What not to do in life


These days, I come across a lot of advice on the web that I wish I had heard, or had the mental capacity to understand, when I was younger. Usually, when I come across articles such as “There is no speed limit” by Derek Sivers, or “How to make wealth” by Paul Graham (both incredibly mind-bending articles in my opinion on how to think about life) I usually tweet it out, or re-blog it on Tumblr or share it on Facebook for my friends.

However, a few months ago, I received one such article of the same caliber, except it wasn’t published on the author’s blog, nor was it on some magazine’s site. As odd as it might seem, it didn’t have a URL. It was simply a Word document that was forwarded to me. I loved it so much, I decided to request an introduction to the author, a friend of my Father’s from Bangladesh, and request that I have him post it on this site as a guest post.

Here it is…

My dear Little Mama,

Now that you have turned 22, done your degree and beginning work can I please give you some advice! No, do not say no, please. It is a father’s prerogative!

Do not ever work Picasso used to paint all the time, Henry Moore sculpt the whole day. Others would have thought they were working themselves to death. They actually were reenergizing and reinvigorating themselves. Do what you enjoy doing. Do not ever work.

Do not try hard Let it simply flow. Jimmy Hendrix did not play guitar. He simply let his feelings flow unabated. Muhammad Ali used to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. (Do not go into boxing though!)

Do not go into any competition Quality has no competition. Only mediocrity has competition. If you do what you do at the highest quality you have no competition. Quality creates a moat around yourself.

Do not market Create your own demand. People are always on the lookout for the good. People seek out winners. Therefore be a winner all the time.

Do not read Fire your imagination and creativity. Read not what is written but read into the writer’s mind. It is Einstein, one of the greatest minds of our times, who said that imagination is better than knowledge.

Do not run after money Do not run after money. You will find that money runs faster than you do. Bring total mindfulness to whatever you are doing. Hit Nirvana. Money will feel ignored. It will stop running and fall back on you head over heels. In a heap.

Do not run after success Carry on doing what you like doing without unduly bothering about success or failure. Success is also like charm. If you think you have it surely it will elude you.

Do not take advice Advice is what others did not take but wish to give. Your mind is your best guide. Certainly keep your eyes and ears open. Absorb everything but add your own pinch of salt. Filter out what does not suit you. (Do not think I put this at the end on purpose. Honest.)

Love, Dad

Mr. Attique Rabbani owns a small software firm out in Bangladesh. For his daughter’s recent graduation, he wrote this short letter to her, giving her some small (AWESOME) pieces of advice on what NOT to do with life.

  • nice read tawheed, nice post from a very wise person.

  • dsimard

    I generally hate this kind of post… but for the first time, I feel that these advices are true. Maybe it's because I'm following most of them since about 3 years and I wanted someone to tell me that I'm right. Or maybe because I tried them and what he said would happen is happening right now.

    Recently I added "Do not go into any competition" and "Do not market" to my toolbox, so I don't know how it will turn out but I hope for the best.

    But, what about "Do not read"??? If I had one advice to give to someone, it would be "READ!".

    Thanks a lot!

    • He said don't merely read, but do more and look for what the writer is actually trying to get across to you.

      You could say the same for everything. Instead of focusing on the words someone is using, you should look for what that person is really thinking about.

  • Anonymous Coward

    very nice – will have my oldest son read this (10)

  • Beautiful. Simple.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely love it.

  • Anonymous

    The author of the letter (if there was, indeed, one) wrote it to his daughter (so the story goes). It is his point of view, to a person he seems to love. It doesn't apply to everyone, and it is full of inaccuracies.

    It never ceases to surprise me how worried are we about life, and what to make with it, when death is just a blink away.

  • scott conner

    You read, its just not looked at as reading as a task. All of this advice is mental outlook, a how, not a what

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  • SpoiledTechie

    Love it.

  • Crazyanarchist09

    so Im sitting here wondering what is the use of life if our best outcome is death in the end…….? how can people think that his life will mean somthing when our best outcome is to die in the end? and if there is a GOD I dont want nothing to do with his selfishness of creating humanity just to die and eternally sit on our knees and suck gods dick…… then turn around and tell him how much we enjoy doing it….. if thats all life has to offer then Id rather just not even exist…. so to all you bible thumpers out there just think of your so called god and realize that your best outcome in life is to work hard, fall in love, live a miserable existence, then in the end according to your GOD you get to sit on your knees for eternity and worship this selfish, hypocritical, judgmental, unknown factor in life so many people put faith into and hope you dont get skull fucked in the end. so i ask, what is, if there is any, meaning to life? if anyone knows my email is crazyanarchist09@gmail.com feel free to email me about this

  • soccerguy1921

    great words, very insightful. Crazyanarchist09 i would like to address your comment. You are very right in your questioning "what is life for." it is a question we all have struggled with. It seems as if you have a lot of animosity against the Christian religion. Many people have had these types of feelings towards this religion, two great theologians that come to mind are Josh Mcdowell and C.S. Lewis who were facing the same huge questions you are. They decided to set out and do research to prove Christianity wrong, but along the way in their discoveries, and after realizing a lot of "inconvenient truths" they saw that it would take more faith to not be a believer than to believe it. I would ask you to question why it is you are so hostile towards Christianity. Atheists may live a somewhat happy, healthy life, but i think that all through life they have to hide from the question of what comes after. God does not simply wish to be worshiped out of pride or arrogance, he beckons us join a life with him through Jesus Christ and in worshiping him we find true happiness and peace. I am not saying life will be great as a Christian, because there still will be pain and struggles, but what Christianity does offer is a life with a definite purpose where you can settle your questions, and a promise that you will not have to go through the pain of life alone. I hope that you will not resent my words, they come from the heart and hope that some good may come out of them.

  • David

    I'm not sure that Muhammad Ali would agree he didn't "try hard"!

  • Rob

    Crazyanarchist09, The question you ask, Is there any, meaning to life, is a religious question that is a waste of time asking. The meaning of life is what you decide it is. e.g. to be happy, to make the world a better place etc, etc. So just get out there and enjoy it to the full. No one has returned from the dead to tell us if there is anything after we die, in spite of what some religous people want to believe. To live your life worrying about what might come after you are dead is plain stupid. Forget about religion, it is all nonsense without any evidence of truth whatsoever. Just live life to the full without hurting anybody or yourself.

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  • Artiste

    Come, join me in the sandbox. I got plastic tools and some toy trucks, we can work a game out and explore the possibility of reaching China with this miniature toy shovel. It'll be a project, we'll never make it, but we're not adults so there might be a chance – it doesn't matter, because we all enjoy the excitement of trying. We might meet again, under different circumstances and I'll still carry the shovel with me in case you want to try. Futility is a word I have a problem defining, my brain always misses it phonetically and the meaning is still unclear. But those are just words, let us dig some more and reach the funny people with the cone shaped hats.

    Oh, I'm just blabbering. Nothing to read here people, skip a tab.

  • Great stuff in here, but I can't stand behind the "don't read" bit. Einstein, who is mentioned, read all the time, in addition to using his imagination. Reading helps us learn from other people's mistakes and feel inspired by their victories. This letter is something that was sent to the daughter, to be read. 😉

  • I am greatly disappointed by this list.

    Don't try hard? Don't read? Don't take advice?

    This is poor, poor, poor advice – Jimi Hendrix ABSOLUTELY played guitar. For every moment that he 'let it flow' there were thousands of moments spent playing, practicing, working hard. High levels of performance do come from "letting it flow", but they come from letting your training take over. Training and hard work does not restrict creativity, it enables it.

    "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all" — Michaelangelo

    Don't read? The implicit arrogance in this statement is overwhelming – the idea that we don't need to pay attention to what anyone else says, that only what we say is important. The idea that what we think the writer is saying is more important than what they are saying is a good way to make ourselves narcissistic and arrogant, while keeping ourselves impoverished.

    Following this advice is a quick path to frustration and futility. It is a way to build shoddy bridges that fall down (because we never read what was written about engineering), tell foolish stories that fail to connect (because we never read what Shakespeare wrote) , and form poorly constructed, contradictory ideas (because we never strained our minds against the ideas of others).

    Every great writer is first and foremost a great reader. Every great teacher, first and foremost a great student. Every great artist has an intimate knowledge of the tools and principles of their art.

    "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." — Isaac Newton

    As with working hard, reading enables creativity and expression. It doesn't restrict it.

    Don't take advice? This kind of thinking makes us poorer, not richer. It precludes community (because we don't depend on others anymore). It robs us of the opportunity to receive wisdom.

    The idea that the best path in life for a young person is to simply filter out what does not suit them is simply ludicrous! Why? Because if you are ever wrong, and the right answer does not suit you (more than likely, because you are wrong) it will be forever lost to you.

    Terrible, terrible advice.

  • I once was told by my uncle, who read it in a magazine that people read in different ways: some are like a fire, which consumes everything. Then there are others who read like a cow grazing first and then chewing over everything later at leisure. And then there are those who are like a swan, which is reputed to be able to extract just the milk out of a mixture of water and milk. He asked me what type of reader I was – one who read everything irregardless of good or bad, or one who thoughtfully ruminated over what I read, or one who only got what was useful out of my reading 🙂 I believe the father's advice to the daughter was along the same lines – he wasn't saying "Don't read" per se but not to read like the fire, but to actually give some thought to what you read …

  • @Fahim

    Great point! There is tremendous value in careful thought and meditation – believe me, I hold nothing against rumination! Giving thought to what we read is necessary, I agree!

    The summation, “Don’t read.” is a rather shallow summation of the point below, but there’s an aspect to the point that just won’t go away for me, that bothers me.

    “Fire your imagination and creativity.”

    Firing imagination and creativity is great!

    “Read not what is written but read into the writer’s mind.”

    If I read this correctly it is saying that it is more important to interpret what they are saying than to read what they are saying.

    The problem I have with the above statement is this – the writer we are reading likely wanted to say something (that’s why they wrote!).

    If they are competent as a writer, we trust that they adequately expressed their point, that the words they have put down are a faithful reflection of what they wanted to express. If they are not competent as a writer, why are we reading them? 😉

    We must first read what is written. To do less is an insult to their skill. We must think, be imaginative and creative when we ruminate on what they actually said.

    “It is Einstein, one of the greatest minds of our times, who said that imagination is better than knowledge.”

    If we worked on knowledge alone, we would be machines 😉 However I don’t think this quote faithfully represents the context of a man who spent his entire life immersed in knowledge and learning. By virtue of how and where he spent his time, it is clear that he placed tremendous value on knowledge.

    Knowledge enables imagination – Einstein would never have been able to imagine the things he did had he not studied the knowledge already established about physics.

    This is the same problem I have with the Hendrix reference.

    Yes, Jimi could be creative, spontaneous and let it flow, but he could because he had absolute confidence in knowing where his strings were, what sounds they made. His fingers were calloused, not tender. He knew the chords, knew the theory.

  • Manu Gupta

    Nice post.. excellently done marked it as one of my favourites Congrats

  • Hi Tawheed

    My name’s Tasnim and I came across this post of yours on this wonderful wesbite, Hey Amber Rae. I came across this at a very great time, when I was contemplating opening an online store. We’ll, I’d been contemplating for nearly 2 years, but I would worry about how I’d market a very unknown me and my products. But this made me realize that consistent great quality will nonetheless, have people wanting more.

    So I want to thank you for sharing these inspiring words with us.

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