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5 Life Lessons You Can Learn from Martin Luther King, Jr.

martin-luther-king
Written by Peter Jones

There is so much we can all learn from Martin Luther King, Jr, and not just on the day off we get once a year to commemorate his life! But it might not have occurred to you to adapt some of his deep wisdom to your own life and career.

Here are 5 powerful lessons from Dr. King that could help you live better, do better, and go further.

1. Ask why.

And more importantly, ask “why not?” If someone tells you something is impossible, ask this very important question to figure out why they are so convinced, and whether you might be able to offer a solution no one else had seen. When looking for answers to some of the biggest questions of a generation, Dr. King turned to other sources for inspiration. This teaches us the answers to our problems will often come from unexpected corners, and how important it is to learn from other people and other cultures as much as we can.

2. You can’t change change.

Change is constant. Dr. King was initially hesitant to join in the 1963 March on Washington, but he adapted to the evolving movement and ended up leading one of the most moving and effective platforms for social change. Be adaptable. Realize that change is inevitable. All you can control is what you do in the face of it.

3. Find where you can give, not just receive.

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” In stressful times, it becomes very difficult to focus on anyone but ourselves. But this is a moral requirement, and increasingly more so in our interconnected, fast-paced world. When you’re in a rut, focus on helping people—you’ll be surprised at what a difference that can make.

4. Tune out the critics.

As long as you’ve chosen a path that’s good and a cause that you are passionate about, and as long as you’re pursuing both with integrity, honesty, and concern for others, then you’ll need to tune out the haters now and then. People will always be critical. Rejection will always happen, particularly in the course of a career. But if you know you’re doing the right thing, you should keep doing it.

5. Leave a legacy.

Think about what sort of mark you want to leave on the world. Is the work you’re doing going to make a difference to the next generation? Even if you can’t make an impact on the same scale as Dr. King, you can figure out ways to leave your workplace, industry, etc., a little better off for your having been there.

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