In 1984, Dr. Seuss won an award for his contribution to children’s literature.
In his years as a cartoonist and children’s writer, Theodor Seuss Geisel created some of the world’s most famous books and illustrations, includingGreen Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Cat, and The Lorax.
We can study Dr. Seuss’s successful children’s books to become more productive, feel more motivated, and live a rich life. But the “Father of Children’s Books” also has plenty to teach us about the importance of reading, believing in yourself, and doing the work.
Let’s look at some things Dr. Seuss used to say, and see what we can learn from each one of them.
1. On being yourself
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
Don’t try to be someone else. No one can smile, laugh or talk like you. You have a unique voice. Use it.
As Dr. Seuss points out:
Why fit in when you were born to stand out?
It’s scary to stand out, but that’s why you must do it. If you’re looking for inspiration, turn to this much-loved quote:
Say what you feel, and do what you say. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
2. On choosing your own direction in life
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go…
Life is full of choices. Do you choose where to go or do you let someone else decide for you?
You’re off to great places! Today is your today. Your mountain is waiting, so you get on your way!
Take that first step. Whatever you do, don’t stand still. Dr. Seuss warns us about a universal law called inertia. This means that things keep doing what they’re doing. So, if you’re standing still, you’re likely to stay still. But if you’re moving forward, you’re more likely to keep moving forward.
So, what are you waiting for? Get on your way!
3. On making the world a better place
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
If you want a better world, you have to care. You must take responsibility and speak up. Issues like global warming, poverty, racism, domestic violence, sexual discrimination, among many others, are not going to get any better unless you take action.
A person’s a person, no matter how small.
Everyone matters and deserves to be seen. We must never forget to respect each other’s differences.
4. On love, friendship and joy
We’re all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone who’s weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness call it love.
You know you’re lucky when you’ve met someone who embraces your weirdness and loves you anyway. The same holds true for your friends. Where can you find your fellow weirdos? Hang out with them, and treasure each other’s imperfections. They can be hard to find, but they’re well worth the wait.
5. On reading and learning
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
Reading books offers you more ways to look at life. It adds depth and color to the most unlikely places. Knowledge is a very powerful weapon indeed, so make the most of it. Read more books! You never know where it will take you.
It’s better to know how to learn than to know.
This is a hidden gem from Dr. Seuss. How do you prefer to learn? Don’t underestimate this question; your learning preferences can seriously improve the quality of your life .
For example, consider if you’re:
- A visual learner (you prefer mind maps, texts, and images)
- An audio learner (you prefer listening to podcasts and lectures)
- A kinesthetic learner (you prefer to do things)
Think about which learning style you prefer. Follow Dr. Seuss’s advice and figure out how you learn best because that’s more valuable than what you already know.
6. On procrastination and being stuck
Everything stinks till it’s finished.
Ever wonder why you never finish that book, set up that blog, or take time to sit down and meditate?
Our most important work is always the hardest. We fear our own potential and we feel the resistance. Procrastination kicks in and tries to trick us. “You don’t have to finish the book today,” it tells us. “You can do it tomorrow!” (Notice how it’s not telling us that we can’t do it, but it’s simply suggesting that we can do it another day.)
Fortunately, Dr. Seuss gives us a nudge of his wisdom on how to battle procrastination and many other pressing problems when he writes:
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
So, what’s the answer to the complicated question: “How can I overcome procrastination?” The answer is to sit down and get started. Simple does not mean easy.
But if you are determined to show up and do the work, then you will come through. Sure, you will encounter troubles along the way. As Dr. Seuss points out:
I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
7. On imagination and the creative process
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.
I like nonsense too. In fact, I get most of my ideas from it. But why is our imagination such a powerful tool? It’s because it lets us play with our thoughts, and try different angles.
We often take our ideas too seriously. We believe they must be perfect before we can do something about them. Indeed, it’s usually the other way around. It’s the work that refines the idea. Throw in a little nonsense and you’re more likely to find a way out.
Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try!
Creative people make connections others do not. You know that connect-the-dots drawing game you used to play as a a kid? There was always someone who shouted out the answer before the drawing was finished. These moments could be annoying, but also very telling. Creative people can spot the whole picture before everyone else.
Life is like a big connect-the-dots game. What can you see that others miss? Show us. We want to see too.
8. On success
And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.
If you work hard, you’re more likely to achieve success. But there’s always a slim chance (one and a quarter, to be exact) that you won’t. Success, just like happiness, is a by-product of your efforts. In other words, no one can guarantee you success.
But sometimes success can happen too fast. We might not feel ready for it. If that’s you, then remember these wise words from Dr. Seuss:
If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew. Just go right along and you’ll start happening too.
9. On life balance
Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
You don’t have much time and everyone is battling for your attention. These resources come in strict supply, which is why you must learn to set your priorities. This is not always an easy task, but you can begin by saying no to activities that don’t add much value to your life. Who is worthy of your time and attention? Make an effort to spend more time with them, but please don’t forget to take time for yourself.
Life is a great balancing act indeed!
10. On appreciation and gratitude
From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.
It’s easy to forget the smaller things in life. But Dr. Seuss reminds us that there are lessons to be learned and people to be grateful for on every step of the way. Funny things are everywhere, so keep your eyes open!
11. On making the most of your future and embracing your inner child
Only you can control your future.
This is one of Dr. Seuss’s most important life lessons. We can choose our response in any set of circumstances, and that’s what shapes us. How we choose to live our life is up to us. We can’t blame others for our mistakes. Indeed, we must stop comparing ourselves to others all the time.
His books encourage us to explore the world, have fun trying new things, and make new friends. But above all, he wants us to wake up to the child that’s living inside of us. As he points out:
Adults are obsolete children.
Embrace your inner child. You can learn a lot from her, if only you give her the chance. Listen to your childhood dreams and aspirations. It’s never too late to act. Whether you’re young or old, sick or healthy, remember this inspirational quote from Dr. Seuss:
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
Dr. Seuss’s legacy
Dr. Seuss’s work continues to inspire us, and his world-famous books live on. But some of Dr. Seuss’s most important life lessons are about perseverance, showing up and doing the work, and ultimately, finding the courage to be yourself.