‘Originals’: A Surprising Truth about Entrepreneurs

“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice.” – Adam Grant

When people think of entrepreneurs, they tend to see them as the ultimate risk-takers: people who unabashedly take a chance on something they believe in. People who enjoy going out on a limb, taking leaps into the unknown and thrive on uncertainty.

Originals book reviewBut, it isn’t necessarily so. In fact, entrepreneurs are more risk-averse – and much more calculated – than you think. The proof is in Adam Grant’s latest book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Utilizing data and studies from across industries, Grant shows how entrepreneurs are fueled less by risk and more by the opportunity to try something new, pursue a passion and see things in a new light.

This doesn’t mean that risk isn’t involved, Grant explains, only that it is offset with careful considerations, experimentation and back up plans.

“To become original, you have to try something new, which means accepting some measure of risk,” Grant writes. “But the most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look. They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case.”

A great example of this comes from the online eyeglass maker Warby Parker, the founders of whom approached Grant in 2009 about becoming an early investor. But, because they weren’t working at their startup full time (they were students), Grant assumed they weren’t committed and declined the offer.

“They weren’t serious about becoming successful entrepreneurs,” writes Grant.” They didn’t have enough skin in the game. In my mind, they were destined to fail because they played it safe instead of betting the farm.”

He continues: “But in fact, this is exactly why they succeeded.” (As of April 2015, Warby Parker was valued at $1.2 billion and was named the world’s #1 most innovative company by Fast Company in 2015).

Just one example of many, Originals is well worth the read for anyone looking to leave a mark on the world – because as Grant encourages us all to see: anyone can.

Enjoy a few thought-provoking quotes from Adam Grant below:

1. “Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.”

2. “The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists…[t]he starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.”

3. “If you’re risk averse and have some doubts about the feasibility of your ideas, it’s likely that your business will be built to last. If you’re a freewheeling gambler, your startup is far more fragile.”

4. “When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them.”

5. “The greatest presidents were those who challenged the status quo and brought about sweeping changes that improved the lot of the country. But these behaviors were completely unrelated to whether they cared deeply about public approval and social harmony.”

6. “The drive to succeed and the accompanying fear of failure have held back some of the greatest creators and change agents in history…[i]f a handful of people hadn’t been cajoled into taking original action, America might not exist, the civil rights movement could still be a dream, the Sistine Chapel might be bare, we might still believe the sun revolves around the earth, and the personal computer might never have been popularized.”

7. “In every domain, from business and politics to science and art, the people who move the world forward with original ideas are rarely paragons of conviction and commitment. As they question traditions and challenge the status quo, they may appear bold and self-assured on the surface. But when you peel back the layers, the truth is that they, too, grapple with fear, ambivalence, and self-doubt. We view them as self-starters, but their efforts are often fueled and sometimes forced by others. And as much as they seem to crave risk, they really prefer to avoid it.”

8. “Ultimately, the people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward…their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.”

Please note: this post also appears on Treehouse Technology Group’s blog.

The Magic of a Winter Evening Sky

“Always without formulating the concept, I had based my sense of being in the world partly on an unreasoned conviction that certain areas of the earth’s surface contained more magic than others.”  – From Without Stopping by Paul Bowles (composer and author, 1910-1999)

NYC Reservoir Central Park
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park, New York City; 2016

“For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.” – From “Locksley Hall” by Alfred Lord Tennyson (English poet, 1809-1892)

Sunset quotes
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park, New York City; 2016

“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see.” – Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Ohio River Sunset
Ohio River, PA; 2016

#Kindness4Colleen, Kindness For All

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

The above quote, attributed to the Lebanese-American author Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) most well known for his book The Prophet, has always been one of my favorites. Serving as a counterpoint to a prevailing cultural ethos that too readily equates strength with acts of self-empowerment and self-aggrandizement, it is a reminder of a “quieter” strength, one that doesn’t seek the world’s attention and approval, but instead manifests itself in acts of humility, sacrifice and loving kindness when no one is looking.

While I did not know her, and was made aware of her only recently through a friend, I get the sense that Colleen Ritzer – a Massachusetts native and high school math teacher whose life was tragically and mercilessly stolen from her at the age of 24 – was one of these people.

Described in this Boston Globe article as “a paragon of caring” who was “lighthearted, kind, and genuinely nice” and in this CNN article as a “dynamic and brilliant ray of light”, a “young caring girl” who was “energetic and compassionate” and “extremely approachable”, and again in this Huffington Post piece as a “very, very respected, loved teacher” and “gentle, with a big smile,” the impact Colleen has had on her friends, family, students and strangers is certainly palpable.

Colleen Ritzer legacy
Colleen Ritzer and her best friend, Jennifer Berger; Summer 2013

“I really do believe the reason why so many have connected to Colleen since her passing is because she was simply good to people in an effortless way,” says Jennifer Berger, a close friend of Colleen’s since kindergarten. “For example, she’d always greet you with a big smile, or let you know she was thinking about you by sending a card when there was no occasion.”

She added: “Colleen was a genuine person who cared about people and was always thinking of others…she valued her family and friends to the utmost [and] was an amazing role model.”

On October 22nd, marking the two-year anniversary of Colleen’s death, Ms. Berger is organizing a “Kindness Campaign”, asking people to perform acts of kindness and share them online using the hashtag #Kindness4Colleen, to help honor her legacy and the values by which she lived.

“The goal of the #Kindness4Colleen campaign is to turn the day that will always be sad, the day we lost Colleen, and try to make it a little better,” she says. “I have always wanted to find a way to honor Colleen’s legacy and I couldn’t think of anything better than asking people to spread kindness in her name.”

While there are certainly many different ways of exhibiting kindness – from smiling at a stranger to helping an elderly person cross the street – Ms. Berger says that, to her, being kind is thinking beyond yourself and being considerate of others.

“Kindness can be big or small and sometimes it’s the little things that can have the greatest impact,” she says. “From a really young age, Colleen and I learned to treat others as you would like to be treated,” she continued. “Colleen was the epitome of that and more.”

In fact, a favorite quote of Colleen’s, attributed to Taylor Swift, comes from her teacher twitter account, which she regularly used to connect with her students, posting homework assignments along with inspirational messages: “No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”

That Colleen practiced such goodness in her own life, thereby creating a lasting impression and “wonderful legacy”, is evident in the campaign that Ms. Berger is organizing – and serves as further proof that kindness carries with it a quiet strength and power that can trump all else.

As seekers of all things good, it is my hope you’ll join us on October 22nd in honoring Colleen’s legacy by spreading kindness and sharing it on the campaign’s Facebook and Twitter pages with the hashtag #Kindness4Colleen.

After all, as Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.”

You can read more about Colleen’s legacy and the #Kindness4Colleen campaign on the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund’s website.

This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post.

Life Wisdom For The Places You’ll Go

Be sure to also check out our message for this year’s college graduates on our Rose’s Ridge page.

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:

  1. 8,789 words of wisdomAlways make your bed*
  2. Doing is better than saying
  3. Respond to rudeness with kindness
  4. Sometimes things that hurt, teach
  5. Always look people in the eye when you talk to them
  6. Require more from yourself than from others
  7. Let some things remain a mystery
  8. Every day, look up one new word in the dictionary
  9. Admit to your mistakes
  10. Stick with your family
  11. Learn how to prepare at least five meals expertly
  12. 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:

  1. Proofread carefully everything that goes out under your signature
  2. Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success and Happiness To get someone’s attention, ask for their opinion
  3. When you meet people that you admire, ask them the titles of the books they’re currently reading
  4. Kind words and good deeds are eternal. You never know where their influence will end.
  5. It’s okay to be content with what you have, but never with what you are
  6. A strong code of ethics is as reliable as a compass
  7. In every face-to-face encounter, regardless of how brief, we leave something behind
  8. 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.
  9. Don’t be so casual in dress, language and manner that people don’t take you seriously.
  10. Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.
  11. Remember that every thing of great value has been paid for by blood, sweat, or tears or all three
  12. 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.”

The Little Big Book of Life quotesFrom Eleanor Roosevelt:

  • “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.”

Steve jobs quotesFrom The Wisdom of Steve Jobs (2012)

  • “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)

On Bullshit book by Harry FrankfurtIn the elder days of art

Builders wrought with greater care

Each minute and unseen part,

For the Gods are everywhere
– Longfellow

  • “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

Four Years Wiser, A Message For This Year’s Graduates

college graduation speechesA little over four years ago, in one of my last articles for Holy Cross’ student newspaper, The Crusader, I offered a reflection – a “graduation message”, if you will – for my fellow Crusaders, the class of 2011.*

Inspired by graduation season, I recently reread it and was reminded of how much my life has changed since then. Now four years into the “real” and working world, long gone are the “all-nighters”, the month long vacations and the clearly defined sense of purpose that studying provides.

What remains, however, is a lesson I had learned and shared at the near end of my college experience:

“I have come to learn and to believe that in every met expectation and unforeseen surprise, every accomplishment and failure, in every loss and gain, every victory and defeat, in every mistake and intention, and in every realized dream and unfulfilled hope, there is always a lesson – always an opportunity to learn something about yourself or about life, and always something to take away and remember for the future.

“Sometimes, as I have come to learn, the lesson stares us square in the face, other times it is more obscure and requires a bit more awareness and faith. But, if anything, I have come to learn that it is always there, waiting to be discovered and acknowledged.”

I still believe this to be true. I might add, however, that it is equally important to remember that life is a continual process of growth and discovery – and that the moment we think we have “figured it all out” or learned all our lessons is typically when life will remind us, with a gentle touch or forceful push, that much remains for us to learn.

My friend and I used to joke throughout our four years at Holy Cross that “one day everything will be ok.” It became our secret six-word mantra the two of us shared, helping us to cope with the endless pressure and stress of an intense academic environment, not to mention our sometimes challenging social dilemmas.

Little did we know how mistaken we were – not in our youthful optimistic attitude, but in our naive belief that once we graduated and settled into a job, once we “made it on our own,” all would be right with the world, our fear and anxiety dissipating into eternal contentment.

In fact, it was a little over a year ago while talking on the phone that we laughed at our “six letter phrase” and agreed that while some days can feel like that “aha” moment, there will always be days that leave one feeling troubled and ill at ease.

But, it’s not that I don’t think we can ever find peace, joy or contentment. On the contrary, I think that the realization and acceptance of life as a journey – as something that we can never fully understand, master or even control – may actually be the first important step toward finding those very things.

As easy as it is for us to convince ourselves that “once I get to this point…” or “if only I could…” or “maybe if I do this…” then “everything will be ok”, it is a dangerous, crippling mentality and perpetual cycle of thought that prevents us from fully realizing that happiness is not some outside force that comes to us, but is, rather, something we must create and choose for ourselves.

Our focus, then, should not be on trying to “figure it all out.” It should be on finding ways to be more accepting of the place we are currently in – and looking for lessons that we can call upon for guidance in the future.

There are certainly days (weeks, months, maybe even years) when everything just seems right, when things have fallen into place and are running seamlessly. But, not all days are going to be like that. Nor should we expect them to. And that’s ok.

And so, four years wiser, my message to this year’s graduates is this:

You will likely face, in the coming months and years, a series of circumstances, decisions, questions and doubts that will test your confidence in yourself and those around you.

You will likely be met with challenges you may have expected, and those that you could never have anticipated – and while you will be able to successfully navigate some on your own, others will likely require the guidance and perspective of a loving parent or friend.

You will undoubtedly have moments of success and celebration, moments of failure and discouragement and maybe moments of utter despair.

You may even come to question yourself, your relationship with others and your role in the world around you.

And you will probably spend a good amount of time trying to figure out what exactly you want to do, or should do with your life.

College graduation quotesBut, instead of looking at these as obstacles – as something you have to suffer through in order to be “ok” – relish them. Accept them. Embrace them. And…learn from them. Only then can we realize and accept that we are the arbiters of our life and our contentment, and that everything can be ok right now if we allow it to be.

As the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke – recognized as “one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets” – so eloquently wrote:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Congratulations to all 2015 graduates! Live your questions.

This piece was also published on The Huffington Post.

Be sure to check out our post on our inspirational page, Armour of Light: “Life Wisdom For the Places You’ll Go.”

*As it is no longer available on The Crusader website, please see below to read my full article from May 6, 2011:

The Expected, The Unexpected and Everything In Between:
An Honest Reflection on My Four Years at Mount St. James, With a Special Message for the Class of 2011

Nearly four years ago, I came into my first year of college, as I’m sure many freshmen do, with great expectations, hopes and dreams. Like anyone embarking on a new journey, the fear and uncertainty that I had were dispelled by the prospect of meeting new people, the desire to take advantage of new opportunities, and the excitement, encouragement and hope that comes from being given the chance to have a fresh, new start.

But, although I wish I could say that my expectations, hopes and dreams were met, that everything went according to plan, and that college was what I expected it to be, I would not be painting an accurate picture. Because, the truth is, in my experience, almost nothing went according to plan, college wasn’t anything like I thought it would be, and although I will cherish the fun, exciting and memorable times that I had, I certainly wouldn’t classify these years as the “best four years of my life,” as so many people often do.

Rather, these last four years have been some of the most confusing, chaotic and downright challenging years I have yet to experience, as they have been filled with an endless and unexpected amount of twists and turns, ups and downs, changes and revisions.

In fact, four years ago, if you had told me that I would be a history major, that I would take a leave of absence second semester of my sophomore year, that I would not study abroad in Italy my junior year, and that I would not be marching with the class of 2011 on graduation day, I can confidently say that there is absolutely no way I would have believed you.

As someone who came into college thinking I’d be an English major, then a psychology major, then a religious studies major, history was never something I’d ever considered majoring in – let alone ever really been interested in – until my mother suggested it.

As someone who came into college thinking that I would graduate, like most students, in four years, I was again surprised when I found myself reluctantly packing up my things second semester sophomore year and leaving my classes, friends and RA position behind.

As someone who came into college utterly convinced that I would be spending my junior year abroad in Italy – I had, after all, made sure Holy Cross had a study abroad program in Italy – I was again thrown for a loop when – after having packed a year’s worth of belongings into two 50 pound suitcases, flown across the Atlantic, and spent a week under the hot Italian sun – I returned home in shock after one of the most disastrous experiences of my life, only to realize that I should have listened to my gut in the first place.

And as someone, who like most students, envisions themselves on graduation day receiving their hard-earned diploma in front of their classmates, friends and family, throwing up their hat in joy and relief, I was again surprised to find that this would not be the case – at least not this May.

But, as surprising and unexpected as all these things were, I think what has been most unexpected is the amount of things I have learned in four years. As odd as it might be to hear a college student say she is shocked at how much she has learned, I shamelessly admit that it is true. Because, while I came to college excited to learn, prepared to study and determined to become actively engaged in my academics, what I wasn’t prepared to learn about was life – about the twists and turns, ups and downs, the good the bad, the joys and sorrows – namely, the journey that each one of us is on.

So, while I have spent four years in a rigorous and stimulating academic environment – reading, writing, researching and learning more than I knew there was to learn – I think what I have learned most is that, in life, there is always something to learn and always something to gain from each and every experience and circumstance we find ourselves in.

In other words, I have come to learn and to believe that in every met expectation and unforeseen surprise, every accomplishment and failure, in every loss and gain, every victory and defeat, in every mistake and intention, and in every realized dream and unfulfilled hope, there is always a lesson – always an opportunity to learn something about yourself or about life, and always something to take away and remember for the future.

Sometimes, as I have come to learn, the lesson stares us square in the face, other times it is more obscure and requires a bit more awareness and faith. But, if anything, I have come to learn that it is always there, waiting to be discovered and acknowledged.

So, before I end my last article of the semester, I want to offer you – especially you seniors – a few words by Nelson Mandela that I believe are both insightful and appropriate given the four years you have spent here and the many years you have in front of you:

“I have walked that long road to freedom, I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way, but I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger; for my long walk is not yet ended.”

To each member of the graduating class of 2011, I wish you peace, joy and happiness in all that you choose to do. May you take the time you deserve to celebrate your achievements, reflect on your experience, and rest your head before continuing the next phase in your own, unique journey. May each of you “go forth and set the world on fire,” always remembering to be “men and women for others” and never forgetting to look for the lesson in each experience and circumstance you face.

But, perhaps more importantly, and put a bit more simply, as Garrison Keillor says on “The Writer’s Almanac,”: “Be well. Do good work. And keep in touch.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of all mothers and in celebration of Mother’s Day, All Things Good (ATG) shares below a sampling of words used to describe mothers and motherly advice or wisdom recalled by daughters and sons in their very own words.

Do you agree that mothers matter? Comment below or share this with your mom and tag us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ATGmothers.

Laura O. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Patient
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Make it a great day!” My mother said this to us before we went to school every day growing up, and now she sends me a text in the mornings, “MIAGD!” for short.

Michelle O. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Resilient
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: My mom has given me lots of good advice, but one of my favorites is, “Go get a shower. You’ll feel better.” It’s so simple, but I’ve always found it to be true. Doesn’t even have to be a long shower – just 5 minutes under the water is enough to clear your head.

Jessica L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Don’t give up just because it’s hard!”

Ida L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Concerned
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “If you fail, always try again. Everything will always work itself out. ” 

Julia says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Tenacious
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: Speak up. Take some deep breaths if you have to. You’re not going to barf. You’re louder than you think you are.”

Brittany V. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Inspirational
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Tomorrow is always a new day.” Whenever things get a little clouded, or just aren’t going the way they should, she always reminds me to breath because tomorrow is a new day, and everything will be okay.

Glee C. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Nurturing (and entertaining)
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: If it’s homemade, it’s healthy.”

Garrett P. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “No matter who you are with or where you’re at in life, never be someone that you’re not…ALWAYS just be yourself.” 

Steph D. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: I will never forget when she said this to me: “Anytime you do something wrong, God will tell me” (this is when I got busted for drinking beer in high school – and to this day, I still don’t know how she found out!)

Abby L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Honest
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: My mom always taught me to be authentic and true. Being a genuine human being and speaking the truth is something she still makes sure we have ringing in our minds to this day!

Sarah F. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Listen to your body and trust your gut.” She would always tell me, “You know when something isn’t right.” And to this day, it is so true.

Kasey H. says:

  • The one word I think of when I think of my mother is: Proud
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “You should never need a man, but you can want one.” It’s a good lesson because, as a single mama, she has showed that she can do a lot without a man and can even take on male dominated parts of life, proving herself competent in them.

Mother's Words of WisdomSisters Madeline & Sarah M. say:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Rise above it”, meaning that whatever comes your way that might be negative, always be the bigger person and rise above it. We like it because you shouldn’t carry a grudge or something negative around when you have so many new life journeys ahead of you.

Hannah H. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Grace
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Follow the Lord, learn to forgive and take an interest in others”

Katherine G. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Pioneer (which is funny because her idea of camping is going to a cabin in the woods with electricity and running water. But, she has certainly forged her way in a legal career that has opened doors for other women to do the same).
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “You come from a strong line of women” (and then she makes reference to my great-grandmother leaving her family and coming over from Ireland and my grandmother leaving the city, getting on a train to become a librarian in a small town and then raising 5 children. It often makes training for 100 mile mountain bike races seem trivial!)

Madeline H. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Independent
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: She has always emphasized how important it is to be able to take care of yourself and not rely on others, especially a man.

Emily S. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Hilarious
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Keep your options open by making sure you’re always at least vaguely interested in five guys (minimum) at once.” I hate to invoke a cliché, but my mom really is one of my best friends. We’re well past the turbulent teenage years, but she is still waiting for my rebellious phase to kick in because we just sort of always got along. Maybe because, as she often says, “I’m very sorry about it, but it turns out we’re the same person.”

Parker R. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Loving
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Your family is the most important part of your life.”

Christina K. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Energizer-bunny
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Those who are granted much are expected much.”

Kassidy T. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Perceptive
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: Her best advice, which was instilled in my brother and I through her example, is to treat all people with kindness and consideration (especially those who are the most challenging, because they may need it most). Also, “everything’s fine in moderation”— she’s an aerobics instructor so she preaches the importance of healthy habits, but health doesn’t mean completely sacrificing chocolate or cocktails!

Casey B. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Loving someone means you take the good with the bad…but it’s also important to know when the bad is outweighing the good in someone.” I think this is the advice that I’ve come back to over and over again as an adult throughout relationship struggles…I’ve had to learn how to accept other people’s flaws as part of them and knowing that – that nobody’s perfect, but that I can love them anyways – is probably the best advice I’ve gotten as an adult. My mom is the person who’s been there helping me along every step of the way, learning forgiveness and acceptance, while at the same time being the first person to say “he’s not giving you the respect you deserve, it’s time to walk away from that.”

Chris S. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Tireless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Always work hard”

Doug R. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Giver. My mom is the ultimate giver.

Kendell J. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Resilient. My mom is the strongest lady I know! (ATG note: Her strength has clearly been passed on to Kendell, who recently opened an immigration law firm in Boston, MA: Johnson & Fyten Law Offices, LLP).


  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Giving (and supportive)
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “The more people you know, the better off you are in life.”


  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Crazy
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

Be sure to also check out our delicious recipes for a Mother’s Day brunch and a reflection on why mothers are so important. See also one mother’s influence on her son.

Quotes to Add a Little ‘Spring’ to Your Step

Happy Spring and Happy Birthday to the late Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ! Below are ATG’s pick of the 10 most inspirational quotes of Mister Rogers found in the book, Life’s Journey According to Mister Rogers.

inspirational quotes

1. “’Someone else’s action should not determine your response.’ It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet what if someone else’s action should be shouting angry words at us or hitting us with a rotten tomato? That doesn’t affect what we do in response? Not if our compassion is genuine. Not if our love is the kind the Dalai Lama advocates.”

2. “’The outside is never as much as the inside…’ As you may know by now, that’s one of the major themes of our work: The invisible essential. Oh, the outsides of life are important, but the insides are what enhance so much of the rest.”

3. “Anyone who has ever been able to sustain good work has had at least one person – and often many – who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.”

4. “The root of all our lives go very, very deep, and we can’t really understand a person unless we have the chance of knowing who that person has been, and what that person has done and liked and suffered and believed.”

5. “Caring comes from the Gothic word kara, which means “to lament.” So caring is not what a powerful person gives to a weaker one. Caring is a matter of being there…lamenting right along with the one who laments.”

inspirational quotes
Keukenhof Gardens, located in Holland, the Netherlands: www.keukenhof.nl

6. “All we’re ever asked to do in this life is to treat our neighbors – especially our neighbor who is in need – exactly as we would hope to be treated ourselves. That’s our ultimate responsibility.”

7. “It may be that the most important mastery we achieve early on is not the mastery of a particular skill or particular piece of knowledge, but rather the mastery of the patience and persistence that learning requires, along with the ability to expect and accept mistakes and the feelings of disappointment they may bring.”

8. “The media shows the tiniest percentage of what people do. There are millions and millions of people doing wonderful things all over the world, and they’re generally not the ones being touted in the news.”

9. “Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.”

10. “There are three ways to ultimate success: the first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

Read also a reflection on Mister Rogers’ life, wisdom and teachings.