The Life Lessons of Jack Handey

Set goals for others, get a tattoo, and don't try to outswim an angry beaver.

jack handey life advice lessons happiness

    Photo: Barry Blitt

If a ranger asks you if you have a fishing license, calmly reel in your line, then turn and run.

SET GOALS. Set goals for your friends and relatives to achieve. Check up on them to make sure they are meeting those goals.

IN CHOOSING YOUR MISSION IN LIFE, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. Let’s say you enjoy lying on the couch, watching TV, not thinking about anything. Or maybe lying on the beach, wondering what’s on TV. Chances are, that’s where your greatest happiness will be.

NOTICE THE LITTLE THINGS that are constantly biting you.

IMAGINE YOURSELF ACHIEVING YOUR DREAM. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to surf but for some reason never have. Imagine yourself riding on top of a big wave. Feels good, doesn’t it?

BE PREPARED TO CHANGE PLANS. Maybe you decide to go skydiving, but at the last minute you decide not to jump and grip onto the railing with all your might, so that your fingers can’t be pried apart. Have the courage to do that.

GIVE KIDS A HANDS-ON APPROACH TO NATURE, but not the way Uncle Lou did.

CULTIVATE A SENSE OF HUMOR. Suppose your friend Don gets his arm bitten off by a shark. As a joke, show up at his hospital bed and say, “Hey, Don, look what I found on the beach,” and pull out a mannequin arm.

LEARN TO THINK ON YOUR FEET. If a ranger asks you if you have a fishing license, calmly reel in your line, then turn and run.

GET THROWN IN PRISON IN A THIRD-WORLD COUNTRY. It will be a good story to tell your children and grandchildren as they grow up within the prison walls with you and their prostitute mother.

PUSH YOURSELF. If you get attacked by a bear and survive, see if you can’t get attacked by another bear, because then maybe you could get the nickname Two Bears.

DON’T TRY TO OUTSWIM AN ATTACKING BEAVER. Go limp and float over the lip of the beaver dam, downstream through the rapids, to safety.

DON’T PLAY DEAD WITH RACCOONS. It only makes them mad.

TRAVEL TO BALI AND MACHU PICCHU AND NEPAL, because, oh, no one’s ever done that before. In other words, be sarcastic.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS. If a cross-country race is too strenuous, take a short-cut to the finish line.

KEEP YOUR BONES HEALTHY, BUT DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR MUSCLES. Let’s face it, you’re going to be a skeleton a lot longer than flesh and blood.

LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Just kidding. Who could do that?

AT LEAST ONCE, FLY FIRST CLASS TO AN EXPENSIVE LODGE. And try not to embarrass yourself.

RETIRE TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY. Create a whole new identity for yourself and, if you can afford it, a whole new set of fingerprints.

NEVER FORGET THAT HAPPINESS IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO WORK AT, every hour of every single day, until you die.

Jack Handey, creator of Saturday Night Lives “Deep Thoughts,” is the author most recently of The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure.

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