Posted in Tips From Other Humans, Work Tips BookClub

An Instruction Book For Life

Way back in 1991, H. Jackson Brown, Jr wrote a small book of life advice that became very popular. I don’t know who he was, or what the ‘H’ stands for, but he apparently wrote the list of guidelines for his son who was heading off to college. And then it became a global bestseller, so that’s surely a win-win.


Around that time, I think I was in a phase where I loved motivational things – I remember having a pinboard in my room with inspiring quotes stuck on it, and a weird Nike poster, and even a fortune cookie message: You would make a good lawyer, for no detail escapes your attention. (As an aside, I feel that fortune cookie advice would be just as good as the advice given by many high school careers / guidance counsellors – must look into this as a business idea…)

Anyway, I found the book on my shelf during a spring cleaning campaign, and thought I’d save you the trouble of reading the whole thing by sharing some highlights from the (slightly yellowed) pages here today.

And so it begins.
Still relevant after all these years. Especially #53 right now, Australia.

And some of the advice is bizarrely specific, and a little judge-y. Like #85: Never encourage anyone to become a lawyer. That’s a bit harsh, H.


The instructions certainly cover a lot of ground, from the philosophical to the mundane. From marshmallows in hot chocolate to learning CPR.


So 1991. As if these will still be relevant in 2017. [Cough, cough]
And another very precise instruction is #396. I don’t really like fruitcake, so it works for me as a tip for both work and life.


Like all good things, the stream of advice must come to an end. Strangely enough, it ends on instruction #477, and is then followed by five completely blank pages to complete the book. Maybe it’s meant to be a cliffhanger, as there was at least one if not two sequels to this one (yes, I think I have them).


And with that, I am off to call my mother.


Oh, The Places You’ll Go

If there is a better philosopher than Dr Seuss, I’d be surprised. We were raised on his rhymes and tongue twisting tales, and I think the good doctor definitely helped to feed my imagination and love of clever words and general silliness.

I have too many favourites to mention, but Oh, The Places You’ll Go has been a long-time guide and source of inspiration. Over the years, I’ve bought copies to share with colleagues who need a bit of a kick, or I’ve given the books as farewell gifts when I’ve left jobs. (I know that’s not the way it’s traditionally done, but I guess I think I’m not going to be here anymore, so look to Dr Seuss for answers to your questions.)


It’s a gem, and I highly recommend it for your personal library, and also as a gift for nearly every occasion. I read about a primary school principal who gave a copy to each graduating student as a takeaway pep talk to help on their journey to and through high school. At work, it’s a fitting gift for the recently promoted, the newly hired, and even the newly fired (NB, not if they’re still in the angry / sad stages of the grieving process).

I’ve just re-read it now (there’s another advantage of Dr Seuss vs a traditional motivational book – Dr Seuss’ work is quick to read) and there are so many highlights, it’s tough to narrow it down. Every page is basically packing a wisdom punch. I’d go as far as saying it is the best work (and life) advice you’ll ever get.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Amen to that.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

It’s an upbeat book about opportunity, sure, but it also provides reassurance for when things turn to crap, as they sometimes do.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And then, some hard data to back it all up [SPOILER ALERT]:

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed.)

So, if you’re looking for motivation, or if you have lots of questions buzzing around your head, or if you like funny rhyming words that don’t appear in a conventional dictionary, this book is for you. And that is a work tip for humans that I stand by, 100 per cent.