Life: Simple Rules, Not Easy, and Well Worth It (EP.140)



Laying out and following a sure path to a successful life is simple, hard, and oh-so-well well worth it. Politicians and government are preaching, promising and rewarding the opposite. For their benefit, and to our detriment.

This deliberate and self-serving reversal of how things need to be is the subject of today’s 10-minute podcast.


The rules for succeeding in life are simple. If you merely do the basics; finish high school, hold a full-time job and don’t have kids until you are married, you will escape poverty and be self-supporting. Add further education focused on a vocation, anything from welding to brain surgery, and greater success will be yours. Work hard over time, start early investing 10% of your earnings in your future and don’t finance anything that depreciates and it gets even better. The rules are indeed simple.

But these simple rules are hard to follow. Hard work by definition is hard. Investing rather than spending can also be challenging. Getting a real education, digging into your studies when others are larking around, can be difficult. Delaying gratification instead of buying things you want–really want–can be hard, very hard.

But doing all of it, pursuing all parts of a successful life, is more than well worth it.

However. However, politicians, government, gets all of it backwards. Government’s rules are highly complex, not simple. Their rules, 80K pages of tax law and the tens of thousands of overly complex rules and regulations that govern all of us, are just a part of the damaging complexity. And instead of hard, many politicians are trying to outdo each other in the effort to trade making life unhelpfully easy in exchange for votes. If they are as successful as they’d like to be, life will be less and less worth it because less and less of what we have will have been truly earned. And the joy, the deep satisfaction part of the reward for that which has been truly earned, will muted by the growing governmental oversight that comes with the unnecessary complexity. As well as the discouragement that would come from seeing more and more people being handed–partly with the money you earned–what you have worked for years to realize.

The rules for a successful life are clearly simple to understand. Luck does play a hand; my favorite definition of luck is, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This quote, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, reminds us that we make our own luck. Thomas Edison put a simple to define, but hard, task in front of himself: invent the light bulb. He failed over a thousand times before he finally came up with an electric bulb that worked. Was he lucky that he finally found the right way to make one? Was he unlucky that it took a thousand attempt. Or does his amount of luck or lack thereof mean nothing because he was going to keep at it until he succeeded?

My favorite emerging singer in the late ‘50s was Harry Bellafonte. As a high school student, I was intrigued by the origins of American folk music, including English sea chanties, negro spirituals and prison songs, cowboy tunes, early American songs and folk music from other countries. Bellafonte’s clear, lilting voice, giving life to folk music from well south of our borders charmed and excited me. Only the most popular of his songs are around today, but my favorites, ones no longer being played, were more deeply rooted in the cultures he sang about. And far more soulful. By 1959 or so he was being identified as an “overnight sensation.” I thought that was a compliment–becoming so famous so fast. The lesson came when I heard him say, “It took me 20 years to become an overnight sensation.” The simple to define task of becoming a singer took 20 years of hard work. And then more work after his discovery. And that’s the way it needs to be. And benefits everyone.

The rules for success are simple and easy to comprehend; it would be quite unfair if the rules were complex and hard to understand so that only a few would be able to grasp the keys to success. Government has a strong tendency to make things like the rules for success in life vastly overly complex. Why? So that the complexity will intimidate us, and convince us that we need government, and cannot do it on our own. Governments, unless held tightly in check, will want to grow and accumulate more money and more power. Our Constitution, with its separation of powers and carefully enumerated powers granted to the federal government, attempted to do just that. But it grows every year regardless. Government, again in its selfish best interest, works to make the case that the actual keys to success are basically unfair. Privilege. Gender. The right or wrong identity group. Family. Our aspiring politicians and government would have us believe that these uncontrollable factors are the real keys. Again, why? Simple. Because if the keys to life are beyond our control, then, well, the government has to step in to bail us out. All this to the government’s benefit and our detriment.

The keys to a successful life are in our control. Easy to understand, and correctly hard to implement. Will, what’s this part about “correctly hard?” Nothing worthwhile is easy to attain. Nothing that has been won, achieved, by focused hard work over time, will ever be unappreciated. Dignity, deep satisfaction, feelings of triumph, can never come from being given things. These can come only from earning them. And how can the keys to life, and how to implement them, ever be passed onto future generations unless the current generation knows them, and works hard, struggles from time-to-time, to implement them? Government serves itself and makes us into lesser beings, robs us of the challenging and successful lives we deserve, by telling us that if anything is hard, it means that it has to be unfair. And the government will make it all better by making life easy. And us dependent on them.

Lee, the Chinese servant in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, delivers a powerful argument for the advantages of being a servant. You are loved and appreciated by the family. All of your needs are met, and then some. It is a comfortable life. But, he goes on, “A servant tends to lose his initiative.”

Today’s Key Point: Many of us as individuals, and as a nation, are losing our initiative. Much is still there, but it is being eroded by exactly what we talked about in today’s podcast.

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.

Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”

  • Read the blogs and/or listen to the podcasts.
  • Comment in the blogs. Let others know what you are thinking.
  • Subscribe and recommend that others subscribe as well.
  • Attach links from blogs into your social media feeds. Share your thoughts about the link.
  • From time-to-time, attach links to blogs in emails that mention related subjects. Or just send the links to family and friends.

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.

And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Source of Human Dignity: Money? Praise? (EP. 127)


As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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2 Responses

  1. Sherwood Anderson Reply

    Thanks for writing! You are so good at sharing your thoughts! 7200 is so down to earth!

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