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Lessons in the middle of life | Financial Times

It won’t be long before the new year, and I’ll be turning 40. On the way to what actuaries tell us is the rough midpoint of Western men’s propensity to shed a lot of tears, I had occasion to notice a few things. I have also acquired a platform to share them. Then here, in scattered form, are one’s life lessons: some factual, some broader, many certainly false, but all sincere.

Transfer checked baggage beyond hand baggage. The goal is to make a long flight stress-free, not to avoid a short wait at the other end. On the contrary, keep your coat with you in restaurants and parties. You never know when you need to escape quickly or discreetly.

Don’t make friends with like-minded people. It’s not just narrowing the mind, it creates a single point of failure. Losing your job is losing your social life.

Atlanta is America’s best non-coastal city. All the alternatives to champagne are a waste of time except Franciacorta. Exercise has little to do with weight control. People infer their politics from their tribe, not vice versa. Only mediocre restaurants ask if you’re enjoying your meal. Whatever you think the marital infidelity rate is, it’s much higher than that.

Your style, as perceived by others, is a function of your gait and body language, not your clothing. The world is full of gorgeously dressed klutzes.

Eat only once a day. Do so especially if you enjoy food: it’s better to take a breather than three no-sorry events. Insomnia is not a waste of time: thoughts are being processed and ideas are explored. There is a difference between “good enough” and “good enough to recommend”. Save the movies, books, and magazine articles you recommend to people.

Powerful men are often disappointed in their sons and unconsciously audition to find a replacement. A young person with talent and ambition can make a profit. On a related note, the fastest way to like someone is to ask them for advice.

Exit social networks. Don’t “take a break” or explain your reasoning: you’re not a soul singer cutting short your Vegas residency. Just leave. Alaska Airlines is the best domestic airline in the United States. If someone is not sure if they want to have children, they want to have children. Never support a cause or idea because people on the other side oppose it.

To greet a taxi or get the bartender’s attention, hold completely still for a few seconds and then raise your hand. Movement will be prominent in their peripheral vision. Of all the human insecurities, the least common are physical. Most people accept their appearance and body in their mid-twenties. However, social and intellectual insecurity is driving the world.

Don’t take notes: the test of an idea is whether it stays in the brain without taking notes. Ignoring a problem in the hope it will go away is more effective, more often than anyone admits. Declining to attend a wedding not only saves a lot of precious weekend time, but it’s also less painful than a selective approach. Taylor Swift knows her behavior well: Primrose Hill is, by a man, the best neighborhood in London.

It makes no sense to read a book on a subject. Knowledge will not stick unless reinforced by at least one other piece of knowledge, read simultaneously or immediately afterwards. Outside of major countries, Copenhagen is the most enjoyable weekend getaway in Europe. People are not judged too much by their physical appearance as compared to their ‘appearance’: conservatives consider Emmanuel Macron to be more liberal than he is because he has the appearance of a person.

If you’re thin, people will wonder why you bother about what you eat. In it is a warning about humanity’s ability to take any kind of preventive action, whether against climate change or a virus pandemic.

The point of romance is not just or even mostly enjoying the here and now. That is, you will relive the memories (which are heavily embellished) in later life. Martin Amis calls them your “benefits”. For coast-to-coast travel, choose the Detroit airport.

Email Janan at the address janan.ganesh@ft.com

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