365 Ways to Stop Being An Idiot



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I’m an idiot. You’re an idiot. We are idiots. This seems to be a very marketable way of selling books.

There is a series of books called the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to..” whatever. The Complete Idiot’s Guides is a line of how to and other reference books that each seek to provide a basic understanding of a complex and popular topic.

These topics can include making wine, making bread, buying a house, cleaning your basement. Even my comedian friend, Jim Mendrinos, wrote a book called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Doing Stand-Up Comedy.”

We all feel like an idiot every now and then. But do they really have to market this inadequacy?

There are many ways of being taught how to not be an idiot. There are plenty of universal sources of wisdom: The Talmud, the Bible, the Koran, analects of Confucius, the writings of Buddha.

And just as many more updated versions of the same lessons: Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” or “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” by Miguel Ruiz. You get advice from many people in your life as to how to not be an idiot. From your parents, teachers, grandmother, coaches, your uncle, television comedians and even the random guy in the street.

I’m writing a book, “365 Ways to Stop Being an Idiot!” I added the exclamation point so that you know I’m serious. I have scanned the worldwide web to find the best advice from all possible sources on the best ways to stop being an idiot. These are the best seven I think have the most wisdom and impact for you this time of year.

And you know what: If you don’t read this. I still don’t think you’re an idiot:

# 178 Caring about others

A caring person is an elevated person. It is a great act of kindness to express your care for people who might not realize that you care about them. Today, think of three people who would greatly appreciate your sincere caring. Be resolved to let them know that you care about them as soon as possible.

Empathy is essential to building healthy and happy relationships with family and friends and to doing well in life. It makes sense – after all if you had a choice between being with someone who is kind, considerate and respectful or someone who has no regard for your thoughts or feelings, who would you choose?

Remember Aristotle said, “To perceive is to suffer.” 

# 152 Peace of mind

Peace of mind is essential for obtaining many virtues. Its absence leads to all types of shortcomings. When you have peace of mind, you can use your mind constructively. Lack of peace of mind breeds anger and resentment.

The quality of life you can aspire to is dependent in part on the mastery of one’s thoughts. Above all else, one’s ability to make wise decisions is based on having peace of mind, uncluttered by impulsiveness.

Remember Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

#188 The problem of attachments

Attachment makes you emotionally dependent. Become free. Give up your attachments. Allow your happiness in life to be dependent on your own mind and not on anything external. Attachments are normal.

We all become attached to people, possessions, our environment and usual circumstances. A master of happiness will appreciate what he or she has while they have them and the moment any specific thing is gone or lost, the focus will be on other things to appreciate and be grateful for. At times, this could be gratitude for the memories that remain. Material and physical objects are temporary; memories are forever.

A master at non-attachment has nothing to worry about. Worry comes from dependence on things remaining the way you wish them to be.

Goenka, teacher of Vipassanā meditation noted, “Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: Either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. It is only a matter of which occurs first.”

# 262 True empathy

If you have the occasion to encourage someone who is brokenhearted and discouraged, you probably just say the correct words but without your soul being involved. Summon the courage to do the right thing: Do not just mutter platitudes and the standards formulas that people use in these situations.

Comfort them with the completeness of your heart and with your entire soul. Your inner love should manifest in a sincere smile and manner of speech. Fill your heart with enough love and kindness that these attributes will overflow. Only then will you be successful in alleviating the bitterness and depression.

Next time someone needs comforting, focus on these points and see the difference that it makes.

Maya Angelou said, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”

# 274 Arc of life: It’s a journey

Regardless of where a person actually is physically, he is really where his thoughts are. A person constantly has a choice to think elevated and uplifting thoughts – or negative, self-destructive thoughts. How old you feel is greatly dependent on your attitude about yourself. Elderly people can increase their vitality and vigor by considering themselves young.

We constantly talk to ourselves. We can choose to be our own best friend by telling ourselves positive thoughts, or our own worst enemy by repeating negative thoughts.

Robert Frost noted, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

# 225 Keep ever hopeful

The start of each day is a great time to condition your mind to be on the lookout for the most joyful, inspiring and spiritual experiences of the day. At the start of each day we are given a body, soul and new insight from which we can make many great choices and decisions.

Every single day of your life has its highlights. When we wake up in the morning and reflect on the joy of being alive, we can wonder with curiosity, “What will be the greatest highlights of my day today?”

Remember, Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

# 242: Be humble

Humility makes it easier to have courage. Humility frees you from worrying about how others perceive you. You have less of a need to make a good impression on people, so you are more open to learning new things. You don’t mind if people see you as imperfect, or that you are not as skilled or talented as you would like to be.

An arrogant or conceited person always needs to appear to be perfect, to be highly skilled and talented. This creates tension and anxiety. The truly humble person is calmer and more relaxed.

Remember, Gandhi said, “I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”


Joseph Novick is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.


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Avatar photo Leah Anderson

This post definitely made me chuckle but also made me think! I think the practical tips you’ve included in your blog are a great reminder that we all have the ability to improve ourselves everyday – without being told we’re an idiot first, then buying a book to cure our “idiot-ness.”
Thanks for posting! < (included the exclamation mark so you know I mean it.)


I hope you really are writing that book! (<– I added the exclamation mark so you know I'm serious!) I would love a copy as well as purchasing them for gifts!!! Maybe a calendar, so we can tear off each day (make the days pretty so we can frame particular days we need to work on)!

Mila Baier

I hope you are writing the book and it will be published soon. I’ll buy at least two copies!!!
(Multiple exclamation points so that you know I’m serious.))

Scott F. Nolan

This is truly inspirational for the holiday season. I have to admit I have bought many of the ““The Complete Idiot’s Guide to …” and never ended up completing them. I like them all but #262 True empathy and # 242 Be humble resonate this year. Yes these are out of order!

Looking forward to the calendar which would be a great reminder for all of us. Thank you for a great blog post.


I would like a copy of the book too. #242 really hit me as I had to endure a very humble experience this week and keep my mouth shut. I had to keep praying through the ordeal for 5 hours, but I succeeded. As a person who constantly is fighting battles it is very hard to have humility. Will put this on my list for 2018 along with your book! Thanks