10 Things I Would Do If I Were Twenty-One

Frank Crane was a writer

He was also a columnist, speaker, and minister. Born in 1861, and died in 1928 at the ripe old age of 67, the man lead a powerful, influential, and important life. He published a book in 1920 called “The Business Of Living”. In it, he describes a list of things he believed he would do when he was twenty-one years old.

#1 If I Were Twenty-One I Would “Do the Next Thing”

The first duty of a human being in this world is to take himself off other people’s backs. I would go to work at something for which my fellow-men would be willing to pay. I would not wait for an Ideal Job. The only ideal job I ever heard of was the one some other fellow had.

I would go to work. Nothing in all this world I have found is so good as work.


#2 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Adjust Myself

More people I have known have suffered because they did not know how to adjust themselves than for any other reason. And the happiest hearted people I have met have been those that have the knack of adapting themselves to whatever happens.

In the Game of Life, as in a game of cards, we have to play the cards dealt us; and the good player is not the one who always wins, but the one who plays a poor hand well.

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#3 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Take Care of My Body

The comfort and efficiency of my days depend fundamentally upon the condition of this physical machine I am housed in. I would look out for it as carefully as I attend to my automobile so that it might perform its functions smoothly and with the minimum of trouble.

To this end, I would note the four X’s. They are Examination, Excretion, Exercise, and Excess.

I would drink no tea or coffee, as these are stimulants and not foods. Neither would I use tobacco. The healthy human body will furnish more of the joy of life if it is not abused than can be given by any of the artificial tonics which the ignorance and weakness of men have discovered.

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#4 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Train My Mind

I would realize that my eventual success depends mostly upon the quality and power of my brain. Hence, I would train it, so as to get the best out of it.

I would especially purge myself as far as possible of intellectual dishonesty. By intellectual dishonesty I mean what is called expediency; that is, forming or adhering to an opinion, not because we are convinced of its truth, but because of the effect it will have. A mind should, at twenty-one, marry Truth, and “cleave only onto her, till death do them part, for better, for worse.”

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#5 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Be Happy

By this I imply that anyone can be happy if he will. Happiness does not depend on circumstances, but upon Me.

This is perhaps the greatest truth in the world, and the one most persistently disbelieved.

This is the most valuable secret of life. Nothing is of more worth to the youth than to awake to the truth that he can change his wants.

So, if I were twenty-one, I would make up my mind to be happy. You get about what is coming to you, in any event, in this world, and happiness and misery depend on how you take it; why not be happy?

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#6 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Get Married

I would not wait until I became able to support a wife. I would marry while poor, and marry a poor girl. I have seen all kinds of wives, and by far the greatest number of successful ones were those that married poor.

Many young people today play the fool and marry the wrong person, but my observation has been that “there’s no fool like the old fool,” that the longer marriage is postponed the greater are the chances of mistakes, and that those couples are the most successful in matrimony who begin in youth and grow old together.

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#7 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Save Money

Money has a deal to do with contentment in this workaday world, and I’d have some of my own. There isn’t a human being but could save a little. Every man, in America at least, could live on nine-tenths of what he does live on, and save the other tenth. And the man who regularly saves no money is a fool, just a plain fool, whether he be an actor getting one thousand dollars a day or a ditch-digger getting one dollar a day.

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#8 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Study the Art of Pleasing

Much of the content from life is due to having pleasant people around you. Hence, I would form habits and cultivate manners that would please them.

For instance, I would make my personal appearance as attractive as possible. I would look clean, well-dressed and altogether as engaging as the material I had to work with would allow.

I would not argue. I never knew one person in my life that was convinced by argument. Discuss, yes; but not argue. The difference is this: in discussion you are searching for the truth, and in argument you want to prove that you are right. In discussion, therefore, you are anxious to know your neighbor’s views, and you listen to him. In argument, you don’t care anything about his opinions, you want him to hear yours, hence, while he’s talking you are simply thinking over what you are going to say as soon as you get a chance.

Altogether, I would try to make my personality pleasing, so that people would in turn endeavor to be pleasing to me.

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#9 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Determine, Even If I Could Never Be Anything Else in the World, That I Would Be a Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred, as it is currently used, is a word difficult to define, perhaps entirely non-definable. Yet we all know what it means.

It implies being a good sport, by which I mean the kind of man that does not whine when he fails, but gets up smiling and tackles it again, the kind of man whose fund of cheer and courage does not depend on success, but keeps brave and sweet even in failure.

Most people are quitters. They reach their limit. They are familiar with the last straw.

But the hundredth man is a thoroughbred. You cannot corner him. He will not give up. He cannot find “fail” in his lexicon. He never learned to whine.

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#10 If I Were Twenty-One, I Would Make Some Permanent, Amicable Arrangement With My Conscience

God, Duty, Death, and Moral Responsibility are huge facts to which no life can escape. They are the eternal sphinxes by the road of every man’s existence. He must frame some sort of an answer to them.

I would, therefore, if I were twenty-one, study the art of life. It is good to know arithmetic and geography and bookkeeping and all practical matters, but it is better to know how to live, how to spend your days that at the end of it you shall be content, how to spend your life so that you feel it has been worth while.

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