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The Real World

Optimists choose to deal with the negative—and pursue the positive.

By Chris Widener

I must confess, I laughed a few years ago when I saw that Maria Shriver had come out with her book, Ten Things I Wish I Had Known Before Going Into the Real World.

The real world? Come on, she grew up a Kennedy and married one of the biggest action movie stars of all time! That aside, it made me wonder: What are some things I wish I had known before going out into the real world? Here they are.

Life isn’t fair.
Our mothers always told us this, but as kids we never believed it. We thought we would go into the real world and show her that those who work hard and do right always come out on top. Then, after about five years, we smelled the coffee.

Unfortunately, sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes people die early in life.

Our job is to accept what comes our way, while still striving to work hard, dream big and do what is right.

Our job is to accept what comes our way, while still striving to work hard, dream big and do what is right.

People play favorites.
It’s true that it isn’t what you know, but who you know that counts. That’s because people play favorites. The lesson to learn is that while we strive to achieve and have excellent skills, we should also develop a strong network of healthy relationships.

People will let you down.
Being a person who does what he says can be a blessing and a curse. For me it is a blessing because I am able to look at myself in the mirror each day. Yet, those who do what they say most likely expect the same from others, who may let us down. I could have relieved a lot of emotional stress if I had known this one before getting out into the real world.

The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight.
I was a little pudgy when I was younger. I wasn't big, but I also wasn't like the guys on the covers of the men’s health magazines—the ones who say “six-pack abs in 20 minutes a day.” I think that means they only eat 20 minutes a day, and it is usually stewed vegetables! But I digress. If I had known better, I would have worked harder when I was younger to keep the weight off, so I wouldn’t have to work that much harder now.

Marriage is work.
When you are young you think, “I’ll find the girl of my dreams, and we’ll live happily ever after.” Well, hello! You forget that your spouse is human, and you are too—most of the time. To live under the same roof with someone and work out likes and dislikes, personalities and schedules, not to mention life goals, is hard work. Not drudgery, just work. Yes, there will be plenty of bliss and joy, but marriage will make you work for it!

It doesn’t work to try to please others.
I have always wanted people to like me, maybe even too much. This isn’t good. Some people will dislike you no matter how well you have done, and others will love you warts and all.

So I do my best and let the chips fall where they may.

You need to tend to your spiritual, emotional and physical health.
If you don’t take time for yourself, both inwardly and outwardly, your body will catch up with you. We need to tend the fires of spirit and mind while keeping our physical bodies tuned for success, too. If not, our bodies will break down.

In spite of it all, however, life is very much worth it! These aren’t the “positive” things that we like to focus on, but they are true.

Being positive doesn’t mean sticking your head in the ground in order to avoid life's negatives. What it means is that we are realists who understand the negative aspects of life and choose to be optimists instead. We deal with the negative and pursue the positive. This is why I can say that my life is worth living, no matter how expensive or painful the lessons have been.

Life is good, and I can make it even better!

Chris Widener is a speaker, writer and the president of Made for Success, a company helping individuals and organizations succeed and achieve their dreams. Visit his site at and contact him at


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