Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Mr. Rogers

July 20th, 2010
Someone once asked me if I could “model” myself after anyone who would it be? After thinking about it, I said, “Fred Rogers.”

Now, THAT got a laugh.

But the reason is simple.  Fred Rogers did what most people dream of: he spent his life doing the things he loved and at the same time made a positive impact on millions of people.  And he did it in an honest way without changing who he was (and by all accounts he was just the same off-camera that he was on-camera).

Who could ask for more?

But even more, I figure that I pretty much learned everything I needed to know from Mr. Rogers.

Fred Rogers and his TV show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood taught me more about life than most of those self-help guru/scammers out there.  And he did it for free!

So, what did I learn?  These are just some of the lessons I learned from Mr. Rogers.

You’re OK just the way you are

How much of the personal development stuff out there rests on the fact that there’s something wrong with you?  You’re too scared.  You’re not happy enough.  You don’t have enough money.

Trained marketers are taught to identify insecurity and sell to them.  A lot of what is pushed as “self-help” can make you feel lower than you really are in order to artificially pump you up higher than you are.

And is it really worth it?

What would Mr. Rogers say?
He likes you just because you’re you.
There was no one like you before you and there will be no one like you after you’re gone.

You are special.  And maybe, just maybe, you’re OK just the way you are.

Use Your Imagination

When there was a problem Mr. Rogers wanted to talk about, we took us to the land of make-believe.

Imagination is the key.

Things can be hard.  But we possess this awesome thing, this imagination.  We can use it in all sorts of ways.  There is not always one answer to every problem.  There are many ways we can deal with life.

And honestly, if more adults weren’t afraid to use their imaginations and be creative, we might be just a little bit happier.

Little can sometimes become big so don’t feel bad about small dreams

Most of the self-help stuff out there tells you to “dream big.”  It sounds like good advice, but then what about those who don’t want to dream big?  Or what if they are satisfied with their small dream?  To the self-helpers this is bad because people who are OK with what they have don’t spend money on courses on how to become super-wealthy

But if we’d listen to Mr. Rogers, he has the solution.  Small dreams are just as good as big dreams.  And little can sometimes become big.  So, you don’t need to worry about it so much.

“We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.”

I like this quote from Mr. Rogers.  In this one quote, he tells you for free what some people charge thousands of dollars to tell you: find your medium.  We all have different ways to express ourselves.  Mr. Rogers’ way was through television.

What is your way?

Be honest with yourself and others

I used to wonder whether Mr. Rogers had a bad temper or was a jerk off-camera.  But by all accounts, he was the same guy at home that he was in front of a camera.

Mr. Rogers thought he was successful because he was honest about who he was.  Some “programs” out there tell you that you have to be X in order to be successful.  I once saw a video where some hypnosis guru flat out told someone he’d never be a millionaire because he didn’t have the right “mindset”, i.e. he thought $5,000 was too much to spend on a seminar.

Mr. Rogers’ message is clear: be who you are and be the best you that you can be.

It’s not about what you do for yourself, it’s about what you do for others that makes you good.

I have many negative feelings about a lot of self-help because I think it should be written like this: SELF-help.

Make more money.  Attract wealth. Blah.  Blah.

Does it really matter?  Mt friend Steve Harper talks in his book The Ripple Effect about this.  He says that what you do for others is how you measure your success. And the impact you have on others makes the difference.

I agree.  What if we redefined how we measure our own worth and value?
What if we did not measure it in how much money we make or the titles we have?
What if we measured our value by the impact we have on others?

Mr. Rogers got this right.

It amazes me what an impact Mr. Rogers had on so many people.  When he passed away I remember hearing how people in Times Square suddenly started singing “It’s a beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

I remember switching to talk radio and hearing some commentator lambasting Mr. Rogers only to find that when he let people call in, the consensus was, “ I usually agree with you, but you’re nuts to say bad things about Mr. Rogers.”

The commenter finally changed the subject when he couldn’t even get ONE caller to agree with him.

Someone even composed a requiem for him.

Fred Rogers impacted everyone around him.  His message was simple and clear.  I think we’d all do well to listen to him today.  And it won’t cost you a thing.

“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Fred Rogers


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