21 Essential Life Lessons

Blogging collaborations are smoking hot these days, and with good reason.

Inviting a diverse blend of voices to share in an ebook or other project brings depth and fresh perspectives to a topic, not to mention it’s a great way to lighten the writing workload. Plus, promotional power for the project multiplies in proportion to the number of contributors involved.

That’s why I quickly said, “Yes!” when my friend, Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living invited me to participate in Abukabar Jamil’s Life Lesson’s Series. Contributing to this collaboration seemed like a perfect way to show Virgin Blogger Notes’ readers how collaborations work, while writing from the heart for an amazing project.

The truth is, I’m a big believer in self-reflection as a tool for personal growth. I’m convinced that wrapped inside every circumstance is at least one lesson, as well as a blessing. The blessings nourish and sustain us on the road ahead, and the lessons–when we take care to heed them–give direction to our steps so we can stay on a path of peace and joy.

The guidelines for this collaboration ask that we share lessons we wish we would have known earlier in life, so with that in mind, here’s my list of ‘21 Essential Life Lessons‘:

  1. Be kind to everyone, including yourself.
  2. Don’t be possessed by possessions.
  3. Stay off the main roads.
  4. There are seven days in the week–‘some day’ isn’t one of them.
  5. Clean up your own messes.
  6. If you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else will.
  7. The world is as big or small as you make it.
  8. Life is really, really (really!) short.
  9. Drive your own bus.
  10. Grow as much of your own food as possible.
  11. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
  12. If you want a better life, think better thoughts.
  13. True direction comes from inside, not outside.
  14. Use what you have.
  15. People are all pretty much alike.
  16. Drama belongs on the page or the stage.
  17. You are not superior or inferior to anyone.
  18. If you don’t like your life, change it.
  19. Not everyone will like you.
  20. 99.5% of what you worry about will never happen.
  21. When someone invites you to join in a fabulous collaboration, say “Yes!

Your turn: Do any of these lessons resonate with you, or do you have some others to share?

This post was written as a part of the Life Lessons Series hosted by Abubakar Jamil in collaboration with  Farnoosh Brock.

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54 Responses to 21 Essential Life Lessons

  1. Farnoosh August 31, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    Dear wonderful and wise Jean, thank you so much for participating in this project and with such moving, touching, and reflective thoughts, even in their brevity! I had never heard “Stay off the main roads!” but I love it – I am always taking those scenic back roads – “someday” is not a day and most of what I worry about won’t happen – kindness was my grandmother’s biggest advice to me – be KIND to people (and to your husband! ;))! Beautiful, sweet and so true. You have written 21 phrases that should be recited and quoted countless times. I relate to all of them – thank you for making my morning, Jean! And for doing this!
    Farnoosh recently posted..A Step toward Change- Mastering our Reactions

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 8:15 am #

      Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this, Farnoosh. I really enjoyed reflecting on my life and the lessons I’ve learned. I find ‘stay off the main roads’ to be helpful with so many things in life, including blogging. It’s easy to just start going down the same old worn out path as everyone else because that’s the way it’s always been done. A person needs to turn off and travel a few miles before they get to Creativity and Innovation!
      Jean Sarauer recently posted..21 Essential Life Lessons

  2. Tony Teegarden August 31, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    Outstanding List Jean!

    Simple, very witty and spot on! They all resonate but here are my two favorites of yours:

    1. Don’t be possessed by possessions.
    2. There are seven days in the week–’some day’ isn’t one of them.

    So glad to see you share your inner wisdom with us and congratulations for participating.
    Tony Teegarden recently posted..3 Keys To Creating A Self Development Plan That Doesn’t Suck

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 10:43 am #

      Thanks, Tony. This was a fun post to write. And now I need to go read ‘how to create a self-development plan that doesn’t suck!’

  3. T. August 31, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    My addition to the list: Find a way, any way possible to do what you love. The rest of your life will fall into place.
    T. recently posted..Book Review- The Haunting of Hill House

  4. Marion Anderson August 31, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Hi Jean

    I am so pleased that you took part in this. I have thoroughly enjoyed Abukabar’s series of life lessons. I enjoyed writing mine and I have got some great inspiration from reading the life lessons of others.

    I love lesson no.9 – drive your own bus. It says it all and the sooner you learn to do it the happier you will be.
    Marion Anderson recently posted..A vision for your life – are you living your dream

  5. Ramblings of a Woman August 31, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    This is a great list! So many of them resonate within me! And many correlate to what I have been dealing with and writing about lately.
    I love the drive your own bus, and if you don’t like your life, change it!

    Ramblings of a Woman recently posted..Life’s best lessons learned from our dogs

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 8:20 am #

      Hi Bernice. I need to get over to your site and read about life lessons learned from dogs. I love dogs! Well, I love all animals, but doggies especially steal my heart.
      Jean Sarauer recently posted..21 Essential Life Lessons

  6. Susan Kennedy August 31, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    That list really made me smile! I know you are not being 100% serious, but there is truth to every one of those. I like the thing about drama belonging on the page or on the stage, I have not heard that one before but will definitely be using it!
    Susan Kennedy recently posted..Does Sun-Screen Give You Skin Cancer

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Susan. I’d first heard about drama belonging on the page in writing book. I think it was Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. We writers tend to make a lot of drama in our own lives as a procrastination tool sometimes.

  7. Scott McIntyre August 31, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Hi Jean,

    I love all these wise maxims.

    I’m a firm believer in getting No. 20 sorted: ‘99.5% of what you worry about will never happen.’

    Whenever I learn that someone close to me is worried about something, I try to encourage them to take action rather than spend the time being anxious.

    Worrying in itself rarely helps us to achieve anything and, in fact, it can actually prevent us from doing something constructive about the situation.

    I guess it’s only natural to worry, but if we can accept that no amount of worrying will make any difference whatsover, it becomes easier to take necessary action.

    After all, why worry about tomorrow when tomorrow will take care of itself? :-)

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 9:45 am #

      Exactly, Scott. Why worry about tomorrow? What an incredible waste of time. As you pointed out–if there are actions that can prevent the thing we worry about, then take them!
      Jean Sarauer recently posted..21 Essential Life Lessons

  8. Abubakar Jamil August 31, 2010 at 8:52 am #


    First of all thank you so much for participating with a wonderful post and life lessons that really can make anyone wiser.

    I liked the straight to the point approach that you took with your post and consider it a valuable addition to the Life Lessons Series.

    And Farnoosh, my gratitude to you, for your asking Jean to participate and share with us her gems of wisdom. :)

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 9:47 am #

      I am grateful to you for creating this series, Abubakar. I’ve enjoyed reading through the diverse contributions and my life has been enriched because of them.
      Jean Sarauer recently posted..21 Essential Life Lessons

  9. Jered August 31, 2010 at 10:45 am #


    For some reason number 6 jumped out at me: “If you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else will.”

    It reminded me of something Jim Rohn said: “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they may have planned for you? Not much.”

    Of course, I also like #21… :)
    Jered recently posted..Managing Your Leadership Energy

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

      Yeah, #21 is an especially good one, isn’t it? :) I had to learn that whole ‘not having a plan for your life,’ the hard way. I love how Jim Rohn put that – how true!

  10. Tia August 31, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Ooh! I love these! I think I will do the 21 Life Lessons on my Living Legacy blog. It’s perfect for it!

    I love all of the ones you’ve listed, and try to employ so many of them in my life. I don’t grow as much food as I could, but the rest I do pay attention to carefully!

    Tia recently posted..Two Cents Tuesday- Insecurities Will Kill Your Blog

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

      That’s okay, Tia, I grow enough for both of us and then some. Now I just need to get it to you :)

  11. Wayne Farley August 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    “There are seven days in the week–’some day’ isn’t one of them.” I love that. It re-enforces the fact that we should be specific and set time limits for planned tasks, otherwise it will be completed someday. If you aim at nothing, you will hit it.

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

      I’ve hit nothing a whole bunch of times! I’m flexible with dates and deadlines, but I have to at least use them as targets and always take some small action every day.

  12. Royale Scuderi August 31, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    I love – Drama belongs on the page or the stage!

    Every year on my birthday I choose a motto or mantra to live by and something to work on for that year. This year, my 41st, it was “No Drama!” I keep repeating that to myself whenever I find I am getting sucked into the vortex of drama around me…

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

      What a great concept to choose a motto or mantra for every year. I’m going to put some real thought into doing that. ‘No drama’ is a great mantra!

  13. Karen August 31, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    Hi Jean,

    What a wonderful entry to the 12 life lessons meme. I can really appreciate all of your life lessons, especially “6.If you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else will.” Many people go along with whatever everyone else wants and don’t have a plan for their own lives. Then, they wonder why they don’t get what they want out of life. You need to ‘drive your own bus’ as you say and go after things in life that you want. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of people who do have plans for their lives and you can become a pawn.
    Karen recently posted..The Five Keys To Happiness

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

      Been there and done that, Karen! I based my life around other peoples’ visions and goals for many years without putting any real thought into what I wanted. Live and learn.

  14. Angela Artemis August 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Jean, I loved this! Especially, Stay off the main roads!
    So true, when we follow the crowd – we lose ourselves. Better to be true to yourself and be authentic than to be in with the popular crowd.

    Excellent advice.
    Angela Artemis recently posted..The Indescribable Feeling of Love from A Non-Physical Being

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

      Those main roads will wreck us. They’re full of billboards that tell us we aren’t ‘enough’ unless we buy certain products and all the cars and trucks look pretty much alike.

  15. Preeti @ Heart and Mind August 31, 2010 at 1:56 pm #


    I am glad you participated in the life lessons series, It is so true 99.5% of what we worry will not happen yet we do worry about those things.

    I had done mine earlier and it was very good write and reflection back.

    Thanks Farnoosh and Abubakar for making it happen.
    Preeti @ Heart and Mind recently posted..Web Design- Overwhelm and Good Reads

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

      Hi Preeti. I’m really glad I had the chance to participate in this too. Hope you are feeling in the swing of things with your new schedule!

  16. Dia August 31, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    Hi Jean,

    Very nice list you have here. I like number 8, 12, 18, 20, 21 a lot. In regards to number 21, this is so true, many times we worry about things and at the end, nothing happens. Therefore, we end up worrying for nothing really. Thanks for sharing the list Jean :)
    Dia recently posted..Fear of success and failing

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

      Thanks, Dia. I was really shocked one day when I finally stopped to think about how many things I worried about actually happened. Almost zero! Now the biggest worry I have is that I’ll waste more time by worrying :)

  17. Jake LaCaze August 31, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    You have a good list here, Jean.

    I couldn’t agree more with this sentence: “I’m convinced that wrapped inside every circumstance is at least one lesson.”
    Jake LaCaze recently posted..Is There Really No Such Thing As A Stupid Question

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

      Sometimes those lessons come inside a double wrapper, but they’re definitely there.

  18. Aileen August 31, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    I love all 21! – so glad you wrote it :)
    Favorites are
    “Be kind to everyone, including yourself.”
    “Stay off the main roads.”
    “There are seven days in the week–’some day’ isn’t one of them.”
    “Drama belongs on the page or the stage.”
    “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
    Aileen recently posted..“Make friendship a fine art”

    • Jean Sarauer August 31, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

      It’s really fun to think back on the things we learn. Sometimes it’s easy to replay tapes of things we did ‘wrong, yet how much more rewarding and productive it is to reflect on the valuable lessons we’ve learned. And then we can share them :)

  19. Sandra Lee August 31, 2010 at 6:25 pm #


    As always, you bring your terrific humor into the mix with “There are seven days in the week–’some day’ isn’t one of them.” Love it.

    Now just trying to figure out why we need to stay off the main roads! I see Angela’s take on it, but I wonder what your own meaning is.
    Sandra Lee recently posted..Timeless blogging advice- 12 great links

    • Jean Sarauer September 1, 2010 at 11:45 am #

      Hi Sandra. Yeah, it’s funny how I kept waiting for some day to roll around on the calendar and it never did :)

      For me, staying off the main roads means taking your own path rather than just taking the well-traveled, shortest, and ‘safest’ route. The herd/pack/tribe is on that main road, and when you decide to veer off in your own direction, you’ll likely take some abuse for it. That’s okay though. There’s beauty on the back roads of life, and along with all the other delightful things we learn and find when we truly explore those wild places, we also find ourselves.

  20. Tess Bold Life September 2, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Each and every one of these are so true. My favorite is the 99.5% of the stuff you worry about won’t happen. So I quit!

    Thanks for commenting on Lori’s birthday blog. I appreciate you! xo
    Tess Bold Life recently posted..Feeling Jealous Shine Your Light On It…

    • Jean Sarauer September 3, 2010 at 10:07 am #

      Here’s to no more worry! It truly is a waste of time yet so easy to get sucked into. Hope you have a great weekend, Tess.

  21. Kim Klassen September 2, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    i’m a HUGE fan… this post is truly wonderful. your lessons… so perfectly right on… BRILLIANT…

    and yay for #19!!
    what a fantastic list!

    xxo, kim

    • Jean Sarauer September 3, 2010 at 10:09 am #

      Hi Kim. I used to put so much time and effort into trying to get people to like me. It wasn’t til just a few years ago that I really ‘got’ that it’s really just a matter of personal taste whether or not people like someone. Some people like vanilla and some like strawberry. Nothing personal about it!

  22. Maggie September 2, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    These are wonderful! I like that they are simple – usually life lesson lists are long and drama-filled but these seem easy to follow but would have a big impact on my life if I did. Thanks! :)
    Maggie recently posted..Peel Off Your Labels

    • Jean Sarauer September 3, 2010 at 10:10 am #

      Hi Maggie. Keep it simple could be another life lesson! I’ve learned that my happiness lies in doing simple things and being grateful for the richness to be found in those things.

  23. Kathy September 9, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    That is a very good list that you have. I would like to share one more with you…Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do for today. This is very true about working on the internet. It seems to change all the time.

  24. Joan September 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    I like yours very much. I only have a few suggestions. Do not spend money before you have it and live everyday as though it is your last. I love to follow your site because you always give me something wonderful to think about. You also, have useful information.

  25. Sibyl - alternaview September 12, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Jean: What a great list of lessons. I really appreciated what you said and thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights. I loved them all, but really appreciated #13 about direction coming from the inside. It is so easy to not realize that we always have the answers or at the very least information that will point us in the right direction. We just have to believe that is the case and then spend our time finding our own answers and truth. Thanks for the great list and the wisdom.
    Sibyl – alternaview recently posted..One Quick Way to Instantly Improve Your Day


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