The Poem: My Guide to Life


To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

*By Bessie Anderson Stanley

Dear Daughters,

You’ve seen this poem before. A framed copy has always graced my office walls.

Let me tell you the reason behind that.

“What is Success” has served as my primary life guide because it articulates my values.

And, not only has it inspired me for years, it has also functioned as an effective tool for measuring my success.

I’m thrilled to report, that so far, I’ve had a wildly successful life!

“What is Success” describes what I hope your life will look, and feel, and sound like.

And, if I had to leave you with just one piece of wisdom, this poem would be it.

With one small addition…

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children & dogs!

Love you,


*This poem has been erroneously attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. You’ll find a couple different versions of it online, including this one. Check out the original penned by Bessie Anderson Stanley.

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