Shel Silverstein had a certain way with words that is unmatched by many of his peers. His stories are very poignant and speak to the soul in ways that are hard to describe, but his fans know all too well. They also serve as great instructionals for how to live life to the fullest, and overcome the challenges that come with it. Here are some of the best life lessons that can be gleaned from his works.
“Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” ~Shel Silverstein
The build up to this line advises to listen to all of the naysayers in the world, and then take what they say and throw it all away. This is a life lesson that might take an entire lifetime to learn and master. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like you can create anything you want, especially when the world around you is telling you that it can’t happen, or that you shouldn’t do it.
Ignoring those naysayers can be tough because they often come in the form of friends, family, and significant others. Learning to ignore their remarks while still loving them is a valuable skill.
“Do a loony-goony dance ‘cross the kitchen floor. Put something silly in the world that ain’t been there before.” ~Shel Silverstein
Here’s a great lesson, and one that shows that what you do doesn’t have to make sense or conform to tradition. Think outside the box, color outside the lines, be different, unique, and original. Create what hasn’t been done before.
Those are the kinds of things the world will always be in need of. Maybe it won’t make sense at first, but some of the best inventions and creations didn’t make sense when they were first dreamt up.
“There is a voice inside of you, that whispers all day long, I feel this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.” ~Shel Silverstein
This is often referred to as your conscience, but really it’s a feeling that you get rather than a voice or a talking cricket. When something doesn’t feel right, that’s your guide that you shouldn’t do it. When something feels good, that’s your guide that you should do more of it. Problems arise when you start ignoring that voice, either continuing to do something when it doesn’t feel right, or stopping yourself from doing something that makes you feel good. It’s nice to know that we’re hard wired to have a good life and do good things, it’s just a matter of listening to our inner self.
“There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part. So just give me a happy middle and a very happy start.” ~Shel Silverstein
Making sure that the start and the middle are happy times is the most important part of any relationship. There’s usually not much you can do about the ending, so the only thing you can focus on is the happiness experienced up until that point. And in the end, that’s all that really matters. Most of the time the start is easy enough to get right, it’s the middle that needs the most attention to make sure it’s a good time.
“If you’re a bird, be an early bird. But if you’re a worm, sleep late.” ~Shel Silverstein
This is an amusing take on the oft quoted phrase “The early bird gets the worm.”. It helps to see things from the worm’s point of view, and is a fitting piece of advice. The early bird does get the worm, but the worm that gets a later start lives to see another day. Perhaps this can be used to show that not every piece of advice works for everyone, since we all have different jobs, different lives, and different personalities. What motivates one person might demotivate another. So always choose what applies to you and your situation.
“If there is a book you want to read but isn`t written yet, write it.” ~Shel Silverstein
If you have an idea for a book, movie, song, TV show or any other creative work that you’d like to see done, don’t wait around to see if someone writes it for you, write it yourself! If you have the idea for it and you’re sure it’s not out there yet, let it flow out of you and then share it with the world. It’s not fair for you to keep it to yourself for your own personal enjoyment, and if you were given the idea you are obligated to the world to share it and let everyone else benefit from it as well.
“If the track is tough and the hill is rough, *thinking* you can just ain’t enough!” ~Shel Silverstein
Here Shel brings up the point that sometimes thinking isn’t enough, because what you really need to do is believe. Thinking you can leaves room for doubt. Believing you can erases that doubt and makes it impossible to fail. When things are going easily and effortlessly you might be able to get by on just thinking you can. But when you run into trouble, when things get rough and tough as he describes, you’ll need to dig deeper and eliminate all doubt, and know that you can.
“And all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.” ~Shel Silverstein
There are parts to your life that haven’t been invented, because you haven’t lived it yet. There are ideas within you that you haven’t had yet. There are qualities within you that can’t be described because the words don’t exist to describe them. This is a great quote to remind yourself that you are more than meets the eye because there is still life in you to be lived. It also speaks to that inner part of you that can’t be put into words because it is bigger than your physical self. It’s the energy inside you that can’t be limited to the colors that exist in the physical world.
“Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~Shel Silverstein
Here’s a good way to live your life, live it so that there’s nothing really left when it’s all said and done. If you find that you’re working too much, that’s good because it means you’re working your tail off. If you find that you’ve been crying a lot, it means you’re crying your eyes out. It means you’re living your life and not just letting life pass you by. When your time comes you want to be sure that you’re not leaving anything on the table, that there aren’t experiences left un-experienced, places you want to go left un-gone. This is one life tip that you can carry with you all your days.
“Just ’cause somethin’ ain’t been done Don’t mean it can’t be did.” ~Shel Silverstein
You don’t have to wait for a precedent to do the things you want to do. Sometimes you’ll dream up something and it doesn’t yet exist. That doesn’t meant it can’t exist, it just means someone hasn’t done it yet. The same was true of the 4 minute mile, everyone thought it couldn’t be done, until someone did it, and then more and more people started doing it. You can be that person that does it first, and instills the belief in others that they can do it too.
“But all the magic I have known I’ve had to make myself.” ~Shel Silverstein
Life is magical, but you’re the magician, and if you don’t perform your tricks it’s not going to perform them for you. This quote reminds you to keep pulling rabbits out of the hat, which means different things for different people. Each of us has a “magical” talent, something they can do better than anyone, or just a knack for creating new things, or accomplishing goals. Find your magical ability and be sure to put it to use each day.
“Many leaves one tree.” ~Shel Silverstein
This reminds us that we all come from one source. Even though we may look different, speak a different language, and are scattered across the globe, we’re still all connected in a sort of oneness by our very nature. When you first read this quote it probably spoke to you in some way, like it was telling you something you already knew but needed to be reminded of. It holds within those four simple words great wisdom that each of us already understands, but that is hard to remember in our modern world.
“How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em.” ~Shel Silverstein
There aren’t really good days and bad days, a day is neutral. It’s what you do with it that makes it good or bad. How much good can you pack into a day should be the real question. It helps to write a list of things you think would make up a good day, and then try to live up to that list each day. This creates a sort of checklist that you can refer to throughout the day to make sure you’re on track for another great day. Try to get out of the habit of referring to good days and bad days, and treat them all equally, since good can be had out of each one.
(Read this next: 37 Dr. Seuss Quotes That Can Change the World)