Authors: Dan Gediman,Mary Jo Gediman,John Gregory
Previous books published by John Wiley & Sons in the
This I Believe
series, edited by Dan Gediman, John Gregory, and Mary Jo Gediman:
This I Believe: On Love
This I Believe: On Fatherhood
Copyright Â© 2011 by This I Believe, Inc. All rights reserved.
This I Believe
is a registered trademark of This I Believe, Inc.
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Published simultaneously in Canada
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
This I believe : life lessons / edited by Dan Gediman with Mary Jo Gediman and John Gregory.â1st ed.
ISBN 978-1-118-07454-1 (cloth : alk. paper); ISBN 978-1-118-09740-3 (ebk);
ISBN 978-1-118-09742-7 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-118-09743-4 (ebk)
1. Life. 2. Conduct of life. I. Gediman, Dan. II. Gediman, Mary Jo. III. Gregory, John, 1964-
To Margot Trevor Wheelock, who was responsible for
This I Believe
In the early 1950s, prominent American newsman Edward R. Murrow and three colleagues came up with a novel idea: to ask individuals to write their own personal credo, a story of the rules by which they lived, in six hundred words or less. Then they asked each person to share that philosophy for living by reading his or her essay aloud on national radio. The reason was simple: at a time of uncertainty about the future, when matters of belief divided our country and the world, Murrow felt that broadcasting a daily personal reflection on one's guiding principles would help listeners find answers to their own questions about living.
At its foundation, writing a
This I Believe
essay is about declaring one's own personal philosophy of life by telling a story about how those beliefs were formed. When people strip down their beliefs to their core principles, they might find that the longest-lasting beliefs are those based on a moment when something they have learned stays with them forever.
A life lesson is one of those defining momentsâa moment that teaches us something that we remember and carry forward. A life lesson, and the story behind it, is something we feel has altered us, great or slight, and after that moment we are changed. A simple observation becomes a beacon that offers guidance, direction, or meaningâand a foundation for living.
The world's religions, of course, have stories of life lessons at their coreâlove your neighbor, treat others as you wish to be treated, know thyself. And we also glean instructions for living through classic children's fairy tales and folklore handed down through generations. Even movies and video games of today teach us that taking risks is the only way to get ahead and perseverance is a virtue.
So life lessons don't necessarily have to be
in order to be
Reading or listening to the life lessons of others can give us insight into their experiences, and we may reflect on how we might integrate that wisdom into our own lives. Indeed, we have heard from many people over the years who have told us that after listening to a
This I Believe
essay on the radio or reading one in a book, they find they believe that, too, and it alters or augments their own personal credo.
Although some of these stories are certainly different from your own experience, there may be a life lesson at the core that will resonate inside. You may not be a roller derby queen or a physician, a corporate executive, or a homeless person, but you might just find you have something you can learn from their stories.
In this book, you'll find ponderings on life's big questions, such as “Why am I here?” and “What is my place in the world?” There are beliefs in the importance of saying hello, saying thank-you, and saying “I forgive you.” And there are revelations on the importance of listening to your inner voice and taking responsibility for your actions.
Some writers tell stories of making lemonade out of lemons, loving one's enemies, and putting beliefs into action. There are also lessons on the kindness of strangers, neighbors, and friends. And there are reflections on the resiliency of peopleâliving through cancer, depression, or an accident and coming through it with their spirits not only intact but perhaps even stronger and more enriched as a result of what they experienced.
In this collection, you'll also find that wisdom isn't always a product of age. Some essays are written by those with several decades of life experience, while others have been written by teenagers. While older writers tell of lessons learned and tested throughout a lifetime, younger writers speak from a newly forged, and equally powerful, perspective.
This book is for the bedside table or the student's backpack. It might be read a little bit every day, or all at once. Either way, we hope it will be read over and over, with dog-eared pages and notes in the margins. And we hope that you, after reading it, will be moved to write your own statement of belief.
The Power of Hello
I work at a company where there are about a gazillion employees. I can't say that I know them all by name, but I know my fair share of them. I think that almost all of them know me. I'd say that's the reason I've been able to go wherever it is I've made it to in this world. It's all based on one simple principle: I believe that every single person deserves to be acknowledged, however small or simple the greeting.
When I was about ten years old, I was walking down the street with my mother. She stopped to speak to Mr. Lee. I was busy trying to bull's-eye the O on the stop sign with a rock. I knew I could see Mr. Lee any old time around the neighborhood, so I didn't pay any attention to him. After we passed Mr. Lee, my mother stopped me and said something that has stuck with me from that day until now. She said, “You let that be the last time you ever walk by somebody and not open up your mouth to speak, because even a dog can wag its tail when it passes you on the street.” That phrase sounds simple, but it's been a guidepost for me and the foundation of who I am.
When you write an essay like this, you look in the mirror and see who you are and what makes up your character. I realized mine was cemented that day when I was ten years old. Even then, I started to see that when I spoke to someone, they spoke back. And that felt good.
It's not just something I believe in; it's become a way of life. I believe that every person deserves to feel someone acknowledge their presence, no matter how humble they may be or even how important.
At work, I always used to say hello to the founder of the company and ask him how our business was doing. But I also spoke to the people in the cafÃ© and the people who cleaned the buildings and asked how their children were doing. After a few years of passing by the founder, I had the courage to ask him for a meeting. We had a great talk. At a certain point I asked him how far he thought I could go in his company. He said, “If you want to, you can get all the way to this seat.”
I've become vice president, but that hasn't changed the way I approach people. I still follow my mother's advice. I speak to everyone I see, no matter where I am. I've learned that speaking to people creates a pathway into their world, and it lets them come into mine, too.
The day you speak to someone who has their head down but lifts it up and smiles, you realize how powerful it is just to open your mouth and say, “Hello.”
Former University of Maryland point guard howard white is vice president of Jordan Brand at Nike. He founded Believe to Achieve, Nike's motivational program for youth, and he wrote a book by the same name. Mr. White lives with his wife, Donna, and his daughter, Mandy, in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He is proud to note that Mandy is a two-time All American at the University of Oregon.