10 Crucial Life Lessons about Growing Up from The Little Prince
The Little Prince is a children's book written for adults. To a child, grown ups and their funny way of thinking can be perplexing. Children wouldn't understand why certain adults would spend the time to do something grown ups think of as a "matter of consequence", and then the grown up would proceed to justify their actions with again another assortment of baffling reasons, and lastly, accuse the child for not being grown up enough to comprehend their merited motivations behind their actions.
This book may be written in a way that doesn't seem to make sense for people who seek to read it only for the story instead of what it is trying to convey; but for people whose intentions is to empathize and connect with the book and the little prince, there will be, before their eyes, a feast of hidden knowledge and values injected in every chapter of the book.
Grown ups are portrayed as abstract and crazy people in the book. Their actions--though exaggerated in the book--directly correlates to the adults today. They search and search, yet they do not know what they're looking for. They drown themselves in work, vanity, domination, drinking, and their own comfort zone. This is evident in adults today. They work night and day, and ultimately, when asked what they're trying to accomplish, they would then give a lecture on the importance of money, and why their mindless hard work is worth the time and stress. Surely money is of great import, but I dare say it is not the essential.
These are the, I believe, essential life lessons I extracted from the book that I shall treasure deeply and live with for my life.
#1 | A problem starts with a tiny sprout that wasn't handled with immediately
How many of us always dismiss problems that are seemingly harmless to us but later regret as that tiny sprout of a setback transforms into a giant of trouble.
Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little.
The Little Prince understood this, and every day, without fail, he diligently destroys the appearance-wise benign baobab shoots so that they don't grow to dominate his small planet and eventually become impossible for him to get rid of.
#2 | Be open minded like a child
Being grown up is a state of mind. Grown ups stop absorbing sights around them. They developed a mindset of "been there, done that" and are not surprised or astonished by new things they see. I remember the first time I have seen an automatic tap that detects your hand under the tap and water gushes out. I had been marveling at the (at that time) phenomenal machine and how it works, and my mom told me flat out afterwards that I was embarrassing her by acting like a wild kid who has never set sights on technology before. She then proceeded to tell me that the world is now revolving around technology and the next time I see something I have never seen before, I should act civil and leave the questions for afterwards, if not, she wasn't bringing me out to fancy places ever again. As I said, lucky for me, the little prince was there at the right moment and the right time, so I scraped by the 99% chance that I would grow to become a typical every-adult-ever.
Grown ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
Grown ups drive on a regular basis, and so they are indifferent with controlling the maneuvering of the car with hands on the steering wheel. But for a kid, having his hands on a steering wheel and single-handedly control such a magnificent monster and letting it bring you to amazing places is a magic on its own.
In the book, the narrator aka the aviator criticized the adults for extinguishing his love for art before he even made his third drawing ever. It is true that a lot of grown ups do that, just because they can, and they have never considered the importance of answering to the beckons of one's callings.
#3 | Don't be concerned too much about figures and materialistic numbers
In the book, figures are all the grown ups care about. They don't believe what you say until you've established a credible foundation drawn from a credible source with technical results that are all about figures, figures, figures.
Grown ups make themselves seem smart by talking about technical things and take pride in their "logic".
Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, primeval forests, or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge, and gold, and politics, and neckties. And the grown up would be extremely pleased to have met such a sensible man.
Being a kid, I have never understood why adults talk about the things they talk about. Their topics can sound boring and dull to a kid who doesn't indulge himself in figures. Grown ups' questions mostly lack of colors.
Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers does he have? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.
I am extremely lucky to have known about the little prince early on in my teenage life, a phase when I can grasp the (sometimes metaphorical) meaning of the text and understand it from a considerably "childish" point of view. I can still relate to the little prince at that time, and was relieved that I couldn't identify myself as one of the grown ups in the book.
#4 | Different people have different priorities
Different eyes see different things. In the story, the little prince assured the aviator that he will be laughing in one of those stars in the sky, and since the aviator does not know which star he is in, it will seem as if all the stars are laughing. For the aviator, the stars he sees are different from other people's. He has stars that will laugh.
All men have stars,” he answered, “but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman, they were wealth. But all the stars are silent. You—and you alone–will have the stars as no one else has them–
Stars are what we value in life, be it our dreams, aspirations, and biggest ambitions. Sometimes people will interfere and try to redirect you to the path they want you to walk on. But remember, the stars you choose are different, so despite other people's currents over currents of disagreements, pursue your star, and your dreams will come true.
I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.
Patience is crucial. Growth may come slow, but persist, and you will soon become the butterfly you want to be.
#5 | All you need is a tiny drop of love in you to see love in everything
When the prince and the aviator were lost in the desert, the prince knew that a well is rare in a desert, but still he remained optimistic and focused on the the miniscule chance that there may be a well instead of the likely chances that they can't find it. He believes that what makes the desert beautiful is somewhere, it hides a well. Similarly, the prince believes all the stars to be beautiful because on one of the stars his rose is living. As he couldn't know which star it is out of so many, all stars are beautiful to him.
If only we saw life through the little prince's perspective, we would have better connections with people, are less likely to complain about every aspect of life, and learn to love life as it is.
If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers.
Even in communication and business, focus on the good aspects that people like instead of the bad ones and refine the good into better.
#6 | Money is not everything
And all those times adults stress about money ...
Surely we need money to live, but it has become evident that a lot of us are truthfully lost at our own callings because external voices and pressure are suppressing our true desires. How many people are working in the jobs they hate just because it pays well? I was one who was nearly influenced by my own parents and everyone around me to walk down the wrong path, but the little prince helped me see that what the grown ups are asking of me is selfish because I'd be trading my joy for a temporary, tangible thing, and at its very least, is only heaps of paper valued like gold.
So many people work and serve for the money, compensation, and reward of it, and sometimes I do wonder, as how the Little Prince did, why they would concern themselves with matters of such "consequence". When do they ever expect happiness and joy from something they do instead of physical things that do not last?
But definitely, for us who understand life, figures are a matter of indifference.
Don't be that businessman in the book who buys stars for money and money to buy stars. No matter how I think of it, that ridiculous cycle just doesn't make sense. Little did I know people like that do exist on Earth. People who blindly do work to (sometimes illegally) earn money although the passion is absent in them.
When you have found the passion that burns fiercely in you, you will have found your path; and if you will persist on it, your idea on "matters of consequence" will revolutionize. That I assure you.
#7 | Be an explorer
Many would assume risk to be dangerous, but few know the truth: the comfort zone is more dangerous. It manipulates you into thinking you're okay sitting on the sofa and watching TV, and that you don't need the thrill of life when you can be comfortable cooped up in the "safe zone".
The geographer: But I am not an explorer. I haven't a single explorer on my planet. It is not the geographer who goes out to count the towns, the rivers, the mountains, the seas, the oceans, and the deserts. The geographer is much too important to go loafing about. He does not leave his desk. But he receives the explorers in his study. He asks them questions, and he notes down what they recall of their travels. And if the recollections of any one among them seem interesting to him, the geographer orders an inquiry into that explorer's moral character.
Once you have a taste of the excitement of challenges and trying new things, your blindfold of the danger will fall from your eyes as you realize that your view of the "scary" life from inside your comfort zone is just an illusion, all part of the comfort zone's master plan to waste your life away without you experiencing a hell of a rollercoaster ride.
Being out of your comfort zone, it goes without saying, you will be jerked around, you will fall, and you will fail, but I cannot think of a better teacher than obstacles. Stand up and get back on track; it is better than being stationary in a bubble of protection.
Challenge your limits. Try everything! Do the things that scares you. Be an explorer. Not a geographer.
#8 | See with your heart what is utmost important
"The heart will not lead you astray," as Rumi wisely quoted. We often are torn between the heart and acquisitiveness when making decisions. Even if your heart made a decision that later proves to fail, you will not regret as you knew in your heart that it was the right decision even though the outcome may not seem so.
In the book, adults have a distorted sense of what is most important. They deem money and fame at the top of the pyramid. These are the tangible things that don't stay with them as time passes.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is not visible to the eye.
For the little prince, the desert is beautiful, because somewhere it hides a well that is invisible to the eye. The appearance is just a shell, empty and hollow and of no importance. What matters is the invisible.
But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart...
# 9 | Your loved ones can never, ever be replaced
When the little prince found a garden of roses just like his, he was in disdain because he thought that his rose was the only rose in the entire universe. But he later recovers and realizes that it didn't matter that his rose was not one in a kind because it was the only rose he cared and would die for.
It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.
It is the same with our loved ones. Nothing can replace the seat in your heart reserved for that person.
#10 | Sometimes silence is enough
I can't count the times I didn't put much thought into phrasing my sentences and have said something that sounds offensive although I had no intention to insult. And the more I explain, the deeper the misunderstandings run.
Words are the source of misunderstandings.
It is true that sometimes silence is good enough.
The age of the Little Prince is left untold. We know he has a mop of hair as gold as the wheat fields, that his lovely peal of laughter sparkles like stars, that he loves a rose, and that he tamed a fox and made him his friend. And when all is said and done, isn't that all that truly matters?
I myself have been so entranced by the little prince that even after watching the animation and reading a free version of the book, I went out to the local bookshop to buy myself a hardcover of this timeless literature just for the sake of collection and having the little prince sit on my shelf. I couldn't stop myself from being charmed by this boy who had so much love in his tiny heart and so much wonder in his twinkling eyes.
Read the book with your heart and you'll realize it's about you.
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All Little Prince illustrations from original version of "Le Petit Prince": copyright 1943 by Harcourt Brace & Company, renewed 1971 by Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry.