For Jacob on the Occassion of his 13th Birthday


As you take your first weary steps into adulthood, I feel the overwhelming need to lay down the ground rules for you. As puberty will continue to dull your mind for the next several years, you may want to print this out, keep it in your wallet and refer to it often. It’s going to be a lengthy list so you may want to look into getting a bigger wallet. Maybe one of the big fold over kind that men used to carry in their coat pocket.

The Rules of Life:


  • School is your job. Right now, and until you graduate from college.
  • Average is not acceptable. This rule applies to everything, not just schoolwork.
  • You are solely responsible for your success or failure in all things. Sometimes this means you’ll have to work harder because you have a bad lab partner, bad teacher or bad boss. Those people aren’t responsible for your success or failure. You are.
  • College is mandatory. In the Game of Life you get to choose college or career. Real life is not a game, so you don’t get to choose. 
  • Make a lifelong commitment to learning. Learning doesn’t end after college, and for some people college doesn’t even end after college. It’s okay to stay in school forever. As long as you can make a living, go for it. Once you’ve left school, keep learning. Travel, read, research and grow.


  • Your mother is the most important person in your life. If you don’t have a healthy loving relationship with your mother, you will never have a healthy loving relationship with anyone else, ever. The same is true of other people. Don’t get involved with people who don’t like their mothers.
  • It’s what you like, not what you are like, when it comes to making friends. Don’t get this wrong, strength of character is important, but for making new friends, it’s good to start from common ground.
  • You will be judged by the company you keep. Pick your friends wisely. Avoid people who make bad or dangerous choices.
  • Women aren’t mystical creatures. They’re just like men; manipulative, emotional men with boobs. They’ll try to make you think they can’t be understood, or that you can’t even pick out your own clothes without them. It’s a trick. Don’t fall for it.
  • Sex is not for only after marriage. If you wait, you’ll be sorry. I know you don’t want to hear about this now, but in ten years, you’ll thank me.
  • First marriages are for practice. If at all possible, try to avoid making babies with your first wife. To nullify this rule, wait until after you’re thirty to get married.
  • Be Faithful to your wife. The rules on fidelity are thus- If you’re the married one, it’s cheating. Don’t do that. If she’s the married one, technically you’re not cheating, but you’re also not bulletproof, so advance at your own peril. Also, no good relationship ever started with one of the parties cheating on their spouse.
  • The first girl you love is not the girl you’ll marry. You’ll fall in love in high school and think it’s special that you found your one true love on the first try. You didn’t. Trust me on this.
  • The greatest gift you can give your mother is to love your wife.
  • You’ll never outgrow the family you grew up with. If you believe “a son is a son till he takes him a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life,” you don’t know your mother. She’ll destroy any woman who tries to take you away.
  • The greatest gift you can give your father is to be a good father yourself.


  • You will hate most of your first jobs. You just have to push through those times. You’ll need the cash to do all the relationship stuff above. These experiences also prepare you for later, less crappy jobs
  • Job satisfaction is more important than high pay. If you can score both, you’ve done well.
  • Pick a career that interests you. Find an employer you believe in. Don’t spend your adult years hating your job.
  • Anything worth having is worth working for. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. These are called truisms for a reason.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit. All that hype about not being a quitter is bull. Dedicating time to a losing prospect is much worse than quitting early.

All the other rules (in no particular order)

  • Rinse your dishes immediately after use. This will save you more work later.
  • All IT problems can be solved by turning the device off and turning it back on again.
  • Don’t slam doors or hit things unless you mean it as punctuation to a crappy mood.
  • Always judge people. This is contrary to what everyone else will tell you, but trust your instincts where people are concerned.
  • Don’t exercise in pajamas.
  • If at any point, you find yourself in jail, there is a very real chance you have failed completely up to that point, and your life will require a reboot.
  • Say what you mean, mean what you say, or don’t speak. Words are powerful. Use them wisely.
  • Learn to be self sufficient. There will be periods in your life when you will be completely alone.
  • Be weary of anyone who claims to profess the one true religion. For that matter, never trust anyone who claims to have conversations with an invisible deity.
  • In your late teens you’re going to discover alcohol. Don’t drink to excess or in public until you’re 21, and don’t ever drive drunk. Call me or call a cab. (#TAXI or #8294 from any cell anywhere).
  • Nothing good ever happened between Midnight and 5AM. Always be in bed under the covers during those five hours.
  • The toilet has a bowl, a lid and a seat. Each has a function.
  • Toilet paper should unroll toward you, not toward the wall.
  • Replace the TP roll when it’s used up. An empty cardboard tube on a spool may be of use after the apocalypse, but for now when the roll is empty replace it. (I know I just rattled off three rules about the toilet, but you’ll start every morning there, and you don’t want to start every morning of your life wrong.) 
  • College, marriage, babies. In that order!!!
  • Deadlines are due dates, not start dates. Plan accordingly.
  • Question authority. But first be sure you’re in the right.
  • Wear nice shoes and drive cool cars.
  • Caffeine cures depression.
  • Avoid the victim mentality. Don’t let impersonal things affect you personally.
  • Barney on “How I Met Your Mother” is not a role model. If you have to pick a role model from a TV sitcom, use one of the guys from “Big Bang Theory”.
  • Everyone loves a smart arse, but no one likes a jerk. Know the difference between sarcasm and meanness.
  • Use Social Networking responsibly. Be sure you don’t accidentally share a post with the world that you only wanted your best friends to see. If you want to share your most intimate thoughts with the world, start a blog… like this one, where I share our private conversations with anyone interested in reading them.
  • Avoid hypocrisy. Be who you are.
  • Honesty is always the best first option.
  • Spellcheck – Yes. Auto correct – No.
  • Variety is not always good. It’s okay to pick something you like and stick with it. It’s called consistency.
  • You learn from failure. So don’t be afraid to risk and fail.
  • Be resilient. Don’t get hung up on the losses life will deal you. Dust yourself off and move forward.
  • Confront your fears within reason and where possible. Don’t go out of your way to walk on the wing of a flying airplane or anything like that, but don’t let fear of rejection or fear of failure prevent you from doing things you want to do or having things you want to have.
  • Try to find the humor in every situation. Laughter will save you from the dull monotony of every day living.
And Finally…
  • Break all the rules at least once.

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