Ten Life Lessons You Can Only Learn the Hard Way
Bill Cottringer

“‎Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning, anyone can start over and make a new ending.” ~ Chico Xavier.

Here are ten valuable lessons about life that lead to success and happiness. Unfortunately this valuable list of instructions isn’t handed out in the beginning as a helpful prescription, but instead only learnable by attending the school of hard knocks. But it is still better late than never, to learn these ten valuable life lessons. My hat is off to those who learning these things early on in life!

1. What goes around comes around.

Sam’s first wife Sally, who he left for some good and some bad reasons, learned this wise saying from her grandmother, who was telling her the husband would get back what he was dolling out. Sure enough his next wife gave him the heave-ho for a younger man. So Sam learned the hard way how this feels. The only trouble is that it had to happen another time to get him to stop his musical marriage chairs, from which he never really recovered. Sadly, he spent the rest of his miserable life alone.

Jeremy only had this happen once to him when he learned the value of empathy. He raped a young coed while at a frat party and was given 25 years in prison. There he was gang raped by several bigger inmates and now he can remember the rest of his life what that does to you. That is the kind of empathy that permanently prevents something going around that will eventually come back to you for a painful payoff.

2. You have to give to get.

Harry duly noted that the only place this wise saying doesn’t work in life is with government, where it always takes before it gives back and that is why the national debt can never be paid off. Otherwise this first rule of economy and banking—you have to make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal—applies consistently to all things in life and only negative things can happen when the rule is reversed (or at least attempted to be).

Harry found this out after he had to file bankruptcy which took another 7 years to recover from. One other exception he discovered, concerned the love that life gives us all unconditionally in the beginning, which we fail to see or nurture. Fortunately it is always there whether we see it or not and the more love you give, the more you get back, which Harry used to his benefit to offset his financial woes, with a happy relationship.

3. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Sara had to make this mistake over and over again, much like Bob did because he didn’t believe in the truth of the gambler’s fallacy—that the more you put into the slot machine has no effect on the outcome because the probability of winning starts all over again for each new event, regardless of past outcomes. Both failed to make any progress in their work or lives until they learned that righting a wrong with the right is a much more effective approach, because after all, a picture from your own right behavior demonstration is worth a thousand words.

Teresa was fooled into giving herself permission to fight fire with fire or fighting wrongs with bigger wrongs. Eventually the retaliation became so fierce the folly and futility of such a game became too acute to not notice. That is when enough bleeding, broken bones and bruises make you stop doing the wrong thing. And like opera Winfrey used to say, “when life doesn’t like something you are doing, you get a whisper warning and when you don’t listen, then you get a tornado.”

4. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Ah, the author of this article has been caught with this fourth lesson himself. It took me over five decades, after writing 9 books and over 500 articles for magazines and on-line self-help websites, that my photography had much more impact on others, than all the thousands of words I wrote. Failure hides valuable lessons about success, but you have to stop and look at the picture before you lear the lesson.

Of course, a smart compromise here, that I have also learned the hard way, is that by using words that easily conjure up corresponding images—like blinding-bright thundering-loud lightning flashes—often helps bridge the gap between what is spoken or written and what is heard or seen. My last book—“Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale,” has over 100 pictures, so that should help sales!.

5. Fortune favors the bold.

Ronald lived a life of quiet separation, never having the ability to take even realistic chances with jobs, land investments and other opportunities trying to coax him out of his hiding place. Gerald took too many financial risks in life and ended up a pauper, while Louise flirted with danger in her outdoor adventures and ended up with one too many broken bones.

Research does show that the happiest people are the ones who take the most chances. But the key that Ronald, Gerald, or Louise didn’t understand was the balance point between a reasonable vs. unreasonable risk. This balance point takes great effort to become more sensitive to the point of no return in danger vs. opportunity, before a good opportunity comes and goes, or a danger lures you in disguise.

6. No man is an island.

During a spiritual retreat, Larry had the insight that we are all connected. Although we do have many commonalities he knew about, we also have many individual differences he also knew about. The epiphany he had was that both are in play by necessity to make us whole and feel like we belong to something bigger than our self, without losing our unique identity. At the present time we seem to be extremely divisive with our diametric differences on many of the most important issues in life. It is also a critical time to recognize our connectiveness and that doing some harm to another, is the same as doing it to ourselves.

There has never been a better rule of being successful in life—especially dealing with other people—than the “Golden Rule,” of treating others the way we want to be treated ourselves. This rule is a part of every major religion and philosophy, because it is so true and without exceptions, as a rule good for all. Larry is busy living the Golden Rule every day to make life a little better for incarcerated youth at the nearby correctional center where he works. He focuses on the commonalities the offenders have with law-biding citizens and builds on them, rather than trying to fix or cure differences.

7. Hope for the Best but prepare for the worst.

Research shows that optimistic people are generally happier, make more money, are healthier, and have better relationships, and live longer lives. That should be enough propaganda to endorse this positive perspective, at least it was for Terry. Unfortunately, there are enough people like Diane who choose to disagree and adopt a cynical, pessimistic view of life devoid of hopefulness, to present serious conflicts that can’t seem to be resolved.

The main hope is for the majority of those who hoover somewhere in between these two perspectives, to become more aware of the practical benefits of at least leaning towards a positive, optimistic viewpoint of life and people. In the meantime Stanley thinks it is smart to have a plan B in your back pocket just in case Murphy’s Law turns out to be more true than not. His Plan B and C have saved him from a few near disasters.

8. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Commonplace evil is becoming more prevent these days and this sort of behavior may be getting its “permission” from a definitive negative and pessimistic view of life and people. We all have enemies in the right and wrong game, and it is important to be aware of the danger from being exposed to commonplace evil, by being able to spot the common characteristics most prevalent in this character defect.

A few important signs of evil people include, malignant narcissism, cruelty in enjoying others pain and suffering, perpetual lying to preserve an image of respectability and to hide true motives, extreme resistance to accepting criticism or seeing themselves in need of help, giving off a weird feeling when you are around them, the insatiable need to control others, manipulating and belittling others, and not having any sense of boundaries.

9. Short cuts make long delays.

The first time Jim painted his house, he bought cheap latex paint and didn’t finish scraping or apply oil-based primer. He had to pay out $6,000 two years later to save his house from the extremely hot summers and severely cold winters in Nebraska. Barbara, knew a person in the HR Department at a company she wanted to work for, so she e-mailed the friend her resume to “push through” the process quicker than going on-line and completing the tedious application that has supplemental questions that were used to qualify applicants to be interviewed. She is still unemployed.

Sure, we all look for shortcuts to the outcomes we want, but never seem to find ones that really work. Ted and Mary exercised patience and diligence in always trying to do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons and ended up with good jobs, a nice place to call home and a family anyone would treasure. They had their failures, but none were fatal.

10. Better late than never.

This saying applies to us all. After-all, what would the fun be if we knew all these lessons before we had to learn them the hard way? We are all just living out our own life story which to a large part, involves learning important lessons such as these ten. Go back and re-read the opening quote to let this lesson really sink in. After all, it is rarely too late to learn an important lesson life because the most important time in anybody’s life is now, not the known past or the unknown future.

In conclusion Hank and Harriett both learned at work, that sometimes you learn these lessons early on and then forget them, only allowing them to come back with more vengeance and fury the next time around, making the lesson even harder to learn the second time. This is the one exception for human learning in life—relearning something is generally easier once you learned it the first time. This exception is because the problems are never quite the same.

“The person who doesn’t make any mistakes doesn’t make much of anything; while the person who doesn’t learn from mistakes made, keeps making them. ~The Author.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is retired Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (206)-914-1863 or ckuretdoc.comcast.net.