I think birthdays are terrific because a birthday is the one day a year we remember to celebrate a person just for being, not for doing. As I think back on all the birthdays I’ve had (and the one coming up), a few pieces of advice for better living come to mind.
1. Passion for a cause can cover up a number of mistakes. I came to Memphis to open the Church Health Center when I was 33 years old. I was too young, too dumb, to know that what I wanted to do had no chance at succeeding. But my passion covered up a lot of mistakes, and the same is true for you. If you have passion for a cause, I encourage you to follow it.
2. Never be late. At the Mayo Clinic they have something called Mayo time, which means that if you are on time you are late. The reason I think this is important is because being on time is respectful of other people’s time. Being on time shows you respect other people.
3. Always have a dog. All of us need people and other creatures that are reaffirming in life, and what’s better than a dog? A dog loves you no matter what. Cats, I’m not sure about. Always have a dog.
4. Friends trump money. You all know that money cannot buy you friends, but money also cannot be your friend. Nobody dies hoping they had more money, but people die wishing they had more friends. Friends trump money.
5. Always overtip the breakfast waitress. Some of you have been there. You know exactly what I mean. The work that somebody does is not a reflection of their value. Always overtip the breakfast waitress.
6. Manners matter. My wife taught me this. I’m still learning. Manners matter. At a dinner with a university president, it was all I could manage to keep my elbows off the table, but I did. And I didn’t drop food on myself. My wife was happy about that. Manners are another one of those things that are a reflection of how you value the other people around you.
7. It is impossible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. You can’t do that. That is a crazy idea. All of need other people in order to succeed. I don’t care who you are. You will not succeed in this world alone. You are not smart enough to do that. You need other people. And if you are poor—you just can’t do it on your own. It is impossible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
8. The person with the power has the responsibility to be kind. As a doctor I have an unequal power relationship with patients. I see it every day. Therefore it is my responsibility to be the one who is kind. Wherever you end up in life, do not forget that. The person with the power is the one who has to be kind.
9. Uncontrolled anger will destroy your soul. I actually think there is a time for anger, but uncontrolled anger—nothing good comes from that. It will eat you alive.
10. There comes a point in life when you have to decide who you can trust. You can’t be suspicions about everybody who comes your way; it isn’t going to work. Sometimes you have to say, “I will trust you.” You have to, at some point, trust others.
At this point, if I were David Letterman, I would be done. But since I am Scott Morris, I have a few more on my list.
11. How you spend your money reflects the things you value in life. Think about that the next time you’re going to buy something that’s ridiculous. Now, I am perfectly fine with doing things that are fun from time to time, but when other people look at how you spend your money, they’re going to know a lot about you.
12. When you have a life partner, ask yourself, “Did I do my best?” It is so easy with the people you know the most, who love you the most, to just do life half-heartedly. No. Those are the people you should do you best with day in and day out. If I love you, I will do my best.
13. God gave you your body for a reason. You are expected to take care of it. The obesity epidemic in America is a reflection of how we don’t respect ourselves and we don’t respect God. We have to find a way not to be totally enamored of technology, thinking I can live my life any way I want to and it doesn’t matter because the doctor can fix me at the end with some technology when I need it. Honor God by taking care of your body.
Kindness, generosity, passion, connecting with God—it all adds up to a richer life for ourselves and the people we share the journey toward wellness with. We all learn lessons with the passing of time. What would you add to this list from your own experience that might enrich someone else’s life?