Be Your Best Self

A man and his son are reading together.

Wisdom Lesson One

Life wisdom

When I told my daughter I was putting together this book she said to me, “What makes you qualified? My response to her was that I have lived a pretty full life with both good and bad and have had many life experiences. I am much wiser now, and realize what I was lacking, and how important it is to have these skills early on.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, and trying to run a business, having to get along with people and solve problems, that I actually started thinking about life and the importance of knowing who I am. I have had a considerable amount of experience, so let me pass on to you some of the Pearls of Wisdom I have learned over the years.

  • There is nothing more important than your own health. Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.
  • Knowing who you are and learning to be comfortable in your own skin are critical to one’s character and future. You can’t have good self-esteem if you do not have self-awareness.
  • Knowing who you are will make it easier to pick a partner and get along with people.
  • Learn to understand and get along with others. I respect everyone for who they are as long as they do not hurt me, my family, or society.
  • Usually you are a product of your environment. Be mindful of the people with whom you surround yourself. “You are the company you keep.”
  • Life is all about balance. Do not go to extremes, and do not let the extremes affect your decisions. “Don't let the tail wag the dog.”
  • Do not let false information affect your thinking or attitude. “You don’t know the story unless you are the story. Sometimes you are only half of the story.”
  • Always practice the 5 Ps – “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance” and you will be lucky!!! “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Don’t be afraid to take chances.
  • “Nothing in life is to be feared – simply to be understood.” When you the practice the 5 P’s, you will reduce most of the risk.
  • Be careful what you say and how you say it. Remember, “You can’t get hurt by something you don’t say”.
  • Praise people when you see them doing something right. Do that publicly. Don’t be afraid to tell people when they’re doing something wrong. Do this privately and constructively.
  • Smile at people, and they will almost always smile back.
  • Don’t buy anything you don’t need. “A bargain is only a bargain if you can use it.” “Waste not, want not.”
  • Learn to invest wisely. Invest and save over time, preferably something each week. Company matched 401K’s are a wise choice.
  • The secret is, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Think long term, compound interest, and balance. Just remember, “Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.”
A boy and girl are doing squats in the gym.

Wisdom Lesson Two

Stay, Healthy and Live Life to the Fullest

Have you ever wondered why some people are healthier than others? Why is it that some people who look healthy on the outside, get sick more often than others? After discussing these questions with my doctors, here are some possible answers.

Being healthy is comprised of three categories. Depending on whom you talk to or what study you read, the percentage of each category affecting your health may differ.

  • Genetics is 45%.
  • What you eat is 40%.
  • What you do (exercise) is 15%.


As we have no control over genetics, the only thing we can do is to understand past history in our family. Your family might have the history of heart disease or bad knees. Knowing this, you could pay more attention to a heart healthy diet or exercise to support the joints.

What You Eat

What and how much you eat are essential to staying healthy no matter how good your genetics might be. Your body is just a big plumbing system. Putting sludge down a drain in your house will clog up the pipes, and the system will back up and fail. Similarly, eating too much of the wrong food will put a strain on all your organs and shorten your lifespan

Unreasonable diets generally are not going to work in the long term, simply because they are unrealistic. Nobody wants to count calories their whole life. Nobody wants to eat boring food.

Education on what you should eat, and how much is the key. I am fortunate to have a wife who is a very good cook, and I do not have to worry too much about planning meals.

If I were living by myself, I would talk to a nutritionist for advice. This is one of the best investments you can make. I would have them go through my cabinets and tell me what I should and should not be eating. It’s not necessary to deprive yourself of some foods or snacks. The key is to know what you eat, and to eat in moderation.

Drinking sodas and other drinks that have a lot of sugar and calories should be avoided. Try to start drinking more water with lemons or limes in it. Avoid processed foods which contain too much sugar (sucrose). When checking out labels, the abbreviation for sucrose is OSE. Not all carbs are bad for you. There are simple and complex carbs. Try to avoid simple carbs because, if they are not burned off, they will turn into sugar.

Controlling Your Weight – For me, staying the same weight for over 30 years has not been easy. Watching what I eat, and the proper amounts is the key to stabilizing my weight. Eat 3 meals a day, and do not skip breakfast. I get on the scale every morning. I believe that by doing that I can easily control a one- or two-pound swing. If I wait too long, my weight would get out of hand, making it more difficult to get back to my goal.


Strenuous exercise or heavy weightlifting is not necessary to keep a healthy body. In some cases, if overdone, it can harm you by putting too much strain on your body. Stay flexible by stretching. Knowing what I do now I would’ve been taking yoga classes to stay flexible. When you are calm and flexible, you will do much better in any sport, and probably live a lot longer. Consistency is more important than anything else. Take time each day to do some low impact exercise. No matter how good your body is, if you abuse it you will pay the price later. Be kind and attentive to your body, and your body will attend to you. We are living longer, but it’s not always because we are eating better. Sometimes it’s because of the advancement in the drugs that keep us alive. Modern medicine has extended longevity by eliminating or alleviating many diseases. We need to do our part and be mindful of what we eat, how active we are, and what we expose ourselves to. No matter how healthy you are, exposing yourself to harmful situations can prove fatal. We are not invincible. Exposure to potentially toxic substances can and does have a long-term effect. Getting too much sun when you are young can result in skin cancer 30, 40, or even 60 years later.

A group of children running down the road

Wisdom Lesson Three

Stay Happy

In Alive2Thrive video #12 we learned that success is not always the way to happiness. Your successes can result in happiness, but this type of happiness can be short lived. If you rely on your successes to bring you happiness, you may spend a good part of your life unhappy.

Remember: There is no WAY to happiness; Happiness IS the Way.

Happiness is a state of mind, and you have the ability to control your state of mind through your actions. And, sometimes faking it until you make it can come into play here.

So how might you achieve a happy state of mind? It’s not just one thing, but a combination of a number of things in your life. Here are some tips to stay happy:

Maintain Optimism

Those people who are able to maintain a happy state of mind almost always tend to be Optimists. Pessimists who are looking at the downside of everything will have a difficult time maintaining happiness. If your optimism doesn’t come naturally, you may need to work hard to turn it around. Optimism can be a learned behavior. Try to use more positive words. The words you use are important. Look for the good in everything you see. If you find yourself thinking on the negative side of anything, ask yourself, “What’s good about it?”

Build and maintain your sense of humor.

Your sense of humor may just be one of your most powerful assets. Laughter and smiles have the power to create a happy state of mind. They also have an enormous positive effect on your health and your relationships. It’s been said that “Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper. It may not make a permanent difference, but it sure improves things for a while.” That’s not really true – it can result in a permanent shift to a happier state of mind.

Start each day off with a smile and try to smile at everyone you see each day. Make it a point to be someone’s reason to smile every day. You’ll feel better, and they will too.

What’s love got to do with it?

In South Africa the natives have a term they use called “Ubuntu.” Very simply it means, “I am who I am through other people.” Part of who you are and your happiness is connected with the people you know and love. Happiness is more difficult if you can’t share it with someone you love.

Love also extends beyond people. What are the things in your life that you love? Surround yourself with these things whenever you can. And like what you do. It is said, “If you like what you do, you will never work another day in your life.”

The chicken vs. the egg

Am I laughing because I’m happy, or am I happy because I’m laughing? Which one comes first? Turns out it really doesn’t matter. You can laugh (or smile) for no reason at all, and your body reacts in the same positive way that it would if you just heard the funniest joke ever.

Remember that happiness is contagious.

Happiness, laughter, smiles are all very contagious. Remember that and build on it. It’s a contagion that you want to spread.

Find the beauty around you.

True happiness can be found in just seeing the beauty of everything around you. Make it a point to deeply observe everything around you whenever you can and see things you would not normally see. And, when you see these things, spend some time reveling in their beauty.

Surround yourself with happy.

The environment around you can be a powerful stimulant to your own happiness. Whether it’s your workplace or your home, surround yourself with things that make you happy. Spend most of your time with other people who make you happy. And, if this is not possible, work on making them happy.

Use “happy words.” Remember that a lot of your own behavior stems from what comes from your mouth. If you tend to use unhappy words, you may end up being an unhappy person. So, try your best to use happy words in all your conversation. You’ll feel much better for it, and it will rub off on everyone you deal with each day.

Remember: “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves”.

“Some people grin and bear it. Others smile and change”

A group of people laying on the ground

Wisdom Lesson Four

Relationships: The Golden Triangle

After I was divorced, I was sitting in my apartment thinking about picking and keeping the right partner for my future. I realized that the answer to that question had to do with what I like, not what society or the latest fad says I should like. I came up with three criteria which I call the Golden Triangle.

1. Physical and mental attraction:

Only you can decide what physical attraction means. You might like somebody who is tall, short, skinny, fat, or has blue eyes. You will know it when you see it. You will feel it. After a few dates, you will know if you are also mentally attracted or compatible.

2. Similar interests and values:

Opposites only attract in magnetism. To have a good relationship, you have to have some common interests and values. If you want to rob banks and she wants to go to church, it’s not going to work. It’s good to have some diversity, but not extremes.

3. Good open communications:

Good communication can solve a lot of problems. If your physical relationship is not quite the way you want it to be, talking about the issue and how to improve it works. Not talking will only make the situation worse.

If you find yourself drifting apart because you disagree on issues, or don’t do things together, you need to talk to find out why and how you can get back to what it was. When you need to talk with your partner about sensitive issues, sometimes it’s very difficult to start the conversation.

Early on in my relationship with my wife we came up with the code, “couch time”. Couch time means, I love you, and I care about you; but we need to talk. Then we proceed to the couch and discuss what’s on our minds. This works well if we both keep open minds. Alive2Thrive video #32 can help in the process.

If you are in a relationship, I’d like to recommend a book that can help you improve your communications and better understanding of your partner. The book is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.

I look at Alive2Thrive video #32 when I feel I am not communicating properly. I review that video lesson to see how I could do things differently. Communication is a learned skill that needs to be practiced constantly. Relationships can be complex. It’s been my experience that if I focus on the three points of the triangle, I have a better relationship.

A man and woman holding a baby in their arms.

Wisdom Lesson Five

Raising Children

When I had my first child, I knew very little about raising children. I just hadn’t thought about it. My wife and I did the best that we could with what we knew. We did have enough sense to enroll our children in daycare, since we were sure that would help our children become more adept at socialization.

I would make a much better parent today than I was in the past simply because now I have the wisdom and the skills that I have presented on this website and my book. It is hard to do a job that you have never done before. Most of us have had parents as role models, and some of these role models may have been good, and some may have been bad.

Making a baby doesn’t make you a good parent. We need to acknowledge that not all parents are ready or have the necessary wisdom, knowledge, resources, and skills to help their children become the best they can be. I believe most parents want the best for their children. Science (and common sense!) tells us that children attain a major portion of their life skills and learning between the ages of 0 and 5.

This is especially true regarding essential personal life skills, or social and emotional skills, which are the foundation of their character and their ability to learn.  Because of this, every child must learn the skills they'll need in a quality early learning environment.  This will prepare them for kindergarten and beyond, and it's also proven that children who do have quality early childhood education do better in school and their jobs and relationships.

Three people sitting at a table and one is writing on paper.

Wisdom Lesson Six

Business Wisdom

Here is a bit of advice for any of you who want to go into business. Quite a few years ago my wife, Kate, came to me and said, “Joe, you should read this book about small business.”

I replied, “You have to be kidding me.” At that point in my life, I already had multiple successful businesses that I had started. Kate’s response was, “This is everything that you tell people who want to go into business themselves.”

I did end up reading the book. The book is called The E-Myth; Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber. I highly recommend it to anybody who is thinking about going into any business. Now when people come to me about going into business, I tell them to go buy the book, read it, and, if they want to discuss anything about it, give me a call.

Over the years I’ve learned some simple facts that are true in any business and any workplace that I would like to share with you.

  • You cannot do it all by yourself.
  • Build a team. Everybody plays a different position. Learn to accept people for who they are. Do not expect more from them than they want for themselves. Not everyone wants to be a supervisor or a boss. Let them play the position that they are good at.
  • Keep your people informed and up to date. People do not like uncertainty. They want to be part of something.
  • When possible, pay good people a little more than everyone else. Remember that money is not the biggest motivator with people. People want to be respected and to be a part of something.
  • When dealing with people and vendors who complain about working too hard, here’s what I tell them: “Effort is commendable, but I pay for results.”
  • Learn to manage your time. Delegate by selecting the right person, assigning the task, and controlling the outcome. Do not delegate and abdicate. You can’t buy time. Help people to manage their time so that they do not waste your time.
  • When you are hiring people, get them talking. Learn to listen. Learn as much as you can about them.
  • Take the time to screen the vendors and partners you will be doing business with. “You can’t do good business with bad people.” No matter how good the deal is, it will never work if the people on the other side are not honest and trustworthy.
  • On the financial side of business, I always kept it simple: “Money in, money out, and money LEFT.” Let your professionals deal with the tax laws. That’s what you are paying them for. You should focus on making as much money as possible. Do not make any excuses for collecting your money. If a company or person owes you money, evaluate the situation and act quickly. It never gets better by waiting.
  • As an employee, know your job. Make yourself valuable, be a team player, and take on tough jobs.
When you are up for a raise, you will probably get it. If you know what you like, and you do it well, you will get paid well. If this boss doesn’t pay you well, another will.
b8e212c1-9ba8-4c11-b367-4466c4b1cac5 (1)

Wisdom Lesson Seven

Financial Wisdom: Steps for financial independence

Here are some great tips for basic financial wisdom that may help you avoid making money mistakes. If you follow these tips and pointers, you’ll be on your way to financial success! How do we know this will work? Because Joe Santoro did this his entire life -- he started with nothing and yet was able to achieve financial independence at an early age. He saved regularly, and when he went into business, he did borrow money but only used borrowed funds to make money. This would never happen if you borrowed money to spend money.

1. Learn to live within your means, which means not spending more money than you have. To determine this, simply take your gross salary and use the 60%/20%/20% rule in item #5 below.

2. Pay your credit card balances every month -- never keep a credit card balance because the interest adds up fast and it becomes harder to pay off.

3. Should I borrow money to go to college or a trade school? Keeping in mind that you borrow for school only to make money, ask yourself these questions first:

  • What am I going to learn?
  • Is there a less expensive way to get the same degree, such as an accredited online degree available?
  • Would that education get me a better-paying job that I like?
  • How much more?
  • Will it earn me enough money to pay back my school costs and have enough left over to afford normal expenses of living?
  • Access to information has changed tremendously in the last 20 years. If you have mastered reading, writing speaking,g and financial skills, there are many ways to get more knowledge about other subjects for little to no cost via the Internet.

4. What are some typical items to include in my household budget?

  • Savings (or debt payoff and/or for an emergency fund)
  • Food, utilities, housing (rent or mortgage)
  • Transportation, insurance

5. Guidelines for the best way to spend your income:

  • Put 60% of your income towards your needs: food, clothing, shelter, transportation.
  • Put 20% toward your wants – leisure activities/hobbies, extras, etc. -- other things that are not vital to existence.
  • Put the remaining 20% into interest-bearing savings.

6. Should I buy a new car, lease a new car, or buy a used car?

  • When buying anything, don’t be fooled by what just the monthly payments are. You should know the full price before any add-ons -- that is what you will ultimately pay, plus add-ons and interest. For example, if a car's price is $30,000 and you finance it, it will cost you more. If you lease it, it’ll cost even more.
  • Buy a used car with cash. It gets you to the same place that an expensive new car would. A car does not appreciate, it depreciates or goes down in value. A new car's value drops by about 20% as soon as you leave the car lot.

7. But I would really like to have a new car -- when should I buy one?

  • Buy one only when you have saved enough that you can pay cash. This way you are living within your means and buying what you want.

8. All my friends have new cars and designer clothes, why shouldn't I?

  • If you follow this outline from the beginning, you will build a foundation for wealth and financial stability. This way, there will be a time when you can buy what you want because you’ll have the money and financial independence to do so. Your friends who don't save and don’t live within their means will be living from paycheck to paycheck, and they will have to work a lot longer than you will if you follow this advice.

9. When would it be necessary for me to borrow money?

  • Only borrow money to buy a house, which in most cases will appreciate or grow in value over time, and then pay it off as quickly as possible with as short a term as you can manage, such as 15 years. If you take out a 30-year mortgage, it will cost you double due to interest expenses over such a long time. By paying over just 15 years, you also will be building equity much quicker, which means that the house will be worth more than what you owe for it.
  • Only borrow money when you can use it to make money. In most family situations this will not be necessary. For example, if you can borrow money at 5% and guarantee to lend it out at a return of 10%, then you should borrow money. Or, if you come by an item for one dollar and know that you can sell it for three dollars, then it would make sense to borrow.

10. If you go into business, it might be necessary for you to borrow money, but you will be borrowing money to make money, not borrowing money to spend money.

11. Subscriptions – when subscribing to paid services, make sure that there is a termination date. If there is no termination date and a given subscription automatically rolls over, make sure to set a reminder before the subscription renewal date to determine whether you want to continue the paid service or not. Many people pay for subscriptions to paid services they don’t need or want, but don’t even realize it.


The life wisdom pages are short tips and suggestions on life. I am sure you will come up with your own as time goes by. Be sure to pass these tips on to others.

The only thing that would be better than you learn these lessons now would be that you would have learned them earlier in life. The real solution would be to provide early learning to children starting at birth.

How to use

This website is a free resource of material to help improve your social and emotional intelligence.  The material on this website ranges from individual “sayings” to a full curriculum program called Alive2Thrive.  To help you become your best self, please review all this site has to offer.  It is important you pass this site along to others so they can be the best they can be and by doing so we will build the best society.