Life and how to live it

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

I don't think of myself as a weirdo. I'm more of an eccentric. I don't do any of the things that weirdos do. I can be charming at parties where I don't know anyone. I'm not addicted to porn or drugs. I can be as vicious or kind or balanced as any situation warrants.

But I say “eccentric” because I'll do things like stand here in my office listening to NPR's series, “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever,” There are 316 of them.

Nobody is ever likely to ask me to give a commencement speech, but I can tell you what the secrets to my “success” have been. I had a lot of issues to overcome, and generally spent most of my time enabling my own excesses, so I don't think this advice is necessarily good for the smart kids, but more for wastrels, lagabouts and maladroits.

1. Show up. Never miss class or work because of a hangover or potential for fun. If students show up every day for class, they will always have at least enough context to join any class discussions even if they haven't read the homework. This will inevitably earn the student the crucial “benefit of the doubt” points that teachers or bosses eventually assign. Needless to say, do your homework. You may get one pass because you just forgot to do something, but you'll never get two.

2. Work hard. Hard work goes a long way toward making up the deficit that some of us have because we're not good looking, especially intelligent, connected through family, or particularly charismatic. Eventually, looks, intelligence, family and charisma will not be enough to make up for an average work ethic.

3. Never give up. Every large job or task is made of many smaller ones. Be aware of the end goal, but focus on the incremental tasks because each one completed is a little victory. Think of yourself as relentless, and decide that being relentless is a virtue.

4. Any time someone asks for a recommendation, give them the highest recommendation you can give them.