Ten Rules and Recommendations for Achieving Both Success and Happiness

by Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D.

On Turning 80 – Some not-so-serious remarks


(The following is taken from a speech Dr. Adler made on his 80th birthday at a party given for him by his friends and associates — officers, editors, sales people, and others — at Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.)

From the vantage point of 80 years, here are ten rules and recommendations for achieving both success and happiness — according to Machiavelli, not Aristotle, the general maxim being: Do whatever is honorable as well as expedient in order to succeed, and if not completely honorable, at least appear to be virtuous in doing it.

(1) With regard to health, vigor, and vitality: never exercise. As for dieting, eat only the most delicious calories.

(2) With regard to marriage: if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

(3) Never work more than seven days a week or 12 hours a day, and sometimes a little less. To grow younger with the years, work harder as you get older.

(4) Never take money for work you would not do if you did not need the money.

(5) If you have the inclination and ability, the best way to spend time is to write books; the next best is to edit them; and if you cannot do either, then sell them.

(6) Never write more than one book a year, because it doesn’t pay; but edit as many as possible, and sell them by the hundred thousands.

(7) Have a secretary who thinks she understands what you are up to as well as you do.

(8) Surround yourself with friends and associates with whom you can be almost as honest as you are with yourself.

(9) Get over the folly of thinking that there is any conflict between high living and high thinking; asceticism is for the birds.

(10) Never give up; never say die; always say of “If I die,” NOT “When I die.”

Now permit me one additional serious reflection. Eighty years can be neatly divided into four periods of 20 years each. Virtue may be necessary for honorable success, but the blessings of good fortune are more important for happiness on Earth.

It has been my good fortune to have the four quarters of my life arranged in ascending order: the first 20 years, the hardest and the worst; the last 20, the easiest and best. Indeed, of the second of my 40 years, the last 20 were the best of all. I confess that my greatest fortune of all was finding Caroline, who was foolish enough (at age 26), courageous enough, and tolerant enough to marry me.

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