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Inspiration | Wisdom

7 Qualities That Will Give You a Good Life

The tremendous wisdom of a Founding Father

Image by Nut Denduangboripant from Vecteezy

What can we learn from one of our nation’s most influential founders about living a good life and creating a great career in the 21st century? It turns out a lot!

Among the most important figures in American history, he was brilliant, with an estimated IQ of 160! Let’s look at some of this remarkable man’s timeless wisdom.

Our third president

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and philosopher. He spoke several languages and had an insatiable appetite for learning. He is said to have been one of history’s most well-read people.

While he served as the third president of the United States, it was not at the top of his list of achievements despite its importance. On his gravestone, he had listed what he considered his three greatest accomplishments, which were:

“Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia”

As the author of the Declaration of Independence, the representatives of the 13 colonies selected him to write the Declaration because they agreed he was the best writer.

When British troops burned the original Library of Congress with an estimated 3000 books in 1814, Jefferson donated the 6500 books in his personal library as its replacement.

A fascinating fact about Jefferson is he wrote about 19,000 letters during his lifetime!

Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 in Shadwell, Virginia, British America. Living a long life for the period, he died in 1826 at 83 on July 4th, the birthday of American independence. Coincidently, John Adams, the second president of the United States, died on the very same day!

His accomplishments were significant in the history of the United States of America. Among his many actions as president, in 1807, he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. In addition to serving as president of the United States of America, he was president of the American Philosophical Society.

While the sheer volume of his writing is considerable, he wrote only one full-length book in 1785 titled Notes on the State of Virginia. His book was considered by many to be the most important American book published before 1800.

The seven qualities

The following seven qualities or characteristics come from Jefferson’s voluminous writings. If you wish to read more of Jefferson’s work, you will find over 25,000 of his original papers on the Library of Congress Manuscript Division website.

Let’s look at what he had to say that can help anyone live a better life.

Unless otherwise noted, each of the following quotes are from Thomas Jefferson.


“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

It is as valid today as it was 200 years ago. Without honesty, trust will soon disappear.

Honesty in all things leads to peace, while dishonesty steals it.

Old Honest Abe said: “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

There is much truth in what Shakespeare said more than 400 years ago: “Honesty is the best policy. If I lose mine honor, I lose myself.”

Hard Work and Luck

“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Others often do not see the hard work and preparation it takes for someone to achieve success. Looking at them, they often say things like “They are so lucky,” ignoring the effort they put forth.

Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Preparation comes from a commitment to learn from your hard work and to act upon it.


“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal;

nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

With a proper attitude, you can accomplish almost anything you wish. Yet, you become your own worst enemy when you keep a bad attitude.

Scott Hamilton rightly pointed out a bad attitude leads to a self-inflicted disability: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”


“One man with courage is a majority.”

Courage comes from within and is an immensely powerful attribute. It takes courage to push ahead, persist, and achieve anything of value.

Robert Frost famously said, “The best way out is always through.” Walt Disney stated, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Watch the Small Things

“Take care of your cents: dollars will take care of themselves.”

Mind the little things, and big things will happen. Whether in your savings, career, relationships, or anything else, what you do in the little things is crucial to living a better life.

Mother Theresa said, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” And the master painter Vincent Van Gogh once stated, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Take Control of Yourself

“When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”

Every schoolchild has heard this statement. Rather than react, learn to respond. Our natural inclination when we are angry is to react quickly, which usually does not produce a good outcome.

It is better to respond thoughtfully and mindfully rather than react thoughtlessly and mindlessly.

As Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s not the situation, but whether we react negative or respond positive to the situation that is important.”

Caring for Mind and Body

“Every day is lost in which we do not learn something useful.”

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.”

“Of all exercises, walking is the best.”

Taking care of your health and continually learning leads to a better life. Together, they take care of you now and in the future.

Learning helps you take more meaning of what is important. As Socrates once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Learning fires up everything in life.

To take care of your body not only prolongs life but improves your ability to enjoy it. Benjamin Franklin claimed, “He who has health has hope. And he who has hope has everything.” Jim Rohn reminds us that we must: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Final thoughts

Learning from the wisdom of others is a sure path to good living. May Jefferson’s quotes refresh your thoughts and your life.

To learn more about this remarkable man, check out the many articles, books, and videos about him online. To read most of what he wrote, click here.

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Bill Abbate Leadership Writer and Editor in ILLUMINATION

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