Eleanor Roosevelt was perhaps one of the most gangly and physically awkward First Ladies to occupy the American White House. But what she lacked in outward physical appearance, she made up for in mental fortitude.
Like a playwright and poet, she was able to view society around her and boil down the essence of what was taking place into short, memorable quotes which told a much greater story. Here is one of my favorites, that has had a great impact on my daily actions:
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Obviously this quote influenced me when I first came across it not because I could then qualify as a great mind. I realized I was spending much too much time discussing people and so I made it a daily effort to spend more time on the ideas and events categories.
My wife and I are currently studying the American Revolution. It is amazing how a few individuals were able to take the discussing of an idea – Independence from a remote and oppressive monarchy – and transform an entire nation into outright rebellion.
It started off with the public sentiment being upset at a person – in this case King George III. But all the talk of King George didn’t do anything constructive on its own. Monarchy had long fueled the success of cartoonists and newspaper publishers alike, but without leading to any long lasting change in the budding America.
Then the early colonists upgraded to events. The Boston Massacre. The Boston Tea Party. With more concrete stories to tell (with many exaggerations added for additional impact), the complaints over oppression began to take on new meaning. The complaints became concrete.
But a little pamphlet called Common Sense is credited with fueling the hunger for Independence. Thomas Paine’s first anonymous publication on January 10, 1776, stirred up simple farmers and tradesmen, slaves and peasants, to fight against the most powerful military force in the world at that time. And all because Paine was able to solidify an idea.
The idea, hope, and aspiration for freedom took root and months later the Declaration of Independence was signed. Only a paper tiger at first – everyone who signed would have been hanged for treason had the Revolution not been successful – the call for the idea of Independence took hold like wild fire.
The lesson we can learn from the Revolution is echoed with the ideas and then peaceful revolution fueled by Mohandas Gandhi. Which also turned over the rule of the largest empire in the world through civil disobedience. Ideas are powerful. They are given freely, but then kept through effort, toil, and work.
Every great book, memory and event in our lives is fueled by a simple utterance of word. Cultivated and developed, shared and repeated. Free to any race, creed, religion, and geography. The power of thought, expressed by word, can make all the difference in your life.
So, if like me, you find too much of your time is spent discussing people, take courage and start spreading ideas for much greater things. You may find like I did that conversations become inspiring, not draining. Your outlook on life becomes inspirational, not pessimistic. And your actions come into more harmony with who you really are.
Learn: Take stock of your daily conversations. Is your focus on creating a great future for you and your family, or complaining about everything over which you have no control?
Act: Focus on what it is that you want in life. Then surround yourself with people, books, and ideas which will elevate you to a higher place.
Share: As you seek out others who are performing at the level you wish to attain, your combined efforts are multiplied. And everyone benefits.