Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

10 Great Lessons from William Shakespeare

How does a non-English major write a blog about William Shakespeare? Uhm…you don’t. At least, not about the literary aspects of his work, or even about the bard himself. That’s all been done before by thousands of others who are more knowledgeable than me. But what I can write about is a selection of life lessons I have gleaned from his writings. I’m not talking about the obvious stuff revolving around trust, communication, and rash decisions (although there is quite a bit of that to be learned!), but rather more subtle messages I’ve found in his more notable quotes. Here are ten of my favorites:

  1. "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt."
    Don’t let fear of failure keep you from success! We’ve talked about this a few times on the podcast when it comes to procrastination. Sometimes we don’t start a project because we’re afraid we’ll fail. Afraid we don’t have the skills, or the resources, or the support…. Don’t let that fear stop you from doing something great. If you try and you fail, you can always keep trying, but if you never try, you can never succeed.

  2. "Nothing can come of nothing."
    The context of this line from King Lear alludes to the fact that you can’t get something from nothing. If you want something, go for it. Work for it. Put in the effort. Don’t just wish for the good to come into your life – you have to make it happen. 

  3. "How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world."
    Many of us get discouraged by the state of the world and we feel like we are powerless to make a difference. But the truth is that even a small kindness can
    affect the most powerful change, and even a small act can send ripples across the world. Never let the size of your contribution be the reason you don’t. A dollar may not be much, but one dollar given by 100 people is $100, and one can of food donated by 100 people is 100 cans of food. Do what you can and never doubt that your small part has made a big difference for someone.

  4. "This above all; to thine own self be true."
    Be your own authentic self. Shine your light. Never dim to fit in. And for goodness sake, don’t lie to yourself! 

  5. "Talking isn't doing. It is a kind of good deed to say well; and yet words are not deeds."
    Don’t just talk the talk! Walk the walk! It’s all well and good to talk about the change that needs to happen in this world, but it all means nothing if you aren’t willing to do it yourself. 

  6. "Words without thoughts never to heaven go."
    Don’t just give lip service to people either. Say what you mean and mean what you say. It doesn’t do any good to talk about what’s right or fair if you aren’t willing to practice what you preach.

  7. "If we are true to ourselves, we can not be false to anyone."
    If we can’t be honest with ourselves, then how can we be honest with anyone else? Sometimes we make excuses for our behavior, we make up stories, or we try and pretend things are one way when they are really another. But deep inside we know the truth – and if we are willing to lie to ourselves, then is anything we say or do honest and real?

  8. "Expectation is the root of all heartache."
    Oh, boy, is it ever! All disappointment stems from expectations. This has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn, and I’m still learning it. Learning to accept what is and let go of how I think it should be has helped me learn contentment. I can appreciate the now. The next time your expectations fall flat, try taking a step back and appreciating what is right in front of you. Find the good in every moment. After a while, those expectations don’t really mean all that much.

  9.  "Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting."
    Self-care is another topic we’ve covered quite a bit on the podcast. It’s important. It’s necessary. It is not selfish. Before we can take care of others, we have to first take care of ourselves. And before we can love others, we must first love ourselves.

  10. "Don't waste your love on somebody who doesn't value it."
    I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to friends bemoan their efforts to keep a man who doesn’t appreciate them. Heck, I’ve done it myself. It took me a long, long time to develop the self-respect I needed to realize that I deserve better. You do, too. Don’t sell yourself short. He (or she) is not the only fish in the sea. You can and will find someone who deserves you, but only if you can find your own self-worth. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little take on a few Shakespearean quotes. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments below, or start a conversation on our MMC Chat group.

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