Life Advice from Nick Nolte

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What’s the best advice you ever received?
It was mainly to just surrender. Don’t fight – give up. I don’t mean to give up in a bad way, just that it doesn’t have to always be your way.

What did you learn from your father?
The horrors of war. World War II affected the male population in a very detrimental way. They were happy to be home, happy to be alive, happy they won, but they could not express to anybody the horror they had been through. I remember seeing my father for the first time when he came home from the Pacific, and I was maybe four, and there was just this giant skeleton in the doorway. He was 6-foot-6 and weighed about 160 pounds. They said, “This is your father.” I didn’t know what they were talking about. He was a scary-looking guy! I remember thinking, “Whatever he experienced, I never want to experience. Whatever the cost.”

How should a man handle his bad habits?
You have to learn to live with them. It’s in all of us. There can be acceptable addictions, but they’re still addictions. Whether it’s to sex or whatever, you have to learn to not be obsessive. When I went into AA, I was 48. I drank, but I wasn’t a fall-down drunk or anything. But one weekend, I tied one on, and – Jesus, by Monday, I said, I don’t wanna do this. So I went to a meeting, and I walked in, and, my God, there was everyone I knew. I’d wondered where they’d all gone.

Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a lot of scars, man. My mother said that a man is not a man unless he has a scar on his face. And what she meant by a scar was some kind of battle that you had to go through, whether it was psychological or physical. To her, a scar was actually beautiful and not something that marred you.

How should a man handle success?
Graciously. It’s really not something to be totally ­admired. Success comes to you with luck and a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t give you the right to be any better than anybody else.

How should a man face his fears?
To allow the fear to come on you and then pass through. If you keep cutting the fear off by intervening – let’s say, taking a Xanax to try to cure it – you’ll never understand what fear is really for. Fear is part of a survival mechanism. The way you conquer fear is to feel it all the way, and then you’ll find out that there’s nothing there – it’s just emotion.

When is it okay for a man to lie?
When the truth would do irreparable damage. And that usually has to do with relationships.

What should every man know about divorce?
It results in very rich lawyers. Believe me, a divorce lawyer is not about trying to solve your divorce. [Nolte has been divorced three times.] I did one that was just brilliant. I wrote down everything we owned on a big blackboard and split it in half. That’s the way we did it! That was by far the most successful one. There was some money left over.

What role does religion play in a man’s life?
An important part – not the religion itself but the feeling of something larger than ourselves, something that connects us to the spiritual realm. Gardening taught me a lot about this. You have to understand that for you to live, life had to change: The vegetables and plants that you’ve grown have made a pact, made a deal with you to keep them alive. Everything adapted to you. That’s a Nolteism.

What do you most want to do before you die?
Well, I have a four-year-old daughter, and I’d like to see her at 18, at least. But I’d like to make 20, if I can.

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