What’s One Powerful Piece of Advice for Living a Fulfilling Life?

Former police chief turned artful blogger John P Weiss answers this and eight more questions that inspired him lead his best life.

Words and illustrations
by John P Weiss

As a full-time writer and artist, I look for ways to simplify and streamline my creative process. Accordingly, I considered axing blog comments from my website.

Poking around the Internet I noticed a lot of top bloggers who don’t include comments from readers. Bloggers like James Clear, Michael Hyatt, and Seth Godin.

Best-selling author and marketing guru Neil Patel wrote a whole blog post about the pros and cons of blog comments. Stuff like social proof versus spam, and reader engagement versus moderation time.

In the end, I decided to retain blog comments on my website because I learn a great deal from readers. They share stories and provide feedback that inspires me to write better blog posts.

Such was the case with one reader, who politely asked if I would answer nine questions about life. The questions were great prompts for me to share my best life wisdom.

What follows are the questions and answers. I took the liberty here to update and expand on my answers, but the essence is the same.

I hope they’re helpful to you.

What’s the one quality that has helped you the most and everyone should have?

Persistence. People tend to give up too easily. Many of the accomplishments I’m most proud of in my life were the result of persistence.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”-Octavia E. Butler

There is a caveat. If your goals have changed, or your health is threatened or suffering, persistence may not make sense.

For example, Simone Biles, the American gymnastics star, stepped down from the Olympic competition. Her head was no longer in the game, and she feared injuring herself.

Some agree with her decision, others do not. In the end, only you can decide what’s best for yourself. But when it comes to important goals, healthy persistence is invaluable.

What are a few books you suggest everyone read?

This is an impossible question for two reasons. First, I’m a book lover, and it’s hard to name just a few books.

Second, books affect people differently, due to our unique backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Nevertheless, here are few books that helped me grow or moved me.

‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl. I learned that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.

‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’ by Cal Newport. Deep work is a superpower few people possess because they’re addicted to smartphones and devices. Conquer deep work, and you’ll accomplish much.

‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke teaches us how to survive as sensitive observers in a harsh world. An excerpt from the book:

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

‘Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now’, by Gordon Livingston. Dr. Livingston argued that “any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least.” In my 26-year law enforcement career, I found this to be true in countless domestic calls.

‘The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph’ by Ryan Holiday. Holiday is a devoted student of the Stoics (people like the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius). The Stoics dealt with life objectively. They saw things as they were, not as they wished them to be. We can learn a lot from this approach.

‘To Dance With the White Dog, by Terry Kay.’ In this poignant story, a kind old man’s wife dies and then a white dog appears in his life. Loss is a reality in life, but maybe miracles are too?

Here’s a line from the book, illustrating Kay’s poetic writing:

“Always there was a moment-a quick slip of time-when the sun broke free of the trees and bled from its yolk, spilling in red-orange rivers over the silk.”

‘Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson’ by Mitch Albom. What would you do if you learned a beloved teacher of yours was dying? And what final lessons might that teacher have for you?

‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life’ by Anne Lamott. This book is funny and full of wisdom, like this bit of advice:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion. I learned a lot about loss, thanks to wisdom in the book like this:

“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead. ”

What’s one powerful piece of advice for living a fulfilling life?

Learn to see through the eyes of others. Embrace empathy. Doing so will make you less judgmental, more understanding, and kinder. Failing to do so may make you egocentric and selfish.

What’s one piece of important financial advice?

Less is more. Become a minimalist, and learn to save/invest your money. The death of my parents, and having to deal with all their accumulated stuff, taught me a lot. Do you own your things, or do they own you?

What are your regrets and how do you avoid regrets?

Comparison is the thief of joy. I regret comparing myself to others when I was younger. What works for others doesn’t always work for you. It’s okay to admire others, but don’t envy them.

Focus on personal improvement, embrace emotional maturity, and pursue your passions. The rest will take care of itself.

What’s one thing you learned the hard way?

There are no second chances to make a good first impression. Opportunities I squandered for lack of preparation taught me that success rewards the prepared.

“It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.”-Theodore Roosevelt

What’s one thing that should never be forgotten?

Love is the most powerful thing in the universe. And it costs nothing to give.

What’s one thing we must not think twice about spending?

Time with loved ones. Because someday, one of you won’t be there anymore.

How do you tackle a dilemma? How do you make tough decisions with your heart and mind?

Problems and dilemmas require logic and thoughtful focus, so we don’t fall prey to confirmation bias. But we must also consider our hearts, and what we can live with and without.

When I joined my local Rotary club, I was given a little card with the Rotary “4-Way Test” printed on it. It’s an excellent template for handling challenges and dilemmas.

Here are the four questions printed on the card:

Is it the TRUTH?

Is it FAIR to all concerned?


Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Thanks to the above nine questions from a blog reader, I was inspired to think about and share my best life advice. Some folks may disagree with my answers, and that’s fine.

The point is that if we are to live fulfilling lives, we should be thinking about such questions.

Read broadly, interact with quality people, love with all your heart, and life just might bring you joy and fulfillment.

Read more from John P Weiss here.

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