Ruth Bader Ginsburg left behind a legacy of wisdom that feels more relevant in 2021 than ever. Here are a few lessons we should all carry into the new year.
Well, we made it. To 2021. The earth, moon, and sun each did their thing again. But somehow this year feels different. Because 2020 was a doozy and so many of us are deeply ready for a fresh start.
RBG fought, she believed, and she persevered—all actions that feel deeply relevant as we look to the year ahead of us.
Last year left many of us with a lot to mourn. For me, and for many, that includes the loss of a national treasure, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The diminutive woman, known affectionately as The Notorious RBG, served as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1993 until her death on September 18th, 2020, at age 87. RBG was the breaker of all kinds of ceilings. She fought, she believed, and she persevered—all actions that feel deeply relevant as we look to the year ahead of us.
Before I charge too quickly into the spin of 2021, I plan to reflect on some of the amazing life and career lessons RBG left behind. She gifted us a legacy of wisdom that will remain relevant for years to come.
So today, let’s reflect on some of what she taught us and consider how it might apply to our own adventures in the coming months.
1. To persuade others, don't react, respond!
Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved tremendous things in her lifetime. Much of her success required that she persuade others to share a point of view that may not have been popular.
And persuasive she was. Never one to steamroll or shame others onto her side, RBG was artful in how she changed hearts and minds.
She once shared with the New York Times some wedding-day advice she received from her mother-in-law: “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”
And she goes on to say of that advice:
I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.
I believe she was telling us not to ignore or excuse unkindness or incivility but to label and rise above it in our response.
In 2021, we are all going to be processing and wading through the heaviness that was 2020 as we face the challenges of the coming year. Careless words are likely to be spoken. But when they are, try not to let them trigger a reaction. Respond as the version of yourself you’re most proud of.
Respond as the version of yourself you’re most proud of.
The absence of your emotional reaction will make the intelligence of your response stand out even more. This is one way to bring hearts and minds to your side.
2. Disagree with an idea but respect the person who shared it
RBG maintained lifelong friendships with colleagues sitting on both sides of the political aisle. She was asked about her success at this many times throughout her career.
She spoke with NPR about her friendship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and shared that while they disagreed deeply on many issues, she respected him enough to listen to what he said. And although he rarely changed her mind, his thinking pushed and challenged her own, making her even better.
When an idea doesn’t land with you, take a pause. Can you find the positive intent behind it? Can you empathize with the person suggesting it?
She also spoke of their finding common ground through shared interests and humor. She was able to separate her friend and colleague from the opinions he held. And this too feels like a useful skill to cultivate for 2021.
None of us knows what shape the workplace will take in the coming months. We will all hear many predictions, suggestions, and opinions. We will like some and hate others.
But when an idea doesn’t land with you, take a pause. Can you find the positive intent behind it? Can you empathize with the person suggesting it? Is there something useful you can find in it?
Keep the idea and the person in separate corners.
3. Never stop learning
Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true
RBG never lost her appetite for more information, for expanding her mind. As much wisdom as she had acquired, it was never enough.
And in this, she wasn’t alone. According to Inc. Magazine, many of the world’s most successful leaders—from Warren Buffet to Tony Robbins to Mark Cuban—are voracious readers.
As we continue to navigate the uncertainty ahead, learning new ways to do things will be critically important. So make continuous reading and learning a priority in 2021.
Not sure how to make it happen? Here are a few ideas:
- Choose your sources wisely. Don’t try to read everything. Explore different books, publications, or blogs to see which resonate most with you.
- Schedule reading time. Put reading time in your calendar. Maybe it’s 10 minutes a day. Maybe it replaces what used to be a commute before many of us started working virtually. Get creative.
- Try audio. Hey, like podcasts or audiobooks? They're a great source of inspiration, motivation, and knowledge. Maybe you can listen while you’re cooking or working out.
4. Prioritize self-care
RBG was so famous as an exerciser that her personal trainer published a book of the workouts she was still doing into her 80s. Once asked who the most important person in her life was, she famously responded, “My personal trainer.”
For RBG, intense exercise gave her the energy she needed to deliver her most impactful work. This is a lesson we all need to carry into 2021. As stress and burnout continue to threaten and plague us, we must all be mindful of how we manage our energy levels.
Working endless hours isn’t the most effective or fulfilling path to success. Working well is what delivers results. So find ways to care for yourself, to recharge your tank, every day.
You too may enjoy some intense exercise. Or you may choose to walk, meditate, journal, or call a friend. There is no right way to practice self-care, but doing it in some form is a must!
If you want some self-care guidance when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and coping with stress, here's where I shamelessly plug podcasts from my amazing Quick and Dirty Tips colleagues:
- Get-Fit Guy with fitness pro Brock Armstrong
- Nutrition Diva with nutritionist (and renowned nutrition myth-buster) Monica Reinagel
- Savvy Psychologist with clinical psychologist and sleep expert Dr. Jade Wu
Search for these wellness experts on your favorite podcast platform or visit QuickandDirtyTips.com.
I hope these nuggets of wisdom have helped you feel empowered to take on 2021. These are only a few of the countless gems RBG left us with. They feel, for me, entirely relevant in this moment. So let’s honor and celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsberg's life together by letting her wisdom guide us through some murky months ahead.