Five Essential Skills for a Life Well-Lived


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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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As far as any of us know we only get one go-around in this thing called life. There are no do-overs once we pass on. Yet, even with this common knowledge most people struggle to make the most of the time they have here on this planet. A big part of the problem lies with the cultural myth that our external circumstances determine whether we have a well-lived life or not. If that were the case why do so many beautiful, rich, intelligent people end up miserable? Or worse, cause an untimely end to what so many others would regard as the penultimate dream?

At my tender age of 63 I’ve done a lot of living, doing, making incredible mistakes and also hitting levels of “success” that others envied. However, none of that ultimately mattered until I learned that a well-lived life is an inside job and has nothing to do with circumstances, abilities or luck. In looking back on my rather circuitous journey I realized that there were essential skills that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon along the way that allow me to enjoy my current well-lived and highly fulfilling life.

I share what I’ve learned below not because “I know”, but in the spirit that maybe you might find something useful, that really resonates with you. I hope that is the case…

  1. Be Fully Present – for me, this is the most important skill of all without which the others are much more difficult, or even impossible, to achieve. Being fully present means having the discipline to ignore everything else that vies for our attention to focus fully on the here and now. In our culture where distraction is the drug of choice, this can be difficult to master (I’m still am and always will be working on this). The best way to start is when you are with other people, especially your significant other. When with them just pretend to be an observer watching the entire interaction without judgement or thought –just observe. With a bit of practice you will find that being the “Observer” and being fully present are one and the same and eventually you won’t need to pretend.
  2. Be Open Hearted – this simply means being willing to remove all of the “armor” life put in place to “protect” us. Well, I’ve learned that the heart needs no protection (the ego however seems to need it desperately). And until we are willing to drop that chainmail surrounding it and be vulnerable we will never fully feel life in all its pain and glory. Pain is part of this life experience, that’s just the way it is. Suffering however is optional and happens when we fight the “what is” of our circumstances (a form of shut down) or put up walls around our heart.
  3. Embrace Uncertainty – certainty is an illusion. Yet we all strive for it thanks to our ancient survival instincts developed during a time where being uncertain meant you may be part of the food chain. I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t like the feeling of uncertainty –in fact, it can cause me a great deal of anxiety. However, I have also learned that when we accept and even embrace uncertainty it is often the doorway to breakthrough and positive circumstances that were not even on our radar.
  4. Treat Everything as an Adventure – though not a surfer, I tend to see life as a series of waves. There are awesome waves that will give you the ride of your life and gnarly ones that will pound you into the rocks, and of course everything in between. I’ve learned the hard way that ignoring them, or worse, fighting them simply doesn’t work. Instead I now strive to ride them as best as possible, knowing that whether they are thrilling or decimating, they will always eventually pass to allow yet another one come my way. So instead of seeing any circumstance as either “good” or “bad”, consider renaming it simply as an “adventure”. It’s a lot more fun and creates a life filled with possibilities you may never have imagined.
  5. Be Clear About What You Want – if you are not clear about what you want out of life don’t complain about what you get. I’ve discovered that the more focus and intention I put on what I want the more likely I will eventually have them realized. This certainly happened with finding my Life Partner, which I chock up to my Dream Woman Project I put together a year before we met (which by the way, she matches to a “T”). I also created a Lifestyle Vision Board that visually depicts how I want my lifestyle to be –much of which I have achieved already.

Is a life well-lived a “perfect” life? Personally, I don’t think there is such a thing. On the other hand I find a life well-lived to be the most fulfilling one I can imagine –and that is plenty good enough for me.

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MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150About the Author

Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project ( He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:



Author: Michael J. Russer

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