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Rule 2: You’ll Get Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

There is an assumption that as we get older we will get wiser; not true I’m afraid. The rule is we carry on being just as clueless, still making plenty of mistakes. It’s just that we make new ones, different ones. We do learn from experience and may not make the same mistakes again, but there is a whole new world of fresh ones just lying in wait for us to mess up and fall into. The secret is to accept this and not to beat yourself up when you do make new ones. The Rule really is: Be kind to yourself when you do mess things up. Be forgiving and accept that it’s all part of that growing older but no wiser routine.

Looking back, we can always see the mistakes we made but we fail to see the ones looming up. Wisdom isn’t about not making mistakes, but about learning to escape afterward with our dignity and sanity intact.

When we are young, aging seems to be something that happens to, well, old people. But it does happen to us all and we have no choice but to embrace it and roll with it. Whatever we do and however we are, the fact is we are going to get older. And this aging process does seem to speed up as we get older.

You can look at it this way—the older you get, the more areas you’ve covered to make mistakes in. There will always be new areas of experience where we have no guidelines and where we’ll handle things badly, overreact, get it wrong. And the more flexible we are, the more adventurous, the more life-embracing, then the more new avenues there will be to explore—and make mistakes in, of course.

As long as we look back and see where we went wrong and resolve not to repeat such mistakes, there is little else we need to do. Remember that any Rules that apply to you also apply to everyone else around you. They are all getting older too. And not any wiser particularly. Once you accept this, you’ll be more forgiving and kinder toward yourself and others.

Finally, yes, time does heal, and things do get better as you get older. After all, the more mistakes you’ve made, the less likely that you’ll come up with new ones. The best thing is that if you get a lot of your mistakes over and done with early on in life, there will be less to learn the hard way later on. And that’s what youth is all about, a chance to make all the mistakes you can and get them out of the way.

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