Not my version of Life 101

If I were in charge of the calendar, New Year's Day would fall on May 1.

Spring is when nature tells us to shake off the inertia of winter and start moving forward again. Blossoms brighten the landscape, roads that were closed become passable, and the distant future suddenly seems much closer.

Historically, this is the time of year for serious planning and decisionmaking. Gardeners are finalizing what to plant. Students prepare to leave high school and college and move to the next stage in their lives. Opportunities are abundant, like buds waiting to open.

Advice on a wide range of subjects also becomes plentiful right now, with most of the production occurring at commencement ceremonies. If all the kernels of wisdom uttered at every graduation were somehow transformed into real grain, it would probably require dozens of massive silos to hold.

I have a few nuggets of information that may be useful for anyone heading into unknown territory, changing direction, or pausing to consider a new career path. It's not my version of "The Rules," "Everything I Ever Needed to Know...," or Life 101. Just a few practical suggestions, such as:

• Drive extra carefully in parking lots. Amazing as it may seem, many of them are more hazardous than busy streets.

• An astute investment adviser is always good to know, but an honest, reliable plumber is even better.

• Don't feel obligated to have an opinion about everything. There's nothing wrong with saying, "I haven't made up my mind on that."

• Avoid imitating characters on TV shows. The back-and-forth banter on "The West Wing" is hip and entertaining, but in real life it's exhausting. You don't need to make a snappy comment every time you open your mouth.

• Never read a book or newspaper while walking down a flight of stairs.

• Aspiring writers should resist the urge to complain. We've all seen lists of "10 Things I Hate About Computers;" My Boss; School; Siblings; City Life. When I see a complaint list, my first thought is, "Been there. Read that."

• Stupid and ignorant are not the same. Ignorance can be changed. Stupid is forever.

• There may be a day when a person you believe is a complete fool will come up with a brilliant concept. Judge an idea on its merits, not its source.

• If you're having an argument with someone, name-calling will create more problems than it solves.

• Limit the amount of time you spend thinking about truly trivial issues - such as what song the ringer on your cellphone should play.

• You have a better chance of receiving help if you ask for it instead of demand it.

• Learning is a process that never ends. Anybody who tells you he's got the real world all figured out is only proving how much he doesn't have a clue about.

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