list of wisdom nuggets?
July 8, 2009 10:12 PM   Subscribe

is there a thorough list of basic life things that adults should know? (e.g. go to the dentist twice a year, get your oil changed every __ miles, send thank you notes after interviews).

not sure if these qualify as etiquette, common wisdom nuggets, or rules of thumb... but basically i want to make sure that i know what the average wise adult does.

i spent some extra years in grad school, with video games, in the dorms, and want to do a sanity check on my basic American practical knowledge (I understand there's some cultural bias to this; I didn't grow up with the full complement of American Values and Wisdom).

i've seen some books to this effect, but they seem too "self help" or "for dummies." perhaps something a bit more like the rules for my unborn son blog. i've seen and found it a bit meandering and unfocused.
posted by k7lim to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Previously
posted by special-k at 10:19 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

There is no such list.
Just a list of topics and subtopics would be huge.
There would be arguments about which topics are worthy and which are not.
There also would be a lot of room for argumentation to one side or the other on many topics.


>>I never go to the dentist unless I need some alterations to my teeth (fillings, caps). I do focus on keeping my teeth clean though.

>>Common wisdom indicates that automobile oil should be changed every 3,000 miles, but Click and Clack (on NPR) say that every 5,000 miles is a better periodicity. They also say that you should change your filter each time. I change mine every other oil change.
posted by noonknight at 10:53 PM on July 8, 2009

Here are some small, life-smoothing things that I have learned - cultural context may vary for you:

• A thank you note is a good and gracious thing. Any time someone does something good for me, really puts themselves out or gives me a gift, I hand write a thank you card. I don't care what other people do, and I don't care what people think of me, I think it's the right thing to do.

• Drink water all day long, not soda.

• Don't disclose personal information like your salary or other personal affairs to others.

• The ability to say a heart-felt sorry when you're wrong and know it, is the mark of a decent human being.

• Be interested in everything you possibly can be.

• It's always good policy to pay attention to your personal grooming. Regardless of your personal style I think it's important to shower often, keep your nails trimmed and clean, and wear clean clothes. Don't wear too much cologne.

• Learn to cook to at least a basic standard. It's a fundamental to caring for yourself, and a nice skill to have if you want to show love for others.

• Talk to strangers where practical or sensible - I always find it reminds me that you can never underestimate people - they're complex and interesting pretty much without exception.

• I have found that it's easy to be funny, good-natured and calm when things are going well - the real test is if you can try to be these things when everything goes wrong. This is my eternal challenge - to remember this when I feel a lot of stress and react in an angry way.

• Education is always valuable, even if it didn't take you to the places you thought it would.

• It's OK to let other people be the asshole. When you observe assholery, try to avoid being dragged into it.

• To really enrich your life, find your Flow activity, and devote time to it.

• There is nothing more complicated to remaining a healthy size than remembering that energy in must roughly equal energy out. Simply put, it's all diet and exercise.

• My experience is that quality goods - real leather, well made clothes, for example - last much longer and give me more pleasure than things that seem like a bargain, but are poorly made. Take time to investigate the quality of the things you buy.

• Hand written letters will never go out of style because they make people feel awesome.

On review, these all sound slightly esoteric, if not a little old fashioned. But hey, this is how I understand things.
posted by lottie at 11:10 PM on July 8, 2009 [42 favorites]

Start a tab. You gotta tip, but not for each drink.
posted by hypersloth at 1:20 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Carrying on where Lottie left off:
- the Golden Rule is golden for a reason and universal, although called different things; kindness is always in fashion

- plant a tree for hope, a garden for beauty, plant scented flowers for those who cannot see, put out water for birds if you can

- be mindful of who you associate with as people do judge you by the company you keep and you should want to end up where/as your friends end up in life

- read books, read everything, read opposing views

- the saying "believe nothing you're told, a quarter of what you read, and half of what you see" is still good advice; learn to judge for yourself, do not follow blindly

- put aside a percentage of your income every time you're paid and leave it somewhere boring; pretend you don't own this money, your future does

- keep three months' expenses tucked away just in case

- never tell anyone how much money you have in the bank or how much you earn, except your SO and, perhaps, your parents

- do not give the people you work with the opportunity to gossip about you: don't tell them with whom you are sleeping or about family or health crises except when absolutely necessary. There is usually one person who gossips and will tell everyone everything they know about you and then make up what they don't know. You won't know who that is until it's too late and it can affect your career if the gossip is taken seriously.

- proofread, not spellcheck, all your correspondence as some people really do think less of you if you cannot spell and/or punctuate or write proper sentences

- get hobbies and interests outside of your work/studies especially if you're a man as men, more than women, tend not to do well when they retire unless they have something to do. Of course, by the time you're old enough to retire, all could have changed.

- never cheat on your taxes

- walk away from fights; clamp your tongue between your teeth instead of saying hurtful things as you may not remember them, but the person you say them to certainly will

- buy enough insurance to at least bury you and settle your debts; when you have family responsibilities and a mortgage, increase the amount but don't go crazy

- find out your family's medical history as you need to know if heart disease or whatever runs in your family; get regular check ups; why die young from something manageable?

This list could take days!
posted by x46 at 1:39 AM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

The one word answer to your question is "No". However the idea of compiling a list of behaviours which everybody should learn to follow is pretty old. For example you could go back to Samuel Smiles 1882 book "Self Help" (link to full text). This a quarter of a million copies on publicaiton and is the grandfather of not only the whole section by that title in the bookshop - but, IMHO, all the lifehacking movement which has grown up recently.

The Victorians also pioneered the idea of the Primer - a book to give a kid telling them how a young lady or gentleman should behave. Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age gives a nice fictional account of how that might workd.
posted by rongorongo at 2:10 AM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

If someone is rude to you, it is still not acceptable to be rude to them in return. (99% of the time; there are rare exceptions.) But there is such a thing as being "coldly polite" which you can use towards such people.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:59 AM on July 9, 2009

An interview is not a gift or an act of grace. You really don't want to work for a place that cares about thank you notes.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

Make sure the gentleman next door looks after your pussy.
posted by gjc at 5:00 AM on July 9, 2009

You really don't want to work for a place that cares about thank you notes.

I sure as hell don't want to work for someone who is indifferent to them.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:33 AM on July 9, 2009

Just try to be a better person today than you were yesterday.
posted by sporaticgenius at 7:56 AM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Measure twice, cut once.

Never piss off your surgeon, lawyer or tattoo artist.
posted by Ponderance at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2009

If you haven't yet, take a basic economics course. Your local community college offers one. The concepts you learn there are fundamental to seeing the world like an adult, especially once you realize economics is mostly psychology. Boring real-world anecdote: This morning I went to the trouble of brewing coffee at home and pouring it into a travel mug, then left it on the counter when I went to work. When I realized I'd forgotten it, instead of getting annoyed I just thought "sunk cost" and moved on.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:06 AM on July 9, 2009

- Lord loves a workin' man.

- Don't trust whitey.

- See a doctor and get rid of it.
posted by spilon at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Send your motor oil out for analysis. This determines at what age it's typically spent. For fully-synthetic, it's usually about 7,000 miles. Also, learn that there are other fluids in cars. They need to be changed too. How many reading this have changed their brake fluid in the last 24 months? None? Don't be surprised when nobody changes their brake fluid.
posted by luckypozzo at 11:37 AM on July 9, 2009

God loves a fat woman on a bicycle.
posted by waldo at 4:44 PM on July 9, 2009

Know how to read a map.
posted by at 7:33 PM on July 10, 2009

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