Important Lessons That Adults Can Learn From Dr. Seuss
By Author Name
Mar 1, 2019
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
Dr. Seuss was a wildly prolific author of children’s books, and we often associate his stories with adorable rhymes with whimsical illustrations. But Theodor Seuss Geisel (AKA Dr. Seuss) did so much more than create a collection of zany stories for kids. His books have a crafty way of teaching children invaluable life lessons. And if you think about it, a lot of us have carried (or should carry) these lessons all the way into adulthood. Although there’s always a layer of silliness in his stories, there was often a strong moral to take away too. Let’s go through a few, what do you say? Let’s learn a few lessons from Seuss books today.
The lesson: Accept others even if they’re different.
In this tale of two beach-dwelling bird species, Dr. Seuss makes a great point to show us how appearances don’t matter. Not one bit! The star-bellied Sneetches don’t get along with the other Sneetches because they think they’re so much better with their fancy stars. After a sort of star-creating counterfeit operation ensues with a great number of mix-ups, “The Sneetches” concludes with a philosophical nugget we can all take home:
“The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.”
The lesson: Be an advocate for those who can’t defend themselves.
Most people think of “The Lorax” as a stern warning against over-logging and polluting our environment — which is true. But we can also take it a little further by looking at a few choice lines from the book to find an even deeper meaning:
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."
This one snippet is really powerful when you think about it: The Lorax takes it upon himself to stand up for other defenseless beings without reservation. It’s that kind of altruistic act that we could all aspire to bring into our everyday lives a little bit more.
The lesson: Celebrate our own individuality and uniqueness.
Sure, it’s easy to be proud of who you are when a magical bird hypes you up and throws a party in your honor. But that doesn’t usually happen on our birthdays in the real world. But regardless, Dr. Seuss makes a good point that people should celebrate themselves on their birthday (and every day for that matter). And just in case you forget that lesson, here’s a rhyming quote to help you remember:
“I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!
If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!"
The lesson: An education will take you far.
As a student of both Dartmouth and Oxford, Dr. Seuss knew the value of a good education. And living in a world without Google, the internet or anything even remotely close, he wrote about the power of books. He sums up the concept of knowledge so succinctly, it’s no wonder he was able to fit so many important lessons into so few words:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Pretty simple, right? Knowledge is power and it can take you places. Speaking of going places…
The lesson: Be deliberate yet flexible in life.
We can all probably agree that children’s literature has a tendency to sometimes oversimplify life’s many hiccups. That’s what’s beautiful about one of Dr. Seuss’ most notable works “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” — it doesn’t deny life’s messiness. In fact, it embraces it:
“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.”
Although we think of this book as an almost cliché gift for any recent college graduate, there’s a reason people gift it as a lighthearted roadmap to life as an adult: It’s honest and beautiful.
The lesson: Step outside your comfort zone and be pleasantly surprised.
“Green Eggs and Ham” is one of the most famous Dr. Seuss stories and one of the most simply written. It only uses 50 words throughout the entire book, all because Seuss’ editor bet him he couldn’t do it. Well he did. And in the meantime, he showed us how great (and surprisingly tasty) things can be waiting just outside your comfort zone. Sam I Am sums up the notion nicely:
“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may!”
And although we can all probably agree it would be tough to trust a stranger trying to force-feed us green-colored animal products, the lesson remains invaluable.
The lesson: Stay true to your word.
Being someone with conviction is an honorable thing indeed. And although things became quite difficult for Horton while he babysat an egg that wasn’t even his, he stuck it out because he made a promise. He knew that he had to accept responsibility and do what he said he would, otherwise that poor egg would suffer the consequences. He exclaims at a certain point:
"I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!"
If that’s true, we could all aim to be more like Horton and his elephant counterparts.
Hopefully that was a fun way to revisit some childhood favorites and give you a fresh perspective on them. Also, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the lessons to be learned from Dr. Seuss books.
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