15 Fantastic Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You Will Go”

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

– Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You Will Go.”

Most children seem to have a fantastic memory of their first reading of Dr. Seuss, and in that regard I’m no different, because my obsession with this fantastic author was irrevocably tied in with experiencing the communal violence in the city of Chittagong in Bangladesh, and how worlds can exist, where chaos doesn’t have a place.

the places you will go seussIt was Dr. Seuss’s “The Places You Will Go,” that I discovered through my mother’s subscription to the British Council library during the time I was about six years old, which allowed me, at a very early age, to realize the absolute necessity of positive thinking, at a time where my love of libraries was growing with my weekly allowance of one book through my mother’s subscription to the Council, where my two sisters and I got to pick a book each with mom’s subscription.

The library was only one floor, and on the day I encountered Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You Will Go,” there was a gathering of political speakers in the field in front of the library in Askerdighi (forgive me if I’ve muffled the exact location of the library up in my later years).

In real terms, this meant that a riot could break loose at any point, and we were advised to stay put. Interested in the rhythms and rhymes of Cat in the Hat from our last visit, I had been instinctively drawn to the latest Seuss edition on the Council’s shelves.

There is something instantaneously likable about “The Places You Will Go.” It is Dr. Seuss’s last published book in 1990, shortly before his death.

Written in the style of his famous Cat in the Hat children’s book series, the book is written with illustrations of a young boy in the future tense, giving a profound account of daily hardships that people face as they go through their life. 

As we waited out the possibility of a riot inside the library that day, I began to read words that have stayed with me ever since. 

There are incredible overarching themes of wisdom that you can take away from the poem, and I broke it down in stages of upheaval in a person’s life by trying to stay true to the form of the poem, because it does follow some very logical steps of people’s reactions to their constantly changing circumstances, and the importance of staying grounded through insisting on moving forward instead of waiting around: basically taking charge of your life.

Hence, here are 15 fundamentally important messages that we can learn from Dr. Seuss’s immense masterpiece.

1. Every day belongs to you.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

2. You already have everything you need in order to succeed. You’re in control of your destiny.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

3. You need to be careful to assess and place a value on all your options, because some of them won’t be as good as others.

You’ll look up and down streets.  Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”

4. Your dexterity and your ability to weigh the pros and cons- in other words, your consciousness, is precisely what enables you daily, to make the choices to either traverse a certain path, or to avoid it altogether. In some situations, it’s best to run as fast as you can from the situation, until you find better options.

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

5. Get some fresh air and immerse yourself in vast openness (in nature). You will always find the answers you need in your own solitude, because both your mind and your body will embracing space devoid of human construction.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

6. Even after a period of stagnancy, the most incredible way forward is that when you put yourself in a positive environment and made your mind up to follow YOUR path. When you do this, things will start happening that showcase how you made the right decisions. You will succeed in paving the way on the road you are destined for when you listen to your inner voice.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry.  Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.

7. Everyone goes through both good times and bad times, EVEN when they are successful, and there is a good chance they are, if they are comfortable with their own skin. It’s how you choose to handle the things that you cannot control which defines how you will succeed in the face of harrowing challenges and losses, or basically, the way out when things aren’t going your way.

Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

8. If you get stuck and begin to hold grudges instead of zooming straight on and seeking out open spaces for you to embrace through your bad times, you will begin to lose momentum.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

9. Learning how to overcome your sad moments can be difficult because you will be filled with doubt about what choices you make, but when you start moving through the bad times at neck-breaking speed, chances are that even though you are still moving, you come to a place where you feel that you are no longer in control, but are waiting for something profound to help you overcome your sad times.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

Dr. Seuss

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

10. While it is important to realize that everyone else around you could also be waiting for the one epiphany that will turn their lives around and give it meaning during times of darkness, waiting for something to happen, whether it is mundane or it is profound, means that you are proactively CHOOSING to remain disengaged from controlling your destiny. And confident people just don’t do this.

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

11. Knowing that playing a waiting game is key to remaining stuck, along with the knowledge that deep down, you possess the knowledge to move beyond darkened streets and dimmed lights is what can help you shape your own destiny. Every slump of sadness is circular, and hence, for every bad moment you encounter, you will be able to balance out the good.

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.  There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.

12. Loneliness, and knowing that everyone else isn’t always focusing on you can be difficult, but it’s part of life. We’re not supposed to be in the spotlight all the time, and everyone is alone from time to time.

Fame!  You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

13. Persevering even when your protective layers are falling apart is what will drive you to the heights of your achievements.

But on you will go

though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

14. Ultimately, the cardinal rule is that you cannot always predict what other people and circumstances will throw your way in order to stop you from reaching your full potential. However, as long as you are sure of who you are and that you have the capability to use both your head and your feet to navigate through every situation life throws your way, you shall be fine.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

15. You were made to do the impossible, because impossible is made possible through each step you take, so never put a limit to who you can be and what you can achieve.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea…

 

You’re off to great places,

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way.

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