A friend of mine e-mailed me these hopeful and pleasant "Instructions For Life". I have no idea who wrote them, but judging by the number of > > > > >'s at the beginning of each line, they had been around the block a few times.

I annotated them. (The parenthetical remarks are mine.)


  1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully. (Especially when giving them grief.)
  2. Memorize your favorite poem. (Teach foreigners the theme song to your favorite TV show and tell them it's a traditional American folk song about a fabled three hour tour.)
  3. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want. (But all-you-can-eat is okay.)
  4. When you say, "I love you", mean it. (...mean it as "I need regular sex and someone to listen to my problems at all hours of the night, and occasionally bail me out of jail, so you'll do until someone better comes along.")
  5. When you say, "I'm sorry", look the person in the eye. (People will believe _anything_ if you look them in the eye.)
  6. Be engaged at least six months before you get married. (Heck, be engaged at least six _times_ before you get married.)
  7. Believe in love at first sight. (Believe in leprechauns, for that matter.)
  8. Never laugh at anyone's dreams(, unless they're, like, really, really stupid dreams).
  9. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely(, unless it kills you).
  10. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling(, you dickweed).
  11. Don't judge people by their relatives. (But would you eat at a delicatessen run by Dennis Dahmer?)
  12. Talk slow but think quick. (Shoot first and ask questions later.)
  13. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, "Why do you want to know?" (But would Kenneth Starr accept it?)
  14. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk(, and you'll probably lose.)
  15. Call your mom. (Conduct a seance if necessary.)
  16. Say "bless you" when you hear someone sneeze. (They are infested with demons that must be banished.)
  17. When you lose, don't lose the lesson. (And the lesson is: "Vengeance!")
  18. Remember the three R's: (Rock 'n' roll radio?) Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions. (and remember that Revenge is the fourth R.)
  19. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship(, unless it's about something important, like money or sex or who's right).
  20. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. (Unless no one knows that you're responsible for it; then it's probably best to lie low and wait for it to blow over.)
  21. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice(, and then he'll think to himself "Aha. Here's a sucker who will buy my insurance/magazine/siding/religion.")
  22. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to(, although technically it's illegal to marry a man/woman here in Virginia.) As you get older, his/her conversational skills will be as important as any other(, and you can always get a younger mistress for the non-talking parts.)
  23. Spend some time alone. (Your friends will appreciate it.)
  24. Open your arms to change(, and your palms to spare change), but don't let go of your values.
  25. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer(, especially if the question is "Any volunteers?")
  26. Read more books and watch less TV(, or compromise and read more TV Guide).
  27. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll get to enjoy it a second time. (But you'll probably have a better retirement fund if you live a bad, dishonorable life.)
  28. Trust in God but lock your car. (Although God could probably get into your car if He really wanted to.)
  29. A loving atmosphere in your home is so important. Do all you can to create a tranquil harmonious home. (Kill your family if they don't cooperate.)
  30. In disagreements with loved ones, deal with the current situation. Don't bring up the past(, like you did last spring, and don't you dare deny it. Maybe you don't remember how you're always bringing up the past, but I do!)
  31. Read between the lines.

    (31.5. For example, read this.)

  32. Share your knowledge. (Pontificate every chance you get. Stop strangers to give them helpful grooming advice.) It's a way to achieve immortality(, at least until they perfect cloning).
  33. Be gentle with the earth. (Oh come on. The Earth is old enough to take care of herself.)
  34. Pray. There's immeasurable power in it. (But every now and then God gets a little tired of people always pestering Him for things -- especially when He's just rented a video and settled down with a bucket of popcorn -- so He'll fling a meteor at the next whiner who bothers Him.)
  35. Never interrupt when you are being flattered. (For example, if your boss comes up to you and says, "Larry, this is an _excellent_ report that you wrote. I'm putting you on the top of the list for the next promotion", don't interrupt to point out that Bob wrote it.)
  36. Mind your own business. (But the president's sex life _is_ my business.)
  37. Don't trust a man/woman who doesn't close his/her eyes when you kiss them. (It's called cringing. They always do it with me.)
  38. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before(, like school).
  39. If you make a lot of money, put it to use helping others while you are living. That is wealth's greatest satisfaction. (Well, that and all the stuff you can buy.)
  40. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a stroke of luck. (When I was four years old, I wanted panda fur and scales down my back like a stegosaurus. I still do.)
  41. Learn the rules then break some. (Start simple. Begin by breaking the Infield Fly Rule and work your way up to breaking the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)
  42. Remember that the best relationship is one where your love for each other is greater than your need for each other. (For example, I love money more than I actually need it.)
  43. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. (Keep a balance book with two columns: "gains"/"losses")
  44. Remember that your character is your destiny. (Uh-oh.)
  45. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon(, but if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen -- or else sweat heavily and use potholders).

Last updated January 1999

Copyright © 1999 Matthew White, although I'm only claiming copyright to the parts I wrote myself.