Life lessons I learned from Mister Rogers

Mister Rogers bookFred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers, is one of my heroes. He was gentle before gentle was cool. Growing up I watched his show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” As a working professional, I read his book “The World According to Mister Roger: Important Things to Remember.” Today, I still use lessons I learned from Fred Rogers quite often both in my personal and my professional life.

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”

One of my favorite sayings is we have two ears and one mouth for a reason—to listen more and talk less. In fact, Brian Tracy in “No Excuses: the Power of Self-Discipline” tells us that we should listen as though the other person is about to reveal a great secret or the winning lottery number that you will only hear once. And, since you always pay attention to what you most value, by listening closely, you are nonverbally “telling” that person that they are of great value to you.

This doesn’t need to happen only at home or your personal life. In business, you need to always be listening – to customers, to advisors, to investors, and to your team members. When you do talk, concentrate on making it effective. You don’t have the time to have things repeated to you four times before you really hear and understand them. Make it count.

“The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they’re doing, and they love it in front of others.”

This I love. Love what you do and show that to others and that passion will shine through in your work. I like to tell the folks I work with, we’re in this together and we see each other sometimes more hours per week than we see our immediate families – let’s be sure we’re working in a positive, fun, meaningful environment. I’m lucky because I truly love what I do. My mom always reminded me that money is not a consequence of happiness and happiness is not a consequence of money; loving what you do is the key to life-long happiness. (Mister Rogers and my mom were geniuses, I swear it!)

“This is the flat car. I guess it’s called that because it’s flat.”

I remember this statement when I get stuck in analysis paralysis. Sometimes we can over-think things searching for the perfect decision or truth about something. But not everything needs to be questioned, referred, or quoted. And fancy language can only make it harder to see the decision that needs to be made. It’s a flat car, not a tabular, procumbent, planate, or decumbent one. Instead, a just call it like you see it and decide, especially since there might not be a “right” decision. In fact, the U.S. Marine Corps teaches the 80% decision rule to its commissioned officer leaders: Acting decisively with an 80% solution is better than waiting until you have that enough information to make a “perfect” decision.

“You always make it a special day for me. You know how, don’t you? By just your being you. Whether you’re in kindergarten, or third grade, or no grade at all, or ANY grade at all, I like you just the way you are.”

If you Google “I like you just the way you are” you will get nearly 4.1 billion choices—many of them lyrics from artists like Bridget Jones, Billy Joel, Timbaland and Bruno Mars. Of course, Mister Rogers shows up on this list too – and no doubt he should, since he charged the path for people to realize, “yes, I can like you just the way you are, and yes, I can like me, just the way I am.” This is a great reminder for everyone, especially in this day and age.

Mister RogersWe’re surrounded with images that have been PhotoShopped to the point of not being real. We can wear so many different hats that it’s sometimes hard to stop and remember that it’s okay to be you. So accept yourself for your strengths and your weaknesses. Own it.

As my hero Mister Rogers says “Don’t ever give up on yourself or your dreams. You’re worthwhile, and always will be, no matter what. Just remember to always be who you are, because that person is very special. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.” I don’t think we tell ourselves, and others, these wise words often enough.

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