Life Lessons From the 1900s That Are Still Relevant Today

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Let the past go

We find it hard to let the past go because of how we are wired. According to physicist Frank Heile, human consciousness has a difficult time living in the present, and we recall past events that hurt us. The more we think about these events, the more attached we become to them.

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Be empathetic and kind

Being empathetic and kind puts us in touch with our essential humanity. Buddhists believe there is enough material wealth in the modern world and that we are lacking loving-kindness and goodwill — which doesn’t cost anything.

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Don’t judge a book by its cover

This is one of the English language’s most famous metaphorical idioms. According to, the phrase first appeared in the Piqua Democrat in Piqua, Ohio: “Don’t judge a book by its cover, see a man by his cloth, as there is often a good deal of solid worth and superior skill underneath a jacket and yaller pants.” The phrase was probably well known to those in the early 20th century.

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Try avoiding debt

Literature is full of references to personal debt, and none are approving. The ancient Roman writer Publilius Syrus said, “Debt is the slavery of the free.” In the early 20th century, before the widespread use of credit cards and other financial instruments, large household debt was rare. Mortgages as we know them first came on the scene in 1934. Today, consumer debt is exploding. It stood at $14 trillion in the first quarter this year.

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Fear is mostly illusory

President Franklin Roosevelt sought to allay the nation’s concerns about the economy in his first inaugural address by saying “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” What people fear most is failure — in relationships or in a job, for example. According to author and psychologist Dr. Susan Jeffers (“Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”), in order for people to overcome their fears, they must confront them.

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