Know Thyself–And Nine Other Lessons for a Good Life

  • By Richard Hill.

    One of the oldest admonitions of ancient philosophers is to “know thyself.”

    To know who you are today, you need to know where you came from. And that’s part nature and part nurture. The DNA you inherited from biological ancestors is the nature. The people who powdered your butt and raised you to adulthood provided the nurturing.

    Your unique combination of nature and nurture is the hand you were dealt. Learn to accept it and don’t waste any more time wishing your life started out differently. It’s what you do from today on that’s most important.

    Find a passion in life that makes a difference in the world and suits your abilities. The happiest people are those who say “Thank God It’s Monday” instead of “Thank God It’s Friday.”

    Create a better mousetrap and the world will NOT beat a path to your door. They need to discover that it exists, why it’s better, and why buying your mousetrap will make their lives better. In other words, how well you communicate to potential mousetrap buyers will have a bigger impact than the invention itself.

    Don’t try to impress people with big words and complex sentences. Learn to share big ideas effectively and efficiently through small words and short sentences. Your words will touch more people and be better remembered.

    The best writing comes from the re-writing. Never accept your first draft on anything important. You can make it more powerful and more readable if you take a second look.

    Every cloud does have a silver lining. But I also think that most of the clouds we encounter also have a humorous component. Look for what’s funny about every negative situation and let yourself laugh. Humor is good for us and even gallows humor can help chase the gloom away.

    Don’t give up on your goals. Perseverance is a virtue that will serve you well. A major goal in my life took more than thirty years to achieve. Yet it was worth all the time and energy I invested.

    When it’s time to retire, don’t do it. Find a new passion and a new goal. Those who think retirement is sitting in a recliner watching TV have got it all wrong. Keep your mind and body busy. Call your new mission a job or a hobby. But stay active.

    Treat everyone with respect. My study of genetic genealogy confirms that we are all cousins. Even the concept of race is artificial. If you could trace your family tree back far enough, you would discover that your family originated in Africa. A long time ago, one group of people left that continent through what is now Egypt and turned right into Asia. Another group did the same thing, but turned left into Europe. The rest of them remained behind. That’s all there is to it.

    Photo credit: Gail Lynne Goodwin.

    Richard Hill

    Richard Hill is the author of Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA. A decades-long search for his biological family introduced Richard to several forms of DNA testing. Motivated to share his success secrets and tips with other adoptees and genealogists, he created his website,, which makes genetic genealogy understandable to all. You can find him on Twitter @RichardHillDNA.

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