Some lessons must be (re)learned

Lessons (re)Learned

Click SAVE

How many times have I lost a good draft to a power outage or system crash?

“For heaven’s sake,” I tell myself (after unleashing a torrent of profanity), “Save and name the file the moment you open it, then click SAVE every time you pause to think.”

Just click SAVE. How hard is that?

It’s not hard. Not at all. Clicking SAVE is so simple—a useful action that takes a fraction of a second.

And yet, “Click SAVE” is a lesson I learn, neglect, and therefore must learn again.

     And again.

          And again.

It’s not that I’m a slow learner. I can be a very quick study, picking up card games, dance moves, and keyboard shortcuts in a wink.

But some lessons seem not to “stick.” For those, I become a (re)learner.

We’re All (re)Learners

I’m not alone. For the past month, I’ve been asking friends and colleagues about Lessons (re)Learned. Every person I’ve approached has had an answer. Some mundane. Some of real consequence.

And so, as a sort of public service, I’ve assembled the following list of 15 Lessons (re)Learned + 1 Bonus. I share this so we might all grow a little smarter together … or at least feel camaraderie as we learn and learn and learn again.

15 Lessons We (re)Learn + 1 Bonus

1. Accept help.

Welcome kindness when it comes your way and ask for support when you need it. Realize that the benefits go beyond the generosity you receive. Givers appreciate feeling useful, and any helpful exchange can strengthen a relationship.

2. Check, please.

Don’t pull away from the drive-through window until you’ve verified that all your burgers are in the bag. Check your take-out order for accuracy. Every time.

3. Consider the source.

Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t ask for advice. And when someone shows you who they are, believethem. (Read that again.)

4. Don’t assume.

Whatever you think you heard—a song lyric, a set of instructions, a point of view—make sure you truly and fully understand. Not sure you’ve got it? Look it up or ask questions until you’re certain.

5. Dress in layers.

It’s better to take off than have nothing to put on when you’re cold.

6. Expect turbulence.

Anticipate travel mishaps. Keep medications and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. Download and log into the apps for your airline, hotel, and rental car company. Avoid mission-critical meetings the day after your scheduled return. Just in case.

7. Fill your tank.

Here in the Midwest, it’s wise to keep at least half a tank of gas in the car in winter. Anywhere in the world, it’s wise to fill your metaphorical tank with whatever it takes to stay nourished, rested, and motivated for the life you lead.

8. Inform the doctor.

Keep a running list of symptoms and questions to discuss at your next appointment. Don’t ignore or dismiss something that’s been troubling you, even if it doesn’t hurt that day.

9. Mind the paperclip.

How exasperating to realize you forgot the attachments just as you hear a message “whoosh” away. How embarrassing when a recipient points out your oversight. Attach, then send. Post a note on your desk or laptop to remind you.

10. Read it all.

Before making a new dish, read the entire recipe. Do you have the necessary ingredients, equipment, skills, time, and patience? The same goes for board games, job descriptions, and legal contracts.

11. Reapply sunscreen.

Spend one minute refreshing that sunblock, and you’ll save four days of pain.

12. Say “no.”

You mastered this word at age two. Remind your grown-up self to use it, too, as a way of setting boundaries, respecting yourself, and safeguarding your time. Does “no” feel harsh? Try “no, thank you.”

13. Stop at two.

Two beers, two glasses of wine, two cocktails. Whatever beverage you’re enjoying, stop at two. And for good measure, drink a glass of water after each one.

14. Unsubscribe.

Deleting is faster in the moment. But six months later, your thumb aches from swiping left on twice-daily sales pitches from a brand you’ll never buy. The instant a new sender bombs your inbox, scroll to the bottom of that message and unsubscribe.

15. Wear socks.

It’s so tempting to slide bare feet into sneakers. It feels good. At first. Hours later, blisters and odors remind you why socks matter.

BONUS: Wear your lifejacket.

This could be a life-or-death lesson—one you don’t get a change to (re)learn. My “lucky” friend Bill had the opportunity to learn it twice, having capsized not one but two boats. So, if you’re prone to going overboard, set yourself up to float.


By no means is this a conclusive list. Had I included every suggestion from my generous circle of contributors, you’d be reading for days. So, as I quickly approach my target word count, I’ll end with an invitation for you to chime in:

What’s missing from this list? What are your Lessons (re)Learned?

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