Life Lessons from Mr. Rogers

Jake Thompson
Dec 2, 2019 · 4 min read

“Calling him a ‘saint’ puts an unrealistic expectation that we can’t take the same actions he does. And we can.”

It’s hard to not have watched Mr. Rogers television show as a child, read anything about the man, or even see Tom Hanks portrayal and thought that Fred Rogers was anything BUT a saint.

His mild-mannered nature. His relentless love for others. And his attention — how he could make you feel as though you were the only child in the world he was looking through the TV to talk directly to. Those are the traits of someone with what feels like far greater love and patience than a normal man.

But that was just Fred.

Despite how it looks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t actually about Fred Rogers. Instead, it’s about a journalist named Lloyd who’s assigned to interview Rogers for Esquire magazine.

It’s an insightful look into the dynamics of anger, forgiveness, and personal growth. I couldn’t help but feel inspired by these lessons:

THE POWER OF DAILY GRATITUDE

Fred Rogers is a rare individual who lives life in a constant state of gratitude. He’s grateful for each moment of the day, each interaction, and each experience because, as he states in the movie, “each experience and person has contributed to making me the person I am today.”

Gratitude is the practice of being thankful for what you have, even while pursuing more of what you want. It’s even been proven that gratitude will actually rewire your brain — and can completely change your perspective. Mr. Rogers admits to having faced adversities in life, yet it’s his constant state of gratitude that allows him to stay present in each interaction and happy with life.

THE POWER OF AN ENCOURAGING WORD

“I believe in you.” There’s power in inspiring courage in someone else by sharing that you see something in them that they may not even see themselves. Rogers repeatedly speaks life into journalist Lloyd Vogel throughout the movie. Despite Vogel’s constant personal turmoil, Rogers provides a steady source of encouragement and love.

It’s easy to underestimate how much power our words have on another person. We literally hold the ability to build up a person’s courage and spirit — or tear it down. Fred Rogers knew the importance of the words he expressed to others — and how those words could ultimately change someone’s life.

Leaders need to be intentional with their words. Each conversation is an opportunity to speak life into your team and clients — use that power wisely.

WHY BOTTLING UP EMOTIONS HURTS MORE THAN HELPS YOU

This lesson hits home in the worst of ways. Back in 2011, I came down with a severe case of the shingles. My doctor, upon realizing what I was suffering from, asked what was going on in my personal life.

“Well, I just started a company, broke up with my girlfriend of a year, dealing with my parents’ divorce, and having to look for a new place to live after best friend was preparing to move out (after getting engaged.”

There was no need for a follow-up question. She immediately recommended I learn to not keep all of my emotions and stress bottled up and instead, learn to express my emotions and preferably, talk to a professional about this.

Keeping our stress, pain, and anger bottled up inside is (very) unhealthy. Our body will literally breakdown if we try to hold too much. The film’s main character has carried a heavy burden throughout his life, and as you can tell, that burden has bled into his interactions with strangers, friends, coworkers, and even his wife.

We may believe that as leaders we need to keep our emotions inside, never expressing what we truly feel or talking to someone — but in most cases, that approach ends up hurting us more than helping. The constant suppression of feelings can only go on for so long before those feelings bubble up and spill out, causing more trouble than tension release.

FORGIVENESS IS THE STRONGER PERSON’S MOVE.

I remember growing up and believing that revenge was always best. If someone had wronged me, I wanted to gain power in order to get “back at them” from a better position of strength. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized forgiveness — truly letting go of that anger — was the best decision.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Nelson Mandela

It’s easy to carry anger and hate toward someone who has wronged us. In reality, it does little (to nothing) toward that individual — but it eats away at our own heart. The more courageous decision is to let go of that anger and forgive the individual for whatever wrongs were made.

Leadership requires one’s ability to forgive and move onward from past bad situations. Investing your time, energy, and focus into carrying anger & resentment only weighs a leader down from being able to most effectively move forward.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t a biographical film on the life of Fred Rogers, but a powerful look inside the burden of carrying anger, finding forgiveness, and investing in your personal growth to not only better yourself — but those closest to you.


I help organizations cultivating a WINNING mindset to compete every day and win. If this sounds like a focus that your team members and company needs, I would love to discuss my workshops and keynote options to determine the best fit for your organization. Click here to start the conversation.

Jake Thompson

Written by

Chief Encouragement Officer for @CompeteEveryDay | Keynote Speaker | I teach people how to #Compete so they can win their work, workouts, & life.

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