11 Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss
I remember my first encounter with Dr. Seuss’ books. We had just moved in from Venezuela, I was in the second grade, and my dad and I would have reading sessions with The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Are You My Mother? (Amongst many others.) This last one wasn’t written by Dr. Seuss, though, and yet it feels so much like him. This is because they’re all ‘Beginner Books’, and that’s the amazing legacy that Theodore Seuss Geisel left us.
Along with Phyllis Cerf, he co-founded this Random House imprint, so that young children could feel encouraged to read and be engaged in their reading (and I can personally certify that it works).
I wanted to make this list in the most organic way possible, so I went through all of the books written by Dr. Seuss, in order to extract his very best quotes, the ones that, in my opinion, are still relevant during adulthood. And so, during my trip to Seuss Land, not only did I find myself enjoying the reading once again, but I also relearned these very important life lessons:
1) “Think left and think right, and think low and think high. Oh, the Thinks you can think up if only you try!”
My take on this is: dare to think differently, not only from everyone else, but also from yourself. Challenge your own beliefs. Don’t be afraid to be wrong (thinking left), because you will learn from your mistakes (thinking right); and allow yourself to think unimportant stuff, even silly stuff (thinking low), because that’ll give your mind some room to breathe and get on the relevant, high thoughts that it can most certainly think!
2) “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
We all know that reading is good — reading will make you not only smarter, but more knowledgeable too. But why is it that being well-read is so important? Why should we always be seeking to know more? Because whatever it is that you’re knowing more of, it will open another door for you, and doors take you places (not just physical places, but mental and emotional ones, too).
3) “If you read with your eyes shut, you’re likely to find that the place where you’re going is far, far behind.”
Meaning that opportunities might pass when we’re not really paying attention, or when, in spite of receiving a significant invitation to action or to a positive change of direction, we remain still. Inertia, specifically conceptual inertia, is a very common, yet dangerous occurrence amongst human beings. We should be on the lookout for any sign of it, and resist it when possible. Remaining open-minded, flexible and open to change, will always broaden your possibilities.
4) “If you never did, you should.”
This is basic advice on trying new things. Because, for the most part, it’s the things that we really want to do that scare us the most. They’re scary because we unavoidably have expectations towards them, and we wonder how deep they will resonate in our soul. These experiences are always outside of our comfort zone, and yes, it is awfully terrifying every time we have to get out of it. But… “If you never did, you should”.
5) “Think! Think and wonder. Wonder and think.”
This is an invitation to being curious. Wondering about stuff leads you to finding answers and knowing about things. Every time you find yourself not knowing the answer to something, look it up! Don’t ever settle for mediocrity.
6) “If you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you will learn! The most wonderful stuff!”
This is an affirmation on how important it is to be present. And this applies even more today, because of all the technological devices that are constantly taking our attention away from everything else that’s going on around us. I would say, not only keep your eyes open, but also look up: be there.
7) “You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may.”
He was talking about the green eggs and ham dish, but this applies to everything. And I like to think that this is especially meant for human relationships, because more often than not we are too hasty in making judgements of character, when we should really be giving the unknown a chance. Try people out before you decide you don’t like them. You may be pleasantly surprised.
8) “No one dreams about waiting. But happen, it will. And when I am waiting, I’ll be standing still.”
While the author is talking about all the places one will go, he also brings up “The Waiting Place”, giving us a very important lesson on patience. As this quote states, no one likes waiting, and it’s not a part of our plans that we necessarily take into account, either; but it will undoubtedly happen every now and then, and when it does, remaining calm will make a huge difference. It’s not good to rush or force things, so let everything take its natural course. This doesn’t mean that you should never act on anything; the key lies in recognizing your cues.
9) “Wherever I fly, I’ll be the best of the best. Wherever I go, I will top all the rest. Except when I don’t. Because, sometimes, I won’t.”
This is probably one of my favorite quotes, because it is so real, and yet still so hopeful. It encourages dreams while providing a reality check and asking that you’re not too hard on yourself. Smoothly pulling your feet back to the earth, it’s a subtle preparation for adulthood, and a gentle reminder for adults. On the one hand, you have the set goal of being amazing at whatever it is that you do; on the other, you come to terms with the fact that you won’t always be the best, and that’s okay, too.
10) “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
We’re always complaining about everything that’s going wrong in the world. And why wouldn’t we? We’re good people, we care, and awful things make us feel bad. But feeling bad won’t get us anywhere, it’s literally got no use, unless we put that energy towards helping fix the problem(s) that afflict us. Because, if we don’t act, why would others? If we, who are inside our heads and know how much we care, do nothing, then what can we expect from the rest of the world? The difference between caring and caring a whole awful lot lies in what we do about it.
11) “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”
The potential in everything is what ultimately defines it. A caterpillar is not yet a butterfly, a seed is not yet a tree, the blank piece of paper in front of you is not yet a book… But that’s what they are meant to be, and what they are on their way to being, unless otherwise somehow blocked. We human beings have made something out of this world, we have molded it, but we have also not let it fully be, because we take away from it every time we come in the way of something growing to its full potential. Basically, there’s virtually another world that exists in a universe where human beings are kind to its planet earth. So think about the potential in you.