So the title of this post was once a refrigerator magnet or a bumper sticker or something, one that was meant to be funny. But, well, it's true, right? It's so much easier to give advice than to take it. We see other people doing stupid things to mess up their lives, and we feel almost a physical urge to slap them upside the head and tell them that they should be doing smart things instead.
Then at the same time, we go around doing the same kind of stupid-ass things ourselves, just a slightly different version.
When you're young people give you lots of advice, most of which you ignore. And then you get older and you wish you'd paid attention to at least a little of it. So then you see a young person about to make the same mistakes you did and you naturally want to scream: STOP THAT! YOU ARE GOING TO BE SO F*CKING SORRY LATER, I SWEAR!
But either you hold your tongue, or you tell them what they should do and they just ignore you. Sort of like you did when you were young and people tried to warn you about things.
And as we grow up into adulthood and middle age and old age, we keep doing things that later we may regret. You know that saying about youth being wasted on the young? Well maybe all the life stages are wasted on those who are living them, because we get too caught up in what's happening in our daily lives to make smart decisions about the Big Things. Or even the little things. What are we all doing now that we'll regret twenty years down the road?
If someone actually told us now, would we pay any attention?
So here's a chance for any Cranky Fitness readers, of whatever age, to pass along Unsolicited Life Advice to others. (Note: you don't have to actually follow your own advice yourself. That's way harder.)
And Life Advice can be about Big Things or Little Things. Because the Little Things are important too! Remember the "sunscreen graduation speech" that was widely circulated a decade ago? (It was written by Mary Schmich, but falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut at the time). Well, part of the reason it was so popular, aside from the attribution error, was that it contained Smaller Truths as well as the Bigger ones. (And because one of the huge regrets many of us have as we age is, actually, that we didn't wear enough damn sunscreen.)
Anyway, this is one of those posts that will happen mostly in the Comments section, because readers always have the best advice! (And it would be particularly useful if people had advice for middle-aged and older people as well as youngsters, because some of us are actually not so young anymore. We need age-appropriate advice that we can ignore too. So, youngsters, don't feel shy about telling us old farts what we should do, since we're always handing out plenty advice down your direction).
Anyway, here are a few initial random pieces of unsolicited advice. And lets hope it gets better than this when you folks weigh in!
1. Ignore almost everything you learned as an adolescent. Adolescence is not like the rest of life--just grit your teeth and get through it and try not to let it permanently damage your self-esteem. Adolescent popularity often seems to involve: obsessing over your appearance; having the "right" clothes or gear; conforming to what everyone else around you is doing; disdaining anyone in authority or anyone below you on the social ladder; and taking lots of reckless chances just for the hell of it.
This is not, strangely enough, the best formula for happiness later in life.
And sure, there are few lucky folks who succeed at being popular and successful both as teenagers and as grown ups--but often there is almost an inverse relationship between teenage happiness and any other kind.
2. Don't slouch. Even if you are embarrassed by your height, your boobs, your lack of boobs, or whatever--you will regret your lousy posture later. There will come a time when you don't even have the option to pull your shoulders back anymore or stand up straight if you don't get in the habit when you're younger.
3. Don't smoke cigarettes.
4. Don't marry or have kids young. Unless you are (a) incredibly lucky or (b) unusually wise beyond your years. This is because there is almost no correlation between what makes someone seem incredibly attractive to the average, say, 19-year-old, and what makes a person a caring, reliable, loving partner worthy of a lifetime commitment.
Play the field first, however you might define "play." Learn whether you are naturally attracted to people who are good to you. If not, teach yourself to find good people attractive before you commit yourself (and possibly your children) to someone who isn't kind or stable. It's not fair to your kids, or yourself, to marry an abusive or neglectful or just-plain-crazy person in order to fulfill some kind of romantic fantasy. The stakes are way too high.
5. Don't fear exercise--get used to it early and it becomes like brushing your teeth--something you may not always feel like but that is so ingrained you feel sort of ashamed and dirty if you don't get around to it.
6. Start saving money and earning interest on it as soon as you are able. If you are five years old and your mommy is reading this blog to you right now and the tooth fairy just left you a dollar? Then make mommy give you change for that dollar and put a quarter of it right in the bank. Seriously, that whole compounded-interest thing is totally amazing. If you save a big chunk of those tooth fairy quarters and babysitting dollars and foregone Starbucks lattes and first paychecks and holiday bonuses and let it all earn interest for a few decades? Voila: financial security. (Or at least a lot less debt!).
7. Hang on to memories too, not just money. Keep those old pictures of yourself, your family, your friends, your exes--even some of the unflattering or painful ones. As time goes on you really will forget what you looked like, what you wore, who you hung out with, where you went and, well, who the hell you were. Later, you will be curious.
8. Put more effort into being kind and pleasant to your loved ones than you do your boss or your clients or your co-workers. Not that you should be rude to or abrupt with anyone. But too many people seem to feel that their own partners or family members don't merit the same patience and courtesy they extend in "social" situations to colleagues or even total strangers. This is backwards, really common, and kinda screwed up when you think about it.
9. If you have safely reached middle age with some cherished long-term friendships intact, and you find yourself telling a funny story: realize that you already told these people this story. Yes, you have, even if you don't remember that you did. If it is indeed funny and it happened more than 24 hours ago--yep, they've heard it. The reason they are smiling and laughing and asking questions is because they like you, and because they're really nice people. So go ahead and tell it again and enjoy the warmth that their laughter brings--but make sure to appreciate those people who make your old stories feel new each time.
10. Notice at least a few things you feel grateful for every single day. This is one of those hokey, saccharine, syrupy, trite, sometimes tiresome bits of advice that is nonetheless incredibly powerful if you follow it. Life is not predictable and it certainly isn't fair--but the part we can control is how we feel about it.
So folks, please don't be shy with your words of wisdom--some of us could really use a few hints!