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30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

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More than one thousand extraordinary Americans share their stories and the wisdom they have gained on living, loving, and finding happiness.

After a chance encounter with an extraordinary ninety-year-old woman, renowned gerontologist Karl Pillemer began to wonder what older people know about life that the rest of us don't.

His quest led him to interview more than one thousand Americans over the age of sixty-five to seek their counsel on all the big issues- children, marriage, money, career, aging. Their moving stories and uncompromisingly honest answers often surprised him. And he found that he consistently heard advice that pointed to these thirty lessons for living. Here he weaves their personal recollections of difficulties overcome and lives well lived into a timeless book filled with the hard-won advice these older Americans wish someone had given them when they were young.

Like This I Believe, StoryCorps's Listening Is an Act of Love, and Tuesdays with Morrie, 30 Lessons for Living is a book to keep and to give. Offering clear advice toward a more fulfilling life, it is as useful as it is inspiring.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published November 10, 2011

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About the author

Karl Pillemer

21 books50 followers
Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., is one of America's foremost gerontologists and family sociologists. He is a professor of human development at Cornell University. He founded the Marriage Advice Project, which surveyed hundreds of older Americans on their advice on love and marriage. He is the author of a number of books, including "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans," and "30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 258 reviews
Profile Image for Robin.
412 reviews5 followers
July 15, 2012
I was hoping this book would tell us the secrets of the good life. It does, but it's not fun to read. It's a bit boring. The lessons given are excellent, though. Following are the notes I took from the first hundred pages of the book, before I quit.

On marriage:
1. Marry someone a lot like you; who has the same core values about:
a) Money
b) Education
c) Has same background
d) Likes/doesn’t like reading the same amount
e) Political views
f) Living/not living ostentatiously
g) Owing something to the world or the world owes them something
h) Travel
i) Parenting
j) Sense of humor
k) What’s important to the person; independence, family, etc.
l) Economic background
m) Religion
n) Race
o) Forget about changing a person. It won’t happen.

2. Friendship is as important, or more important, than romantic love.

3. Don’t keep score (about fights, who is right or wrong, about anything). Don’t think about 50-50 propositions. Each person must give 100%. Start each day thinking, “What can I do to make my spouse happier?”

4. Talk to each other, especially about conflicts.
a) Talk about problems out of the house, or away from where the problem occurred.
b) Find a place to let off steam; write, talk to animals, garden, swim.
c) Let the other person have his say. Listen carefully. For example, you could say each person has 5 minutes of uninterrupted time.
d) Let some things go. Decide to whom the issue is the most important and let that person have it her way.

5. Commit to marriage, except in the cases of physical abuse, repeated infidelity, extreme and irresolvable conflict.

On a career:
1. Choose career for intrinsic rewards, not financial ones.
2. Don’t give up on searching for the job that was meant for you.
3. Make the most of a bad job. You’ll show your worth and learn something.
4. Find something you love and do it.
5. Do the best job you can, even if you think it’s beneath you. It’ll pay off in the end. Find something worthwhile in it. Learn from it. Do it well for pride.
6. Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind. You must have interpersonal skills to succeed. In addition, working and collaborating together creates more imagination.
7. Everybody needs autonomy, the ability to act on one’s own or independently.
8. You need a job where you understand the purpose, which is meaningful to you.
9. Don’t give up on finding a job that makes you happy.
10. Don’t wake up dreading work, wake up happy and excited to go!
11. Pay attention to what you’re interested in. (I made the mistake of going into finance, when I had little interest. It took me many years to figure out I liked teaching, and a few more to realize I would’ve been a good swim coach.

On parenting:
1. Spend time with your children.
2. Kids want you more than they want your money.
3. It’s not the activity, but the shared time that makes them happy.
4. Pay attention to their interests.
5. It’s normal to have a favorite child, but NEVER show it. Bury those feelings deep.

That’s as far as I got in the book. There are several more subjects of great value.
Profile Image for Sean Goh.
1,460 reviews83 followers
September 4, 2016
It's very heartwarming (and at time emotionally stirring) to read these stories of the elderly, to be so privileged as to gleam a silver of their accumulated wisdom.

-Don't go to bed angry. Most things couples disagree upon aren't worth more than a day's combat.
-If you can't wake up in the morning and want to go to work, you're in the wrong job.
-When dealing with one's children, relax your expectations and assume that failure is inevitable at times. Dealing with problems in a supportive way is what counts, not an ideal of perfection. Allow the accumulated expert wisdom to give you permission to give up perfection in exchange for being "good enough".
-For regret-free(or lite) living, go easy on others, and be kind to yourself.
-"Happiness does not depend on how much we have but it is based on personal success of skills and artistry, a sense of humour, the acquisition of knowledge, the refinement of character, the expression of gratitude, the satisfaction of helping others, the pleasure of friends, the comfort of family, and the joy of love."

Key actionable: Talk to the experts of life in your life. Ask them what they've learnt in their many years.
Key for satisfying marriage: similarity in core values. "Because of this we don't really argue, and we don't really agonise over things. We come to our decisions just by realising that we usually have the same goals."
It serves as a form of inoculation against fighting and arguing.

Entering into a marriage with the goal of changing one's partner is a fool's errand, one that will doom the marriage before it starts.

"The only way you can make a marriage work is to have both parties give 100% all the time. The attitude has to be one of giving freely. And if you start keeping score, you're already in trouble."
Think: What can I do to make her day or his day just a little happier?

Beware teasing, it can degenerate into something nasty. Just don't do it.

When entering an argument, slow things down by giving a pre-set amount of air time for each party to say their piece. After they have done so the other party must repeat what was said until the first person agrees and says "yes, that is what I meant".

It's also important to let some things go, to figure out what matters and what really doesn't matter. Ask:" Which one of us is this more important to?"

Time well and enjoyably spent trumps money anytime. Make do with less if it lets you do what you enjoy.

If you're searching for a purpose, make sure it includes others. Then the self will take care of itself.

"Divide your work life into manageable chunks that you can afford to spare. Make testing bets, much like poker. The bet is worth the risk, but don't spend any more time at it than it takes to know if it's right for you.

The goal in the job is to continually learn. No matter what job we have, we will learn something that we will use later in life. Always look for opportunities within the job you are doing, and accumulate knowledge.

Deal with each employee with patience. Don't rush to judgement, and remember that you are not living their lives.

"No matter whom you meet, no matter where you meet them, always presume that they're much better than you are. When I look around, the most devastating Achilles' heel that I see people suffering from is that they take themselves too seriously. While it's very important to take others seriously, don't take yourself that seriously."

Parents will have favourites among their children. And they should keep it a secret.
Parental preference will likely lead to siblings becoming distant from each other.

Not making the right health decisions early (not smoking, exercising, eating right) doesn't lead to an early death, it leads to years, maybe decades of suffering from preventable, chronic disease. Which is infinitely worse.
Don't accept the excuse of "So what? We've all got to die sometime." There's no guarantee of an easy way out after a lifetime of overeating, inactivity or smoking.

Starting around the age of sixty everyone needs to become aware of the possibility of becoming isolated and take steps to stay engaged. Make the effort to reach out. Make an effort to keep learning.

Every stage in life is good if you prepare for it. As one grows older it is especially important to choose the place where you would like to spend your later days. And choose it earlier, before it becomes too hard to make (due to infirmities or inertia or other reasons)

It really pays to say yes, unless you've got a really solid reason to say no. It might not always be fun, but it'll always be interesting.
Life gets boring if you keep saying: "No, I don't want to try anything new."

Send flowers to the living. The dead never see them. Make gratitude stronger than regret. Do it now.

"Happiness does not depend on how much we have but it is based on personal success of skills and artistry, a sense of humour, the acquisition of knowledge, the refinement of character, the expression of gratitude, the satisfaction of helping others, the pleasure of friends, the comfort of family, and the joy of love."

Choose an attitude of "happy in spite of", rather than "happy if only"

"You cannot control what might happen and you cannot change what did happen. I've really come to be able to negotiate life pretty much worry-free. I have learned that if I can't do anything about a situation, then worrying isn't going to change it either."

A major component of the value of faith is active participation in a religious community. One of the few age-integrated institutions in American society.
Faith is also a coping mechanism for the inevitable pain and loss that comes with a long life.
Profile Image for Audrey.
199 reviews32 followers
January 2, 2018
Some interesting insights about marriage and parenting, but nothing really groundbreaking. The opinions seem to be somewhat biased by the Boomer generation that grew up during the depression or WWII. They seemed somewhat self-centered in their thinking, and I hope that the next generation will have thoughts that involve more about other people rather than themselves. Maybe their regrets would involve not adding to pollution and climate change and not damaging the world for future generations. Maybe their regrets would be not becoming vegetarian sooner in life or not adopting instead of having their own children. Maybe this is too much to ask of humanity.
Profile Image for Karen O'leary.
37 reviews
April 12, 2012
Wow! I think this book came along at a great time for me -- I was feeling like I was stuck in a little bit of a rut and I walked away from this with lot of great ideas for living life well --a super easy read and filled with anecdotes, each chapter focuses on different areas that make up our exsistence --marriage, kids, work, travel etc. - I especially liked the wisdom of the experts (the interviewed elders) on the topic of worrying --that there is absolutely no point in worry --plan things but then let them go. I felt like that was freeing for me, as I do tend to worry needlessly. If something is going to happen, worrying about it will not change it. I love the idea of capturing the collective wisdom of our elders -- great read! Enjoyed it thoroughly and will be referencing it from time to time when I again need some inspiration.
Profile Image for Elle.
571 reviews13 followers
November 10, 2011
A great book with insightful tips on life.

I am generally not one for these types of books because they tend to be filled with BS. I was surprised to find this to be a comforting read, like a cup of tea on a cold day. I really enjoyed the POV of the author and the message.

Do I recommend that you read this book? Yes, actually. Pick it up and see some of the things it has to say. This book celebrates living a life that leads to building long lasting relationships and being happy. More than that, I found that the writing style wasn't tedious or overly annoying.

If this isn't your thing consider it for your Christmas gift list. I think this would make an enjoyable and readable gift during the holiday season.
26 reviews
November 20, 2018
Advice presented in the context of stories. A good read. Here are the major themes:
* Lessons for a Happy Marriage (Marry Someone a Lot Like You; Friendship is Important; Don't Keep Score; Talk to Each Other; Commit to Marriage not just your Partner)
* Lessons for a Successful and Fulfilling Career (Seek Intrinsic Rewards, not financial ones; Don't give up looking for a job you love; Make the Most of a Bad Job, Emotional Intelligence Trumps all; Everyone needs autonomy)
* Lessons for Parenting (It's all about time; It's normal to have favorites but don't show it; Don't Hit Your Kids; Avoid A Rift At All Costs; Take A Lifelong View of Relationships with Children)
* Lessons For Aging Fearlessly and Well (Being Old is Much Better than you think; Act Now Like You will need your body for 100 years; Don't Worry About Dying; Stay Connected to others; Plan ahead where you will live)
* Lessons For Living a Life Without Regrets (Always be honest; Say Yes to Opportunities; Travel More; Choose a Mate with Extreme Care; Say It Now before it is too late)
* Lessons for Living Like an Expert (Choose Happiness; Time is of the Essence; Happiness is a Choice, not a condition; Time Spent Worrying is Wasted; Think Small; Have Faith; Live by the Golden Rule)
Profile Image for Shuan.
56 reviews2 followers
August 10, 2016
As a person in my mid-30s and approaching 40 fast, there is so much about my youth that I wish I had the wisdom to do things differently. If only I knew... And that is just looking back, looking forward there is so much unknown and uncertainties.

We, as a human race, have so much life experiences, but we are not very good at documenting and sharing our life lessons and collective wisdom. This is a rare book that looks into this. It aggregates life advises from a large number of old people and present them in a form that is enjoyable to read and extremely easy to digest.

The author grouped the advises into several themes:
1. Marriage
2. Career
3. Parenting
4. Aging
5. Living a life without regrets
6. Happiness

I enjoyed reading every page, and I intend to re-read this book again in a year's time. Highly recommended to anyone in their 20s to 50s.
Profile Image for Laura.
98 reviews5 followers
July 12, 2012
Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer conducted interviews with really elderly people (older than me!) asking them what advice they'd give younger people about marriage, children, careers, aging,
living without regrets, how to stop worrying, etc. There's a nice balance between his commentary
and the quotations he uses from the elderly themselves, and much of the advice--particularly about the qualities needed to make a marriage last a long time and about how to be happy--ring true. In this quick read, the author and his interviewees offer a very positive outlook on old age. Very refreshing and even inspiring.
584 reviews25 followers
March 12, 2012
Not an absolute "wow" because there were no big "ah-hahs"; however, it is gratifying to read and have reinforced what elements have worked in the lives of the "aged". Here is the refrigerator list: 1) Time is of the essence. 2) Happiness is a choice, not a condition. 3) Time spent worrying is time spent wasted. 4) Think small...learn to savor daily pleasures. 5) Have faith...being part of a religious community offers unique support during life crises. Ultimately, the summary is "Live the golden rule."

Nice reinforcing read.
Profile Image for Yong-Gu Bae.
16 reviews1 follower
July 12, 2012
A must read. If 10 stars were available, I would give them. There are a lot of stories and valuable lessons to learn. I am glad that I read this book and learned from the experts. I would like to take action accordingly.
Profile Image for Stephen.
514 reviews152 followers
August 24, 2022
Hadn’t heard of this one before but picked up a copy after it was referenced in “The Psychology of Money” which I read recently. Won’t repeat all the lessons from the book which are covered in many other reviews on here but I found it really useful and think that the parts on marriage and parenting would help anyone embarking on that.
It also covers work, how to age well and happiness.
Most if not all of the contributors are probably no longer with us but it is great that all of their learned wisdom is captured.
I shot through this book in no time as it was such an engaging read - some very touching personal stories too. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Carolyn F..
3,359 reviews51 followers
December 2, 2019
I enjoyed this book. It's interviews of older Americans about a variety of stuff. Some of it was extremely pertinent to what is going on in my life and I found myself quoting it. My only gripe (not a complaint) is that I wish it were more interviews and less filler by the author. Other than that I loved the book.
Profile Image for Michelle.
11 reviews
February 28, 2022
Key takeaway: Happiness is a constant choice of optimism over pessimism and is my responsibility. I can’t control or be responsible for the things that happen to me, but I can be in control of my attitude and my reactions to them.

Profile Image for Jeff Kim.
126 reviews4 followers
August 13, 2022
Mediocre. Should have dropped it earlier. Absolute waste of time.
Profile Image for Sadie Newell.
110 reviews5 followers
February 1, 2022
Real dry. Like a piece of toast. But if you read just the first few paragraphs of all the anecdotes you’ll see the full picture. No use reading every last word, you’ll read yourself to sleep!
Profile Image for Lucia Milec.
13 reviews
February 10, 2020
Nice motivational book. The very important extract from the book, important to me personally, is this note:
Happiness is your daily choice. You can not wait to be happy until something happens. It is your responsibility to be happy right now, here, today.
108 reviews3 followers
January 18, 2021
Approaching 30 years, makes me re-think again what is important to me. This book is a useful resource to look at your life from a perspective of someone approaching end of life.

Key points:
to live each day as if it could be my last, but with a watchful eye on the future in case it wasn’t.

“The most important thing is to be involved in a profession that you absolutely love, and that you look forward to going to work to

Marry Someone a Lot like You

much more likely to have a satisfying marriage for a lifetime when you and your mate are fundamentally similar.

DIDN’T KNOW IT when I got married, but in retrospect I know it’s important to have the same basic values.

upbringing, general orientation, and values is the single most important component of a long and satisfying marriage.

“What’s the secret to a long, happy marriage?” was essentially, “I married my best friend.”

What the experts suggest is that you look for the qualities of a friend—the capacity to comfortably “hang out”—in the person you choose to marry.

They strongly recommended that people buck the contemporary casual attitude and view marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment.

The First Lesson: Choose a Career for the Intrinsic Rewards, Not the Financial Ones

time well and enjoyably spent trumps money anytime.

My recommendation would be to make sure that if you are searching for a purpose, it includes others. Then the self will take care of itself.

if there’s another career you wish you could pursue but you are worried that it will bring a drop in income, do it anyway.

The Second Lesson: Don’t Give Up on Looking for a Job That Makes You Happy

Keep your goals set toward a position where you enjoy going to work every day. You need to find a job situation that you really like.

“Divide your work life into manageable chunks that you can afford to spare.” Gerald is a poker player and he likes gambling analogies. “In this case you can afford to risk a year, maybe two or even three on a job that isn’t immediately satisfying.

The Fourth Lesson: Emotional Intelligence Trumps Every Other Kind

traits like empathy, consideration, listening skills, and the ability to resolve conflicts are fundamentals in the workplace.

The key for him is to focus on others rather than on himself—not just for ethical reasons

Look for maximum autonomy in a job, and work as hard as necessary to secure it.

purpose (beyond earning a salary) and autonomy.

you can’t wake up in the morning and want to go to work, you’re in the wrong job.

Because it’s a long day if you don’t like what you’re doing. You better get another job because there’s no harsher penalty than to wake up and go to work at a job you don’t like.

can think of any number of things I didn’t think I was qualified to do, but if somebody else does, take their word for it and give it a go. You can learn. Or compensate for it in lots of ways.

Life is an adventure, but to take advantage of it you have to say yes to things.

“I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”

The experts have a special message for younger people regarding travel: do it now. According to Ruth Helm, some of the most regretful elders she knows are those who put off travel until it was too late

So make a list of the places you would like to see and the trips you want to take.

Say yes to opportunities. When offered a new opportunity or challenge, you are much less likely to regret saying yes and more likely to regret turning it down.

What older people have that younger people do not is this: the profound existential awareness that each of our lifetimes is limited.

that many of the elders suggested that each day be taken as a gift and treated that way.

Grand Canyon, so if you want to get down there, you have to go when you’ve still got two little feet.

Tip 2: Instead of worrying, prepare. Lucy Rowan struggled with shyness and social anxiety as a young woman.

Many of them used the image of “savoring” life’s pleasures, moment by moment, as one would a delicious meal.
Profile Image for Amy.
77 reviews5 followers
February 11, 2012
When I first saw 30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer--as intriguing as the title was--it also seemed a bit cliche and pat. What did this book have to offer that was unique? As the author himself says in the first chapter, there are more than 30,000 self-help books in print today and people rush out to buy them hoping for a quick fix. Why read, or even better, buy another one?

30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans is exactly that. Advice that has come from hundreds of elderly people (or as Karl puts it) experts--those who have been there and done that. Many times when reading a self-improvement book I wonder how the author knows their advice truly works. Some of the marriage books have been written by people who have had multiple spouses (meaning divorces) so they may know what doesn't work--but do they truly know what works? For every parenting system touted in a book, there is another book showing the exact opposite. What do we follow?

30 Lessons for Living was written after hundreds of people, in the sunset of their life, were interviewed and asked what advice they would pass down to younger generations. Some of their answers may surprise you.

Karl's book breaks the lessons down into six major themes with five key lessons in each. As I read through the book I found myself convicted and challenged on many levels. I read about the lessons on marriage one evening just after a spat between Tom and I. And every lesson was one that I could take to heart--and even better, because they're tried and true, they are practical and doable.

I read the section on living well in your career as I did Payroll--so many good lessons for me in that section--and since I was having a particularly trying day--the lessons seemed even more needed. And the parenting section--so much good in there as well.

This is a book that I will mark up and highlight and return to again and again.
Profile Image for Mike.
243 reviews8 followers
September 29, 2021
Author is a gerontologist who queried, then interviewed hundreds of Americans aged 65+ to get advice for what is most important for a life well-lived. It is segmented by category: Marriage, Career, Parenting, Aging, Avoiding Regret, and Happiness. Each category has themes and is given life by stories from the inverviewees, who have "seen it all." The author reminds us that nobody reaches that age without hurdles to overcome, sadness, tragedy - this generation was born during the depression and remembers WWII.
Some of it is obvious, but even the obvious is useful to reflect upon. As a typically busy parent of 3 small children, the lesson on thinking about the long view as a parent, that we will spend more time with our children when they are actually adults really hit home. As a result, avoiding rifts at all costs is incredibly important.
Other lessons that resonated:
Marriage - similar values; friedship is critical; don't keep score; commit to idea of marriage as well as your spouse
Career - Emotional intelligence is vital everywhere; autonomy; make the most of a bad job
Children - sacrifice to spend maximum amount of time w/ children; avoid rift
Aging - being old is a great opportunity; take care of body to avoid chronic illness; don't worry about dying; stay connected; have a plan for where you will live
Avoid Regret - honesty; travel more; choose mate with great care; "say it now"
Happiness - time is of essence; happiness is a choice; time worrying is wasted; have faith
The author was struck by how many of his interviewees talked about how the Golden Rule was a touchstone for how they live their lives. Concern for others, and avoiding being judgemental was important to them. He finishes with a list of questions and asks everyone to engage the older people in their lives. They are an amazing source of wisdom and have stories that are just waiting to be told.
Profile Image for Jina.
138 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2017
My mother gave me this book for my birthday because it said “30” on it and I just turned 30. I didn’t think I’d read it, but decided to try to squeeze it in my “health and well-being” theme this month. I actually really enjoyed this book. All of my grandparent’s have passed away and I never really got to ask them for much “real world” advise (which is extra sad cause at the end of this book it has questions to ask your personal elders to get answers similar to what the book is full of). Reading this book was very much like getting to talk to a grandparent that I never had. I also liked that Dr. Phillemer kept religion out of the lessons until the very end. I found myself smiling and crying as I read some of stories told. I have a personal mantra, “I am grateful for those that go before me, so I do not have to suffer the same consequences” and I feel like reading this book really embraced that mind-set.There are definitely some great life lessons in its pages that I’ll be fortunate not to have to learn the hard way.
Profile Image for Kintan.
36 reviews9 followers
December 14, 2017
It is one of the best books I've read this year. While not all 30 lessons are new, over half of them are profound and applicable. #MustRead
Profile Image for Janice.
1,386 reviews39 followers
March 14, 2013
Those among us of the "Greatest Generation" who survived WWII, the Depression, and some the Holocaust, are quickly leaving us. This author, a gerontologist, wanted to gather as much wisdom from those who survived and flourished, before all are gone. This might sound like a somewhat depressing collection, but for me it was anything but. After interviewing hundreds of people, mostly in their late 80's, up to in their 100's, Mr. Pillemer summarizes their stories, and advice, into 5 or 6 major categories, with 30 key "lessons". Their stories, while not always positive, are enlightening, sometimes entertaining, and may have an impact on decisions that are part of our life journey. I applaud the author for recognizing the need to preserve the treasure that can be found among this group of people who lived through an incredible time.
Profile Image for Jen.
272 reviews3 followers
June 4, 2012
i was debating between 4 and 5 stars b/c the quotes from the "wisest" really made it a 5-star, not the interpretation of the remarks by the author. it's one of those books where if you feel you need some guidance or mentorship back to reality and what REALLY matters while we are blessed to be living on this earth, then this is a great resource. it made me miss my grandparents so much, i wished i had spent more time just asking them these types of questions. i wonder what their responses would have been.
Profile Image for steph .
1,199 reviews70 followers
February 2, 2015
Fantastic. Okay so there were some sections I was into more than the others (the relationship one and the happiness one for example), but all in all this was a insightful and wonderful read. It made me think, ponder and realize that I really just want the best life I can make for myself thank to the words of wisdom of America's oldest citizens. Great book. Just ordered a copy off Amazon for my personal library,
Profile Image for Jack.
75 reviews
January 12, 2014
Lots of sage advice from folks who have lived their lives. I like books like this that give pause for reflection and introspection.
Profile Image for Steve.
236 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars. Somewhat interesting, but nothing too new or groundbreaking. It kept my attention long enough to finish it.

Audiobook narrator: good.
Profile Image for Eli Gray.
53 reviews4 followers
March 18, 2020
Too repetitive. Some useful tips but mostly rambling
Profile Image for Bill Tress.
206 reviews5 followers
March 28, 2020
A very captivating book and I found no fault with the wisdom provided in the 30 lessons. The book covers many of the important aspects of life learned by the elderly (experts). The discussions cover marriage, happiness, avoiding regrets, to acceptance and many other life experiences.
I found the section on marriage very perceptive. The experts point out that this is maybe the most important decision a person makes in life and a great deal of thought and maybe even prayer should go into making the selection of a for life mate. Yet, how many people practice what the lesson tells us?
This point is what gave me pause throughout this discussion. I Found no fault with the wisdom offered except maybe that it is hindsight! Even the people offering this wisdom acknowledge that they did not practice the 30 lessons.
I wondered who should read this book and when? The answer to the first question of who, is easy, the answer is everybody. But, the second question is harder. The wisdom provided in the 30 lessons is provided by all the great religions of our world. It can also be found in self-help books and other periodicals on marriage, happiness and acceptance, yet, we don’t listen! If the wisdom of the 30 lessons was given to youth, more than likely it would be ignored because all the other offering of wisdom is ignored. When it is given to someone like myself in their seventies, you say yes, this is good advice and should be followed, but maybe I didn’t. No, I believe the people who benefit the most from this book are parents and teachers, anybody who provides life lessons to youth. My point is, if parents have a thorough knowledge of these principles and they follow these principles in their own life, than, they are demonstrating as well as teaching the 30 lessons, and then just maybe, if these seeds fall on fertile ground they will grow and be accepted by their children.
To make my point another way, it seems life must be experienced before this wisdom becomes obvious. Our experts lived life and experienced divorce, heartache, depression and unhappiness before they were able to see what needs to be done in order to live their final years in acceptance and experience happiness. The Amish have a saying, “To soon old, to late smart”. This is the experience of most of us, despite all the wisdom that is out there for a person to utilize in their life.
God bless the parents and teachers who have this wisdom and can convey it in such a way that it is accepted and practiced by young people.
I did gain some wisdom out of reading this book and it will make my remaining time on this earth more pleasant. I also wish that I had been smart enough to realize the worth of these lessons when I was young, it would have made my life more fulfilling and maybe made the people around me happier, yet, like our experts I had to live life in order to understand the wisdom of the 30 lessons.
Our author did a good job of structuring this book, rather than preaching, he provided a short narrative introducing the lesson and then allowing the experience of others to provide the wisdom. Some of the stories were heart wrenching and as our author stated, sometimes he laughed and sometimes he cried.
I do recommend this book and wish that the lessons in this book as well as the teachings contained in other books and taught by parents, mentors, and others could be applied by young people before they gain their wisdom from the trial and error of experience, it would certainly make the World a nicer place.
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35 reviews
October 29, 2022
As the author states, we don’t usually get a chance to take the advice of a 70-80 year old because we usually don’t invite them for pizza, a drink or live in a multigenerational house. This book is a true gem, below is the complete refrigerator list:

Refrigerator Advice from the Wisest Americans

Lessons for a Happy Marriage - Great Together

(My wise friend's favorites--and my own, are in red)

1. Marry someone a lot like you. Similarity in core values & background is the key to a happy marriage. And forget about changing someone after marriage.
2. Friendship is as important as romantic love. Heart-thumping passion has to undergo a metamorphosis in lifelong relationships. Marry some for whom you feel deep friendship as well as love.
3. Don't keep score. Don't take the attitude that marriage must always be a fifty-fifty propostition; you can't get out exactly what you put in. The key to success is having both partners try to give more than they get out of the relationship. (Read the Generous Marriage in the NYT's December 8, 2011--and take the quick quiz to find out how generous you are. My husband & I both took the quiz--not surprised that the results were similar--although I think he's a lot more generous than I am.)
4. Talk to each other. Marriage to the strong, silent type can be deadly to a relationship. Long-term married partners are talkers (at least to one another, and about things that count.)
5. Don't just commit to your partner--commit to marriage itself. Make a commitment to the idea of marriage and take it seriously. There are enormous benefits to seeing the marriage as bigger than the immediate needs of each partner.

Lessons for a Successful & Fulfilling Career - Glad to Get Up in the Morning

1. Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones. The biggest career mistake people make is selecting a profession based only on potential earnings. A sense of purpose and passion for one's work beats a bigger paycheck any day.

2. Don't give up on looking for a job that makes you happy. According to the experts, persistence is the key to finding a job you love. Don't give up easily.
3. Make the most of a bad job. If you find yourself in a less-than-ideal work situation, don't waste the experience; many experts learned invaluable lessons from a bad job.
4. Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind. Develop your interpersonal skills if you want to succeed in the workplace. Even people in the most technical professions have their careers torpedoed if they lack emotional intelligence.
5. Everyone needs autonomy. Career satisfaction is often dependent on how much autonomy your have on the job. Look for the freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you, without too much control from the top.

Lessons for a Lifetime of Parenting - Nobody's Perfect

1. It's all about time. Sacrifice if necessary to spend the maximum amount of time possible with your children. You and your children need to be together in the flow of daily household life and not just during planned "quality time". (Read the story of my own family's shorter work week and how we had more time for the kids)

2. It's normal to have favorites, but never show it. Accept that you may have favorites among your children, but do not ever let them know.
3. Don't hit your kids. Discipline your children in a loving, respecful way that excludes physical punishment (no matter how tempting it may be in the short term.)
4. Avoid a rift at all costs. Do everything necessary to avoid a permanent rift with a child--even if it requires compromise on a parent's part.
5. Take a lifelong view of relationships with children. Parenthood goes on long after kids leave home, so make decisions when they are young that will lead to positive relationships in the second half of life.

Lessons for Aging Fearlessly and Well - Find the Magic

1. Being old is much better than you think. Don't waste your time worrying about getting old. It can be a time of opportunity, adventure, and growth. See it as a quest, not an end.
2. Act now like you will need your body for a hundred years. Stop using "I don't care how long I live" as an excuse for bad health habits. Behaviors like smoking, poor eating habits, and inactivity are less likely to kill you than to sentence you to years or decades of chronic disease. Think walkers, wheelchairs, nursing homes, incontinence, dementia, oxygen, social isolation, and years of dependence.

3. Don't worry about dying--the experts don't. Don't spend a lot of time fretting about your own mortality. What the experts recommend is careful planning and organization for the end of life.
4. Stay connected. Take seriously the threat of social isolation in middle age and beyond, and make conscious efforts beginning in middle age to stay connected through new learning opportunities and relationships.
5. Plan ahead about where you will live (and your parents too). Don't let fears and prejudices deter you or your older relatives from considering a move to a senior living community. Such a move often opens up opportunities for better living, rather than limiting them.

Lessons for Living a Life without Regrets - I Can Look Everyone in the Eye

1. Always be honest. Avoid acts of dishonesty, both big and small. Most people suffer from serious regret later in life if they have been less than "fair and square".
2. Say yes to opportunies. When offered a new opportunity or challenge, you are much less likely to regret saying yes and more likely to regret turning it down. (from David Brooks' Life Reports II: Lean toward risk. "Many more seniors regret the risks they didn’t take than regret the ones they did.")
3. Travel more. Travel while you can, sacrificing other things if necessary to do so. Most people look back on their travel adventures (big and small) as highlights of their lives and regret not having traveled more.
4. Choose a mate with extreme care. The key is not to rush the decision, taking all the time needed to get to know the prospective partner and to determine your compatibility over the long term.
5. Say it now. People wind up saying the sad words "it might have been" by failing to express themselves before it's too late. Don't believe the "ghost whispererer"--the only time you can share your deepest feelings is while people are still alive.
Sharing a secret: Go easy on yourself regarding the mistakes and bad choices you have made. A person with no second thoughts about anything he or she has done is probably someone who hasn't taken many chances in life--which is something worth regretting. Forgive youself. Be gentle with yourself.

Lessons for Living Like an Expert - Choose Happiness

1. Time is of the essence. Live as though life is short--because it is. The point is not to be depressed by this knowledge but to act on it, making sure to do important things now.
2. Happiness is a choice, not a condition. Happiness isn't a condition that occurs when circumstances are perfect or nearly so. Sooner of later you need to make a deliberate choice to be happy in spite of challenges and difficulties.

3. Time spent worrying is time wasted. Stop worrying. Or at least cut down. It's a colossal waste of your precious lifetime.
4. Think small. When it comes to making the most of your life, think small. Attune yourself to simple daily pleasures and learn to savor them now.
5. Have faith. A faith life promotes well-being, and being part of a religious community offers unique support during life crises. But how and what you worship s up to you.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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