Spring Break with Eleanor

Posted 03.18.2009

This week my family is doing its part for the economic recovery by going to Laguna Beach for spring break.  I have to confess that I’m intentionally unplugging from the news that normally inspires my blog posts.  So, I’m looking for ideas in some unusual places – like gift shops for instance.

I saw this cool little sign today with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Learn from the mistakes of others.  You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

That appealed to me because it squared up so much with my own experience.

As an example, my first job out of graduate school was at the now defunct Wall Street investment bank, Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.  DLJ and I were not a good fit.  I used to tell myself back then.”If I’m ever responsible for leading a group of business people, I’m going to do the exact opposite of what the managers here are doing.”  When I left there after a year and accepted a job leading a team of about a dozen people, that strategy actually worked pretty well.  I still made plenty of mistakes but there were some I didn’t make courtesy of what I learned not to do at DLJ.

So, the sign I saw today got me wondering what other smart things Eleanor Roosevelt said.  Through the miracle of Google, here are three other quotations from her that spoke to me for different reasons:

Eleanorroosevelt “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.”

“I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.”

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

You can find a number of other Eleanor quotations at QuotationsPage.com.  I’d be interested in hearing which of her thoughts inspire you as a leader and why they do.