MY 30 RULES TO PUT YOU ON THE RIGHT TRACK

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

E1 Be there. As Woody Allen said, 90 per cent of suc­cess is turn­ing up. 2 Never be later than five min­utes early. 3 Al­ways make eye con­tact in con­ver­sa­tions – even when you are ner­vous, ap­pre­hen­sive or down­right ter­ri­fied. Foxes are un­nerved by very year in Septem­ber I have the good for­tune to at­tend a de­gree cer­e­mony for a col­lege of which I am pa­tron, Writ­tle Col­lege in Es­sex. At the end of the cer­e­mony in Chelms­ford Cathe­dral, gaily ca­parisoned in scar­let gown and black velvet hat, I am asked to say a few words – you know the sort of thing: con­grat­u­la­tions and en­cour­age­ment in equal mea­sure, and a re­minder of just how much in­put the par­ents have had over the past three years. It is a spe­cial day in a cathe­dral burst­ing with pride. I try to be brief and good hu­moured with­out be­ing pa­tro­n­is­ing or down­right dreary, but at the same time there is a de­sire to pass on some­thing picked up over the years, how­ever trite or clichéd that might seem to be. As a writer, one is aware of a need for wit, orig­i­nal­ity of thought and, in this age of so­cial me­dia, a de­gree of ac­cep­tance of a chang­ing world. And yet it strikes me that the qual­i­ties needed to get on in life and en­joy it, with­out turn­ing into a cyn­i­cal pes­simist or a wide-eyed Pollyanna, are the same as ever they were. I of­fer them here, not as ground-break­ing shafts of wis­dom, but as things that I’ve come to be­lieve in over al­most 50 years of gain­ful em­ploy­ment in a work­place that can be scary and chal­leng­ing but also hugely re­ward­ing and – on oc­ca­sion – up­lift­ing. chick­ens that stand their ground (maybe not for long, but you get my drift). 4 Weep in pri­vate and re­mem­ber that, gen­er­ally speak­ing, a trou­ble shared is a trou­ble dragged out un­til bed­time. 5 Be cau­tious about ac­cept­ing a job in Syria, Egypt or any coun­try end­ing in ‘stan’. 6 Only those who never try, never fail. Don’t be afraid of up­set­ting peo­ple by fail­ing – those who mat­ter don’t mind and those who mind don’t mat­ter. 7 Al­ways go where you are wanted, rather than beat­ing down the doors of those who don’t recog­nise your tal­ents. Be care­ful be­fore go­ing down a road where you have more to lose than to gain. 8 No­body knows what you can achieve – not even you. Be tena­cious or, as my grand­fa­ther put it, never let it be said that your mother bred a jib­ber. 9 If you’re bored, move on. Money, pres­tige and se­cu­rity will never over­come bore­dom. 10 Al­ways trust your gut instinct. You are your own cur­rency – spend it wisely. 11 Re­mem­ber that fame is a byprod­uct, not a goal in it­self. 12 It’s bet­ter to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and re­move all doubt. 13 Try and get at least six hours sleep ev­ery night. Mrs Thatcher got by on three hours. You are not Mrs Thatcher. 14 Don’t drink on an empty stom­ach – un­less it’s wa­ter. 15 Avoid any­thing la­belled ‘low fat’. Just eat less. 16 Never sleep with the boss – un­less you have a writ­ten guar­an­tee that it will get you where you want to go. 17 Never sleep with the boss’s wife or the boss’s hus­band – even if you do have a writ­ten guar­an­tee. 18 Don’t be afraid to fall in love – but not with the boss’s wife or the boss’s hus­band. 19 If you are self-em­ployed, have sep­a­rate bank ac­counts for in­come tax and VAT and put the ap­pro­pri­ate money in them as soon as you re­ceive it. Fail­ure to do so may re­sult in time in prison, un­less you are as good at telling jokes as a pro­fes­sional co­me­dian. 20 Re­mem­ber: what goes on Face­book stays on Face­book – for­ever. 21 If you go out jog­ging reg­u­larly, your knees will have gone by the time you are 50. 22 If you don’t go out jog­ging reg­u­larly, your knees will have gone by the time you are 60. 23 Re­spect your el­ders – their knees will have gone and they de­serve a bit of sym­pa­thy. 24 Don’t bear grudges – they sap your en­ergy and you’re go­ing to need it for bet­ter things. 25 To para­phrase Jonathan Swift, the man or woman who makes two blades of grass grow on a spot of ground where only one grew be­fore does more es­sen­tial ser­vice to his coun­try and to mankind than the whole range of politi­cians put to­gether. 26 Al­ways back up your hard drive. 27 Use a de­odor­ant ev­ery day – your na­tive aroma is not nearly so at­trac­tive to oth­ers as you might think. 28 Re­mem­ber that the great­est at­tribute in any hu­man be­ing is gen­eros­ity of spirit. 29 Don’t waste time Tweet­ing. No­body else is re­motely ad­mir­ing of your daily life. If it is more in­ter­est­ing than theirs they will hate you; if it is duller they will pity you. 30 Ig­nore all ad­vice from peo­ple who of­fer you the 30 Golden Rules for Life. Truth is, there are hun­dreds of them. Just make sure that you are alert enough to spot an op­por­tu­nity when it comes from an un­ex­pected di­rec­tion, and brave enough to take it. Have a go; grasp life with en­ergy, en­thu­si­asm and both hands. Don’t waste your time be­ing en­vi­ous, jeal­ous, or plot­ting to un­der­mine oth­ers – that way lies des­per­a­tion and de­spair. By virtue of ge­net­ics you are bet­ter at some­thing that any­body else on the planet. It’s up to you to dis­cover what that is. Some­times other peo­ple can spot things in you that you can’t see for your­self. Lean on those you trust and avoid those who run you down. And may you be blessed with the one thing over which none of us has any con­trol – a bit of luck. Good luck!

Best foot for­ward: Alan dons his aca­demic garb, as worn when he re­ceived an hon­orary doc­tor­ate at Winch­ester Univer­sity, be­low, to pro­vide life rules about ex­er­cise, above, eti­quette and ro­mance

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