March 13, 2010
He won’t read them. Not yet anyway. But here are my best bits of advice for my son on the occasion of his 18th birthday. It’s what I know now … and wish I’d known then.
Eat your vegetables.
Don’t get into cars driven by people who are drunk or wired.
Wake up before eight in the morning and get out into the daylight. It’s better for your body clock.
Don’t listen to baby boomers who tell you you’ve got to slow down and “smell the roses”. They never took that advice when they were your age and neither should you. Throw yourself at life.
Understand that your happiness is inextricably tied to the happiness of your life partner. If she or he is not happy, then you’ll not be happy.
Don’t cross the road with your iPod on. Don’t buy cheap tools. Understand that the more people know about a subject, the more humble they’ll sound.
If the share market is down and you have some spare cash, buy BHP shares and throw them in the bottom drawer. This is all any Australian needs to know about the world of high finance.
Whisky is always a mistake. Keep a torch in your glovebox. You have to be thin to wear horizontal stripes.
Save up for things. Don’t buy anything requiring a loan, except a house and, if you really must, a car. Remember, interest is a tax on impatience.
If you constantly overdo the booze, you’ll end up either dying or having to give it up, which would be a shame as wine is one of life’s pleasures.
People who spend excessive time on their own appearance are almost never as interesting, or as attractive, as they think.
You are what you eat but also what you read and watch and hear. Don’t feed your brain with rubbish, at least not all the time.
Don’t be negative. Whingeing is for people who want to blame others for their troubles, because it’s easier than finding their own way forward. If a friend makes a habit of bad-mouthing other people, take a moment to wonder what they say about you. Spend your mental energy on people who think you are terrific, not people who dislike you.
Tread carefully if a friend asks you to counsel them about their love life. Never agree with their assessment that their ex-partner is horrid, as they will make up the next day.
Never get into a fight with your neighbours. Apologise. Make peace. Buy them a case of beer … anything.
When meeting someone over lunch, the way they treat the waiter is a better guide to their character than how they treat you.
A man can wear a hat indoors but only if he is under 10 or over 90. Don’t buy clothing in which the manufacturer’s name is the main design feature; why should you be an unpaid billboard? And don’t spend more than $20 on a bottle of wine; it’s an agriculture product, not a way of improving your social standing.
Clean your teeth. Back-up your computer files. Don’t spend all day on a mobile, because one day they’ll discover it does rot your brain.
Remember: the pharmaceutical industry exists to convince people to take lots of pharmaceuticals. Often, you are better off without them.
Don’t be tight with your money when it comes to your friends or charity. Do be tight with your money when it comes to choosing brands in the supermarket. In the absence of any compelling features, buy the second-cheapest in any product range.
Never ignore an invitation to dance. Be ruthless about escaping from a bore at a party; you’ll never get that hour back. Never buy an expensive umbrella as you’ll lose it within the month.
And while you may wish to advertise the brand of underpants that you are wearing, don’t expect anyone over 40 to be impressed.
Surround yourself with people who bring out your best side; people in whose company you become fabulous, funny or wise; avoid people in whose company you become boring or sad. And, remember: the most important decision you’ll ever make isn’t about career or investments, it’s your choice of life partner. In that one choice will lie much of your happiness.
A final point. If you are lucky enough to have two children, remember to take photos of the second one. Otherwise, on the occasion of that child’s 18th birthday, you may find you have nothing to illustrate the birthday card.
In this, as in everything else, let your own father’s errors and omissions be your guide. Happy birthday, boy.