A Valuable Lesson I Learned from an Old Man

Thursday May 18, 2017.

It’s a quiet day at work (mainly because the weather is beautiful for the first time in weeks). I’m sitting behind the counter reading my book and as I look up I see this funny looking old man staring me down. 

“Can you make me a sandwich? All dressed.”

I get up to make his sandwich and while doing so I attempt to converse with him. He asks me what customers usually ask me: how old are you? what do you study? how do you like university? And I fed his curiosity with my basic replies.

Then he asked:

“But do you truly enjoy what you’re doing? Is that what you want to do?”

Normally I would have replied “yes” to keep the conversation short, however, I was bored and curious to know what this short, funny looking old man would think when I answer truthfully. So I said, “I’m not sure, I don’t think that I can ever picture a happy life where I’m not an autonomous worker doing what I truly enjoy doing.”

“AH, so then tell me, why are you doing what you are doing?” he replied.

The conversation was long, therefore I won’t extend it more. But after a long talk session, there are three important lessons I retained from our conversation, mainly because they apply a lot to my current situation and to situations I have previously experienced.

Figure Out What you Truly Enjoy in Life

The first one is pretty obvious. No matter what you do in life, you will be working 7 days a week, almost every waking hour of the day. Even if you’re working 40 hours/week, 5 days/week. You have a series of problems outside of work to solve. So you should at least make sure that your career is something you love with a passion and be the best you can at it.

Even if your passion is dumping garbage. You will love it, you will be the best at it and you will live a happy life.

I’ve heard this advice many times before from people close to me, people that weren’t able to apply that very same advice to their lives because they deem their choices to be too risky.

I don’t think we realize how short life is, to live 30 years miserably, rather than giving an extra effort and doing what we love.

Sure it might be harder, but if you’re going to have to work regardless, why not make it enjoyable?

You are NOT Guilty

In life, people are always going to try and make you feel guilty. Why? Psychologically, it makes the person feel better.

“DON’T BE GUILTY!” He said it four times, more loudly every time, making the other customers wonder if something was about to go down.

What is guilt? Let me google it for you:

  1. the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty” (Merriam-Webster)
  2. feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy” (Merriam-Webster)

The one I’m talking about is definition 2.

Remember the definition of guilt the next time that someone tries to make you feel like you are a waste of a being. We are all humans and we all make mistakes. The biggest advantage we have is that we, for the most part, learn from our mistakes. 

So don’t be guilty because you are not guilty. Unless you commit a crime, that’s different.

Draw a Line

Whatever you decide to do in life, draw a line, on that line write everything you want to achieve. After doing so, do not diverge from that line, no matter how hard it gets.

This one was the most important advice for me. 

How many times have you attempted something but stopped when it started becoming a real challenge?

“I want to start a company!”

“I have this great idea for an app, I even wrote this business plan” 

“I want to master this new skill”

How many times have we told ourselves something along those lines and then stopped? It happened to me several times. Way too many times and I always diverged from my goals because there wasn’t a line in the first place.

At the same time you might have attempted one of these and realized that it’s not what you truly like, right? When that is the case, remember to ask yourself, is it just this little part of the big picture that I don’t like or is it the project as a whole.

Unlike writing down your goals, or having a vision board, drawing a line allows your objectives to be organized in a timeline with deadlines. It turns your dreams and goals into an organized sequence of events that allows you to envision your future more concretely. 

The other advantage, is that your goals are set in a way that permits you to focus on one at a time without being distracted by your other objectives.

Why Take the Advice from This Old Fart?

I had to ask and see if I was talking to a lunatic or a semi-sane being. 

Mike is his name. He’s 65 years-old and is still working, not because he has to but because he wants too. He didn’t look rich, but he was happy with everything he has been doing in his life.

His advice came from the heart and from experience.

His last input before leaving was:

“Listen to me Paul, you’re in university now, finish your studies, get all the knowledge you need in business management and accounting because you will need them to be an autonomous worker. Get the diploma, and whatever you end up doing, make sure it’s something you love. Keep reading, keep learning, because there is nothing, and I say NOTHING more valuable than knowledge.”




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Comments (8)

  • King Arthur the Great 2 years ago Reply

    Nice blog, a lot of truth, we can always learn from those older, we must just make sure they are wise goats and not just old goats! Its ok to take time to know what you want, people who dont sometimes end up in dead end jobs. I would encourage anyone who doesn’t have a deep seated passion for something, before making any decisions go out and travel, see the world, this is also a great education! And never forget, is ok to explore, people who succeed, try 1000 of ideas!!!!

    Paul 2 years ago Reply

    Yes indeed and travel is what I’m looking forward too the most!

    Thank you for commenting!

  • Alizee 2 years ago Reply

    My grandad was always full of sage advice, so this blog made me smile, well done and wise.

    Paul 2 years ago Reply

    Thank you Alizee, I’m happy it made you smile!

  • Julien 2 years ago Reply

    These are the conversations I miss

    Paul 2 years ago Reply

    Indeed, it’s always interesting to talk to people who have a lot of experience with life.

  • ghassan akl 1 year ago Reply

    very nice blog Paul keep up the good work your are doing a fantastic job .

    Paul 1 year ago Reply

    Thank you Ghassan!

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