Monday, May 2

Anthony Seldon: Five things I have learned

Dear Son,

BBC has put this series together of the great and good men talking about what they have learnt. Here’s one of them. The 5 things that Anthony Sheldon says that he has learnt are:

1. Stop worrying

2. Happiness is the opposite of selfishness

3. Live by water

4. Learn from experience - not just university

5. Be yourself

I am ok with 1, 2 as learning points. Good points. Stop worrying is a very good start. And in my opinion, the trick to stop worrying is to be prepared. And know where and when you cannot do anything about stuff. So things like when you are stuck in traffic. Or waiting for a delayed train. Or not having enough money. Have you done everything you can? Can you do anything else? Shouting and screaming and throwing your toys out of the pram does not work.

Happiness is the opposite of selfishness. Yep, Agree. Your Mamma told you that you should have offered your seat to her when she came into the shop. It is a small thing, but do try to help others, even if it causes you discomfort. You will see, son, that helping others makes them happy and will make you happy as well. I know you are a little shit of a teenager at the moment where life revolves around you and are very conscious of peers, but I am proud of you, you do care about others. Good of you son.

But I am not sure if I agree with the #3rd one. That’s a very personal view. If you ask me what makes me happy? All kinds of natural places, but I would prefer the mountains. I also like the riverine beginnings. Where the rivers are born. See here for an example where I felt at peace with the world. You have to find your own place to live and breathe and be yourself. But if I had to give my thoughts, try to be happy wherever you are. Wherever you are, there is you and if you do decide to believe, your God. That’s all that one needs. Then one can be happy next to a sewer, a bustling road, an airport or a mall. In other words, do not let the surroundings dictate your mood or your feelings. Rise above it if you can.

Learning from experience, yes, agreed to a certain extent. I am always reminded of the Mark Twain quote, I never let my schooling interfere with my education. I agree, son, life teaches you tons. Then again, books are distillations of other people’s experiences (whether be it science or arts or fiction). Reading books is a way to learn from other people’s experiences. You do not have to follow them slavishly but it does help. I am also reminded of another phrase which I read about experiences. The problem with experience is that it takes a lifetime to get. Wouldn't it be great if we were born old and grow young? Now that would be fun. So both please.

Be yourself, of course you have to be yourself. Totally agree. I frequently quote this. No complaints, no explanations, no excuses. You are yourself. Be what you want to be, son. I know you will get there. You are already there, you are turning into a man and you are showing your own personality, your own likes and dislikes. You are changing your opinions and your career aspirations frequently. That’s fine, Make mistakes, do things that challenge you. I think that’s a great way to find out what you are not and what you are.

So interesting list of lessons, eh?

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