post written by: Marc Chernoff

12 Things My Grandmother Told Me Before She Died

12 Things My Grandmother Told Me Before She Died

When my grandmother, Zelda, passed away a few years ago at the age of 90, she left me with a box of miscellaneous items from her house that she knew I had grown to appreciate over the years.  Among these items is an old leather-bound journal that she aptly named her ‘Inspiration Journal.’

Throughout the second half of her life, she used this journal to jot down ideas, thoughts, quotes, song lyrics, and anything else that moved her.  She would read excerpts from her journal to me when I was growing up, and I would listen and ask questions.  I honestly credit a part of who I am now to the wisdom she bestowed on me when I was young.

Today I want to share some of these inspiring excerpts with you.  I’ve done my best to sort, copyedit, and reorganize the content into twelve inspiring bullet points.  Enjoy.

  1. Breathe in the future, breathe out the past.  No matter where you are or what you’re going through, always believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Never expect, assume, or demand.  Just do your best, control the elements you can control, and then let it be.  Because once you have done what you can, if it is meant to be, it will happen, or it will show you the next step that needs to be taken.
  2. Life CAN be simple again.  Just choose to focus on one thing at a time.  You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it all right now.  Breathe, be present, and do your best with what’s in front of you.  What you put into life, life will eventually give you back many times over.  Read The Power of Now.
  3. Let others take you as you are, or not at all.  Speak your truth even if your voice shakes.  By being yourself, you put something beautiful into the world that was not there before.  So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.
  4. You are not who you used to be, and that’s OK.  You’ve been hurt; you’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today.  Over the years, so many things have happened – things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit to grow.  As time passes, nobody stays the same, but some people will still tell you that you have changed.  Respond to them by saying, “Of course I’ve changed.  That’s what life is all about.  But I’m still the same person, just a little stronger now than I ever was before.”
  5. Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now.  Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time.  So whatever you do, hold on to hope.  The tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable cord.  Let hope anchor you in the possibility that this is not the end of your story – that the change in the tides will eventually bring you to peaceful shores.
  6. Do not educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy.  That way when you get older you’ll know the value of things, not the price.  In the end, you will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile.  You simply appreciate the moments and feel gratitude, seeking nothing else, nothing more.  That is what true happiness is all about.  Read Happiness Is a Serious Problem.
  7. Be determined to be positive.  Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude.  So smile at those who often try to begrudge or hurt you, show them what’s missing in their life and what they can’t take away from you.
  8. Pay close attention to those you care about.  Sometimes when a loved one says, “I’m okay,” they need you to look them in the eyes, hug them tight, and reply, “I know you’re not.”  And don’t be too upset if some people only seem to remember you when they need you.  Feel privileged that you are like a beacon of light that comes to their minds when there is darkness in their lives.
  9. Sometimes you have to let a person go so they can grow.  Because, over the course of their lives, it is not what you do for them, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.
  10. Sometimes getting the results you crave means stripping yourself of people that don’t serve your best interests.  This allows you to make space for those who support you in being the absolute best version of yourself.  It happens gradually as you grow.  You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do.  So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.
  11. It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.”  In the end, people will judge you in some way anyway.  So don’t live your life trying to impress others.  Instead live your life impressing yourself.  Love yourself enough to never lower your standards for anyone.  Read The Last Lecture.
  12. If youre looking for a happy ending and cant seem to find one, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new beginning.  Brush yourself off and accept that you have to fail from time to time.  That’s how you learn.  The strongest people out there – the ones who laugh the hardest with a genuine smile – are the same people who have fought the toughest battles.  They’re smiling because they’ve decided that they’re not going to let anything hold them down, they’re moving on to a new beginning.

Photo by: Gabriele Fanelli

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  • I love #12 about new beginnings. I’d like to add: Maybe it’s not that you failed - but that you’re just not at the “ending” yet. Sometimes there are setbacks that seem like failure, but are really just one of life’s teaching moments that help you along the way. :)

  • Amen to every point! Thank you.

    This is one of my all time favorite M&A posts.

  • I gotta agree with Mich. This post is super inspiring. Really made my day.

    Keep up the great job on this blog. Seriously, you’re helping people out there, and I’m one of them.

  • Wonderful reading!! Serenity to the soul.

  • No better way to start a Monday than by reading this. Thank you for this inspiring post.

  • Just beautiful Marc, and what a treasure of memories for you. Thank you, for passing them on, I hope you know how much they truly help.

  • Hello Marc,
    Really very good article. I found it inspirational.
    I especially liked the point “So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.”

  • :) Smiles all around…..have an awesome Monday!

  • I love every excerpt, especially # 12 when it talks about new beginning. It’s when you learn to accept your failure will you learn how to accept your success.

  • I absolutely love this!! Very inspiring and I agree with with all of them. What a great way to start off your day. Thanks for sharing! You’re awesome.

  • I absolutely love these! Thanks for sharing as always… Now, If I could just remember each and everyone throughout my day/week!

  • These thoughts really spoke to me today. Marc and Angel, you have done it again. :)

  • Great article Marc & Angel. I have been reading articles on your site for a couple months because I have been going through some stuff in my life. I don’t do ‘comments’, but I just had to this time to let you guys know that you are doing a great service. Thank you so very much.

  • Number 9 really resonates with me, I just had to let someone go yesterday so they can grow and find themselves. Thank you once again for such and inspiring and amazing blog :)

  • I actually have goosebumps reading this - absolutely amazing and inspiring. How blessed you are to have had this wise woman as your grandmother! I also observe that she kept this journal for the last half of her life 45 years and beyond - it truly takes time to learn, know and practice these things! Love it!

  • I look forward to these inspiring posts! they make my day easier and my challenges a little less difficult to handle. I love #12.

  • Thanks for the wisdom and it always seems to come at a time when I really need it, like on a dreary Monday morning.

  • This great advice from your grandmother. Obviously, she was a wise woman.

    It can be difficult to let go of someone you love, but it’s better for you and that person. Both of you will be able to grow. Who knows? You could get back together again.

  • I’m a special education teacher. I choose to arrive at work 2 hours early a few days a week so I can read your blog and do some meditative writing. Your words of hope are an inspiration and they encourage me to stay strong. Thank you.

  • Marc And Angel, I don’t want to leave God out of this credit, but as the years roll on I’ll be 76 Years Young 12-23-12, and you all keep growing me with your inspiring words of wisdom. As I get older, life gets sweeter, and I love sharing the things I’ve learned with my family. Thank You For Your Post! I’m sure you help many people out there that you never hear from.

  • This is the most touching article that I have read in a long time. As I read through these lines I see myself in almost all of them. Thank you very much for sharing this. I am going to see a lot of things in a new light.

  • great article, am inspired, will be sending my wife this, she’s at college, much love Marc & Angel! keep inspiring

  • Really like these … number 11 is especially poignant for a lot of us who like to *think* a good game and often do very little about it.

    We are action beings, aren’t we? Looking back at what we’ve done rather than wishing we’d tried … what a great inspiration to just “do it” baby.

  • I would like to add to the being positive post…. Not only smile at those who begrudge you. But smile in general. I have had the most difficult 4 years in my life and through it all I smiled and talked about blessings not losses. It got me though and inspired those around me to look at the bright side.
    Thank you for your posts!

  • This is so very uplifting, thanks for what you guys are doing here. It really warms my soul reading your blogs.

  • one of the best posts i’ve ever read on your site… and they are all pretty wonderful. this one takes the cake so far… thank you for sharing these things :)

  • I love Grammy Zelda’s beautiful words! Thank you so much for sharing them that’s pretty awesome she kept an inspirational journal she was ahead of her time. We are all lucky to have the chance to meet/learn from her! Thank you for sharing her :) Michelle W.

  • As the saying goes with age comes wisdom.
    And your Grandmother certainly had plenty of that.
    I love listening to older people, as they have lived and been there and got the T.Shirt so to speak.
    But wise words are only beneficial if they are absorbed and used properly, and as your regular writings prove beyond doubt you have.

  • Such a great morning read. All your articles are so inspiring and are really helping me through certain challenges in my life. I love the part about hope “the tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable chord”
    Thank you!

  • This is one of the best ! #4 resonates with me . Thank you ! Such a blessing to have the wisdom of the elderly .

  • Thank you so much for sharing this very touching and inspiring post. I live in Sweden and just want to say that you’re doing such amazing work with this site. I am grateful to be able to receive this inspiration. Thank you in my native language: Tack så mycket!

  • Thanks for sharing Marc.

    I lived with my Papaw until the age of 16 - when he lost his fight to lung cancer. He taught me a similar list of lessons and this has inspired me to devote a post to him. Your grandma was a wise woman, I am glad you had the blessing of her in your life.


  • Thank you for this posting. I’m new to your site and enjoying all the writings. This one really struck a cord in my heart, as I lost all my grandparents when I was young. I’m soon turning 65, this wisdom would
    have made a world of difference in my life.
    Thank you again :)

  • Your grandmother was wise.

  • #11 really stood out for me. Taking more risks was on my new year resolution list. I tend to be the kind of person who says “I wish I did that.”

  • Just wanted to say thank you, not only for this post, but for all of your posts. So awesome :)

  • I cannot get over how much wisdom you share on this blog. I enjoy reading every post, and they have honestly made my life better since I subscribed a few months ago. Thank you!

  • Great post Marc, I’ve shared it with a number of friends who took a lot from it as well!

  • This is very incisive - your grandmother must be a very wise person.

  • Perfect timing … on the eve of Yom Kippur when introspection and connection is at its peak. I was not close with my grandparents, but I am changing that with my own grandchildren. Thank you for sharing your wonderful, poignant, loving, inspiring and wise piece. What a joy to read!

  • Thank you for all your articles and stories. They truly inspire me and help me with life… sometimes i cant find answers to things, but then i will look into my email and somehow the topic that you have is something that i I can relate to.

  • Just want to say that I look forward to this feed every day! Always brings new inspiration to my day:) thanks so much for sharing!

  • This post has really helped me out so much. Thank you.

  • Simply wonderful articles. They are the rules of life that we all too often forget. I have found your site and another very helpful and am just about ready to cancel my Psych appointments. This is all the cognitive therapy I need.

  • What a beautiful article…you are so lucky to have known a grandmother of such wisdom, life, and beauty. I’m sure it reflects off you greatly :)

  • Thanks for this. I continue to forward these to other people and always hear back from them that they also gain something good from reading them. I suspect that they also forward and share. Smiles far and wide :)

  • Also, my friend and i were just laughing about how sometimes these emails pile up in my inbox because i’m saving them till I have time to savor every word :)

  • I loved this, it was really inspiring. I’ve been having a rough time lately, and this really helped.

  • thanks for this loving post… reminds me I need to say “love you grandma.” :)

  • Time is the one thing we all have… its how we use it that counts.

    Great lessons.

  • Thanks for the uplifting post.

  • Thanks Grandmother. The wisdom shared heals. I especially am buoyed by #10; letting go means expansion while keeping golden memories.

  • This is one of the best blog posts I have read in a while. Thanks for sharing such an uplifting post!

  • Thank you for this inspiring post! Coming from a tough day, this is perfect to help me bounce back. You are doing an awesome job.


  • I got a lot out of this post. Thanks for sharing!

  • This was easily one of the best Stumbles I’ve ever found. Thank you for sharing. We would all be better off if we had that sort of wisdom in our families.

  • Christophe White
    October 6th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Your grandmother was very wise. I only wish I was as wise as her and I could pass on such wisdom. I hope you can look back on your time together with a smile and a happy heart. Blessings to you

  • I love this and thanks for reminding me of The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch was a true inspiration.

    The only point I’d take issue with is #6. While I agree that happiness is of course more important than money, I don’t like when people try to suggest that these two very important aspects of life are mutually exclusive. Many goals are simply unattainable without a strong financial foundation. I think anyone who disagrees with that is either naive or isn’t dreaming big enough! :)

  • Very beautiful. I particularly liked the one about how life CAN be simple again. With all the technology and daily “duties,” we forget that we can simply focus on one task at a time and take it easy.

    - Maria Alexandra

  • This post reminds me of what is the most important in my life. Such real wisdom enlightening my human mind.

  • Marvelous work! You should compile this into a book on personal development and its applications.

  • These are awesome things to learn from anybody who has lived the life completely .. Thanks For Sharing :)

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I absolutely love your site. And a big thanks to your grandma.

  • very wise advices.

  • I love her, great introspection… thanks for sharing!

  • Sounds like your grandma was an amazing person. I loved my grandma too.

  • This was really touching. I have been inspired. She sounds like a beautiful human being.

  • Your grandma was a very wise woman!
    Bless her heart to live 90+ years and share her thoughts with you. Her gift to you and your gift to us! Many many thanks! Keep up the good work!

  • Everyone should have a brilliant grandmother like that. :) Thanks for sharing!

  • What a wonderful Grandmother… you were very blessed to have her in your life, and now so are we. Thanks for sharing this. E.

  • Incredibly wise counsel that makes me reconsider my life in a new light and all the important people in my life — thank you to your Grandmother & you for compiling & sharing such thoughtful & beautiful words!!!

  • Breathe in the future, breathe out the past… :)

  • Thanks!

  • Great reading, love this post :-)

  • Beautiful..

  • I was googling things to do with my grandmother and I came across this amazing post. Literally, everything that I needed to hear to motivate me and make me reflect on my attitude as of late, was in this post. It made me remember all the pieces of wisdom that my other three grandparents who had passed away, have given me over time. I think I want to write a blog post about those pieces of advice as well.

  • This is very humbling, and beautiful. I feel uplifted and positively inspired. Thank you!

  • Love this post… particularly 9 and 10.

  • Love this post
    Thank you.

  • She possessed and offered you much wisdom, blessings.

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