How Not to Fuck Up Your Life, or How to Unfuck It, If You Have

I have fucked up my life. I cannot say that this could have been easily avoided, but it would have taken less effort to avoid it than to fix it. Fucking up your life is a bit like getting cancer: It’s expensive, it’s painful, and in some respects, the cure is worse than the disease, at least in the short run. The bitterer part about fucking up your life, however, is that it is 100% your fault. Today, I am going to lay some wisdom on you based entirely on my personal experiences so that you can avoid the trap of fucking up your life.

The first thing you have to carefully evaluate is whether or not you need to go to college. Yes, I said need. I am a great proponent of education. I love learning. I read constantly, and I randomly enroll in learning courses. Learning should be an ongoing process for everyone, and it is certainly not something that is confined to the halls of higher education. At this point, I think there is certainly an argument to be made that you will get a fairer and more balanced education if you curate your own courses. Going to university will ensure that you get the most Marxist, closed-minded education imaginable, unless you’re actually Alt-Right and all you read is crap from Storm Front. If you’re in the latter boat, you are Marxist or Alt-Right, you need to get your head out of your ass.

Now, if you are going to be a professional – a doctor, engineer, economist, nurse, or lawyer – you will have to have a certain amount of schooling to get where you want to go. I would be incredibly certain going in that that is what you want to do, particularly in the case of lawyering. With the advent of online legal advice and ways to fill out basic legal paperwork online, I think there will be an oversupply of attorneys for some time into the future, and except in the case of high-powered corporate lawyers, I expect to see lawyer salaries gradually coming down. I am friends with a guy who went to law school and has never had a job as an attorney because, simply put, unless you go to a top law school and graduate near the top of the class, you aren’t going to get a really amazing, well paid job that allows you pay down $150k worth of debt. Frankly, I hope some of the lesser law schools close their doors because that would be a net good for students.

I would never recommend to anyone that they go to school for a liberal arts degree, and I say that as someone who has two of them. If you major in English, Women’s Studies, or Russian and expect to come out qualified to be a functional member of the workforce, all I have to say is that you’re dreaming. This is hardly surprising because schools are still selling the “college dream” to unsuspecting students.

For a lot of people, at this point, it would be strongly preferable to get some work experience and actually make yourself valuable to your employer. I remember coming out of college and not being able to use a fax machine. I was pretty worthless as an employee when I got out of college. I didn’t think I was, but I was, in retrospect. College taught me how to speak German, French, and do research, but it never prepared me to hold a job since I also acquired the extremely specialized skills of drinking too much four days a week and taking naps mid-afternoon.

Probably the best thing I learned in college – and I’m not exaggerating this – was how to make change. I worked an extremely menial job for about 50 cents an hour above minimum wage at the Mizzou Athletics Department. I learned how to take stock and make change in my head, since none of our cash registers ever worked at the old arenas. I know it sounds stupid, but that menial skill has served me damned well over the years. I am probably one of the only people in my office who can do mental math, including percentages, in a matter of seconds. Thank you, MU Athletics and your lack of budget for functional registers.

My advice to you is to figure out as early as you can what it is that you love, and then have a really hard conversation with yourself about what it would take to get there. Brainstorm about the various ways you could become that thing without school. If you want to be a writer, you can most certainly be a writer and earn a living at it without ever going to college. The Internet is a beautiful thing, and frankly, the instructors in creative writing classes probably won’t teach you much. One of my friends wrote an amazing, funny, surreal story for a class in college and got referred to a shrink for her trouble. That’s the thing about people living in the box: They do not think outside of it. Professors fancy themselves as counter-culture, but at this stage of the culture wars, they are the furthest thing there is from counter-culture.

The second thing that I would recommend is to be safe about having sex. I do not have to count myself among them, thank G-d, but I know a sad number of people who have contracted incurable STDs. In some cases, it was from a random, one-night stand gone wrong, and in some cases it has been from a long-term partner who either did not know about or failed to disclose the condition.

Folks, nobody is going to take care of your sexual health for you. In fact, potential sex partners are more apt to work directly against your best interests in favor of getting whatever it is that they want from you. Some people do act with good intentions but honestly don’t know that they have an STD. My advice on this front is to always – always – use a condom in the early stages. The preferable route is to hold off from sex until both of you have been tested. I would not sleep with someone at this point without them providing me a clean test result. Extreme? Maybe, but I have too many friends who have messed up the health of their sex organs for a cheap night of thrills, and since I do not consider maintaining good health or sex to be cheap, I will forego that particular risk. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get some experience under your belt, but you’re better left to do it with a relationship partner. But love yourself first. Always.

The next advice is somewhat Margaret-specific, but it’s still good advice: Don’t start smoking. Light up the devil’s lettuce. Have a drink once in a while. For heaven’s sake, don’t start smoking tobacco. If you already smoke, start getting yourself in the mindset to quit. Literally nothing good can come from smoking. Not one thing. It’s hella expensive, and it will ruin your health. It will make you sicker more often, it makes you smell disgusting, and yes, it will give you cancer.

Most of my smoker friends have given it up as their twenties wore on. I started smoking again when I was going through my divorce, but I quit again after it was over. I will still have the occasional smoke with a drink, but the further I get away from it, the less I want it. Thank G-d.

The next thing I am going to list, I cannot stress strongly enough. You must – must – choose your marriage partner wisely. If you are a woman, you should not hold off until you are in your thirties to do it. Some people are going to cry “sexist” at this, but it’s not sexism: It’s TRUTH. Women trade on their beauty and reproductive capabilities, and those are not going to get better after 25. If you find someone you genuinely love, who has their shit together, who treats you with love and respect, and who wants to have children with you, and you are 22, fuck it. Get married. The  odds of you getting a better prospect at 35, as a woman, are basically nil. It’s not impossible, but it’s not nearly as likely. (And no, I’m not a misogynist; I am a realist. I am not nearly as hot now as I was at 20. Yes, brains and personality matter, for sure, but so do fertility and good looks, and you’re better to strike when those are peaking.)

I married fairly young, but I married entirely the wrong person, and we both knew it. We were not right for each other. I certainly had my opportunity to at least try my hand with a man I genuinely, deeply loved and indubitably would have been more compatible with, but I had neither the courage nor the wisdom to pursue it. I was already with my husband, although we were not married at the time. I had been with this other person before, and I had the opportunity to give it another try, but I felt as though I would be betraying the relationship with my ex.

Folks, you have to do what is right for you. If there is someone that you know will make you happier, who will treat you right… Actually, even if you don’t know that, I promise you that it is better to be alone than to be in a relationship where you make each other miserable. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you love someone, and it is not something I have ever once honestly been able to do, to make myself that vulnerable. The secret there is that it will hurt just as badly, one way or another, if you never put yourself out there. Your heart will either harden around the love part of it, or it will die. Use it or lose it.

If you are not sure if the person you love is genuinely good for you, ask yourself the following questions. Do we honestly bring out the best in each other? Do we encourage each other in our goals and dreams? Do we treat each other with respect? Do we have goals in common for our future together? (This is a big deal. If one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t, there WILL be problems.) Is this a person who wants to grow with me? Is this a person who is willing to work on the little things as well as the big things to keep the relationship flourishing? If you cannot answer the first one affirmatively or don’t know, you have some shit to figure out.

For me, at this point, someone who brings out the best in me would have some very specific qualities. He would look after his health. This would mean eating right most of the time and getting some exercise – doesn’t have to be Dave Goggins, but at least a good walk – every day. I would personally like someone who leans vegetarian and gets some enjoyment out of cooking with me. Someone who pushes himself in his career and is happy with what he does. He doesn’t have to be a millionaire or anything, but I don’t have a lot of respect for people with no ambition to get what makes them happy. He should be financially stable – again, not necessarily ballin’, but stable. (All men, if they want good women, have to be financially stable.) Kind to children. He should be well dressed in public because hey, every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp-dressed man. Also, I tend to try to dress nicely most days, and it would look stupid if I were going around dressed up with a guy who wears sweats in public. He should have his own friends and not be dependent on me for a social life, although I would like for our friend groups to be compatible. Lastly, he should be doing something to build other people up, whether that’s volunteering for a cause he cares about or mentoring others in something, you want someone who recognizes that it is good to give back to the community. This may not seem important, but people who have gratitude for their own good fortune are far more likely to want to give back. I say this as someone who has been an ingrate most of her life.

Let’s talk about what happens when you don’t find the right person. You will likely be trapped in a relationship that winds up bringing out the worst, rather than the best, in you. You will both become steadily more miserable until everything blows up, probably in a spectacular fashion. If you are already married, you’re looking at divorce, and trust me, that ain’t no walk in the park.

Divorce is expensive. A good attorney is going to cost you, and if he or she is anything like mine, he stops working the minute that retainer runs out. Incidentally, if you are going through a divorce, make sure you invest in a good attorney. Remember, you aren’t paying them to be your friend or your shrink; you’re paying them to get you out with as much skin intact as possible. My attorney is not necessarily someone I’d want to be friends with, objectively, but he did a good job, and that was what I was after.

Divorce is also incredibly taxing on the psyche. Some divorces are easier than others. For me, I felt pretty alone because I didn’t have my folks around anymore, and it felt like I was groping blind a lot. It was incredibly difficult for me to adjust to being a truly single parent (i.e., no help from the ex), but I did adjust. It was hard, and there were a of tears and bad days, and sometimes there still are, but I got through it, and I’m a far, far better person at this point than I was before. I still do not advocate going through it, if you don’t have to.

The next thing will come off far less serious, but it’s genuinely important to maintaining good health, and your friends, family, and partner will love it: Learn to fucking cook. I hated cooking for years. Hated it. I never learned when I was young. I never enjoyed it, and I assumed that I never would.

Enthusiasm for learning more about Judaism was literally the thing that got me into cooking on the regular. Jewish holiday food is mostly different from Christian/secular holiday food. I had no idea what challah bread was. I had heard of latkes and lox, but I had certainly never tried to make them. I am proud to say that my chocolate chip challah bread is the kind of thing that literally won’t last the day when I take it places, my coworkers seem to enjoy my gingerbread-eggnog kugel, and my brisket ain’t half bad. My first attempt at lox wasn’t the greatest, but I’m going to try again when my friends come to visit this summer.

You really are what you eat – the changes in my body that have resulted from a vegan diet are solid proof of that – and it really pays off to be able to cook healthy, delicious things for yourself and others. Also, honestly, it’s really fun to cook with other people. It’s a lot of fun to throw stuff together and then everyone sit down to a big, delicious meal. But on a day-to-day basis, it’s more important to be able to cook in order to keep yourself healthy. Now, for me personally, that wasn’t what inspired me to be a good cook, but find something about eating that gets you there and get in the kitchen.

I made vegetarian taco boats last night for the kids. I sautéed peppers, onions, and vegan “chicken” made of seitan, and I put that in the whole wheat boat with white sticky rice, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. The girls loved the boats so much that they want to have them again tonight. Brett’s favorite meal now is vegetarian “meatball” subs. I’m thinking about making “zoodles” – zucchini noodles – for dinner tonight. One thing that I will say I have discovered about attempting to get your older children to eat vegetables is that, unless they ask, it’s perfectly acceptable to not tell them that they’re eating more vegetables. It’s like when they fall down on the playground; they won’t cry most of the time until they see a little blood. Once there’s blood, it’s on. If they know vegetables are coming, it’s like there is an automatic resistance.

The next thing you would be wise not to fuck up is your finances. Most people seem to do this through credit card debt. I have several friends who managed to rack up $25k+ of debt on their cards while they were in college, and that’s no exaggeration. Don’t spend more than you make. Don’t put yourself into situations where that could happen.

I have found Harv Eker’s advice on dividing your income to be pretty solid. Have a “home” spending account, a play account, an education account, an investing account, a long-term savings account or five, and a rainy day account. I might be getting those specifics wrong, but I’m know that I’m right on the first ones. Divy it out the day you get paid. I would honestly really recommend getting his book, The Millionaire Mindset, on tape and listening to it. I need to re-listen to it, honestly. If you need to fix your mind about rich people (they aren’t bad), how you make, spend, and save your money, and what you need to do to improve your life, it’s a good one.

My recommendation, more particularly for men because your earning/saving ability matters more, but obviously for all parties, is that you start saving as soon as you exit high school, if not before. Start investing. Get a Roth IRA. Do your research and buy some stocks. Learn how the bond markets work. Learn how central banking, gold/silver standards work, and how crypto works. Study Austrian economics. (Don’t worry – Austrian economics are amazing good fun compared to Keynesianism.) And for fuck’s sake, learn the formula for interest. Einstein was right about it being the most powerful formula in the universe, and I will paraphrase someone else whose name I can’t remember by telling you that those who understand interest charge it, and those who do not pay it. (I have a zero interest loan on my car, and it is the tits, ladies and gents.) You need to learn the rule of 72 for interest. You ready? Here it is:

If you want to know how long it will take to double your return at a given interest rate, divide that number into 72. For example, if you have an investment that is paying 4% compounding interest, divide 72 by 4. You will get 18 years. Now, the rule of 72 works pretty well, as a generalization. It is based on a log, and the actual number is 69, but 72 is divisible by 12, so it’s easier to work with and, well, if you really want to get into the particulars of the math, there are plenty of places online that will take you down the rabbit hole of interest. Just trust me on the rule of 72.

My next piece of advice is probably one that many people will find controversial, irritating, and preachy, but here it is: Find religion.

I know, I get it, you’re an atheist. You don’t believe in G-d. Well, I’m going to fall back on Jordan Peterson and tell you that first, you need to define what you think G-d really is. Have you read various religious texts? Have you read them literally and figuratively and had a good think about them? Do you think that G-d is a literal being? Do you think that G-d is a total and utter figment of the imagination? Do you think that G-d is the essence of knowledge that we pass along from one generation to another? Do you think your parents are G-d? Do you think that you are G-d? Realize, as you are asking yourself these questions – really asking, by the way, not just humoring my Noahide ass – that these questions have nothing immediately to do with the question of an afterlife.

The truth is, when most people ask whether or not you believe in G-d, what they really want to know is whether or not you believe in an afterlife, which is an entirely separate question. Depending on your definition of G-d, I think you could say that you believe in G-d without believing in an afterlife. I’m not sure if there is a term for someone who believes in G-d but doesn’t believe in a soul or an afterlife because let’s face it, the term “atheist” means, in the vernacular, someone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife or an intelligent creator. It has nothing whatever to say about any other definition of G-d.

The concept of G-d is an important one to consider, and there is a lot to be said for having a moral code that informs the way you live your life. In my humble and unsolicited opinion, it is hard to do better than the Judeo-Christian school of beliefs, but if those don’t appeal, hey, you do you. My personal observation has been that Catholicism, Mormonism, and Judaism have the best success in turning out good folks who take care of themselves, their families, and their communities. Now, as I have said, Christianity in general just isn’t my bag, but I have known quite a few (practicing) Catholic and Mormon families over the course of my life, and nearly all of them have been close-knit, successful, friendly, and giving. In general, their kids go on and do very well for themselves. My universal experience with Jewish families has been that they school hard, work hard, and overachieve like bandits. I have known all three groups to be extraordinarily generous with their time and money towards charitable causes, and they definitely take care of their people.

Being a part of a religious community also means, well, that you have a community. Communities take care of their own. Jews are accused of clannishness a lot, and I understand where that comes from. There is a devotion to other members of the community among temples and shuls especially, and there are mitzvoth that deal with this – even how one should behave towards those who are in mourning. My observation, though somewhat limited, has been that even secular Jews will look after other members of the tribe. I have had far more experience with Catholics, and in the town I live in, the Catholics most assuredly look out for one another. There is a joke where I work that if you want a big promotion, you have to have graduated from the Catholic high school or go over to the parish and get converted. I don’t knock them for it. You look after your own first. That’s just smart.

I hear a lot of people say that we have outgrown religion and that we are “too smart” for it now, but I do not believe that. I have not seen a good replacement for it. A lot of people see politics and activism as the replacement, and that does not work in my mind because the winds of political favor and ideology change so easily. Religion evolves and changes too, but it is far slower, on average, and to stay foundationally true to itself, certain things cannot change. Especially in this age of postmodern interpretation and scientism, where any random evidence seems to be taken as an excuse to remake the world, I think a lot of people internally are crying out for some consistency.

Most people I know who have some religion are more balanced and more content. I know a lot of atheists, and although it wouldn’t be exactly accurate to state that most atheists I know are unhappy, it wouldn’t be that far off, either. I have known many an angry atheist in my day – hell, I was one for a lot of years – and they are just as bad and potentially worse than the most devout Jehovah’s Witness banging on your front door. It is not universally true, as I said, but there seems to be a pervasive nihilism that settles over longtime atheists, and it is not a cheerful sort of thing. I understand why people are atheists, and I understand why they dislike and distrust organized religion, but I just can’t get behind something that offers little more than resignation and a call for political activism, which it frequently seems to do, and usually towards liberal causes.

As I have said before, the bottom line for me is that atheism did not make me happier. It made me unhappier, and I found it to be fundamentally untrue. I am ever a skeptic about religious experiences and things of that sort because I know how powerful the human mind is, but I cannot dismiss my experiences out of hand, and more importantly, I am profoundly happier blessing candles and taking Friday evening and Saturday to relax with my kids than I was doing other things. We eat dinner, we take a walk to the park, they play, I chill, and then we water the flowers, and I let them play in the hose. How does life get better than that?

I started to add this last part to my list below, but I decided that it needed some extra elaboration. This thing may be one of the hardest things to do, but here it is: You must eliminate the toxic people from your life. A man is known by the company he keeps, and if all of your friends are shitbums, friend, I got news: You probably are, too.

Toxic people are real. They come in a variety of shapes and flavors. Some people are entitled, some are narcissistic, some are passive-aggressive, some are addicts, and some are just straight up energy vampires. You may have encountered all of these types or maybe just one, but I doubt you’ve made it to adulthood without crossing paths with a few.

If you want to lead a good, productive, contented life that creates the best results for you and the people you love, you must surround yourself with quality people. You want your tribe to be positive, goal-oriented, committed, kind, and invested, both in themselves, in others, and in a better future. You need to surround yourself with the kind of people you want to become. If you want to be an entrepreneur, go where entrepreneurs hang out: the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis and Rotary, women in business clubs, etc. If you value giving back to the community and getting your tikkun olam on, get involved with some organizations that regularly do volunteer work. They will be glad to have you, trust me. This summer, I’m working on the local program that provides lunches for needy children. It’s not much, schlepping stuff around to drop-offs and maybe packing lunch bags, but it’s something, and that’s the easy part.

The hard part is getting rid of the dead weight. If you are currently surrounded by people who are not good for you or your future, you need to accept the fact that they might not be able to come along for the ride. I’m not advocating that you immediately tell all of your friends and family that you can’t hang anymore. What I am saying is that you need to carefully evaluate who you want to become and work from there.

If you want to be sober but your friends are into drinking and drugs, that is not going to work. You have to be honest about your desire for sobriety. If they cannot accept that, you need to move on. Family members who start drama can be a real issue. It’s harder with family. You have to decide how much you are willing to tolerate and how much effort you want to put in to continuing the association. If you have a family member who is dramatic and cannot be trusted with information, you do not have to sever all ties with them, but you do need to realize that you cannot tell them everything, and that will preclude having a truly honest relationship with them. You can have that person in your life, but it’s a little bit like a restricted profile on Facebook.

You have to exercise good judgment. I have a few people in my life that I care about but with whom I do not share all details of my life. I tell them things on a need-to-know basis and let them do most of the talking. I have other people that I have let go. It does not have to be dramatic, either. Often, this looks more like a gradual growing apart than a massive, nuclear blowout. For example, if you friends invite you out to drink and you aren’t interested in drinking or the culture around it, all you have to do is politely decline. You don’t even have to give an explanation, if you don’t want to.

Your friends are so, so critical. Your friends should build you up, encourage you, celebrate your victories, console you in your failures, and kick you in the ass when you want to give up. Put out good vibes, be a good person, be a strong, honest person, and you will bring those people to you.

And now for that somewhat more minor list of things that I strongly urge you to do and some of which, if you were physically in my presence, I would nag you about.

 

1.     Take care of your grill. No, seriously. Brush your teeth. They are one of the first things people notice (it’s a mating thing), and you are judged for your bad teeth. I know a lot of older people who are losing their pearly whites or having major dental surgeries, and it is directly related to the fact that they haven’t brushed enough, used Listerine, and/or gone in for regular dental checkups. I love going to the dentist, and I love getting my teeth cleaned. That’s partly because I’m a freak of nature, but it’s also partly because I have amazing teeth, and I’m keeping them for life.

2.     Drink more water. It makes your skin healthier, it keeps your kidneys flushed, and it keeps from getting dehydrated when it’s 90 degrees out. Put some of that no-calorie Crystal Lite juice in it, if you don’t like regular water. I drink at least 128 ounces of water a day. If your pee isn’t clear, you aren’t drinking enough water. Don’t drink soda. Give it up right now. It’s poison. Drink black coffee or tea, if you can’t kick caffeine.

3.     Try to have a hobby that gets you active and allows for socializing. Join a bike club. Start going to an indoor rock wall. Take up boxing. A friend of mine took up boxing, and she (yes, she!) loves it, and she’s fitter than she’s ever been in her life. She’s one of my greatest inspirations right now. I’m fitting the Mom van with a hitch and bike rack so I can ride on lunch break.

4.     Cultivate an appreciation for beautiful things. If you aren’t into music, art, or nature, you are an incomplete person. Period. Those who cannot appreciate beauty are denying the spark of the divine in themselves. People create beautiful things because they have profound insights and a drive to express themselves to the world, and others are drawn to it because we know, instinctively, that beauty is good and must be sought after. Beauty lifts everyone.

5.     Don’t make me say it… Clean your room. Yes, you too, Howe. You know you’re a dirty bastard.

6.     Learn to play a musical instrument. Piano is best because it teaches you two clefs and lays a good foundation for music theory. It will also make your more coordinated, and kids who play instruments statistically do better in school. And you know I want to see your name on the dean’s list.

7.     Buy a nice pair of shoes and wear them. If you have a nice pair of shoes, you will have to adjust the rest of your wardrobe to look nicer. Professional men should have one pair of genuinely good shoes that can be resoled, although I will say, good luck finding a cobbler these days. Women should learn how to walk in heels. Start low (2-3 inches) and lead with the thighs. Leading with the thighs and not the feet was the key for me.

8.     Have a pro show you how to do makeup and what to wear, if you need help. MAC counters are awesome for having someone show you how to do makeup, but if you don’t want the sales pressure, get yourself one good lipstick (I love Besame), save up for an Urban Decay Naked palette and some cheap brushes from Ulta, and get on YouTube and search UD Naked Palette looks. Just one time, hire a personal shopper type for the day, tell them what you like, and have them show you what looks good on you. Different figures need different silhouettes. Again, if you can’t afford that, get on YouTube and watch some videos that tell you how to dress for your shape.

9.     Get your passport. Because you never know.

10. Do good things for people, but do not expect a reward. And if it does pay off, show gratitude.

11. Try to remember one thing about every person that you meet. We’re all in love with ourselves. Ask people about themselves when you meet them, and remember at least one thing they told you. They will appreciate it later.

12. Be present with people. That means you aren’t checking your phone while you talk to people. Give them your attention, and listen to what they are telling you.

13. Watch people’s movements and expressions. Yes, I did just tell you to listen to people because that is important, but people aren’t always honest with others or themselves about their motives and desires. Body language will give it away nearly every time.

14. Tell the truth. That doesn’t mean that you have to be brutally honest. Most people who are brutally honest all the time delight in the brutality more than the honesty. You can tell people the truth in a tactful, productive way. Whatever you do though, be honest. This is really hard to do when you want to be a people-pleaser.

This also means that you need to tell yourself the truth, even if it’s really fucking hard to hear. If you are fat, don’t lie to yourself that it’s healthy. If you can’t hold a job, ask yourself why, and wait for the little voice to answer. If you have a bad temper or a drinking problem, figure out how you’re going to deal with it, but don’t lie to yourself about it.

15. Get your blood work done every 3-6 months. Tim Ferriss brought this up in passing once on one of his shows with the admonition that if you don’t, you aren’t doing it right. I thought that was absurdly excessive and kind of neurotic when I heard it the first time, but I get it now. If you are concerned about your wellbeing, you should monitor your sugar, cholesterol, iron, etc. and adjust accordingly if there is a problem. If you are avoiding doing it because you know there are likely problems, then that’s the best reason to get started.

16. Don’t get drunk, and if you must, choose your drinking comrades wisely. I have done a tragic amount of regrettable shit while I was drunk. Drinking is fun, and I enjoy doing it, but not like I used to. That’s partly because I hate two-day hangovers, but it’s also because I just don’t like the unhealthy feeling that accompanies too much alcohol. I drink heavily maybe 1-2 times a year now, only among close friends, and I drink so much water that I’m rarely in a bad way the next day.

Recently, one of my friends had a pretty terrible experience while drinking that may or may not have resulted in unwanted sex. She actually doesn’t know, and that is scary. She went out with people she didn’t know. She has since made the decision to give up drinking, and I applaud that. She is not a good drunk, and she does not make anything close to good decisions where liquor is involved.

17. Learn to dance. I’m so bummed that I didn’t make this a priority when I was younger. Dancing keeps your body pretty, and it’s fun to be able to dance at social events. Standing in front of the TV at night with YouTube tutorials on how to do the “Single Ladies” dance is lame, but that’s where I’m at right now. I gotta get my dance on for this upcoming wedding I’m in.

18. Show compassion to those who least deserve it. This is a chopped and screwed way of saying, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.” Say you hear someone drop an honest-to-G-d, bigoted slur. And you despise those words and those feelings. The worst thing you can do is throw hate back at that person because it will only fuel their own hatred. You cannot beat hatred by putting more of it into the world. You have to show compassion and even love for people. They will respond. Maybe not all of them, and maybe not immediately, but they will. And if they don’t, you tried, but you cannot let yourself get sucked into a game of hating because people who are full of those kinds of vile feelings will drag you down and beat you with experience.

19. Fail often. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. I got turned down for a promotion on Monday. It went the person with seniority, which I had expected. I’m not mad about it. Objectively, they made the right decision. There will be something better in the future. Pick up, dust off, and get back after it. You’ll fail a hell of a lot more than you succeed. Judge yourself on how many times you’ve gotten up and kept after it. Persistence is key.

20. Stop and smell the flowers. This is probably the Howe equivalent of Jordan Peterson telling you to pet cats, which I also do and advocate doing. I love smelling flowers. I love flowers. Flowers are literally sex organs on a stick surrounded by colorful dressing to attract the agents of fertilization. How fucking perfect is that?

21. Tell your people that you love them. I have had an enormous amount of regret for all the times that I didn’t say that I cared when I had the opportunity. In some cases, the opportunity has passed forever out of the realm of possibility, and I have had to fight a serious war with myself, coming to terms with that. I’ve probably got a couple more bloody battles before the peace agreement is signed. The great regrets of my life are all related to things that I didn’t do because I was afraid or because I thought there would always be another tomorrow. Say the thing, do the thing, and do it now. There is no tomorrow.

You’re off to the races now, right? You didn’t need me to tell you any of this. You already knew it all. Of course you did. We all know what we are doing wrong and what we could be doing better, but sometimes it helps to hear another person articulate it. Sometimes someone else can say something in such a way that it really rings a bell in your head. I hope maybe this does that for at least one person who reads this. I know committing it to paper certainly helps me structure my thoughts and beliefs so that I can maximize my mileage.

Take care, all!