Five years ago today, my grandpa died. He lived a long and generally healthy life, passing several weeks before his 96th birthday. Until the last several months he was generally in good health, and he had a sharp mind until the end.
I recognize that I’m lucky I got to have him in my life for so many years. I saw him often, and over the years learned many lessons from him, whether by observation or receiving his advice.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from him about how to live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life life.
(5) Don’t Rush
I never saw my grandpa in a rush. Whether he was going out to dinner, heading to synagogue, getting dressed, or eating a meal, he took his time.
He embraced the “slow” movement before it was a slow movement. He embraced the practice of savoring — whether it was a good glass of wine, a nice meal, or a walk in the park.
When I was growing up, I loved visiting my grandparents at their house on Long Island and going out on my grandpa’s boat. Boating is a slow activity.
He knew that when it comes to the important parts of life, there’s no time to rush.
(4) Stay Active
My grandpa loved to play tennis and to swim, and he did both into his 80s. When those activities became too much for him, he worked with a trainer who came to his apartment a couple of days a week. I could see how hard it was for him in the final years of his life, when he could no longer walk on his own. First, needing a walker and eventually a wheelchair. But even then, he did what he could, doing mobility and lifting one pound weights with the help of his trainer.
(3) Stay Curious and Keep Learning
My grandpa was always learning. He approached each person as a potential teacher, seeking what he could learn from them. It didn’t matter if that person was an industry expert or one of his great-grandchildren: he was curious about what they knew and what he could learn from them.
He embraced new technologies, and often had the newest iPhone before anyone else in the family. He used email and Facebook.
He studied the Talmud and regularly wrote and delivered talks on lessons from the Torah (the bible). He would write up his talks and share them with friends and acquaintances via email — his form of a modern “newsletter.” Perhaps if he had been a little younger when blogging emerged he might have had his own blog.
(2) There’s More to Life Than Work
My grandpa was an entrepreneur who sold a successful business in England to come to New York to help care for his ailing father. He eventually joined his father’s business, and built his name and his reputation over decades. Even after he retired from the business and my dad took over, my grandpa would remain involved. He worked hard and never lost his interest in or appetite for deals.
And he also believed there was more to life than work. In their prime, my grandparents traveled the world, going to far-flung places like Vietnam, Russia, China, and Japan at a time when most people weren’t traveling to those places.
They took in Broadway shows, the symphony, the opera, museum exhibitions — all the experiences. He loved to go out on his boat, to engage in activities, and socialize with friends.
Work is not the entirety of life — it is one slice in the pie of life.
(1) Take Your Cues From Nature
Whenever I’m asked about advice that changed my life, the answer is easy.
Shortly after I sustained a traumatic brain injury in early 2015, my grandpa called me to come over for a meeting. In his study, behind closed doors, he told me to take my cues from nature — to embrace winter’s hibernation phase, to focus on things beyond work and career.
It came as quite a surprise — seemingly out of character. Although in retrospect, I realized that this fit with my grandpa’s love of water and boats. Anyone who has been on a boat knows that boating requires working with the rhythms of the tides.
Following nature’s rhythms and the cycles of the seasons tells us when to initiate new things, when to invest steady effort, when to harvest the fruits of our labor, and when to step back and rest.
When we work with the natural rhythms, we don’t expend energy in the wrong season, we create time for recovery, and we have more energy to use in the proper season.