His name is unfamiliar to some
but he’s a much beloved author
by the old and young.
Known to his family simply as “Ted”,
parents read his books to their children once or even twice before going to bed.
Who is this person, you may ask?
A most Notable “Who”,
a character in his own right!
Ted Geisel aka Dr. Sues whose stories give the young and old much delight!
Rejection, luck, and risk may offer you hidden opportunities if you dare to stand out like Theodor S. Geisel. From Green Eggs and Ham, Cat in the Hat, and Horton hears a who, just to name a few, his work is recognizable all around the world. But unlike his limerick poems that gives the air of fun, his journey was not an easy one. In honor of Ted Geisel born March 2, 1904, this article highlights a specific life-changing chance encounter and the challenges he took just for the heck of it.
Why fit in when you were born to stand out? – Dr. Seuss
Rejected. Despite being a successful political cartoonist for magazines, Ted discovered publishing a book was not easy. “Simplistic, characters lack substance and moral content”, were the words used to describe Ted’s work by seasoned publishers. But for Ted, “Logical Insanity” was how he had described his work.
He refused to bend his imagination to a formula dictated by others. Ted was certain there had to be someone who would be receptive to his work. Having knocked on 27 publisher’s doors to be rejected by them all, one can’t help admiring his tenacity. But after receiving his last rejection, deflated, he headed home to burn his manuscript.
Luck or synchronicity? On his way home walking on Madison street, he bumped into an old friend from college. They catch up and Ted’s friend noticed he was carrying something. “What’s that”, his friend asks? Ted showed him his manuscript filled with colorful illustrations, never seen before and was amused by lyrical rhythmic style. “You know I just got hired as a publisher for children’s books”, his friend said. Ted’s friend with limited publishing experience took a risk and signs him up that same day. Desiring one day he would write a classic novel, for the children’s book, Ted used his magazine pen name, “Dr. Seuss”.
“And that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street.”
“And to think that I saw it Mulberry Street”, was the first children’s book written by Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. In honor of his friend who took a chance on him, he renamed the main character Marco which is the name of the publisher’s son.
Ted’s imagination and persistence, combined with the synchronicity of meeting his friend who took a risk on him, unfolded the hidden opportunities that turned Dr. Seuss books into a classic.
Here’s an extra nugget or two just for you.
In public interviews, he talked about two challenges he took on as his popularity began to rise. The first challenge came from a friend who gave him a list of 225 words to choose from to make a story. He was absolutely frustrated but he never gave up. Exasperated, he scanned the list one more time and saw the words “Cat” and “hat” and the rest is history.
“The Cat in the Hat” became an immediate critical acclaim, sold millions of copies three years after it’s publication, was made into a movie and is now considered the 9th best-selling children’s book of all time and has now been made into a children’s animated series.
A Second challenge, a friend bet him $50 he could not write a book using only 50 words that would make a six-year-old want to read it. Always up for a challenge, Ted wrote, “Green eggs and Ham”.
Originality. Classic novel by definition means a “book accepted as exemplary or noteworthy”. Ted Geisel wrote 44 children’s book. His work, despite not fitting in to publishers’ standards at the time, is now listed to be the ninth-best-selling fiction of all time (estimated 500 million copies sold). His work has been adapted into motion pictures.
Ted Seuss Geisel won the Pulitzer prize in 1984 for his work and was profoundly humbled when he was recognized not only as a “children’s writer” but as a “people’s writer”. Although his books did not fit the standard formula of what is considered “classic”, they were exemplary to the hearts of people young and old alike. His desire to be a classic novelist came true but not in the usual formulaic way.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Lessons. There are so many lessons you can pull out from Ted’s one moment encounter that not only changed his life but touched the lives of many people around the world from generations to come. Here are some of the takeaways:
- The call to stand out versus fitting in. Will you take the challenge and bet on yourself?
- Will you succumb to failure? See failure as a way of steering you to hidden opportunities that are yet to unfold. Don’t give up and continue to hold what you believe in your heart rather than submit to the standards of others.
- Be open to other opportunities. Ted Geisel desired to be a classic novelist. Yet he had a talent for drawing and writing. Sometimes your vision of yourself does not match your talents. Or the things you prefer you have no interest maybe the very thing that gives you meaning. Be open to that possibility.
- Challenge yourself. You may not realize how truly capable you can really be unless you answer the call.
I remember fondly reading Dr. Seuss books as a child and then reading them to my children when they were young. The limerick rhythm of Dr. Seuss books is the perfect style that helps my son learn to read due to the nature of his disability. I was saddened to hear of Ted Geisel’s death in 1991. However, I do recall his words…
“Don’t cry it’s over. Smile because it happened” – Theodore Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)