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Stretch Your Thinking

Have you ever studied paradoxes or oxymorons?

A paradox is defined as a logic statement that contradicts itself. An example would be the phrase “Look before you leap” when combined with the phrase “He who hesitates is lost.”

An oxymoron is a combination of two contradictory or incongruous words such as “cold fire.”

I collect examples of these because I find them useful in expanding and sharpening my thinking. These can be especially useful when trying to encourage someone to rethink a belief that may not be serving them or anyone else.

Below is a list of contradictory proverbs followed by a list of oxymorons. See if they cause you to pause and think, and also see if you can come up with more. I find them useful in creatively stretching the mind to new ways of thinking with a bit of humor.

Paradoxical Proverbs

Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Don’t beat your head against a stone wall.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.

Two heads are better than one.
Paddle your own canoe.

Haste makes waste.
Time waits for no man.

You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

A word to the wise is sufficient.
Talk is cheap.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Nice guys finish last.

Hitch your wagon to a star.
Don’t bite off more that you can chew.

Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Clothes make the man.

The squeaking wheel gets the grease.
Silence is golden.

* * * * *

Oxymorons

1. Jumbo Shrimp
2. Benevolent Dictator
3. Smashing Success
4. Almost Exactly
5. Army Intelligence
6. Genuine Imitation
7. Idle Curiosity
8. Government Organization
9. American Culture
10. All Alone
11. Political Science
12. Real Phony
13. Pretty Ugly
14. Tight Slacks
15. Growing Smaller
16. Great Depression
17. Peace of Mind
18. Deafening Silence
19. Definitive Maybe
20. Cruel Kindness
21. Working Vacation
22. Instant Classic

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What Does Life Want from You?

I once heard someone ask and answer a very interesting question: What does life want from you? While it may not be possible to come to an overarching answer to a philosophical question such as this, I find these two answers to that question very empowering:

  1. Do what you can.
  2. Do the best that you can.

Now that may not sound revolutionary, but I’m willing to bet that this approach to that question leads to successful living.

Think about it. Most people struggle with what to do with their life, often choosing things that are not within their circle of competence let alone their Unique Talent™. This almost always ends in frustration. We need to figure out what makes us unique and special and build from there. The starting point is simply finding things that you can do. It’s all about doing what you can in the service others while constantly keeping an eye out for higher leverage things you can do to serve. Just as critical is noticing what you enjoy and determining what gives you a sense of meaning and satisfaction along the way.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life teaching others how to focus on what they do best as well as what they enjoy. I love to ask the question: What kinds of things do you like to do? I also ask:  What kinds of things do you do where you lose all track of time when you’re doing them? That’s what’s called getting into the flow state. My study of high achievers who are also happy with a sense of fulfillment shows that they spend more time in the flow state than most people. While you may not be able to start out hitting a bullseye, the goal is to keep moving in that direction.

Start by doing what you can. Make sure it’s in the service of others and make sure you are constantly on the lookout for what gives you that sense of flow where time seems to stand still.

The challenge is that it often takes time to discover your special set of talents. However, if you keep looking, you will find more talents, abilities, and passions that move you with each passing year. The secret is to get as close as you can to what you enjoy from the start, and then continue moving in that direction. That’s how to keep growing your entire life.

Here’s what it also means. You need to do the best you can with where you find yourself right now. It’s easy to say “I’ve got a lousy job so I just do the minimum to keep from getting fired.” I’ve observed firsthand that this idea doesn’t lead to advancement in life.

I knew that I wanted to work in the field of personal development since I was a teenager. However, I had no idea how to make that happen. I had a clear goal but didn’t know how to achieve it. Luckily, I learned that the secret to advancement is doing the best you can with whatever you are currently doing. Luckily, I read books like “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill which taught me a very simple concept. Here’s the exact quote that changed my life: “The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does.”

I worked in my share of low level, low paying jobs but I always focused on doing more than I was paid to do. I was a dishwasher, cook, waiter, door-to-door salesman, telemarketer, sales manager, credit and collections manager, product/advertising manager, operations director, and finally Executive Vice President before retiring to become a full-time entrepreneur in the field of personal development. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Remember these two steps:

  1. Do what you can.
  2. Do the best that you can.

If you are already doing this, I feel confident in predicting an exciting future for you. You’re creating an exciting life one day at a time which is the only way it can be done. Have a goal in mind and constantly move in that direction. As you move forward, just remember what life wants of you. Do what you can, and do the best that you can. And keep your goal in sight. You don’t have to know exactly how to achieve it right now. Just keep moving toward it every day, and you will be moving in the right direction. You’ll also wake up one day with the realization that you’ve become one of the competent people of your generation!

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The Joys of Turning 60!

Are you looking forward to growing older? Based on my recent Internet search on the topic, I think many people are trying to talk themselves into feeling good about growing older. Here are 5 articles that came up on page one of my latest search:

  • 6 Reasons to Look Forward to Growing Old
  • 25 Things to Look Forward to About Growing Older
  • Age Gracefully: 12 Reasons to Look Forward to Growing Older
  • 19 Reasons Getting Older is the Best Thing that will Ever Happen to You
  • 7 Things to Look Forward to as You Get Older, Because Life Only Gets Better

Of course, there were 446 million hits for my search so maybe these 5 articles don’t do justice to the topic as a whole. But these articles made it to the top of a vast Internet search. Doesn’t it seem as if a lot of effort is being made trying to convince people that getting older is a great thing?

What I found particularly fascinating were the young ages of some of the writers of those articles. I’m turning 60 this month so thoughts from someone decades younger than I am don’t necessarily carry as much weight as thoughts from someone who’s been in the game as long as I have. Not only that, I want a few more decades of experience to get to the bottom of what people really think about growing older, especially from people that have lived into their 60’s and can tell me about their experiences.

Personally, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to growing older with the emphasis on the word “growing” — as in getting better. Having said that, I have come to some conclusions that I believe reflect an intelligent way to play the aging game. I recently had a thorough health screening analysis including delving deep into my DNA. I now have a better idea of the some situations that could arise and require special attention. But I feel good having this knowledge because what you don’t know, can hurt you. On the other hand, what you do know, can often be altered, especially in the world in which we live today. We are making amazing advances in medicine and technology which stagger the imagination.

One of my underlying reasons for looking forward to the years ahead stems from something that one of my mentors, Earl Nightingale, frequently pondered. As he reached age 60 and years beyond, he was fond of saying that “the years after 60 can be the best years of your life.” That was certainly true in his life so I’ve decided to hold myself accountable, to the best of my ability, to making it true in my life.

I challenge you to do the same.

On July 22, 1981, when I was 21 years old, I started keeping a journal. It began with the idea that if life is worth living, then it’s worth recording. Keeping a journal shows that you are a serious student of life, and you want to learn from your experiences to get better in the future. Let’s face it, making the same mistakes over and over and not learning from them can be one of the greatest tragedies in life.

I still have that first journal along with a file cabinet full of journals that followed. All are filled up with ideas and experiences that have been organized and indexed. Eventually, I switched over to a digital format on computer, then iPad, and now I even use my iPhone, which includes a complete index of all of my journals with complete access to all of the digital entries. When I reread my journals at the end of every year to see what kind of progress I’m making, I find it fascinating to see where I’ve made progress and where I need to make changes for the coming year. Again, life is about growth!

No matter what your age, I can’t recommend this process strongly enough. Reading these journals helps me make sense of my life and reminds me of all that I’ve experienced and learned over these first 5 decades.

I’ve learned that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a year but greatly underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade. I’m looking forward to the accomplishment of some of my biggest and most important goals in the next decade. These are goals that would not have been possible at the beginning of my journey, but now they are in sight. It’s like climbing a mountain, the higher you climb, the farther you can see!

Let me end this post with some advice I collected from William James, also known as “The Father of American Psychology.” This quote is one of my first journal entries from July 24, 1981. It is as true for me today as it was when I first read it and immediately wrote it down.

“Often our faith (belief) in advance of a doubtful undertaking is the only thing that can assure its successful completion.” – William James

That quote serves to remind me of the importance of believing in what I am working toward and keeping that faith strong through the challenges that inevitably show up. Join me in the belief that the next decade is going to be extraordinary, and then let’s make it that way!

One of my goals is to check back with you with another blog post in 10 years titled, “The Joys of Turning 70!” I hope you’ll join me for that. Let’s be ready to compare notes!

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Life Happens for You

What if the only thing holding you back in life is the story you tell yourself about how life works?

Human beings seem to be natural story tellers. Evidence suggests that we’ve been telling ourselves stories from the beginning of time. Certainly, some of those stories are true. However, some of the stories we tell ourselves are undoubtedly just a matter of belief. They are quite often opinions that don’t square with reality. Yet they are stories that help us understand the world and our place in it. At the deepest level, they contain the essence of what we believe about life.

Here’s an example: Do you believe that life happens “to you” or “for you?”

Isn’t that an interesting distinction? What do you believe?

In my experience coaching people, I often hear “stories” from my clients that suggest that life is happening to them, that life is beyond their control. Perhaps, on some level, that’s true. But is that a good belief to hold? Is that belief good for you, good for others, and does it serve the greater good?

When I suggest that perhaps life is not happening “to them” but “for them,” it often creates an “ah ha” moment. In the East, the word “Satori” means instant awakening, comprehension, or understanding. In these moments, life looks different somehow. The problems we face may be the same. The conditions may be unchanged but yet our viewpoint and ultimate experience transforms.  When our “story” changes, our life changes on some level.

Think about some problem you are currently facing and then decide if that problem is happening “to you” or “for you?”

I choose to believe that “Life happens for me.” The difference is just one word. Think about that. Is life happening “to” you or “for” you? I don’t always remember this belief when problems seem to be hitting me from all sides but, when I do, I have a moment of Satori.

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Are You Winning or Losing?

Do you give yourself a score at the end of each day? I’m willing to bet that you probably don’t. If you do, it might not be a very good grade if you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to that day. I think that’s a major mistake. I believe that it’s critical to know whether you are winning or losing in life, and you need a way to keep score that works. You need a way to win every day.

Here’s a strategy you can use to win on a daily basis:

  1. Before you go to bed at night, decide on the 5 most important action steps you can take the next day to move toward accomplishing your goals. Then, put the list of action steps in the order of their importance.
  2. The next day, start working on the first item and stay with it until it’s completed. If something blocks you from making progress on that item, move on to the next item. Continue in this manner with the list until the day is over.
  3. At the end of the day, review your list. If you’ve checked off at least one item, then you’re winning because you are making progress. Life is about the process not perfection. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s a way of traveling.

My guess is that you will discover yourself checking off more than one item, but as long as you’ve made progress, why not declare that you’re winning and choose to feel great about that fact? The more items that are checked off of your list, the better you can choose to feel about your progress. In so many ways, you get to choose the rules of how to play the game of life, so why not set up the rules so you can win every single day? It will definitely make you feel better, and if you feel better, you’ll perform better. Besides, I’m betting that you’ll find that you are completing 3 or more items every day.

Another great idea is to keep track of the items that you check off your list every day so you can have a running list to review from time to time. Using this system, you’ll be able to look back on your days and weeks and months and see what you’ve actually accomplished. You’ll find that this process and progress, and the way it makes you feel, will then drive you to accomplish even more.

Let’s face it, most people don’t know at the end of the day if they are winning or losing. Don’t let that be you. Develop a simple scorecard and then make sure you enjoy the feeling of winning every day. It will change your life in ways you can’t even imagine right now. Give this system a try. You don’t need to buy a new time management program. Simply use an app that’s already on your smart phone.

Remember, a successful life is built one day at a time. If you start stringing together successful days, those days will turn into successful months, then years, and ultimately an amazing life that will fill you with a sense of gratitude and excitement.

If you implement this system into your life and make it a habit, you’ll wake up one day to discover that you’ve become one of the truly competent people of your generation. It’s a wonderful feeling, and you can have it by doing just one thing at a time in the order its importance.

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The Miracle Formula

If a miracle is a surprising, welcome, improbable or extraordinary event, and we don’t fully grasp how it works, then call me a believer. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there’s a formula you can use to create miracles if you’re interested in such things.

Try this simple equation to construct a miracle in your life:

Imagination + Faith + Labor = Miracle

It probably looks overly simplistic but I’m willing to argue that it works.

Let’s look at each step of the equation. The first step is IMAGINATION or being able to visualize something that you want to bring about in your life. This would be a goal or desire you have or a certain condition or event that you want to bring about in the world. It’s possible that what you are imagining has never been accomplished by anyone and has never existed before on planet earth. Do you have something in your imagination that you’d like to make real?

Once you have something in mind, ask yourself this question: Do I believe this is possible? In other words, do I have FAITH that what I desire can become real in the world? That’s step two. I would say that if you don’t have faith, the chance of creating a miracle is slim to none.

However, if you have both imagination and faith, is that enough to create a miracle? I say no. There is something else that is required. That’s step three. It’s the very thing that most people don’t want to acknowledge. The simple word to describe what’s needed next is LABOR. Lots of hard work or labor. Sweat, long hours, dedication, perseverance, resolve, commitment, etc. You get the idea. This is the hardest part. But it’s also the part that most people leave out of the equation. Having imagination and faith without labor doesn’t produce great results, let alone miracles.

Even if you’re a genius, I don’t think you will get around the ‘work’ part of the formula. Let me give you an example by sharing this story. I’ll never forget traveling to Italy and encountering, for the first time, one of the world’s most famous sculptures. As I walked to the end of a hallway of statues, I was stunned by the sheer size when I saw the 17-foot statue of Michelangelo’s David towering above me. As I walked around it, it was amazing to see the craftsmanship and attention-to-detail, right down to the chiseled veins in David’s hands and the almost perfectly depicted anatomy from top to bottom.

It doesn’t seem possible that a person working by himself could create something so magnificent. But, of course, Michelangelo was a genius, and that’s what a genius can do. Except that Michelangelo’s genius alone did not create the David. It was his hard work and labor that were necessary to bring into existence this ‘work’ of art. Long days and nights of painstaking labor brought Michelangelo’s imagination and faith into reality as the miracle that is the David. That’s the fourth and final step of the equation. Michelangelo created what he thought about and made it real in the world so anyone could experience it. He used his imagination, faith and labor to create a miracle.

Let’s not forget that the tools used to create the David were rudimentary at best. Michelangelo primarily used a hammer and a chisel. He had no power tools or finishing sanders. He used the tools of the time combined with years of hard work.

If you haven’t yet studied the life of Michelangelo, and the enormous efforts he put into his works of art, I would highly recommend it. Then consider making the trip to Florence to see the David for yourself. And if you have the time, travel to the Louvre Museum in Paris to gaze directly at the Mona Lisa and some of Michelangelo’s other miraculous works of art. Just don’t miss the chance to see the David. It is an extraordinary achievement that shows how the formula “Imagination + Faith + Labor = Miracle.” It will remind you never to forget the all-important ‘labor’ part of the equation.

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Success Lies

My guess is you might be surprised with my title choice for this blog post. The title “Success Lies” seems like a bit of an oxymoron, however, I think I can make a case that much of what we think we know, we don’t, and many beliefs about success that are assumed to be accurate, are not. That’s a strong statement, but let me see if I can support my point.

Let me begin with what I call my Prime Directive, a rule I follow where I never tell anyone what to believe. I may question beliefs but I don’t tell anyone what to believe. I adopted this rule a number years ago when I discovered that I was being told things about how life works and how to achieve success in life that turned out to be false. While I’m sure I’ve broken my rule on occasion, I encourage people to decide for themselves what to believe based on the best information that is available. The bottom line is this: We don’t actually know how the world works! (The good news is we are learning more every day.)

Much of what we assume to be true is based on old ideas passed down from previous generations. We don’t always revisit our long-held beliefs and ideas with the light of today’s current knowledge. We need to make sure our beliefs are based on the best information available about how the world really does work.

While all of us have our subjective viewpoints, observations, and opinions, there is an abundance of disagreement on the facts, and for good reason. It’s safe to say that if you compare what we thought we knew about our world 100 years ago to what we think we know today we’d see huge disparities.

Let’s start with the most troubling of the lies which is that we are in complete control of our lives. That we control our reality and our destiny. How many times have you heard someone say: You are in control of your destiny. Wrong. We can certainly influence and shape our destiny in many ways but there are tons of other factors involved besides our choices and actions.

While there are an infinite number of factors affecting your life, I think these three are the most important:

1. Our Genes.
2. Our Environment.
3. Our Thoughts.

So do you control all of those? Did you choose your genes, your parents, and your early environment? Some people believe that they did. Seriously, they believe that before entering life they made a sacred pack with the Universe or God and planned everything in advance so their karma would provide them with the exact life experiences needed for another chance at reaching nirvana.

Now keep in mind that I’m not criticizing this belief. I have no idea if it’s accurate or not. You could even make an argument that having this belief is good for you if it helps you function better in the world and it doesn’t harm others. There is certainly more than ample evidence to support what’s known as “The Placebo Effect” illustrating that beliefs do have an impact. I’m especially fascinated with the study of “Epigenetics” – i.e., with the idea that our thoughts and behaviors can influence the expression of our genes. Just imagine what that means. There is research that suggests we may have the power to influence how our genes are expressed in our lives. So while we may not have chosen our genes, perhaps how they are expressed in our lives can be changed. This means we need to continue to let science and experimentation lead the way rather than clinging to ideas that have been shown to be invalid.

Perhaps the bottom line is this: If you have a belief that is good for you, good for others, and serves the greater good, fantastic. I’d call that belief a winner. However, if you believe that your destiny is to rule the world no matter what, what then? Should you be in charge and get exactly what you want no matter how it affects others? I think not. While you might think this is an extreme example, it proves my point.

Beliefs are ideas that represent an acceptance that a particular statement is true or that something exists. The essence of every religion is a set of beliefs. But are all of the religious beliefs in the world true? Are some of them true? Which ones are true and which are false? Would you say that all of the world’s religious beliefs have been good for humanity and our beautiful blue island in space?

While this may seem like an idea too deep or too involved to address in a short blog post, I would just end by suggesting that you examine your beliefs very carefully. Start by listening more critically to so-called Success Principles. As an old mentor of mine once said, “Stand guard at the door of your mind.” Don’t just adopt beliefs without careful analysis because it is entirely possible to adopt a belief with good intentions but turn out to be sincerely wrong.

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The Entrepreneur’s Biggest Problem

Even if you may not consider yourself an entrepreneur, I’m willing to bet you will relate to what I’m writing about here. After decades of coaching entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries, I think I’ve learned the single biggest problem that entrepreneurs face. I call it “Gas Pedal Mentality.” Let me explain.

If you wanted to win the Indianapolis 500, here’s what you would NOT want to do: Get in the car, wait for the flag to drop, and then just floor it. You would NOT place both feet firmly on the gas pedal and hope for the best. While this scenario may sound ridiculous, I can assure you that entrepreneurs, along with many others, use this strategy more often than you might think. Obviously, if you use a “Gas Pedal Mentality,” you’ll most certainly end up in a wreck or with a burned out engine, but that’s exactly what many entrepreneurs do. Since most entrepreneurs typically start out with an abundance of enthusiasm, drive, and energy, they just pour it on. Unfortunately, that’s not the best strategy for the long term.

Have you ever met an entrepreneur that did damage to their personal or professional life and relationships with this pedal-to-the-medal approach? Have you ever met an entrepreneur who was once successful and making progress only to completely burn out a short time later? If you’re an entrepreneur, has this happened to you?

Winning a race requires not just knowing when to hit the gas, it’s also critical to learn when to utilize the clutch as well as the brakes. In fact, it’s learning to balance accelerating with shifting and braking throughout the race to avoid both crashes and burnout that wins the race. The same holds true in life and business.

I’ve been surprised to learn that most entrepreneurs actually work too many hours. They often sacrifice other important areas of life outside of work in an effort to get ahead. Not only does this result in burnout, it can also wreck relationships with family and friends not to mention create serious health issues.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you don’t have a fun, stimulating, interesting life outside of work, you’re probably pushing on the gas pedal too hard. What you may need to do is slow down to develop some focus and balance. Undoubtedly, there are things in your business that must be done but are you doing too much? Have you learned to delegate things that you should not be doing, such as activities that are not a part of what I call your Unique Talent™? Do you know what your Unique Talent™ is and how to make the most if it?

My challenge to you is to find a professional coach who works with and understands entrepreneurs. Then focus on finding your Unique Talent™ as the first priority. Next, learn how to delegate all those things that are outside of your Unique Talent™ zone. If you think this isn’t possible, examine the world’s greatest entrepreneurs who also have happy family lives with lots of interesting and engaging friends.

Trust me, the secret is focus and balance. It’s not about going faster. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter. It’s about being more strategic with each action that you take which includes knowing not only what to focus on but also what to delegate and what to stop doing completely.

Remember that success is never enough. What you want is success with fulfillment, and that requires a different strategy.

Get in touch with a coach today if you don’t have one. Here’s a tip: A great coach should ultimately not cost you a dime. A great coach should be helping you to earn more money and gain more free time. Remember, focus and balance are what lead to success with fulfillment. Replace the urge to go faster with the strategy of balancing your life and your work. This is the secret to a life’s journey that’s both more profitable and more fulfilling.

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Aikido

I often talk with clients about Aikido, especially if they are having a bad day. Are you familiar with Aikido? It’s a martial art developed by a man named Morihei Ueshiba in the 1920s. It’s by far my most favorite martial art but it’s really much more than a martial art, it’s a philosophy of life. The essence of the martial art Aikido is to defend yourself while also protecting anyone who may be attacking you. Seriously, the goal is to defend yourself while also protecting anyone who may be attacking you. That’s not the traditional approach, right?

What’s fascinating about Aikido is that it seeks to diffuse a problem or bad situation without hurting anyone, which should always be the primary objective. In this regard, I sometimes think of a child who is having a temper tantrum while a calm parent just hugs the child or does whatever is best to protect the child all the while knowing that everything will be okay when the child stops thrashing about and regains a bit of sanity.

We often run into people in life who are like children thrashing about and throwing their weight around. They aren’t having a good day so they want you to join them in their misery. But alas, this is a game you don’t have to play. As a mentor of mine once said to me: “Robert, never let someone else’s lack of balance affect your balance.” Doesn’t that bring to mind the old “Karate Kid” movie with Mr. Miyagi dishing out wise albeit often perplexing advice?

The truth is that it’s great advice. “Never let someone else’s lack of balance affect your balance.” That’s the kind of advice we need in difficult interactions of any kind. The natural thing to do when problems present themselves is to allow the problem to overtake you, sometimes letting the situation take control of your consciousness and stir you into one negative emotion or action after another. However, how much better would it be if you could remain calm and focused with the belief that you can handle anything that comes your way? What if you could smile, relax, and stay calm through the next storm?

Remember, it’s not if there will be a next storm, it’s simply a matter of when. Doesn’t that mean that now is an excellent time to get ready?

The common reaction of most people is to push back if pushed. But what if you were so wise that you knew when to just step out of the way?

Look up “Aikido” on Wikipedia and see if you find it as interesting and useful as I do. It’s both a martial art and a philosophy of life that allows you to protect yourself while helping others from hurting you or themselves. Trust me, it’s not easy. But with practice, you might just transform your life and the life of someone else in the process.

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Be Useful

Would you say that you are useful? I can assure you the answer is yes but what you do think? This is an important question to consider, especially if you don’t feel like your life is on the right track. To help you think about your answer, I want to share something from Robert Fulghum, the author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Here’s what Mr. Fulghum wrote on his website about being useful:

* * * * *

“Often, without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, coworkers, and neighbors. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, ordinary ways. People who, by example, teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the daily-ness of life.

“I want to be one of those.

“You may be one of those, yourself. There are those who depend on you, watch you, learn from you, are inspired by you, and count on you being in their world. You may never have proof of your importance to them, but you are more important than you may think. There are those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who. We seldom make this mutual influence clear to each other. But being aware of the possibility that you are useful in this world is the doorway into assuring that will come to be true.

“My way is to keep writing and sharing that. What’s yours?”

* * * * *

I think it’s hard to improve on that. If fact, I think it’s not only a good idea to review Mr. Fulghum’s ideas about being useful from time-to-time, but also to review what he learned in kindergarten that became the guiding principles of his life, and the basis for many best-selling books.

Here they are in summary form:

* * * * *

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.