You never know when you’re going to get a piece of life-changing advice. I’ve found that when it comes from an unexpected source, it’s usually the most profound. That’s certainly the case with the words of wisdom I picked up after a keynote speech I gave a conference.

After my talk, I was hanging out with the attendees and generally enjoying their company. In had just finished talking about dealing with stress by finding something to look forward to, which I know isn’t profound, but it’s rarely talked about anymore. One gentleman tapped me on the shoulder to tell me how right I was. It doesn’t happen often and I appreciated the compliment but what he told me next rocked my world.

He told me the story of George, an old man in a shop where he used to work. He told me how George always kept to himself but was also always in a good mood. It was especially surprising because George had worked on that shop floor for 40 years and while he smiled and was friendly, didn’t say much. It was on the day of his retirement when the owner of the company threw a little party to honor him and asked him to say a few words that George shocked everyone with his wisdom.

He said:

“You hear all the time that people need three things to survive. They tell you it’s food, shelter, and water. But it’s not. The three things everybody needs are someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. If you’ve got those three things, you’ve got a great life.’

At that conference, listening to this story, I knew I had just heard something profound. We all need someone to love. We all need something to do. We all need something to look forward to. These words from George, passed on to me from a total stranger have been some the best words of advice I’ve ever heard.

Breaking this down, finding someone to love isn’t difficult. If you don’t have a family, a significant other or someone special in our lives, we can still love ourselves.

Finding something to do isn’t difficult because even if we don’t have a job, we can find something small to tackle. It might be as simple as making our bed or taking walk but we can find something to do. Jordan Peterson has a great line about aiming low enough because there’s always something to do but most of us discount the small stuff. It’s interesting though that when we find something to do, we can find reasons to love ourselves which helps us find someone to love us.

Finding something to look forward to might be the most difficult thing of all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look. I always find that the best cure for a down feeling is pulling out my calendar and looking for what’s next in my life. Sometimes it’s small, but those small things count too. Finding anything to look forward to can be a magical cure for stress.

Sometimes great advice comes from unexpected places. Finding someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to might not be earth-shattering, but it is profound and it’s the recipe for a great life.

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