For Julian – 20 Things I Wish I’d Known at Age Sixteen

As Father’s Day approaches, those of us who are fathers may remember advice we gave as a parent. All of us may remember what advice we got from our own dads. Some of us may also recall pieces of advice we wish we’d paid more attention to at the time. Dr. Charles Maclean sends us this ‘wisdom list’ that he wishes in retrospect he’d heard and followed some years ago, which he dedicates to a neighbor boy who is becoming a man…

by Charles Maclean, PhD

1. “No use scratching where people don’t itch.” – My Great Aunt Delia

2. “Most often people decide emotionally, justify rationally and then collect data until the cows come home to justify what they already believed.” – My Great Aunt Delia

3. “Goals will come and go but your passionate, committed mission is your North Star for guidance.” –Inspired by Marina

4. “There are successes, failures and not-yet-success. It’s a not- yet- success if it is legal, moral, ethical, consistent with your mission, done in collaboration with others and debriefed afterward for every bit of learning that is then put to work.” – Inspired by Scoutmaster Howard Elliott

5. “You will become much like the people you hang out with – physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.”

6. When in fear, and you will be at some point, ask “How can I shift the energy of this fear into curiosity (sit with that for a while) and then shift it into opportunity” – Mankind Project brother wisdom

7. “Being unselfish is the most selfish thing you can do.” (Because of the good it will do you) – Dean Ornish

8. “Health will pass, perfect body will pass, friends will pass. Fame will pass. Christopher Reeves was not healthy at the end of his life. But he did give vitality to himself, his family and the world each day.”

9. “Ask me what I care about before you tell me what you care about.” – PhilanthropyNow interviewee

10. “Acknowledge others for who they are beyond what they do.” Ask, “What are you most proud of that most people don’t know?” “Ask yourself the same question and acknowledge yourself at the beginning and end of each day.”

11. “Be watchful for your cherished mistaken certainties. Things you are so sure of that you won’t even question them or allow others to question them. They are your Achilles Heel. Discover your shadows.

12. “Recognize that a good idea is no more than 5% of what it takes to bring that good idea to the world”. “If the dogs won’t eat it, it’s not dog food.” – NW high tech entrepreneur interviewee

13. “Be willing to be wrong and listen for ways to make the other person legitimately right.” – Inspired by Kathie

14. “Beauty is the only thing that cannot be resisted across cultures and people. Begin with finding shared beauty to create peace.” – Paraphrase of Barry Lopez speaking in Bali

15. “Critics are a dime a dozen. Find 2-3 people who are committed to each other and to supporting each other in living their mission. Mutually agree to rigorously and ruthlessly hold each other’s feet to the fire when you see each another straying from the path of their mission. Make those integrity call-outs a sacred part of your life.”

16. “Compete only with your true enemies; lack of communication, lack of trust, lack of creativity and lack of wisdom.” – Mike Murray, my mentor

17. “On the day you die, you will be judged not by how much you gave . . . but by how much you held back.” – Mumbai, India financial advisor interviewee

18. At end of he day ask, “How much love have I been able to give . . . and receive” and “How much service have I rendered.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross in Graceful Passages

19. When tempted to withhold love, remember, “Julian is bigger than that.” – From Adopted Grandmother Alma

(But then you know these things already – it’s about claiming them and living them)

And oh – Other people’s lists don’t matter much. Your list matters most.

What do you wish you had known at age 16 that you’d like to gift to a young person? What, who and by when?
What within yourself are you most proud of becoming that might not have happened without the counsel of another man? Have you told him that?

Charles Maclean, (Ibex) is a member of the ManKind Project Northwest Elder Council and co-chair of the 2012 Elder Gathering, “Occupy Paradise”. He received his PhD from Michigan State University in Higher Education Administration focused on medical education and diffusion of innovations. His service mission is the operation of Philanthropy Now an organization dedicated “To igniting passion for community give-back” through coaching Donors in accountable stewardship and Fund Raisers and Non Profits in ‘artful and ethical asking’ to create a win-win for both giver and money raiser alike. He is a Health Care Policy Fellow with and advisor to a US based foundation serving the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan. He is one of the founders of Trillium Hollow Cohousing His juices flow as he creates assemblages of life’s recycled flotsam and jetsam. He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995. He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.


– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.




Author: Editor

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