Lessons Halfway in Life | Financial Time


Shortly after the new year, I will be 40 years old. On my way to what actuaries tell us is the rough midpoint of how long a Western man is likely to be in this vale of tears, I have had the opportunity to notice a few things. I also acquired a platform on which to share them. Here then, in a scattered form, the lessons of a man’s life: some practices, others more extensive, many undoubtedly false, but all sincere.

Opt for checked baggage over hand baggage. The goal is to have a stress-free flight of several hours, not to avoid a short wait on the other end of the phone. Conversely, keep your jacket with you at restaurants and parties. You can’t know when you need to get away quickly or stealthily.

Do not make friends with people in the same profession. It is not just a shrinking of the mind, it creates a unique point of failure. Losing your job is losing your social life.

Atlanta is America’s best non-coastal city. All the alternatives to champagne are a waste of time except Franciacorta. Exercise is almost unrelated to weight management. People derive their politics from their tribe, not the other way around. Only mediocre restaurants ask if you are enjoying your meal. Whatever you think the incidence of marital infidelity is, it is higher than that.

Your style, as perceived by others, is based on your gait and body language, not your clothing. The world is full of deliciously dressed klutzes.

Eat once a day. Do this especially if you love food: better a single rash than three non-excuse events. Insomnia is not wasted time: thoughts are processed and ideas explored. There is a difference between “good” and “good enough to recommend”. Be thrifty in the movies, books, and magazine articles you suggest to people.

Powerful men are often disappointed with their sons and subconsciously audition for a replacement. A young man of talent and ambition can benefit from this. On a related note, the fastest way to get someone to like you is to ask them for advice.

Get out of social media. Don’t “take a break” or explain your reasons: you’re not a soul singer listening to a Vegas residency. Go away. Alaska Airlines is America’s premier national carrier. If someone is not sure they want children, they want children. Never support a cause or an idea because the people on the other side are wrong.

To hail a cab or get the attention of a bartender, stay perfectly still for a few seconds and then raise your hand. The movement will stand out in their peripheral vision. Of all human insecurities, the least common is physical. Most people come to terms with their appearance and body shape in their mid-twenties. Social and intellectual insecurity, however, animates the world.

Don’t take notes: the test of an idea is whether it survives in the brain without recording. Ignoring a problem in the hope that it will go away is more effective, more often than you will admit. A widespread refusal to attend weddings will not only save many precious weekends, it will do less harm than a selective approach. Taylor Swift knows his stuff: Primrose Hill is, by far, the best residential area in London.

You don’t need to read a book on a subject. Knowledge will not stick unless it is reinforced by at least one other, read simultaneously or immediately after. Outside the big countries, Copenhagen is the most interesting weekend in Europe. People do not judge themselves so much on their appearance as on their “look”: the conservatives think that Emmanuel Macron is more of a liberal than him because he looks like one.

If you are thin, people will wonder why you bother watching what you eat. This is a warning about the ability of our species to take any sort of preventive action, whether against climate change or viral pandemics.

The point of romance is not just or even primarily fun here and now. It is that you will experience (extremely embellished) memories later in life. Martin Amis calls them your “pension”. For a layover from coast to coast, choose the Detroit Airport.

Email Janan at [email protected]

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