling better about yourself in the long run. When in doubt, default to calm and kind.

11. Add more value in the world than you’re using up. We spend down the earth’s resources every day. Life’s primary challenge is to put more back into the world than we take out.

12. Savor every moment — even the difficult ones. It all goes so fast.

Related Posts:

  1. 10 Things Your H.S. Commencement Speaker Didn’t Tell You…
  2. 30 Lessons For Living…Profound!
  3. Think Small…
  4. Live Simply…
  5. The Thought-Patterns of Success…
  6. I don’t want a revolution. I want a million tiny revolutions…

Image Credit: atomiclanterns


  1. Wow – what powerful and simple lessons…I am going to re-blog it David. Even though my readership pales in comparison to yours, the more who read it, the more will benefit. As to your comment “now to implement” – I turn your attention to lesson 12 – savor the times you don’t get it right too – none of us can ever say we always practice what we know to be true. Happy Sunday…:-)


  2. Reblogged this on Waiting for the Karma Truck and commented:
    Once again David Kanigan provided the best thoughts for a Sunday morning. I can say happily that some of these you have read about in my posts – but nowhere are they more eloquently put than in this summary from an article by Tony Schwartz. Big thanks to David for sharing this with everyone!


  3. This is brilliant – thank you so much for sharing!


  4. great post David, thank you 😉


  5. Alex Jones says:

    If someone has walked the road of life, been successful at it, then their practical wisdom is worth reading.


  6. Very good reflection on what is valuable in life ! Thanks for the reminder.


  7. Reblogged this on Sell, Lead, Succeed! and commented:
    I really enjoyed this post from Tony Schwart via David Kanigan this morning. Have a great Sunday everyone!


  8. David, your Blogs just keep getting better and better! You leave me quite breathless at times! This one is outstanding, truly. I will reblog it next week if I may.

    Keep up the great work!



  9. Hey David,

    I have a Question and that is: How do we need to motivate ourselves for something that we want? Sometimes you dont get any feeling just because once you failed. I find it really hard to start it over again although its not the same thing.

    Have a good day !


    • Hi Sonia. Funny you should ask. The original idea behind my post on Saturday was by a blog titled “Making Things Happen.” I couldn’t land on 10 obvious things that “fired me up” or in your case, motivating me, so I rotated out into “What soothes my soul”. ( This is subject for another post – but I also believe that you have to “love what you do” in order to be able to grind it out through the ups and downs. If you haven’t read my share called “Do What You Love” (, I would start here. I found this essay to be very inspirational. And give me a week or so. I need to gin up my top 10 things that inspire me…:)


      • Now thats the irony I love to work and am happy with my job. The problem with me is that am in the middle of the road. I dont feel anything be it an appreciation or an insult. I am amazed because I follow my Heart I have always done that and now when I dont feel anything I dont know where am I heading to in my life.. My point is very critical. Anyway Thank you so very much for your reply =)


  10. Reblogged this on RoixCroiX.


  11. Dave, excellent


  12. Words to live by!


  13. Superb! Thanks for sharing this. Good lessons!

    ~ E



  1. […] to freeing ourselves from our reactive, habitual behaviors.” Go to the source for 11 more: Twelve of life’s most important lessons… – Lead.Learn.Live.. 44.532117 -87.490109 Rate this: Please share this!Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]


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