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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

15 Life Lessons That You Can’t Live Without

Suggestions about life are a little like lottery tickets: You may collect a lot of them, but they rarely pay off. Yet if you are truly lucky, you receive a few words of wisdom that inspire you forever. That’s called hitting the jackpot.

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Pile of booksAleksandra H. Kossowska/Shutterstock

Today is the first day of your future

“I was considering going back to school for my master’s degree but was put off by the fact that it would take me six years—one course a quarter­—to do it. I just happened to read an advice column, and the person writing in was pondering getting a degree. The columnist offered this advice: ‘Four years from now, where will you be? You can have a degree and a better job or be still doing the same thing and wishing you had the degree.’ I enrolled that day and six years later graduated with a master’s.” —Marilyn Clark, Jacksonville, Florida

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Happy tourist traveler standing on a rock with raised hands, hiker looking to a valley below in trip in spain, hipster young girl enjoying peak of foggy mountain background landscape view mockupMaria Savenko/Shutterstock

Never regret

“My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project always amazes me.” —Richard Branson

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Closeup photo of from woman wearing slippers at morning Seksun Guntanid/Shutterstock

Don’t correct everything

“One of the daily chores for my 12-year-old daughter, Joann, was to clean up after dinner, including sweeping the floor. I lamented to a coworker that while walking around barefoot in the kitchen, I could feel each and every crumb my daughter’s ‘swift sweeping’ had missed, which resulted in disharmony at home. My coworker, Kathy, who was a mother of four, gave me advice that I use to this day: ‘Wear slippers.'” —Patricia Brey, Burlington, Wisconsin

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Outdoor shot of young woman standing by a stairs and looking away. Fitness female before a run.Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Just do it

“The best advice I got from my aunt, the great singer Rosemary Clooney, and from my dad, who was a game show host and news anchor, was: Don’t wake up at 70 years old sighing over what you should have tried. Just do it, be willing to fail, and at least you gave it a shot.” —George Clooney. Memorize these pieces of life advice that are six words or less.

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Child arm with elastic bandage on it.Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock

Skip the stupid

“As a child, I did many stupid things. After one such amazingly dumb stunt—trying to parachute out of my second-story bedroom window using a bedsheet as the parachute and landing rather hard on the lawn below—my father stood over me, looked down, and said, ‘Son, you’re going to have enough chances in life you don’t want to take, so don’t take any chances you don’t have to take.’ I quit taking stupid chances.” —David Kunkel, Tumwater, Washington

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Asian woman wearing a raincoat outdoors. She is happy.TORWAISTUDIO/Shutterstock

Don’t be scared to fail

“As the late great Jack Lemmon once said, ‘Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure.’ You will never achieve a deeper understanding of your work, or learn the tough lessons, if you are liked or comfortable all the time.” —Laura Linney

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Old and young person holding hands. Elderly care and respect, selective focusImpact Photography/Shutterstock

Judge not

“I heard a quote from the Joyce Meyer Ministries that I live by and has changed my life: ‘You never have enough information to judge anybody.’ How many times have we assumed something about someone and didn’t know all the facts?” —Lori Sampson, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. Follow these insider tips from career coaches for job advice.

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Action shot of basketball going through basketball hoop and netLane V. Erickson/Shutterstock

Failure helps you succeed

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

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Pregnant Woman Belly. Pregnancy Concept. Isolated on Black Background. Pregnant tummy close up Subbotina Anna/Shutterstock

It’s OK to hurt

“After I miscarried my first baby at four months, I was devastated. All I heard from everyone was you can have another baby, get over it, time heals all wounds, etc. My mother had the best advice. She said, ‘Honey, time does heal all wounds, but remember that a scar will remain. All you need to do is take your finger and gently rub that scar. That will be the link to your baby, and you will know that love is all around you.’ Mom let me know that I wasn’t going crazy missing my baby. My mom had the experience of losing not one child but two. Her second child (18 months old) died in her arms on the way to the hospital, and the next day she miscarried her third baby. I was her fourth baby.” —Lois Schyvinck, Janesville, Wisconsin. You’ll want to read these inspirational quotes to help you get through the morning.

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Young woman ice skating outdoors on a pond on a freezing winter day - detail of the legsSergei Domashenko/Shutterstock

Learn to fall

“I started figure skating at the age of five, and the first thing my coach taught me was how to fall. I remember gazing up with a puzzled expression, thinking, Shouldn’t I be learning to skate? Looking back, I realize that my coach was very smart. She knew I was bound to fall many times throughout my career and that I’d need to learn how to handle it.” —Michelle Kwan

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Modern style door handle on natural wooden doorVadym Zaitsev/Shutterstock

Criticize in quiet

“As a newly minted chief in the Coast Guard Reserve, I must have said something uncomplimentary to another Coastie. Immediately, a soft voice over my shoulder said, “Criticize in private and praise in public.” An older, wiser chief had given me the best leadership advice I ever ­received—in private.” —Calvin Krefft, Clarksville, Georgia

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Don’t have a fallback

“My father, a great musician whom I had seen killing himself to make barely enough to take care of his family, said, ‘Make sure you don’t have anything to fall back on, because you will.'” —Wynton Marsalis. You need to read these motivating quotes about success.

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Graceful girl in white tank-top gently kissing her brunette boyfriend hiding behind light curtains. Portait of romantic young couple spending time together on balcony enjoying each other.Look Studio/Shutterstock

Seize the day

“When I was 20, I asked my little Italian grandmother whether I should marry a girl she liked very much. She would not give me a yes or no answer but rather said, “Somea time, you go to the store and you see something butta you no buy. Then, you go back, and itsa gone.” That was 40 years ago. Since then, there have been two beautiful daughters and two wonderful grandchildren. Thanks, Grandma.” —Bob Scherer, Clarence, New York

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Cheerful woman with engagement

Winning isn’t everything

“I was a young newlywed struggling with marital issues that seemed huge at the time (though in reality they weren’t). So I called my dad for help. My wise father said 13 words that changed my life. He said, ‘Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?’ Those 13 words became sort of a personal mantra for me and have served me well in many aspects of my life. And 16 years later, I am still happily married to that same man.” —Olivia Lowry Cook, Eagle, Idaho

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Find the lessons in your failures

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default. Now, I am not going to tell you that failure is fun. [But] the knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.” —J. K. Rowling. Next, read these uplifting quotes that will stay with you.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest