A Living Will For My Boys

Category: Weekly Columns

When Steve Jobs died I was yet again reminded of the fragility of life. No matter how rich or famous a person is, the grim reaper does not care. While I won’t admit how close in age Jobs and I were, I will admit that I fully recognize that my life could end any moment, though I pray it doesn’t. There is still too much to do, see, and too much work left to do.

Since we never know what may happen tomorrow, I’d like to leave some takeaways for my boys. Some call this sort of thing, “a living will.” Why do we only leave our loved ones our money and our things? Why not leave them something much more precious: our beliefs and whatever wisdom we may have learned on our journey of life?

So, herewith, are my takeaways for my two boys, just 15 and 18 (the picture above is obviously a bit old). Full of life, full of promise, full of hormones and teenage assurance and cockiness. I hope I’m around to watch their journey, but just in case…

~~ Tikkun Olam – Repair the World
Tikkun Olam is a Jewish phrase that literally means to “Repair the World.” I believe that it is our obligation as human beings to do whatever we can to make the world a better place. Boys, please do your part, too.

~~ Fight For Meaning In Your Life
The Occupy Wall Street protests are an example of fighting for nothing. There are real fights to be fought. Please choose the battles that matter and stand up for what you know is right. Don’t just follow along because it looks like fun.

~~ What Goes Around Comes Around
I love clichés. Why? Because they are mostly based on common sense and real life experience. While ultimate justice is not always clear on this earth, I sincerely do believe that one way or another whatever you do will come back to haunt you. So, be kind, be considerate, and don’t waste your energy on revenge or hate.

~~ Always Open the Door
I don’t care what is PC, open the door for every woman you encounter. Treat the women in your life like they’re special. Pick up the tab, be a gentleman, be a man.

~~ Your Word Is Your Bond
Say what you mean, mean what you say, and keep your word. Don’t promise anything that you don’t intend to keep.

~~ Give and You Always Get
The more you give in life, the more you will receive. It’s amazing how this karma works. You’ve seen the beauty of my mentoring our friend with a fatal illness. You’ve also seen the length of my relationship with my by now 30-something “Little Sister,” who I became a Big Brother to when she was eight. Who can you help? Who can you mentor?

~~ Don’t Take It Personally
The world does not revolve around you. Don’t take it all so personally. Most of the time, IT has nothing to do with you!

~~ Sleep On It
Whenever you are upset, don’t respond in the moment. Whether a friend or a loved one has seemingly hurt you, or a job has reached the breaking point, sleep on it. Whatever you think you HAVE to do right now, you can still do tomorrow.

~~ This Too Shall Pass
You’ve heard me say this numerous times. This too shall pass applies to both the good and the bad in your life. When things look dire, just give it some time and it will likely improve. When things are grand, reflect on that joy, enjoy it, and realize that these good times will also likely pass.

~~ Words Hurt, Words Heal
Gossip is something that cannot be repaired. The words you use can heal or hurt. Choose them wisely. Like a leaf in the wind, a mean comment gets dispersed and is impossible to retrieve. Why put that negative energy out there?

~~ Without God You Have Nothing, Without Love
We are living in very secular times. Not believing in a greater good – God – means life has less meaning. Where do our values come from if not from God? Where does morality come from if not a higher power? Without God, life has less meaning and anything and any behavior can be justified. And, without love in your life, there is little joy. Embrace God, find love.

~~ Gratitude IS the Key to Happiness
Without gratitude there is little chance for happiness. Every morning when you arise, thank God for the blessing of a new day. Every day you feel well, thank God that you are healthy. Every meal you enjoy, appreciate. Thank you Dennis Prager for this particular wisdom.

Boys, you see me prance around the house singing Elvis songs and other nonsense. Laugh and enjoy life but also remember these reflections, because the real joy in life is not the fun you have, but the good will you create and the positive impact you will have on the world. I love you.

  • Jetts31

    Your boys are very lucky Bruce.  Those are wise words for all of us…and if you want, you can leave me your money 😉

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I was taught well by my parents, Jimmy!

  • http://www.jungleoflife.com/ Lance

    Great, great thoughts you’ve shared here, Bruce.  Even better, though, is this which you are instilling in your children – what a gift that is to them!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx much Lance – I just hope it “sticks!”

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  • David Weber

    Some good ideas here.  I imagine that the idea is that these are proposals, encouragements, suggestions, tips and so forth, as opposed to lines drawn in the sand that direct the relationship one has with one’s offspring. 

    “Without God you have nothing” is something that I don’t personally “get”…it may be so, and indeed my entire adult life has been spent weaving in and out of and among a variety of positions on the spectrum of faith and spirituality. 

    So I believe that faith is something you either have or develop, or don’t…and I have never been clear on what the “bad news” is about NOT being a person of faith.  I guess that means I have never REALLY been a person of faith in the most profound sense…and so it would be difficult for me to make the statement to anyone, “Without God you have nothing.” 

    One tip to add to the list is a quote I heard from Wynton Marsalis.  The interviewer asked him if he had any words of wisdom for young folks who wanted to be musicians.  He said, “Yes: Never turn down a gig.”  He meant it in the literal sense of always embrace opportunities to perform…you get experience in it, plus you never know who will see you and like your music.  Then he added that he followed his own advice…performing as much as he could kept him sharp, enabled him to experiment or try out new musical ideas, even though he was famous and wealthy.

    I expanded on it metaphorically–apart from the two interpretations above, “Never turn down a gig” to me means (a) do more rather than less of what you do well, in order that you may spread good to others; (b) consider opportunities that you might NOT at first want to take as challenges to step up to and test yourself against; (c) be humble enough to believe that you always must “sharpen the sword,” i.e., polish your craft, whatever it is. 

    So my thing is public speaking…I must do it as a teacher, and before that I did it as an organizational development consultant … and to this day, whenever someone asks for a speaker, I volunteer to do it, as long as it is a request for a topic I can speak confidently about.  I have been giving presentations for decades and I believe I am more than merely competent at presenting…but I never want to get “fat and happy” and start thinking I don’t need to continually polish my skill.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      “Never turn down a gig” is a GREAT quote with layers of meaning, especially for my picky musician son! TY so much for all you add via your comment, Professor! I have been applying that philosophy – to a degree – to requests for guest blogging for the same reasons you elucidate!

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