Look, life isn't all laughs. Sometimes you find yourself in need of some inspiration, and perhaps a reminder about what's important in life. The items on this page serve that purpose for me.
Thich Nhat Hanh says:
Life is precious as it is.
All the elements
for your happiness
are already here.
There is no need
to run, to strive, search or struggle.
If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably does not lead anywhere. (Frank A. Clark)
A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received. (Albert Einstein)
Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many--not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. (Charles Dickens)
The most infectiously joyous people are those who forget themselves in thinking about others and serving others. (Robert J. McCracken)
It is a simple formula; do your best and somebody might like it. (Dorothy Baker)
Live out of your imagination, not your history. (Stephen R. Covey)
The Farmer and His Corn
James Bender, in his book How to Talk Well (McGraw-Hill, 1994), relates the story of a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. "How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked. "Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn." He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves. So it is in other dimensions. Those who choose to be at peace must help their neighbors to be at peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all. The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.
The Harm is Taken Away
Take away your opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint, "I have been harmed." Take away the complaint, "I have been harmed," and the harm is taken away. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)
Thoughts to Ponder
"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." (Pericles)
"The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree I planted." (George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron)
"To escape criticism--do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)
"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength." (Eric Hoffer)
"Endurance is frequently a form of indecision." (Princess Elizabeth Bibesco)
"The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities." (Sophocles)
"You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within." (Bob Nelson)
"To think is to say no." (Emile Auguste Chartier)
"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." (Sir Francis Bacon)
"A wise man knows everything; a shrewd man, everyone." (Anonymous)
"All our final resolutions are made in a state of mind which is not going to last." (Marcel Proust)
"The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything." (Johann Wolfgang van Goethe)
"The mind's direction is more important than its progress." (Joseph Joubert)
Thoughts on Generosity
"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." (John Wesley)
"No person has ever been honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." (Calvin Coolidge)
"We get to make a living; we give to make a life." (Winston Churchill)
"To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it." (Mother Teresa)
"We should give as we would receive; cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation, for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers." (Seneca)
"We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone." (Loretta Scott)
"Sharing what you have is more important than what you have." (Albert M. Wells, Jr.)
"The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it." (W. M. Lewis)
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." (Buddha)
"We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest." (Orison Swett Marden)
"He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much." (Lao-Tzu)
"One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (The Bible, Proverbs)
"He who bestows his goods upon the poor shall have as much again, and 10 times more." (John Bunyan)
"Giving opens the way for receiving." (Florence Scovel Shinn)
Persian proverb: "When the heart is willing you'll find a thousand ways, and when it's unwilling it will find a thousand excuses."
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Generosity of Time
With a timid voice and idolizing eyes, the little boy greeted his father as he returned from work, "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?" Greatly surprised, but giving his boy a glaring look, the father said: "Look, son, not even your mother knows that. Don't bother me now, I'm tired." "But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour, " the boy insisted. The father, finally giving up, replied: "Twenty dollars per hour." "Okay, Daddy? Could you loan me ten dollars?" the boy asked. Showing his restlessness and positively disturbed, the father yelled: "So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Go to sleep and don't bother me anymore!" It was already dark and the father was meditating on what he said and was feeling guilty? Maybe he thought, his son wanted to buy something. Finally, trying to ease his mind, the father went to his son's room. "Are you asleep, son?" asked the father. "No, Daddy. Why?" replied the boy, partially asleep. "Here's the money you asked for earlier," the father said. "Thanks, Daddy!" rejoiced the son, while putting his hand under his pillow and removing some money. "Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!" the boy said to his father, who was gazing at his son, confused at what his son had just said. "Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?" Time is too precious to spend it all on work. Appreciate your love ones and don't take them for granted.
I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress, it alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there's no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream to extreme, no challenge too great.
But What Then?
An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, "Only a little while, senor." The American then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor." The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise." The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?" To which the American replied, "Fifteeen to twenty years." "But what then, senor?" The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions." "Millions, senor? Then what?" The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet. To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of things and make your dreams come true. To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best. To be just as happy about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater things of the future. To wear a cheerful smile at all times. To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
The House We Build
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career. When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you." What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well. So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized, we would have done it differently. Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity. The plaque on the wall says, "Life is a do-it-yourself project." Who could say it more clearly? Your life today is the result of your attitudes and choices in the past. Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today.
Everyone needs a tree like this one. I hired a plumber to help me restore an old farmhouse, and after he had just finished a rough first day on the job, a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric drill quit and his ancient one ton truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with his hands. When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss. Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier. Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied. "I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, those troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then, in the morning, I pick them up again. Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."
Love the Journey
The following is the commencement speech given by Anna Quindlen to graduates at Villanova.
It's a great honor for me to be the third member of my family to receive an honorary doctorate from this great university.
It's an honor to follow my great Uncle Jim, who was a gifted physician, and my Uncle Jack, who is a remarkable businessman. Both of them could have told you something important about their professions, about medicine or commerce.
I have no specialized field of interest or expertise, which puts me at a disadvantage talking to you today. I'm a novelist.
My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.
Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for re-election because he had been diagnosed with cancer: "No man ever said on his deathbed, 'I wish I had
spent more time at the office.'"
Don't ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat."
Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account but your soul.
People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good.
Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say.
I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch.
I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So here's what I wanted to tell you today...
Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red tailed hawk circles over the water or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter.
Get a life in which you are generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well will never be enough.
It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of our kids' eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again.
It is so easy to exist instead of to live.
I learned to live many years ago. Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all...
I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.
I learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned.
By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face.
Learn to be happy.
And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived.
May your life be like toilet paper...long and useful.
The Mayo Jar
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous yes. The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. "Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important thingsyour family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passionsthings that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything elsethe small stuff." "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18. There will always be time for me to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls firstthe things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
Charles Schultz's Philosophy
The following is the philosophy of the late Charles Schultz, creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the list straight through,and you'll get the point.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.
"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow
in Australia." (Charles Schultz)