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Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,625 ratings  ·  325 reviews
After service in Vietnam as a surgeon in 1968-69, Dr. Gordon Livingston returned to the U.S. and began work as a psychiatrist. In that capacity, he has listened to people talk about their lives and the limitless ways that they have found to be unhappy. He is also a parent twice bereaved. In one thirteen-month period, he lost his eldest son to suicide, his youngest to leuke ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Da Capo Lifelong Books (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  2,625 ratings  ·  325 reviews

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May 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
Chicken Soup for the Soul … but Missing a Few Noodles

Dr. Gordon Livingston, psychiatrist, imparts his 30 pearls of wisdom in this short pithy book. He has had his share of suffering and scar tissue. Within a 13-month period, one of his sons committed suicide and another died in an accident. Plus, the guy got run over by a riderless snowmobile while standing in a lift line. Talk about “bad things happening to good people”!

My main misgiving is that each chapter seems to consist of preachy platitud
Lawrence Danks
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Livingston is a practicing psychiatrist. His book provide outstanding insights into recognizing our problems and improving our life situation. It would be virtually impossible for anyone to read his book without recognizing themselves in it many times over. I have included my Amazon review of the book below:

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into The Problems of Life: Help Is On The Way..., September 24, 2008
By Lawrence J Danks (New Jersey) - See
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Out of a lifetime of experience, Livingston has extracted thirty bedrock truths: We are what we do. Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Only bad things happen quickly. Forgiveness is a form of letting go, but they are not the same thing. The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas. Livingston illuminates these and twenty-four others in perfectly calibrated essays, many of which emphasize our c ...more
Mark Speed
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book, packed with wisdom. Moreover, it's an easy read, in thirty bite-sized nuggets. No word of a lie: this book will help you make sense of your life - from past to present - and to move on and make the most of it.

Without spoiling it for you, the author has had quite an incredible life and - unlike in so many similar books - he doesn't ram it down your throat. Tbe extraordinary and heartbreaking setbacks he's faced in his life are mentioned in passing, and he shares what he's
Jun 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I though this would be an inspirational book, and I guess to some people it probably is. However, I found it kind of confusing. The chapter titles appeared to be about one thing, but in many cases the supporting text ended up in another, only vaguely related place entirely. I didn't personally get anything out of it, but I don't think it was written for introspective people at all so that's probably why. ...more
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it

A book of wisdom. 

Rather than to write my book review, I prefer to jot some notes to myself on important points in my own interpretation/ digestion, with the complement of quotes and title of the chapters in the book, (which are brilliant quotes in themselves that hit the nail on the head).

Here is the summary for my personal future reference in helping and reminding me to become >>Not too late smart, Not too soon old.<<

Chap. 1: "If the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map is wrong."! Too o
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Livingston provides provocative insights into 30 topics, drawing from his personal life history and his professional experience as a psychiatrist. The subtitle -- whether composed by Livingston or more likely his publisher -- "Thirty True Things You Need to Know" overreaches and even conflicts with what I take to be Livingston's outlook. His theses should not be read so much as "truths," but rather as psychological and philosophical ors d'ouerves to chew on before sitting down to the main course ...more
Anya Weber
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This tiny book packs a wallop. The author, Dr. Gordon Livingston, is a psychiatrist and a Vietnam veteran. He has also survived the death of two of his kids: one six-year-old son died of complications related to leukemia, and a son in his early 20s with bipolar disorder killed himself.

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is not about these tragedies, though Dr. Livingston alludes to these events and what he was able to learn from them. It is a collection of truths about human behavior that he has absorb
Syeda Ahad
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good read for sure. In few chapters, the title and main body seems a little un-correlated. But even the titles of each chapter gave me something to think about, and in a good way. Unlike a lot of such books, this one did not seem to be written in a preachy manner which was nice. It was more like looking into the author's view of life and what he learned from his experiences and others'. A lot of those points were already learnt from my experiences as well, so it was good to see how different e ...more
Lyn Elliott
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
On the whole the things Livingston has to say about living happily as you age make sense.
Be kind to ourselves and others, avoid being grumpy, learning to let go the sense of duty that drives many of us and do things that give you and others pleasure.

BUT, and it's a very big BUT, he is strongly committed to the idea that we are what we do; the what we think and say don't matter. In a world where ideas have led, and are leading, to bullying, discrimination and wholesale murder, this is massive ove
Beau Raines
Reviewing the table of contents, this book is made up of 30 chapters with titles like, "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" and "It's a poor idea to lie to yourself". Each chapter is a short essay, which I hoped would add detail and meaning to the platitudes. In almost all cases, they were not. By the time I had read 4 pages of essay, I was trying to recall how what I read tied back to the chapter title.

On the good side, there were some interesting stories, but this book doesn't live up to the subtitle
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some of these were trite; a few I flat out disagreed with; but the ones that were amazing were really amazing, and you can tell they come from a person who has endured some unspeakable losses. Worth the short read.
Nov 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: introspective people who want to change their life in subtle or large ways
Shelves: how-to-be-human
i picked this up on a whim the other night, and had finished it before i went to bed. it's a very light read, but filled with some interesting insights.

"people often come to me asking for medication. they are tired of their sad mood fatigue, and loss of interest in things that previously gave them pleasure... Here is what i tell them: the good news is that we have effective treatments for the symptoms of depression: the bad news is that medication will not make you happy. happiness is not simp
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite a beautiful little book. Like a rainy day, somewhat sad but necessary and beautiful. Not really a self-help book but a collection of 30 mini essays or thoughts from a man well in tune with grief, his own and that of many others. For someone like me that abhores bumper sticker maxims ("life is like a box of chocolates...." really) this book gracefully avoided them. For someone tired of platitudes about how failure is the best teacher, why you deserve love or how a positive attitude/prayer/m ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: librarylove
Maybe it's because I'm a psychologist/counselor in training, but I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would, perhaps because it's from a psychiatrist's point of view? Psychiatrists don't usually do this book coming from a psychiatrist seemed odd to me. While some of what his chapter titles (or the 30 things you need to know now) were good and important, the actual chapters didn't always seem so related to what he was saying and were full of his own experiences. He ma ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it liked it
A short book with nice bits of wisdom. When I think of books like this, which focus on how to overcome personal issues, I think about books that take on our culture as a largely corrupting force.

Then I think: Which one wins: The impersonal cultural force or the personal drive to preserve your soul?
Oct 14, 2014 rated it liked it
There are various snippets of wisdom, nuggets tucked throughout the book. Perhaps it is a bit like psychotherapy itself in that what you bring to the book is more valuable than what is there. The 30 chapters are each based on a saying or quote. Livingston's essays based on those sayings or quotes are hit and miss. Still I found numerous things to think about throughout. ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
Sentimental blather. I read a review of this and thought it sounded interesting. It wasn't. Perhaps I should just give self-help books a wide berth -- they really seem to annoy me.

Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book slowly and remaining still with my thoughts while I processed his theories and observations. Gordon Livingston is an experienced psychiatrist and shares his unique upbringing into his profession and his observations in life and with his patients. This book made me reflect on some of the choices I’ve made and memories from my past, and gave me perspective to take a step back to learn from those experiences and grow in the future.

Here are some of my favourite quo
Blythe Beecroft
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I found this quick read while taking inventory of my bookcase. The organization of the chapters and individual "lessons" seemed a bit haphazard and the majority related back to marital relationships and parenting. I do think Dr. Livingston demonstrates the delicate balance of being compassionate, while remaining honest and direct. It definitely prompts reflection, but in a gentle way. This all to say -- insightful, but not deeply moving (although you think it would be).

Favorite insight:

Only bad
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best 'self help' books I've read. Highly recommended. Do yourself a favor an buy this book. Read it. Immediately. Repeat.
Jul 14, 2019 marked it as to-read
[BOOKS | Derek Sivers](

> Powerful and profound life lessons from a psychiatrist who's been listening to people's problems for decades.
Oliver H
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you haven’t read this book, I would reconsider everything you’ve ever complained about or thought you know.
Melisa Blankenship
Oct 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wanted to like this book because the table of contents looked intriguing. It was an easy read with each of the 30 chapters covering different topics. The chapter titles were the best thing about the book. Livingston's conclusions are written in a binary way as if there are only two options for behavior: taking responsibility vs. a negative behavior from some facet of life that's written in the extreme. That's it, people are doing one or the other.

Some of these conclusions were offensive and s
Mohamad Ahmad
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
In this book, a psychotherapist(also a pilot) shares his experiences with patients in 30 lessons about how humans behave and how the right behaviours could improve their lives.

The lessons included examples of how people deal with depression, anxiety, grief, hopelessness, relationships, and marriage.
The author denounces how our culture encourages people to shirk responsibilty when it comes to their health and depend on pharmacological solutions to deal with their problems. The author invites rea
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written by a psychologist who lost his son to suicide. Forward by Elizabeth Edwards. Some of the subject matter is a little heavy- like why we make the stupid choices that we do, the eventuality of death, and accepting loss. Livingston believes many addictions are choices, and not really medical conditions. He has no patience for patients who want to whine and be given a pill to feel better. He believes in pain as a big part of life, and not something to be numbed. He is real and authentic. Driv ...more
TEELOCK Mithilesh
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and profound life lessons from a psychiatrist who's been listening to people's problems for decades.

One of the things that define us is what we worry about.

A “misfortune fund” that could be used to compensate people facing extraordinary expenses that were no one’s fault (e.g., parents of children born with disabling abnormalities, victims of crime or natural disasters). Surely this would be fairer and more compassionate than enriching a few winners in the litigation lottery. Such a syst
Jun 22, 2010 rated it liked it
A rough little gem of a book by an eccentric psychiatrist. My favorite quote, "It is a primary task of parents throughout their lives to convey to the young a sense of optimism. Whatever other obligations we have to our children, a conviction that we can achieve happiness amid the losses and uncertainties that life contains is the greatest gift that can pass from one generation to the next." ...more
Charles R. Scott
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book twice. Full of wisdom, this collection of pithy observations on how we deal with the hard stuff in life was touching and heartbreaking. Livingston lost two children, one to Leukemia and one to suicide, and he shares the lessons he's learned from those losses as well as his knowledge as a psychiatrist. A wonderful book for anyone interested in creating a meaningful life. ...more
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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
73 likes · 28 comments
“If the map doesn't agree with the ground the map is wrong” 45 likes
“The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.” 11 likes
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