As college graduates toss their hats in exhilaration and Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go! resumes its seasonal place on the bestseller list, we tip our hats to a few lesser-known books for their equally important life wisdom, advice and inspiration.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, the words contained within these books are timeless and true, challenging us to a continual commitment to self-improvement and encouraging us to live deliberately, creatively and thoughtfully.
We hope they bring you – whether you are a college graduate or a seeker of all things good – the same inspiration, comfort and encouragement they have brought us.
From 8,789 Words of Wisdom by Barbara Ann Kipfer (2001)
ATG’s top 12:
- Always make your bed*
- Doing is better than saying
- Respond to rudeness with kindness
- Sometimes things that hurt, teach
- Always look people in the eye when you talk to them
- Require more from yourself than from others
- Let some things remain a mystery
- Every day, look up one new word in the dictionary
- Admit to your mistakes
- Stick with your family
- Learn how to prepare at least five meals expertly
- Contemplate the beauty of the earth and find reserves of strength that endure
*In a commencement address at The University of Texas, Austin in May 2014 Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command commented on the importance of making your bed. His address, full of powerful insights & messages, soon went viral. You can watch and/or read it here.
From Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success and Happiness by H. Jackson Brown Jr. (2000)
ATG’s top 12:
- Proofread carefully everything that goes out under your signature
- To get someone’s attention, ask for their opinion
- When you meet people that you admire, ask them the titles of the books they’re currently reading
- Kind words and good deeds are eternal. You never know where their influence will end.
- It’s okay to be content with what you have, but never with what you are
- A strong code of ethics is as reliable as a compass
- In every face-to-face encounter, regardless of how brief, we leave something behind
- Make a list of 10 guiding principles that you want most to direct your life. Every month or so ask your family or a friend how well you’re living up to them.
- Don’t be so casual in dress, language and manner that people don’t take you seriously.
- Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.
- Remember that every thing of great value has been paid for by blood, sweat, or tears or all three
- When visiting a foreign country, be on your best behavior. You are a representative of the United States.
From The Little Big Book of Life: Lessons, Wisdom, Instruction, Inspiration, Humor, Advice (2003)
Below is an excerpt from a speech by Ken Burns at Hampshire College on May 16, 1987:
- “As you pursue the future, your future, pursue the past. Let it be your guide. Know the history of your country, not because it is knowledge to accumulate but because it arms you in the best kind of way. Learn about your family. Find out about your grandmother’s grandfather. Where was he in 1861? It will help you, I promise. Read about your history. Read David McCullough’s The Great Bridge, the best love story around…Avoid the word ‘career’ and even ‘profession.’ They are concerned with money and position. Continue to investigate. Have a style, by all means have a style, but remember that fashion itself is a cold center. There is nothing behind it…Whatever you do, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.”
- “This is your life, not someone else’s. It is your own feeling of what is important, not what people will say. Sooner or later, you are bound to discover that you cannot please all of the people around you all of the time. Some of them will attribute to you motives you never dreamed of. Some of them will misinterpret your words and actions, making them completely alien to you. So you had better learn fairly early that you must not expect to have everyone understand what you say and what you do. The important thing is to be sure that those who love you, whether family or friends, understand as clearly as you can make them understand. If they believe in you, they will trust your motives. But do not ask or expect to have anyone with you on everything. Do not try for it. To reach such a state of unanimity would mean that you would risk losing your own individuality to attain it.”
From Maya Angelou, October 1977:
- “One of the first things that young person must internalize, deep down in the blood and bones, is understanding that although he may encounter many defeats, he must not be defeated. If life teaches us anything, it may be that it’s necessary to suffer some defeats. Look at a diamond: it is the result of extreme pressure. Less pressure, it is crystal; less than that, it’s coal; and less than that, it is fossilized leaves or just plain dirt. It’s necessary, therefore, to be tough enough to bite the bullet as it is shot into one’s mouth, to bite it and stop it before it tears a hole in one’s throat. One must learn to care for oneself first, so that one can then dare to care for someone else. That’s what it takes to make the caged bird sing.”
- “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – BusinessWeek, 1998
- “…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Commencement address, Stanford University, 2005
From On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (2005)
Builders wrought with greater care
Each minute and unseen part,
For the Gods are everywhere
- “The point of these lines is clear. In the old days, craftsmen did not cut corners. They worked carefully, and they took care with every aspect of their work. Every part of the product was considered, and each was designed and made to be exactly as it should be. These craftsmen did not relax their thoughtful self-discipline even with respect to features of their work that would ordinarily not be visible. Although no one would notice if those features were not quite right, the craftsmen would be bothered by their consciences. So nothing was swept under the rug. Or, one might perhaps also say, there was no bullshit.”
Seven Quotes For Seven Days of the Week
(As found in the above book, Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success and Happiness)
1. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of values –Albert Einstein
2. “Wisdom, compassion and courage – these are three universally recognized moral qualities of man. When a man understands the nature and use of these moral qualities, he will then understand how to put in order his personal conduct and character.” –Confucius
3. “Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.” –Sir Humphrey Davy
4. “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes real happiness. It is not obtained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” –Helen Keller
5. “Wisdom does not show itself so much in precept as in life – in a firmness of mind and mastery of appetite. It teaches us to do as well as talk; and to make our actions and our words all of a color.” –Seneca
6. “Getters generally don’t get happiness; givers get it. You simply give to others a bit of yourself – a thoughtful act, a helpful idea, a word of appreciation, a lift over a rough spot, a sense of understanding, a timely suggestion. You take something out of your mind, garnished in kindness out of your heart, and put it into the other fellow’s mind and heart.” –Charles Burr
7. “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.” –Norman Vincent Peale
Continue delving into all things life wisdom from:
and from these military excerpts, creeds and poems
in addition to these quotes about the importance of planning