101 Things NOT to Do Before You Die


A witty, subversive guide that turns conventional "wisdom" " upside down!

Too many books tell us what to do to achieve happiness—-unfortunately, often at great risk, expense, or effort. 101 Things NOT to Do Before You Die is not one of those books. It's a book for the rest of us.

Robert W. Harris says it's what we don't do that determines our happiness quotient. Using the exciting principle of "selective ...

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A witty, subversive guide that turns conventional "wisdom" " upside down!

Too many books tell us what to do to achieve happiness—-unfortunately, often at great risk, expense, or effort. 101 Things NOT to Do Before You Die is not one of those books. It's a book for the rest of us.

Robert W. Harris says it's what we don't do that determines our happiness quotient. Using the exciting principle of "selective inaction," the author helps us adjust our thinking so we can make more satisfying decisions in everyday situations.

For example, do you think you'll feel complete if you try to run with the bulls? Don't do it! Do you feel compelled to drive around searching for the "best" parking spot? Don't do it! Are you sometimes tempted to confuse Randy Quaid with Dennis Quaid? Just don't do it!

Do you think that you should watch the colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life? Or ponder the lyrics to "Louie, Louie"? Or read War and Peace? Or push an elevator button more than twice? Think again! In many cases, you'll be better off not doing what "they" say you should do. Let 101 Things NOT to Do Before You Die be your guide to getting more out of life—-simply by doing less.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Getting old was difficult enough before writers began giving us "to do" lists of harrowing activities we should complete before we make the final muster. For mere mortals, these tasks seem unnecessary, if not downright scary: Who really wants to squander their golden years climbing frigid Alps or skydiving? Fortunately, Robert W. Harris has now gathered a compilation of negative yet strangely uplifting advice about getting through those autumnal moments. He provides life guidelines that will spare you untold stress: "Don't expect all art to be pretty"; "Don't disparage Nixon more than necessary"; "Don't use a flow resistant shower head"; "Don't forget what's in your freezer"; and "Don't read War and Peace." Much more fun than whitewater rafting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312357580
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/23/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.14 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert W. Harris earned degrees in art and cognitive psychology and then worked as a teacher for ten years. Since 1990, he has authored a dozen books, including When Good People Write Bad Sentences (St. Martin’s Press).

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Don't watch the colorized version of

It's a Wonderful Life

Colorization—the process of adding color to black-and-white films—was invented by Wilson Markle and Brian Hunt in 1983. Since then, dozens of classic films have been "fixed" by anti-black-and-white zealots. They even colorized Casablanca (ironically, Humphrey Bogart's face was actually gray). Fortunately, Citizen Kane has escaped—at least for now.

Colorization has been referred to as "cultural vandalism" by The Writers Guild of America West. Critic Eric Mink called it a "bastardization" of film. And Gilbert Cates, then president of the Director's Guild of America, said that it ". . . is a process of dissembling the historical and artistic fabric of our landmarks." Yet many people watch these colorized movies. Don't be one of them!

Insist on the original black-and-white. If you're ever watching an old movie on TV and you suspect chromatic trickery, check your movie guide to see how the original was produced. If it was in black-and-white, don't panic. Just take your remote, open the Video menu, and drain out all of the color. Then you can watch the film as it was intended to be watched.

Other classic movies not to watch colorized

The Absent-Minded Professor

Adam's Rib

Arsenic and Old Lace

Bringing Up Baby

King Kong

The Maltese Falcon

Miracle on 34th Street

White Heat (presumably the white part remains white)

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Fun activities

Write a scathing letter to Ted Turner, a vocal proponent—and bankroller—of movie colorization.

Start an Anti-Colorization League in your neighborhood.

Protest colorization with a silent candlelight vigil.

The inventors of colorization were Canadian—still are, for all I know.

Colorization was first used in 1970 on film of the moon taken by Apollo astronauts.

Some older TV shows are also being colorized, so stay alert!

Chapter Two

Don't try to bathe with a sliver of soap

Frugality is a virtue. Of course. Waste not, want not. When frugality improves the quality of your life, it's a good thing. But when frugality becomes an end in itself, it's time to step back and get some perspective.

Some people believe that saving fractions of pennies is worthwhile. They are excessively frugal with everything, even those things that cost very little—like soap. These folks, for reasons unknown to science, use a bar of soap until it becomes a paper-thin sliver about the size of a postage stamp. Only then do they indulge themselves by opening a new bar. Don't be one of them!

Accept the fact that soap is inexpensive. When a bar no longer gives a good lather, toss it, no matter what its size. And realize that your perception of soap, and every other thing you interact with in your world, affects the quality of your life. If your mind continually gets "just scraping by" messages, it will try to ensure that you just scrape by. But if it gets "enjoying life's bounty" messages, it will try to ensure that your cup is always running over. Trust me on this one.


Napoleon Bonaparte once sent a letter to his wife in which he told her not to bathe during the two weeks that would pass before he returned home.

A man often pays dear for a small frugality.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.

—Bill Cosby

Wash four distinct and separate times, using lots of lather each time from individual bars of soap.

—Howard Hughes


If a little sliver of soap takes a short bath in warm water it can often become supple enough to conform to the contours of its big brother, the new bar that just arrived. With a little gentle pressure these two will cling together. . . . The purpose of this soap splicing is twofold. One is that it affords some respect for the pith of the piece that once was much greater. . . . And secondly, why discard something that is still useful? . . . There is the added pleasure of seeing a successful splice take hold and providing a good home for the aging, squinny sliver.

—Raymond Weisling www.geocities.com/Tokyo/8908/clatter/soaps.html

Chapter Three

Don't hunt for the "best" parking spot

Most people buy into the conventional notion that "good" parking spots are those near a store and "bad" ones are those farther away. So when they go to the mall, they drive up and down the lanes, desperately hoping that someone will pull out of a good spot. If, after five or ten minutes, it finally happens, the adrenaline surges. Then they drive like maniacs to beat the other shoppers to the coveted spot.

This irrational behavior has profound effects on psychological health. When these people get a good spot, they feel like a million bucks. When they don't, they grumble and complain and swear under their breath at the lucky jerks who did. They let fate determine their mood. Don't be one of them!

Always park far away from the store you are patronizing. You can do it if you simply reorganize your thinking. Just tell yourself that the close-in parking spots are the bad ones and the distant ones are the good ones. The energy you now devote to tracking down parking spots can then be channeled into more productive activities.

Reasons not to park close to a store

Walking is good exercise.

You're less likely to get dings on your doors.

The anticipation of encountering items on sale has longer to build.

You'll save gas and therefore spew less pollution into the air and therefore get to think of yourself as a more responsible passenger on Mother Earth than your fellow shoppers.

Fun activities

Mentally note the number of instances of parking rage that occur between your car and the store.

When you leave the store, point and silently mouth, "I'm leaving," to someone waiting for a spot and see how long they follow you.

The difference between a "good" spot and a "bad" one at Wal-Mart is typically around 150 feet.

Parking spaces vary in size, but usually are eight to nine feet wide.

Leon James, author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, says research shows that people who know someone is waiting for their spot will take several seconds longer to pull out just to "reassert their freedom."

I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place.

—Steven Wright

Copyright © 2007 by Robert W. Harris. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Don't watch the colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life     1
Don't try to bathe with a sliver of soap     3
Don't hunt for the "best" parking spot     5
Don't eat snails, even when called "escargot"     7
Don't run with the bulls in Pamplona     9
Don't try to figure out the lyrics to "Louie, Louie"     11
Don't use premium gas when regular is appropriate     13
Don't worry about the inconsistencies on Gilligan's Island     15
Don't jump to conclusions     17
Don't accumulate nonfunctional pens     18
Don't eat the wrong snack during a movie     19
Don't push an elevator button more than twice     21
Don't be impressed when a Realtor says "crown molding"     23
Don't use a dangerous can opener     25
Don't try to beat the red lights     27
Don't fall into a cheese rut     29
Don't settle for wire clothes hangers     30
Don't leave home unprepared     31
Don't mistake commercial printing for original art     33
Don't let telemarketers ruin your day     35
Don't expect an egg cream to contain eggs or cream     37
Don't fear the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle     39
Don'tcook spaghetti al dente     41
Don't lock yourself out     42
Don't listen to prognosticators     43
Don't disparage Nixon more than necessary     45
Don't use a flow-restricting shower head     47
Don't be intimidated by obstacles     49
Don't take a budget bus tour of Europe     51
Don't assemble absurdly difficult jigsaw puzzles     53
Don't put too much faith in polls     54
Don't eat more than you want     55
Don't see the movie before reading the novel     57
Don't worry about the changing geopolitical scene     59
Don't buy fake-wood furniture     61
Don't spend your loose change     63
Don't think of Paul Winchell as just a ventriloquist     65
Don't be a passive spectator     66
Don't let a dead car battery inconvenience you     67
Don't expect all art to be pretty     69
Don't wait idly     71
Don't make tuna salad with mayonnaise     73
Don't forget who the real Batman is     75
Don't forget what's in your freezer     77
Don't say, "It could be worse"     78
Don't use pointless precision     79
Don't try to understand the rationale behind the Ped Xing signs     81
Don't be a victim of junk mail     83
Don't watch magic with the left side of your brain     85
Don't get the good quotes wrong     87
Don't create an indestructible home     89
Don't overvalue symmetry     90
Don't read War and Peace     91
Don't get caught in the rain     93
Don't equate "lite" with "healthy"     95
Don't solve problems by brute force     97
Don't buy "insurance" in blackjack     99
Don't get confused about who won the most Olympic gold     101
Don't give necessities as gifts     102
Don't write e-mails in all caps     103
Don't refer to the past as "a simpler time"     105
Don't finish a novel if it's not entertaining     107
Don't let your limitations become excuses     109
Don't serve ham at Thanksgiving     111
Don't read the pop-up ads on TV     113
Don't put an inane greeting on your answering machine     114
Don't play Scrabble by the conventional rules     115
Don't use Times and Helvetica fonts     117
Don't expect good grammar from the citizenry     119
Don't pay your bills by mail      121
Don't let others tell you what's in the Constitution     123
Don't risk losing important personal items     125
Don't tell your dreams to the wrong people     126
Don't brag about your gas mileage     127
Don't fall for the Gambler's Fallacy     129
Don't use a paper clip to do a binder clip's job     131
Don't use boring adjectives     133
Don't pick movies based on critics' reviews     135
Don't wake up to an alarm     137
Don't think that failure is the opposite of success     138
Don't eat canned spinach     139
Don't say "utilize" when "use" will do     141
Don't expect scientific studies to reveal the truth     143
Don't use old-fashioned pot holders     145
Don't forget the people you meet     147
Don't take 11 items to the Express Lane     149
Don't use all of your brain power     150
Don't embrace the {dollar}1 coins     151
Don't ignore your ideas     153
Don't look at the keyboard     155
Don't write indecisively     157
Don't underestimate the size of the universe     159
Don't let the pessimists get you down     161
Don't keep gloves in your glove compartment     162
Don't fret over the salt on potato chips     163
Don't forget who shot J.R.     165
Don't become a measurement chauvinist     167
Don't use boring postage stamps     169
Don't become a wine expert     171
Don't confuse Randy Quaid with Dennis Quaid     173
Don't make a list of 101 unusual things to do before you die     175
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