If I Knew Then Advice on careers, finance, and life from Harvard Business School's Class of 1963

Bill Agee on Life's Lessons

It has been said, “Happiness is achieved not by having what we want — but by wanting what we have.” This is precisely where I find myself at this time in my life.

Certain practical lessons I have learned could possibly be helpful to others:

First, I would recommend postponing marriage and children until later in life. In my view, there is no more important decision any of us will ever make. Despite all the statistics that confirm the unlikelihood of marriage succeeding in the teen years, I somehow missed that lesson and caused myself and others a lot of unnecessary anguish. While I was fortunate enough to have been given a second chance at finding happiness, not everyone is that blessed, and the process of beginning again is anything but easy.

Second, I learned the hard way how important it is to maintain a healthy balance in life — between career and family, work and relaxation in particular. Achieving and maintaining this balance requires regular soul-searching as well as self-discipline. It is all too easy to rationalize when promotions, bonuses, and perks are being waved in your direction. The consequences of imbalance are easy to recognize: poor physical health, broken relationships, and spiritual poverty.

Third, I would advise anyone with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism to be wary about using this recreational drug. While treated as almost a social requirement in some settings, it is nothing less than toxic for anyone with this weakness. Having been sober for almost 20 years, I can attest to the freedom and joy that overcoming this illness can provide.

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