Want a good idea?  Pick out at least 5 to 10 of the thoughts below that are meaningful to you and re-read them at least three (3) to four (4) times a year.  Most likely, they can enhance your quality of life.  When you start analyzing the thoughts below, I believe you will agree that most of these lessons are just plain good common sense.

A person’s perception – is their reality.

Always do the right and fair thing. It’s a powerful concept. My brother-in-law emphasized this lesson throughout his life and it showed because he was immensely popular and had many interesting and supportive friends.

A handshake should always be good enough – reams of legal documents can be easily signed by bad people without good intentions.

Even as an attorney, I still wish that a handshake would be enough.  When I started practicing law, there were many attorneys that followed the above precept:  Their words were their bond.  I remember having a real estate closing with an attorney who asked me to do all of the paperwork on the closing.  I sent him the documentation to review and he called me immediately upon receiving the paperwork.  His comment on the telephone: “I did not check the figures on the closing statement, I know they have to be correct because they are from you.” He knew I would not cheat his client and would charge each party what they should be charged or credited correctly for on the closing statement.  It’s a shame–I can’t find many of those types of people around anymore.

Always leave something on the table for the other person. You don’t have to win on every point in negotiations; said a different way: In all interactions with others – always allow them to walk away with their dignity and self-respect.

Have principles – live by them, teach them to others, do not change them, they are not for sale and should always override the impending transaction. Be prepared to walk away from a transaction, rather than violate your principles to win it.

Your most valuable intangible asset (personal or business) is your reputation. Guard it carefully.   When I was in Law School, I was given a senior law student to act as a mentor.  We called them “Big Brothers or Big Sisters”.  They were our (the freshman law students) go to, should we ever have a question on how to study or answer questions in class, etc.  My big brother lived in the building next to us in married housing.  In my freshman year of law school, I would be at his front door at the end of the school day, at least 3 to 4 times a week.  He was wonderful and answered all of my questions—even when I realized later on, they were not really very important questions. While in law school, he collected exotic birds.  When I visited his apartment, there would always be birds flying all over the place. When he graduated from law school, he got a very important job working for the U.S. Government and then later, opened his own law office handling criminal law cases.  He had an excellent reputation as an attorney.  Without his knowledge, the FBI secretly taped the telephone conversations that he was having with several of his criminal clients.  The FBI heard a lot of Latin words mentioned in those taped conversations.  A couple of weeks later they arrested my “Big Brother” and charged him with being the head of a drug ring.  These charges ended up appearing as the headline on the front page of our local newspaper.  As a result of the newspaper article, he immediately lost the majority of his clients.  A couple of days later, the charges were dropped against him and a brief article stating the charges were dropped against him appeared on an inner page of the local newspaper.  But by that time, his excellent reputation had been ruined.   In order to have a successful law practice, he was forced to move to another part of Florida.  By the way, as it turned out, he was not the head of any drug ring.  The Latin words used in the conversations were the Latin words for some exotic birds that his clients were going to bring to him from South America.  Again, having and saving your good reputation is very important.

Always remember who you are, how you got there and those who helped you get there.

Think before you speak – unkind and unjustified comments can leave wounds that will scar others for life.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Learn to say no politely and quickly.

Remember that a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.

See problems as opportunities for growth and self-mastery. I think I have said this in another way in one of our other lessons:  “Problems are Opportunities in Disguise”.

Compliment the meal when you’re a guest in someone’s home and make the bed when you’re an overnight visitor in someone’s home. When my wife and I stay over at a friend’s house, my wife insists upon making up the bed.  We try to leave some covered candy on top of the bed—similar to if you were staying at a hotel, where they leave candies on the side table or bed.  It’s just an additional thank you and hopefully reflects that we appreciated their courtesies and friendship.  Sometimes our friends don’t discover our little candy addition to the top of the bed for weeks.  They have informed us that the candies put a smile on their faces.  Let me make an additional comment on the covered candies. My wife and I visited St. Petersburg, Russia and were fortunate enough to have toured the Hermitage Museum. The guards are known as babushkas, which are older women that wear head scarfs under their chin, guarding the art. They very rarely ever smile.  My wife and I take covered hard candy with us on our trips and give them out to people.  I will never forget the large smile we received from one of these babushkas when she realized what we had handed her.  We all should compliment, say thanks to others, and if possible show a little appreciation to others.  Giving a piece of hard candy to others is a simple way of saying thanks.

When tempted to criticize your parents, spouse, children or friends, bite your tongue.

Never underestimate the power of love.

Never underestimate the power of forgiveness.

Learn to disagree without being disagreeable. When I’m at an impasse, I usually say: “Let’s agree to disagree”.

Hear both sides before judging. During my years of practicing law and handling Section 1031 Tax Deferred Exchanges as the Qualified Intermediary, I attended many meetings where the attendees would be asked to give their opinion on the issues being discussed. Early in my career, I would try to be one of the first people to give their opinion because I thought I was right and wanted to be the first one stating that position.   What I learned was that in many cases, I did not have the complete picture.  So now, like my friend Lee Sandler, Esq., I try to hear both sides of an argument or issue, and then give my opinion, should I wish to do so.

Refrain from envy. It’s the source of much unhappiness.

Remember that winners generally do what losers don’t want to do.

Always set fair and reasonable expectations for yourself and others – then work your “behind” off to exceed those expectations.

Be aware 360 Degrees – you never know from which direction the next accident will happen.

Seek to create positive cash flows and profits – wealth will follow.

It is better to be shot in the “behind” making a hasty retreat than between the eyes making an ill-timed advance.

Don’t think a higher price always means higher quality.

Don’t be fooled. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I have a friend who was a victim of a Ponzi scheme.  What happened?  Bernard Madoff, an investment advisor, and financier set up an investment fund, taking other people’s money and promising them very high returns on the money invested.  Of course, the “investors” were taken advantage of because there were no real investments. The main party who made money was Bernie Madoff.  He ended up confessing his wrongdoing and was convicted and given a 150-year sentence.  Did that sentence get all of my friend’s money back, which by the way was supposed to be for the support of his parents in retirement? Nope !!  So I still say;  If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is not true.

Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.

Be there when people need you.

Know when to keep silent and Know when to speak up.

Remember no one makes it alone. Have a grateful heart and be quick to acknowledge those who help you. I have tried throughout this treatise to give credit to those who have written important life lessons that we have used herein. Additionally, I want to thank those authors whose wonderful lessons I could not find.  So thank you to all of these wonderful authors.

Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.

Be a self-starter.

Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.

Pay your fair share. Most of the time I try to pay more than my fair share. I am not trying to show off.  I am trying to make sure that everyone else involved does not feel like they have been cheated.  Yes, it costs me a little more, but truly makes me feel better.

Remain open, flexible, and curious.

The person who shines your shoes deserves the same dignity and respect as the person who signs your paychecks. I worked at a very large financial institution for about 5 years. I usually would stay at work until around 7:00 p.m. and then I would go back home.  The cleaning crew would start cleaning our offices around 6:00 p.m. As they were working, I would wave to them and sometimes if they had a personal question, I would try to give them advice.  About 10 years after I left that financial institution, I was at our local department store going up to the second floor on the escalator.  A woman waived to me on the neighboring escalator. I smiled back at her.  I have no idea who she was.  About 2 minutes later, I am standing in front her and her daughter.  She says: “Do you remember me?”  I did not.  She said she worked at the financial institution when I was there and appreciated the kindness I gave to her and then she started crying.  This confirms that the above lesson is in fact, very important.

All relationships are built on openness, honesty, and respect. If one is missing, the relationship is probably doomed to fail.

Trust is like cream – it’s heavy – but always finds its way to the top.

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