This is a book of pragmatic wisdom.  I use the term “pragmatic wisdom” because the views expressed in this text are not based on universal truths that are abstract and linked to some well-articulated philosophy or religion.  The advice that is given in this work is practical and based on a hodgepodge of experience, psychological insight, patchwork philosophy, and intuitive thoughts.  Furthermore, the views that I express in this text are directed toward people who live in a relatively modern culture.  There is no wisdom here for an African tribesman or a pauper on the mainland of China.  It is in this sense that the direction I offer is not universal and abstract.

            It is essential to understand that the recommendations made in this book are probabilistic.  That is, they are offered because I think that they usually, or most often, will result in a better life.  Necessarily, some of the advice will be bad advice for you because of the chance vicissitudes of life.  For example, generally if a woman or man has an affair early during their marriage, while they have young children, it will produce a life filled with misery and difficulty.  This being said, sometimes such an affair will lead to the development of a new relationship that fosters a lifetime of happiness.  Accordingly, occasionally following good advice will not lead you down the most perfect life path.  The pathways of life, like a fine game of chess, are extremely complex.  An apparently faltering foolish move can result in what appears to be a dazzling brilliance in the struggle of happiness. 

            Life, like chess or backgammon, involves making a series of decisions which impact how your life will be experienced or flow, and, very importantly, what future decisions will need to be made.  Some decisions appear trivial and are trivial.  For example, deciding what to have for dessert at a restaurant this evening would appear to be a trivial decision having little impact on your total life happiness and direction.  Typically, such a decision would in fact be trivial.  Nevertheless, there are times when an apparently trivial decision can have a momentous impact on your life.  If you, by happenstance, decide to do your laundry and discover that your washing machine is broken, and then decide to go to a laundermat, instead of waiting for a repairman, and then at the laundermat you meet the man or woman of your dreams who you eventually marry, then an apparently trivial decision has changed the course of your life.  It is equally true that a decision can appear to be critical, which, ultimately, will have no substantial impact on the quality of your life. 

            If any given advice is probabilistic, and potential fatally defective, why follow any advice?  The reason is simple.  If you keep ignoring the dictates of generic wisdom, essentially betting that your life or circumstances are an exception to the general rules, it is virtually inevitable that you will suffer dramatic and painful consequences.  On average, good advice should be followed because, over a lifetime, it gives you the best chance for happiness.  Interestingly, many people already have a good sense of the common sense rules of happy living.  These same people often ignore their own knowledge succumbing to their delusional belief that they have analyzed their circumstances well enough to determine that they fall within an exception.  Generally all people, and especially bright and educated people, overestimate their own ability to predict life events, and they overestimate their skill in navigating around the basic rules of life.  Sometimes the most important discipline in life is the ability to curb your own attempts at circumnavigating the basic rules of happiness.

            This text is not written as a sequential narrative.  That is, it is not written with the idea that it would be read from beginning to end, one chapter after another.  Instead, the ideas I am sharing are set forth in different chapters which might be read alone, or in any order.  Certainly the chapters are not in order of importance.  Each chapter contains some initial narrative thoughts which do not completely cover the field.  The narrative thoughts are followed by directives, i.e., highly specific rules for living.  I do not attempt to offer detailed explanations of each rule.  In this introductory text, my goal is to simply disseminate the basic rules with an overview of their place in the scheme of life.  Indeed, I must confess that I would be unable to justify all of the directives, except to say that it is my experience that they work for real people in the real world.  Finally, after the last directive in each chapter there is a place for your commentaries, suggestion, and/or critique.  Anything written will be read and seriously considered.