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Lessons in Leadership & Confidence From Eleanor Roosevelt

From my annual book recommendations list for this year, "17 Books That Can Change Your Life in 2017 (If You Actually Read Them)," I keep going back to revisit #17, You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys For a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt.

While her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, famously said that, “The only thing we have to fear…is fear itself,” it was his wife, First Lady and prolific author and world-changing social activist Eleanor Roosevelt who wrote (on page 29): 

“Fear has always seemed to me to be the worst stumbling block which anyone has to face… The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility…once you have met it and lived through it, you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that, you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this…I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

She is also the author of the following timeless, inspirational gems:

“You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you, if you realized how seldom they do.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?”

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."

“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each new thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

“You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.”

The word “confidence” comes from the Latin for “with trust or faith” (and is related to such other words as confide, confident, confidant, fidelity, fiduciary, etc.). So the key to keep in mind regarding this definition is that in order to be able to instill confidence in others, it is important to trust and have faith in oneself.

Here’s the bad news: You are always going to struggle with your confidence. Why? Because EVERYONE does, at one time or another! "Fear of the unknown" is an absolutely normal, human emotional reaction.

And, the future is always unknown!

The only way, really, to make oneself completely confident all of the time would be to just do the same old thing, the same old way every single day of your entire life. But that would be predictable and boring…and will lead us nowhere.

The only way to grow is to try, to take risks, to fail, and to learn, and to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone…into the zone of the unknown. As the title of the book reminds us, "You Learn By Living."

As Eleanor Roosevelt simply put it:

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out, eagerly and without fear, for newer and richer experience.”

We learn by living.