What I Wish I Had Learned

There are lessons that everyone learns early in life.  Some of us are taught things that we shouldn’t ever have to learn.  Death and dying, bullying, cruelty, pain, and harm.  I don’t need to expound on those. 

Then there is the teaching that is positive and beneficial for an individual, the family, the community, and the world.  People who love us and mean well give us instruction that digs deep into our souls and become part of who we are.  Wash your hands before you eat.  Flush and then wash your hands.  Say please and thank you.  Do unto others as you want them to do to you.  Robert Fulghum wrote about these things in Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and John McCutcheon took some of those wonderful ideas and set them to music.  And the world would be wonderful if everyone adhered to these things all the time

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Click on the picture to hear John sing!

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But there are also things that those same loving people teach us that do more harm than good.  They are some seemingly benign exhortations that we really shouldn’t learn. Some of these are so wide-spread that they have become adages in our language.  Things like

  • Don’t rock the boat.
  • What will the neighbors say.
  • We don’t talk about ___________.
  • Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.

Instead of these things, we need to teach our children some things that will make them stronger and more able to make decisions for themselves, that will protect them from the demands of peer pressure, gossip and bullies, that will let them know that they can be individuals.  I have been mulling this over, and here are some things I wish I had been taught early in my life.  Had I had these ideas as a fundamental part of who I am, life would have been quite different for me.  

Imagine what the impact would have been if you had these people whispering this one piece of wisdom in your ear or imbuing a plethora of ideas into your core being.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to retrain my thinking.  As you think of what you are saying to the young people in your life, remember first the words of Frederick Douglass (as long as I’m relying so much on quotes here), “It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”

  1. “You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.  Dr. Phil
  2. “You alone are enough.  You have nothing to prove to anybody.  Maya Angelou”
  3. “Is fat really the worst thing a human can be?  Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil, or cruel?  Not to me.”  J. K. Rowling
  4. “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”  Mother Teresa
  5. “Find out who you are and be that person.  That’s what your soul was put on this earth to be.  Find that truth, live that truth, and everything else will come.”  Ellen DeGeneres
  6. “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”  Maya Angelou
  7. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.”  Winston Churchill
  8. “Let your greatness bloom.” Nelson Mandela
  9. “I follow three rules:  Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” Lou Holtz
  10. “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”  Barbara Bush
  11. “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.  It’s necessary.”  Mandy Hale
  12. “Always be the Leading Lady of your own life.” Audrey Hepburn
  13. “Leadership is not about popularity, it is about doing what is right.” Laura Bush
  14. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  Desmond Tutu
  15. “The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others on how you demand to be treated.  Don’t settle for anything other than respect.”  Dr. Phil
  16. “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”  Audrey Hepburn
  17. “If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.”  Paul Newman
  18. “Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”  Robert Brault
  19. “A public opinion pole is not substitute for thought.”  Warren Buffett
  20. “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”  Winston Churchill
  21. “There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is a miracle.”  Albert Einstein
  22. “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.  Mother Teresa
  23. “If your success is not on your own terms, it it looks good to the world. but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.  Anna Quindlen
  24. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  Steve Jobs
  25. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”  Steve Jobs
  26. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.  Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”  Steve Jobs
  27. “My favorite things in life don’t cost money.  It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”  Steve Jobs
  28. “God does not demand that I be successful.  God demands that I be faithful.  When facing God, results are not important.  Faithfulness is important.”  Mother Teresa
  29. “If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.” Lou Holtz
  30. “I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.” Lou Holtz
  31. “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela
  32. “We can change the world.  It is in your hands to make a difference.” Nelson Mandela
  33. “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Nelson Mandela
  34. “I will not be abused.  I will not be misused, not willingly.  But I will be of use.  Anybody who is not of use is useless.”  Maya Angelou
  35. “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.  Maya Angelou
  36. “It’s true.  I can do anything and do it well because God loves me.” Maya Angelou
  37. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”  Maya Angelou
  38. “The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.”  Maya Angelou
  39. “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”  Maya Angelou
  40. “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  Maya Angelou

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