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My advice to high school grads
For starters: Beer is really an awful thing to drink. Costs too much, tastes lousy, and makes you fat.
"Take chances. Be daring. You'll miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
"Take chances. Be daring. You'll miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." Thinkstock/iStockphoto
W

hen I was your age, I took out a piece of paper and made a list of everything I wanted to do with my life. Places I wanted to see. Experiences I wanted to have. Many years later, I'm still at it. The list, which I still have, has changed — some things have been added, others dropped. I've learned a lot along the way. If only I had known this stuff when I was 18!

I wrote some of those things down for you. Not everything, of course. Some things you're better off learning for yourself.

You might think some of these are clichés — but they're also true, and will help you lead a truly fulfilling life.

  • Zig when others zag.
  • Always get a second opinion.
  • Stick up for your beliefs. Speak with conviction, and remember that people respond to the truth.
  • Get a passport and travel as much as you can. You'll collect memories and stories that you'll have for the rest of your life. Sure, you can go to Italy or Brazil or China when you're 60. But going when you're 20, it's a completely different experience.
  • Saying "thank you" goes a long way.
  • Resist peer pressure. Just because others are doing something doesn't mean you should.
  • Take chances. Be daring. You'll miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.
  • Sometimes taking a job just because it pays a ton of money is a mistake. Do what you really love and you'll be just fine.
  • In blackjack, always split aces and eights. Double down on 11. When the dealer shows six, he's probably going to bust.
  • Under-promise. Over-deliver.
  • Invest in stuff that pays dividends. Reinvest your dividends and get… more dividends.
  • At a major league baseball game, sitting to the right of home plate in the lower deck offers the best chance of catching a foul ball.
  • If something sounds too good to be true, guess what? It's not true.
  • Go skydiving at least once. When the parachute opens, it's the greatest feeling in the world.
  • Don't visit the salad bar after 3 p.m.
  • There are three great reasons for buying a home. In order of importance, they are: A roof over your head, tax breaks, and the possibility of higher prices. The first two are guaranteed. The third never is. Two out of three ain't bad.
  • Beer is really an awful thing to drink. Costs too much, tastes lousy, and makes you fat.
  • When stopped by a policeman for (allegedly) speeding, be respectful, but admit nothing and say as little as possible.
  • Burger King has the best burgers, but McDonald's fries will always be #1.
  • Many people are driven by fear and insecurity. Let hope, optimism, and good cheer drive you.
  • Sometimes people will put you down; what they're really doing is trying to make themselves feel better. It has nothing to do with you.
  • Don't check bags when you fly. If you just have a carry-on, you'll be out of the airport and on your way in minutes.
  • Use a fake mother's maiden name when applying for credit cards. It helps prevent fraud.
  • Try local restaurants when you're in a strange city.
  • Don't miss Malibu at sunset, Manhattan in the autumn, the sixth arrondissement of Paris, the island of Kauai, arriving in Venice on a foggy winter evening, or the Great Wall of China — but most especially don't miss the sights and sounds of your own neighborhood.
  • Taking the bus or train to work saves you tons of money, helps the environment, and gives you time to read, daydream, or learn a foreign language.
  • Fancy barbers cost three times as much as the guy in the modest little neighborhood shop — but usually aren't any better. Lousy magazines, too.
  • P5: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
  • When you dunk a donut or bagel in your coffee, make it quick, or it'll break and then you'll have soggy crap at the bottom of your cup.
  • Tap into people's dignity and they'll do anything for you. Ignore it and they won't lift a finger.
  • Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are the only real ballparks left. Go and enjoy them.
  • Don't lend money to a friend. You'll probably wind up losing both.
  • Decline the insurance when you rent a car — your credit card probably covers you, but double check.
  • Don't mess with the IRS.
  • Splurge on a good trench coat. It'll last forever and doubles as a blanket or pillow.
  • Sometimes not taking a risk is the greatest risk of all.
  • Leave your ego at the door.
  • Be careful with money. Avoid debt. Spend less than you make. Pay your bills on time.
  • You can really accomplish anything — if you don't care who gets the credit.
  • The best 007 movies are the ones with Sean Connery.
  • Red wine with meat, white with fish or chicken. And a $20 bottle pretty much tastes like a $100 one.
  • If you ever contest a speeding ticket in court, the cops only show up half the time.
  • Be nice to waitresses, animals, children, and the elderly.
  • Screen calls. Delete email. Fast-forward through the commercials.
  • The best part about pancakes? The first bite. It's all downhill after that.
  • Men: Buy good shoes and keep them shined. Most men have okay suits but scruffy shoes.
  • Don't take the elevator if you're only going to the second floor.
  • If you owe the IRS money, file on April 15. If they owe you, file early.
  • See those free samples at the grocery store? Please use the toothpick.
  • Keep one umbrella at home, one in your car, and one at work. Not that you'll be able to find any of them when it's raining.
  • Be a good listener when you're on a date.
  • Men: Don't tell a woman you'll call when you're really not interested.
  • Unplug stuff whenever you can. Saves money, helps the environment.
  • Wash your hands a lot and you'll rarely get sick.
  • When betting on pro football: Home underdogs cover the spread 54 percent of the time.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for what you want.
  • Stocks are better investments than bonds. Except for when they aren't.
  • Money isn't everything. But it beats being poor.
  • Being an American is a privilege, and the United States is a fabulous place to live.
  • Americans can learn an awful lot from other nations, cultures, and people.
  • Baseball is boring on TV, but terrific on the radio.
  • The person competing for your next job could be from the other side of the planet. Be on your toes and take nothing for granted.
  • Don't expect anything from anyone.
  • You'll make mistakes. Learn from them quickly and move on.
  • Be resilient, optimistic and passionate – the qualities researchers say are the secrets to aging well.
  • Hope is the most precious of treasures. Always have hope. Never take it away from others.

I wish you health, happiness, and success. Good luck and enjoy the trip.

Paul Brandus is an award-winning member of the White House press corps and the founder of WestWingReports.com.

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