“Do you have wisdom when it comes to making life-related decisions?” If asked such a question, your answer would likely be a yes. However, how we handle challenges and make decisions sometimes indicates the lack of it. In this case, the “know it all” attitude we often embrace inhibits our learning process, preventing us from excelling in life. Examining many of the greatest minds throughout history, we discover they had to devise ways of overcoming life-related challenges and adversities using wisdom. What advice would some of these greatest icons, including King Solomon, Abraham Lincoln, and Anne Frank, offer if we could meet them? In his book “The Traveler’s Gift,” Andy Andrews offers a modern-day parable regarding man’s choices and the attitudes towards challenges that differentiates successful and unsuccessful individuals. Ponder, the main character, embraces the “know it all” mindset, which hinders him from learning.
Once a high-flying executive in a Fortune 500 firm, Ponder, unfortunately, lost his job and struggled to provide for his family. In addition, his daughter fell ill, and he could not afford better healthcare services. After being laid off from two jobs and faced with his daughter’s illness, Ponder lost hope. He argued that life is unfair, allowing bitterness and anxiety to take over his life. With so many life-altering frustrations, he drove recklessly, crashed his car into a tree, and became unconscious. In his unconscious state, Ponder traveled back in time, meeting leaders and heroes, including Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Christopher Columbus, and Anne Frank, among others, who offered seven valuable lessons for success.
Seven Valuable Lessons for Success
- “The buck stops here.” by Harry Truman
- I will seek wisdom.” by King Solomon
- “I am a person of action” by Colonel Joshua
- “I have a decided heart.” by Christopher Columbus
- “Today I will choose to be happy.” by Anne Frank
- “I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit.” by Abraham Lincoln
- “I will persist without exception.” by Archangel Gabriel
Lesson 1: Harry Truman – The buck stops here
The first lesson Ponder learned is “The buck stops here.” The lesson is that because they dictate our decision, to be successful, we must take full responsibility for our emotions and thoughts. As per Truman, the statement, “it is not my fault,” should never come out of our mouths. With today’s many challenges, it becomes easier to blame the world. Unfortunately, this mindset only nurtures bitterness. Successful people take responsibility for their thoughts, emotions, and actions. Henceforth, I will try to keep my thoughts and feelings healthy since they will, in a greater way, motivate me to make good decisions.
Lesson 2: Seek Wisdom
After a brief encounter with Truman, Ponder teleported to King Solomon’s court to meet him. At King Solomon’s place, he witnessed a dispute between two mothers over a child. At this court, Solomon led Ponder to a private quarter where they discussed the benefits of seeking wisdom as well as seeking intelligent associates. Solomon later handed a tiny scroll to Ponder on which was written, “God moves mountains to create the opportunity of his choosing. It is up to you to be ready to roll”. We learn to act in wisdom when we get our wisdom from the right people.
Lesson 3: I am a person of action
The third lesson Ponder learned was from Joshua Chamberlain, a colonel during the American Civil War. In his teaching about being a person of action, Joshua argued that leaders of action seize the moment and lead others toward moving in the right direction. When leading people, they do it with courage and decisiveness that tends to set them apart. When meeting Joshua, Ponder had toggling thoughts and was also anxious. However, after meeting him, Joshua emphasized the need to act confidently even when facing uncertain circumstances. Joshua also argued, “Many people move out of the way for a person on the run; others are caught up in his wake.” After the experience with Joshua, Ponder saw a different version of himself. For example, he saw a decisive and wise man who had built a successful company that inspired others.
Lesson 4: I have a decided heart.
After meeting Colonel Joshua, Ponder was teleported to Christopher Columbus’ ship, where he learned the fourth decision he had to make toward becoming a success. During their interaction, Columbus shared with him about his past, where many doubted his capabilities. Even with such distrust, he confidently pursued his dreams. During their conversion, Columbus told Ponder, “If you worry about what other people think of you, then you will have more confidence in their opinion than you have in your own.” Columbus also highlighted to Ponder that a decisive heart is committed to getting solutions to issues instead of looking for an escape.
Lesson 5: Today, I choose to be happy
The next person that Ponder learned from was Anne Frank. At her home in Amsterdam, Anne taught him the importance of being grateful and cheerful. Anne also taught Ponder the benefits of adopting a good attitude toward life. Even after facing unfortunate events with her family, including the Nazi party, Anne’s family remained cheerful. From his interaction with Anne, Ponder learned that happiness is an inside job, and no one can give it or take it. Also, enthusiasm remains a fuel that moves the world.
Lesson 6: I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit
The next lesson Ponder learned was from Abraham Lincoln. From this lesson, one learns that Lincoln highly valued forgiving himself and others, especially those who criticized him. Lincoln’s lesson instructed that power comes through personal growth. However, personal growth is hindered by unforgiveness. Lincoln also stressed the importance of not worrying about what society will say. My favorite advice from Lincoln’s lessons is, “Sooner or later, every man of character will have that character questioned. Every man of honor and courage will face unjust criticism, but never forget that unjust criticism has no impact whatsoever upon the truth. And the only sure way to avoid criticism is to do nothing and be nothing!”. In most cases, we avoid taking steps for fear of criticism that, unfortunately, keeps us from progressing.
Lesson 7: I will persist without exception
The next lesson that Ponder learned was from the archangel Gabriel. During their interaction, Gabriel instructed Ponder to persist without exception. Gabriel also encouraged Ponder to continue even when he felt exhausted, focusing on positive results and only comparing himself with his potential. Ponder was also taught about the importance that faith plays in our lives. We get hope and enthusiasm to work toward a successful future through faith. He also advised Ponder never to give up on his ideas and to work tirelessly towards them with faith that one day he will attain them. In this case, persistence, prayer, and planning make all our goals achievable.
In the latter part of The Traveler’s Gift, Ponder gets a glimpse of his life, especially after applying the seven lessons/decisions for success. In the future, he owned a company, he was financially independent, and his family was well cared for.
7 Main Takeaways
- The “know it all” attitude we mostly embrace inhibits our learning process, preventing us from excelling in life.
- Enthusiasm is the fuel that moves the world.
- If you worry about what other people think of you, then you will have more confidence in their opinion than you have in your own
- “It is not my fault” should never come out of our mouths. Successful people take responsibility for their future.
- Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First, we make choices. Then our choices make us.
- Criticism, condemnation, and complaint are creatures of the wind. They come and go on the wasted breath of lesser beings and have no power over us.
- Persistence, prayer, and planning make all our goals achievable.