Tag Archives: Robert Fulghum

It’s Not Alright (But It’s Okay)

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The subtleties of language. They count. Big time. In a similar way, anyone who thinks that math doesn’t matter, I refer you to How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg, who explains ever-so eloquently the ways in which math permeates our everyday lives – in a cool and very necessary way.

When it comes to everyday language, however, I’d refer you to a piece by Jon Westenberg, who’s got something important to say about the matter, specifically, “Stop telling each other it’s alright. Sometimes, it’s just not.”

The moral of his story can be summed up as follows:

If your startup fails? It’s not alright. But you can get through it.

If your freelance career bombs? It’s not alright. But you can get through it.

If your relationship comes to an end? It’s not alright. But you can get through it.

If your dreams burn out? It’s not alright.

But you can get through it.

It’s straightforward, simple, and to the point. Me likes, in the same way that Robert Fulghum writes about stuff in From Beginning to End.

Unfortunately for those of us living in North America, and who use English as a first language, we’ve become knee-jerk mollycoddlers. You didn’t finish the race? You failed at your attempt to make toast? Your manager doesn’t like you because you’re too nice? That’s okay. You tried your bestest! Here’s a Last Place ribbon to hang on the wall.

For me, the interesting part about this article by Mr. Westenberg has to do with language. Any douchebag can pick up a few swear words in a foreign language, but one of the hardest things to do – naturally and politely – is to learn the right words and expressions in times of great distress or hardship.

And one of the biggest pitfalls second-language learners make is to ask their teacher/friend/native speaker of said language, “How do you say [insert word/phrase from English] in [insert language]?” Instead, you should be asking, “What would you say in [insert language] in this situation?” The difference may seem subtle, but then so is language.

Another complication lies with culture. If you’re learning Arabic online in Des Moines, Iowa through Rosetta Stone, for example, what makes you think Arabic speakers in Egypt say the same thing in the same situation as they do in Iraq?

But, as usual, I’ve digressed. Jon Westenberg was not writing a linguistic analysis of English speakers in Australia, he was merely pointing out that sometimes the truth – as hard as it is to hear – can go much further to helping someone in their time of need than mollycoddling (love that word) a person who’s struggling through a rough time. There are simply occasions when “I’m really sorry. That sucks. It’s not alright.” can do more to help restore one’s bruised ego than any flowery words or feel-good idioms.


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Quote of the Day

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I mentioned the author Robert Fulghum in a post the other day, and would be remiss if I didn’t include his most famous quote as part of this series.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten was first published in 1986 to great commercial success, but not nearly as much critical praise. Apparently some critics called it “trite” and “saccharine,” which is just a fancy way of saying way, way over-the-top mushy.

Whatever the case, I enjoyed reading this book many moons ago, and I don’t think Fulghum ever pretended to make this a philosophical treatise like Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. I think his point – at least in this book – is that as we grow older we tend to complicate the simple and forget that the most important lessons are the most basic ones we learn as children. Period. End of story.

On that note, I present Mr. Fulghum’s most famous quote from a literary career that has seen him sell 16 million copies of his books in 27 languages.

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put things back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

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Quote of the Day

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From the wonderfully creative, humorous and sympathetic mind of Wally Lamb, author of the hugely popular She’s Come Undone, comes Lamb’s second novel, I know this much is true.

A deeply affecting story about dysfunctional families, mental health and domestic abuse, this Quote of the Day neatly sums up the lessons learned in this thoroughly engaging book and almost reminds me of something Robert Fulghum wrote in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.

This much, at least, I’ve figured  out. I know this much is true.

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Quote of the Day

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Probably best known for Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum (b. 1937) is an internationally bestselling author whose 16 million books have been published in 27 countries and in 103 languages. Over his lifetime, Fulghum has published 10 non-fiction works and 3 novels.

Although not his most famous work, Fulghum’s Maybe, Maybe Not does contain one of my favourite quotes from the quirky Unitarian minister.

“Never, ever, regret or apologize for believing that when one man or woman decides to risk addressing the world with truth, the world may stop what it is doing and hear. There is too much evidence to the contrary. When we cease believing this, the music will surely stop. The myth of the impossible dream is more powerful than all the facts of history.”

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