Wisdom from Wally: 19 Tips for a Fulfilling Life

Wally Kroeker is the editor of The Marketplace magazine, a bi-monthly MEDA publication. He recently passed the 30 year milestone as an employee of MEDA.

My grandson turned 16 this year and some members of my family invited me to pass on to him some of the secrets of my, uh, success.

That put me in an embarrassing position. I think they wanted original wisdom, but I am rarely blessed with original thoughts. I am a beachcomber who picks up precious driftwood from the shores of other people’s lives.

Nonetheless, I was invited to share my collection of driftwood.

Here, then, are 19 tips that I have found reliable. Only a few have I written myself, and you will probably detect which ones those are. I might add that I have not necessarily followed them myself, but I have found them to be true nonetheless.

1. “Learn early to shoulder check. You will find this very useful when driving a car. And unless you are lucky enough to work for an organization like MEDA, you may also find it useful at work.”

2. “Make a point, before you get too far in your chosen career, to read something by Peter Drucker, who was known for ascribing all sovereignty to the customer. If you end up working for the church, you will learn that your main concern is not doctrine but the person in the pew. If you work in development, you will find that your first concern is not the donor but the client you are serving. And if you work in business, you’ll learn that your real boss is not the shareholder but the customer.”

3. “Make it a practice early on to make regular and sizable donations to MEDA. Besides being a good thing to do in itself, this may help you if you ever have the misfortune to be marooned on a desert island, for they will always find you when annual appeal comes around.”

Those were from me. I quickly ran out, and had to rely on borrowed gems, which follow.

4. From Oscar Wilde: “I am not young enough to know everything.”

5. From the great Oklahoma philosopher Will Rogers: “Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.”

6. From Frederick Buechner: “The kind of work God calls you to is usually the kind of work that (a) you most need to do, and (b) the world most needs to have done. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

7. From my early musical hero Rafael Mendez: “Make every note sound like a solo.”

8. From pastor James Forbes: “Nobody gets into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.”

9. From writer Anne Lamott: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

10. From my wife’s favorite priest Richard Rohr: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”

11. From the Haitian philosopher B. Boku: “In general, it is preferable in life to be rich and healthy rather than sick and poor.”

12. From David Orr: “Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.”

13. From the Dalai Lama: “Be gentle with the earth [and yourself].”

14. From philosopher Aldous Huxley: “It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to one another.”

15. From Mahatma Ghandi: “There are people in the world so hungry that God can only appear to them in the form of bread.” (Or soybeans, or cassava)

16. Again from Will Rogers: “One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.”

17. Again from the Dalai Lama: “Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.”

18. From Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord desire from you? To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

And finally, my personal favorite:

19. From martyred missionary Jim Elliot: “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have left to do is die.”

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