Yesterday, I came across a little book that I have had for years (almost 20 years) entitled: The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned in Life. It is a book compiled of quotes from notable and everyday people alike on just that…what they felt was the most important thing they learned in life. The most intriguing part of this compilation is that a sixteen year old young man named Beau Bauman created it. He started this project at the tender age of thirteen. I am delighted that he was able to follow through on this wonderful project during the most active years in a teenagers life. (He could have easily put it aside to do a number of other activities that young boys do.)
When Bauman started this project, he collected mailing addresses of a wide diversity of notable people such as Stephen Hawking, Phyllis Diller, Arnold Palmer, and Mother Teresa. He plunged right into this project with youthful optimism. You got to love his Chutzpah (courage and enthusiasm). Most of the responses came via postal mail, with a few face-to-face and phone responses, which is not surprising given that he did this project back in 1993. If he did this today, he would have been facilitated by the internet.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes to the question, “What is the most important thing you’ve learned in life?“:
“What I have learned from life is to make the most of what you have got.” ~ Stephen Hawking, professor of mathematics, physicist, and author; University of Cambridge; England
“The cheapest gift I have to give is kindness, and it is the best.” ~ Bob Kerry, Senator from Nebraska
“Believe you can do anything you want to do if you work hard enough to achieve it. If you believe in yourself so will others.” ~ Graham Green, First Secretary to the Ambassador of Canada
“Happiness is not a string of miscellaneous adventures or experiences but an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~ Francesca Reigler, artist
“The purpose of lie is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them. “ ~ Rabbi Harold Kushner
“Never be afraid to ask a question, especially of yourself – discovery is the mission of life.” ~ Brian Kates, author, journalist
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. It may mean giving up of familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, relationships that have lost their meaning. As Dostoevsky put it, ‘taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.’ The real fear should be the opposite course.” ~ Gail Sheehy, author
“Spending time with my family; watching my children grow up. Try t make the world a better place; be part of the solution not the problem. Have your work help others. Study–learn–grow.” ~ Ted Turner, founder of CNN and TBS
“If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think that you dare not, you don’t;
If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t,
It’s almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost;
For out in the world; you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will–
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.”
~ Unattributed poem submitted by Arnold Palmer, professional golfer
“The most important thing that I have learned early in life is to know God loves me and to love others as He loves me. “ ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Today, my response to this young man would be: The most important thing I’ve learned in life is: Love comes in many forms, the less conditional it is the more blissful you feel. Furthermore, the gift of love has to be given without strings attached, no expectations. Only in this way will you feel blissful, tranquil and content.
Back in 1993, when Bauman compiled his quotes, I was nearly as young as he was. My answer most assuredly would have been different; but, maybe not hugely different. I had just finished college and was starting my career. I most likely would have responded on the topic of patience, courage and perseverance. Life will give you what you give it. The more you put into anything, the more you get out of it; however, that line of thinking implies expectation.
It is better to pursue your dreams with passion and love, but without expectation. Simply said, enjoy the moment, savor the journey and delight in the process. How would I answer Bauman’s question tomorrow or next year, I have no idea because as I experience life, I learn new lessons. Perhaps there really is not one most important thing to learn in life. Life’s lessons are ongoing; they accumulate and bring us wisdom to our next experience.
My question to all my readers, “What is the most important thing you’ve learned in life?” and let me add, “has it changed from yesteryear or even yesterday? Will it be different tomorrow?” Also, “what advice would you give to your younger self if you were ever given the opportunity to travel back in time?”