Life Lessons From Elbridge Gerry: Compromise

By William Kristoph

Wondering how I picked Elbridge Gerry for today’s post? I had to play him in an 8th grade Continental Congress project years ago. I’m sure most people know him from the term “Gerrymandering,” however, he was also considered a great speaker by his peers. I thought today’s quote was especially pertinent with how society and government behave today.

Gerry On The Creation Of The Nation:

“If we do not come to some agreement amongst ourselves, some foreign sword will probably do the work for us!” – Elbridge Gerry

Gerry was speaking about creating a new nation. At the Continental Congress, he was in favor of revising the Articles of Confederation, not disposing of them for a new government. We all know what happened eventually, we ended up with our nation’s constitution. However, if you read about Gerry at those important events, he was a voice of compromise throughout the talks. He fought for the states and he fought for the nation. He fought for a balance between every branch of government. He realized that if there was no middle ground, then someone else would be happy to find the middle ground for us.

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Life Lessons From George Washington – Happiness

By William Kristoph

“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.” – George Washington

This particular quote from George Washington seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? It seems like a simple concept. Then why aren’t more of us happy? Why do so many people seem unhappy, sad or frustrated? I think it boiled down to choice. The best lesson that my mom taught me when I was growing up was that I always had a choice. I might have a bunch of choices that I didn’t like (broccoli or carrots), or a bunch that I did like (play Transformers with Joey or go see a movie with Mom), but I always had choices. As an adult, I also have choices. I can choose to be a good parent or a bad parent. I can be a good husband or a bad husband. I can  pay bills or not pay them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

With choice in mind, how to I choose to be happy? How do I keep my frame of mind positive? What works for me?

My Top 5 Strategies For Keeping My Mind Positive And Happy

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Life Lessons From George Washington – Worry

“Worry is the intrest paid by those who borrow trouble.” – George Washington

By William Kristoph

When I came across this Washington quote, I thought that it was the best definition of worry that I’ve ever read. Sure, we all have worries that aren’t associated with trouble: kids, health of friends, other things that are out of our control. Washington isn’t talking about this kind of worry. True worry, the kind that eats at you, is likely the result of some sort of self-induced trouble.

We worry about finances. Many times its because we didn’t plan ahead by saving. We worry about health, because we didn’t exercise or eat right. We worry about getting caught in a lie, because we didn’t tell the truth. These types of worry are the ones that eat at a person. These are the types that come to mind for us today.

While I thought about that I also thought about another kind that Washington must have experienced: His worry about his troops and his country. At some point, Washington and the other Founding Fathers decided that seeking out our country’s independence was worth the worry. It was worth the trouble they knew they sought out.

So as I sit here today, in a free country, despite all of its problems, I’m thankful that Washington and his buddies chose a bit of trouble and worry. They proved that not all trouble and not all worry is a bad thing, but we need to be aware of the consequences. My focus, then, is not to eliminate all worry, but to find those few big “troubles” that are worth worrying about.

Life Lessons From George Washington – Reputation

“Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington

By William Kristoph

When I first read George Washington’s quote, I immediately liked it a lot. For me, it is extends another famous quote; Proverbs 17:28. “Even fools, keeping silent, are considered wise; if they keep their lips closed, intelligent.” Sure, the relationship between the quotes isn’t immediately obvious, but as I get older I realize how much the Proverbs saying helps us identify people of good quality. Identifying men of good quality, helps us all take Washington’s very good advice.

It’s been a struggle to improve my ability to identify “good men” like Washington suggests. I’ve never had much of a problem with the latter part; being alone. But, no matter how much I can play maverick, it’s nice to have good friends that are good people. The problem usually is my inability to identify good people.

In school it was because it I associated popular with good. In college and later, it was that fun meant good. Or maybe it was because there was something superficial that I had in common with a person and thought that made them a good person. No matter, the burden of identification falls on me. I try to look past the superficial qualities now and identify truly good people to associate with. Not only is it good for my reputation as Washington states, but it’s good for my well-being in general. Good people are positive and provide the “good” in life.

So why does any of this really matter past the benefit of personal well-being? It took me a long time to learn, that the only real currency we have is our reputation.  When I say good reputation I don’t mean a large one or a famous one. I mean a good one. Good reputations are large “He’s a great philanthropist” or small “He can fix anything at a fair price.” Washington is wise, pay attention to your reputation and do your best to enrich it.

Life Lessons From George Washington – Happiness and Moral Duty

By William Kristoph

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” – George Washington

Think about the last time you felt truly happy. It might have been an hour ago, or a few days ago. Hopefully, it wasn’t years ago. We all have moments in life where we are truly happy. How many of those moments involved doing something that was right? How many of them involved being with others? How many were on something fleeting, like a new car or a new toy?

George Washington suggests that our happiness is tied to our moral duty. Moral duty is not summed up by an object. It is felt through actions and people. Washington lived in an obviously strenuous time. He led troops, and saw many people die. But, he obviously felt that there was a moral obligation to lead. An obligation to break away from outside rule. A duty to the future of  a fledgling country to fight for our independence, and ultimately, happiness.

There’s not quite that much drama in my life. But, Washington’s point definitely applies. Instead of looking at the selfish and looking inward, I can look to help others. I can teach my child to do good works. I can pause a moment instead of getting frustrated and offer a helping hand to someone. Those are all very small versions of moral duty compared to Washington’s. Perhaps, if we all made a small choice here and there to contribute a good to the world instead of a nothing or a negative, we’d be happier with ourselves and happier together?