Five Life Lessons: Learning Life Forward

By Shlomo Maital

Kirkegaard Kirkegaard

The great Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard once defined the tragedy of life: “We live life [looking] forward,   we learn life [looking] backward”.   My wife and I are visiting York University, in Toronto, Canada. I spoke to a class of young engineers, just beginning their studies, at the invitation of my host, Prof. Andrew Maxwell, who heads the BEST Bergeron Entrepreneurship for Science & Technology program in the Lassonde School of Engineering. I shared with them these 5 life lessons, that I have learned personally:

  • Take on BIG challenges:   challenge yourself hugely. If you fail, failure is glorious, and you learn a lot, so much that there really is no such thing as failure, when you’re tackling something enormous. If you succeed – well, your life takes on huge meaning.      
  • Start with WHY!         Find something you are deeply passionate about. This will be your rocket fuel. Start with this, and move on from this point.       Many of my young students do not yet know what their life passion is, because no-one has asked them, nor have they asked yourself. Use your passion to fuel your rocket – but first, be sure to find such a passion.
  • Be like da Vinci: in SOME ways.   Leonard da Vinci was immensely creative, he invented the submarine, tank, airplane, parachute, and vastly more things. He drew with left-handed in his notebook, and wrote notes in mirror writing, to keep them secret.       So in this – be UNLIKE him.       Don’t keep secrets. If you never share your ideas, you’ll never improve or find people to help you implement them.
  • Be truly expert in at least one thing, go deeply into it; and learn a little about everything you can, you never know. Steve Jobs studied calligraphy (handwriting) at Reed College. Why? It interested him. Because he did, the Macintosh, when launched, had beautiful fonts. This led to desktop publishing. DT publishing saved the Mac, created a huge market, and it was utterly unintended… simply because Jobs loved beautiful fonts.      
  • Become very comfortable with being uncomfortable. All great things emerge from people who are uncomfortable about something – they just HATE it, can’t tolerate it, want to CHANGE it.       Much of modern life is about becoming, and remaining, comfortable, free of thirst, hunger, pain, boredom, anything uncomfortable. So get uncomfortable about something, and be comfortable with it, because THIS is what will drive you to action.