Four thoughts on how to live a rich and rewarding life

Woman Grasping Fruits, Abraham Bruegel (1716). Louvre Museum.

When my kids were little, my life advice to them was lofty. The older they got, the more practical I became. By the time they entered college, my counsel revolved around debt avoidance and family planning.

But now, my youngest will celebrate college commencement. I’m facing an empty nest. As a result, I’ve been pondering what a rewarding and robust life entails. Here are my four reflections.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix (1830). Louvre Museum.

Work to live or live to work? Your answer may change over time.

A teen or young adult who has been fortunate enough to have a roof overhead, a car in the driveway and food on the table may underestimate just how much it costs to enjoy a comfortable life. As a result, when choosing a future, the ramifications of declaring that money isn’t important may not be fully appreciated.

Similarly, anyone who has balanced school, work and caring for oneself may not think that a career that demands 60 to 70 hours a week is a big deal. But when spouses and children are added to the mix, the work-life debate gets complicated.

My outlook on the role of work in my life has changed. My views at 18 differed from my responses at 25, 35 and, yes, even 50. But that’s okay. Life evolves. Our approach to the importance of work can evolve too.

Starry Night over the Rhone, Vincent Van Gogh (1888). Orsay Museum in Paris

Lifelong learning is a necessity, not a luxury.

The prevalent career advice seems to ping between two extremes. One is to follow your bliss. The other is figuring out what the job market needs. It is hard to decide what to do with one’s life. And few students have been lucky enough to experience the day-to-day reality of a chosen career.

And, of course, the world is changing. Rapidly. We’re in the midst of a tech revolution. We’re living through the rise of artificial intelligence and the tyranny of algorithms. There’s no guarantee that the profession you choose today will still be a job tomorrow.

Keep abreast of trends and changes. Take charge of your own learning. And don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled because it may very well offer opportunities that you didn’t foresee.

Aurore, Denys Puech (1900). Orsay Museum in Paris.

Rejection sucks. But it is also an opportunity.

The adult work world can be hard. It can be uncaring. In many sectors, people are simply resources to be allocated, rearranged and sometimes even “rightsized” – corporate speak for laid off.

At any age, it hurts when you don’t get an initial job interview, don’t make it to the final round of interviews, don’t get that job offer you wanted or the promotion you felt you deserved. Losing a job is the deepest cut of all. When I’ve faced these setbacks, I force myself to look for the opportunities. It can be challenging at first to see them, but they do exist.

Two years ago, a former co-worker was a guest speaker in one of my classes. We both worked as journalists at the local alternative weekly. One of the topics he touched on was how many jobs he’d been fired from as a reporter. He was, mind you, a legendary local journalist. But he explained that new owners could mean changing preferences. And anyone who has ever been through a corporate merger has seen this up close. But there is no shame in getting let go. Try to figure out ways to leverage your experience to land a new, and better gig.

Persistence is important. So is being open to new opportunities, even ones that you may have discounted in the past. Try to find the place and the people who appreciate you and your talents.

Bedroom in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh. The Orsay Museum in Paris.

Sleep. It does a body good.

Don’t feel well? Go to bed early. Cranky? Get some rest. Angry? A nap might help improve your outlook.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about the zzzzs. I need at least seven hours of sleep a night. A recent spate of articles has emphasized just how critical sleep it. Rest repairs our bodies and restores our brains. (You can read more here and here.)

If you’re not getting enough sleep, try to figure out why. Even though I’m a sleep advocate, there have been periods in my life where I’ve been sleep deprived. I was more prone to mistakes. My work was less-than-stellar. I got sick. If you’re not getting enough sleep, try to find the reason. I admit that, depending on your life circumstance, making a change can be difficult. But it is a serious health matter that deserves attention.

These are my four personal reflections. What would you add to the list? Please weigh in with your thoughts in the comment below.

3 thoughts on “Four thoughts on how to live a rich and rewarding life”

  1. It took me a bit to realize how appropriate the classic works of art were, illustrating the different life tips. Clever choice!


  2. Great post. I agree wholeheartedly with your tips. It’s nice to be reminded that the advice to your kids can change and be refined over time. I tried to make a philosophical metaphor about our existential connection with water to my 3 year old during bath time the other day. #TooSoon I’ll wait a while before trying that one again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Three is such a great age! I remember struggling to answer my son’s question when he was about that age that focused on the identity of Superman’s mom. I launched into a long explanation about the fact that Superman has two moms: One on earth, one on Krypton. It went over his head. He’s now 25, working for an investment firm, and remembers none of that conversation. It is still a vivid memory for me. Enjoy your time with your little one. It passes so fast.

      Liked by 1 person

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