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11 Important Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss

11 Important Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss
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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, including Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Cat, and The Lorax.

As lifehackers, we can learn a lot from the legendary Dr. Seuss. He was, after all, one of the pioneers of clever storytelling that didn’t insult the intelligence of children. For example, consider How the Grinch Stole Christmas!—an early criticism of commercialization—from 1957.

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.

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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.

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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.

Who are your childhood heroes? How has Dr. Seuss inspired you to be yourself and follow your dreams? Please let us know in the comments.

Are you in the mood for some more inspirational life lessons today? Check out 11 Life Lessons from Albert Einstein

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Featured photo credit: Universal Studios California/davebloggs007 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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