9 Business Lessons Dr. Seuss Taught Us

by Staff Writer

9 Business Lessons Dr. Seuss Taught UsWith The Lorax now in theaters, you're probably reminded of all the important lessons Dr. Seuss taught you in your childhood. You learned to try new foods even if they were green and looked icky. You discovered that letting strange cats into your house would likely lead to destruction. Oh, and you might have learned the somewhat important skill of reading. Dr. Seuss didn't leave you out in the cold for your adult life, though. His books (and movies!) are filled with knowledge that can even be applied to the business world. Take a look at these Seussian lessons that you can take to the bank.

  1. Money is nice; you've got bills to pay,
    but greed often leads to moral decay

    We've all seen how corporate greed and the corruption it leads to can destroy businesses and land people in hot water in the real world. Executives at Enron and inside traders on Wall Street could have learned from Gertrude McFuzz, the main character in a story of the same name in Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. Gertrude has one wimpy tail feather and wants more, like another bird, Lolla Lee Lou, who has two. Gertrude finds berries to make her tail grow, but gets greedy and eats them all. Her tail grows way too large for her to handle, keeping her from flying and walking, so she has to go through the painful process of having all but one plucked out.

  2. Working your way up sure takes some gall,
    but the more people you walk on, the farther you'll fall

    In "Yertle the Turtle," an ambitious reptilian king of the pond wants to expand his kingdom by increasing how far he can see. Rather than building a taller throne himself using materials from his kingdom, Yertle literally uses turtles under his rule to push himself to new heights. The turtles stack themselves up and he stands on the top. The bottom turtle, Mack, repeatedly asks for Yertle to let them rest, but Yertle keeps adding more and more turtles. Eventually, he is knocked off the top and becomes King of the Mud. This is a lesson in relationship building for managers and anyone else who wants to rise to the top of a business. You can't sacrifice others' happiness or hard work for nothing but your own benefit. Even once you've made it to the biggest corner office, there will be consequences if you've walked all over the people below you, whether it's related to profits, productivity, or just personal issues.

  3. Maybe you didn't do things the way you should,
    but admitting you're wrong will make you look good

    This is just a good lesson for life, but it's easily applicable to business, where you'll earn much more respect if you suck it up, take responsibility for your actions, and propose a solution. If you try to pass the buck when you're in the wrong, you'll prolong the problem and probably be found out in the end anyway. In Dr. Seuss' lesser known Bartholomew and the Oobleck, a king who's unhappy with the unchanging weather each season has his magicians change things up a bit. They muster up a substance from the sky called Oobleck, a sticky green substance that keeps falling in bigger and bigger blobs that cause problems for everyone in the kingdom. The Oobleck storm is turned off by the king who admits he was wrong and says, "I'm sorry," the lesson being that even powerful people benefit from fessing up to mistakes.

  4. Taking on extra responsibility can be a hard mission,
    but in the end, you'll get well-deserved recognition

    If you're working on a team or are even just helping someone else handle their own responsibilities, you will eventually see the fruits of your labor and will be recognized for it. In Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton the elephant takes over sitting on a bird's egg as she goes on a (somewhat permanent) vacation. He sticks with the work, even when it's hard and thankless, and when the egg hatches, a tiny flying elephant emerges rather than a bird. Even if you're doing more than your share of a project or are picking up someone else's slack, your supervisor's are likely to take notice eventually. In the end, your work will show that you played a large role in its completion.

  5. When writing a contract, never forget,
    you better be sure; once it's written, it's set

    Of course, you'll probably have legal teams look over any contracts, but as a smart businessperson, you should also be aware of what's put in any contracts you sign. Another lesson taught to us by the tireless Horton in the same egg-hatching story is the idea that you have to keep your word. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent." Many business professionals and lawyers have translated this idea into writing careful contracts: if you mean it, say it in the contract and if you don't mean it, don't say it. As a business practice, this will keep you out of some serious trouble and away from steep legal fees.

  6. The trees, lakes, and animals should be kept in mind
    for a business plan that will last over time

    In the classic tale of The Lorax, in theaters now, children are taught a lesson of environmental responsibility that every adult, especially those in business, should take to heart. The entrepreneurial antagonist, the Once-ler, begins cutting down a certain type of tree to make a product, and soon his business has expanded significantly. Though the Lorax warns him that he's destroying the habitat for all the wildlife and cutting down too many trees, the Once-ler doesn't listen. By the end, he's cut down all the trees and his business folds. Every business has to consider its environmental costs and, even just for the sake of growing profit into the future, must find the most sustainable business practices.

  7. A spirit of entrepreneurship is a useful tool
    to make money off making others feel cool

    The Sneetches were a group of creatures who could tell who was cool and who wasn't by whether or not they had a green star on their belly. One cunning man decided to make a business out of the discrimination and desire to fit in, making a Star-On machine, and then a Star-Off machine for the originally star-bellied who wanted to be different than the newly starred. The Sneetches go back and forth until they don't know who's cool anymore. This entrepreneur eventually became rich off their prejudices. There's an important lesson to be learned here about being a smart entrepreneur that finds a solution to a perceived problem in society. As long as you don't take advantage of anyone, playing on people's desire to fit in and be part of the in-crowd is always a smart business move.

  8. If you rely on others to do your work
    you could end up an unemployed jerk

    If you're one of those people who lets others take the lead on projects and do all the heavy lifting, you ought to think twice. Especially in a time when lay-offs are happening fairly frequently, you definitely don't want to be the dead weight at your job. In Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, Thidwick has a hard time saying no and starts taking on residents in his antlers. The growing pack of animals takes advantage of the moose's kindness, living rent-free, burdening him with protecting them, and causing him to be kicked out of his herd. But this story has a heavy lesson: Thidwick sheds his antlers just as the hunters are coming for him, leaving the antler-dwelling animals there to be killed, stuffed, and mounted. You might think you can get away with slacking off, but you can be sure that when the bosses are looking for someone to get rid of, fingers will be pointing at you.

  9. You can't wait around for things to happen to you;
    you have to go out and make your business dreams come true

    Often given to high school and college graduates for inspiration, Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a perennial favorite full of advice for people of all ages. Though you can apply many of the lessons to business, one in particular is good to keep in mind. Dr. Seuss tells us about a dangerously useless place we might find ourselves: the Waiting Place. Here, everyone's just waiting for one thing or another, including a better break or another chance. But you've got to keep moving. He teaches us that you can't wait for an opportunity to find you or for great things to happen to you; you have to go out and make things happen. Be aggressive, grab the bull by the horns, take a chance. Take his business advice and you'll definitely go places.


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