“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

— Henry David Thoreau


Occasionally I just have to share something that makes more sense than anything I can come up with on my own.

I heard these words of wisdom for the first time while sitting among a tiny group of high school friends in the rear pews of a funeral home in Russell, Kansas. I’d like to offer them to you.

I wrote early last year about a trip home to say goodbye to my high school friend Jerris “Jerry” Riffel, who died in an airplane accident Sept. 7, 2011. It was a sad day for Jerry’s family, and I hesitate to cause any added grief. But I believe the words and wisdom he left behind ought to be celebrated.

So, with his wife Judy’s permission, I want to share “Riffel’s Truths and Rules to Live By.”

n Life is Not Fair — Put on your ‘Big Boy Pants’ and deal with it. Whining only makes you look childish. Smile in the face of adversity — it confuses the opposition.

n Grow Up — Make smart choices. Have a goal and a plan to achieve it. Act like an adult: Be Responsible. Be In Control of Yourself, and Earn Respect. Remember that actions have consequences.

Most People Get What They Deserve — You’re responsible for your success. Study and work hard and things will work out — don’t, and you’ll likely suffer. No one, absolutely No One, owes you anything.

People Don’t Change — Everyone thinks they’re right. Change only happens when staying the same is more painful than changing. Trying to convince people to change almost never works. Logic rarely wins over emotions.

Be A Good Scout — Be Prepared, Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

Be Comfortable With Yourself — Not everyone will like you — but You Must Like You to be happy. Laugh whenever possible.

Do The Right Thing — It is often painful, but choosing Right over Easy will always be better. If it feels right — it probably is. Don’t confuse truthful with hurtful or courage with foolishness. Don’t judge others by your standards.

Make Friends — Life is lonely without friends that you can depend on and trust. You’ve got to be a friend to have one. Quality is more important than quantity.

Deal With Mistakes — Everyone makes mistakes. Admit them, apologize, fix them if possible, Learn from them and move on.

Live Actively — Activity is living. Sitting causes rust and death. Most regrets are for what you didn’t do. Acquire experiences rather than possessions. Find a way to enjoy your time.

I wasn’t aware of Jerry’s “rules to live by” until he was gone. If only we all had such a list.


Dave Berry’s Focal Point column runs each Wednesday on the front of the My Generation section. A link to “Sky Vu In My Rearview Mirror,” his original column about that trip home in 2011, can be found with this column at


Recent Stories You Might Have Missed