At just 5’1″, Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a walking billboard for the motto “good things come in small packages.” She continually fights for equality, but there is a lot that we can learn from her life that’s not always highlighted. Here are six life lessons we can learn from Ruth Bader Ginsberg, otherwise known as “The Notorious RBG.”
You can accomplish your dreams if you stay motivated and work toward what you believe in
Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a force to be reckoned with. In a time when women rarely got into the field of law, she forged the way for many women after her. When the established law firms of the 1950s and ’60s shut her out (and women as a whole), she used that discrimination as motivation, and argued a series of six cases in the U.S. Supreme Court that pushed for gender equality. She won five of them. Now, at 85, she remains one of the most influential Supreme Court justices and feminist leaders of our time, and continually fights for equal rights.
Choose your words wisely
RBG is known for her persuasiveness and her ability to speak eloquently. She has also been known to pause and think about what she says before the words come out of her mouth. This is a tactic we could all benefit from implementing in our daily lives.
In the book, “In My Own Words,” RBG states, “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” This comment is so simple, yet resonates so deeply. In the age of social media and instant gratification, we often just say whatever comes to mind in the heat of the moment even if it doesn’t serve us well in the long-run.
Next time you start to say something out of anger and frustration, pause, take a deep breath, and count to five. It sounds silly, but even just taking five seconds to gather your thoughts might make a big impact on your verbiage and your eloquence. The same tactic can be used at work. Did you receive an email that angered or upset you? Instead of responding immediately, take some time to cool down and craft a response that articulates your feelings without them being so fresh. This will likely help you draft a more professional and persuasive message.
You can love someone (or work with someone) and still completely disagree with them
RBG shows us what it means to fully appreciate someone for who they are, even if you don’t agree with them all the time. Justices Ginsberg and Scalia had one of the most interesting friendships in the history of the Supreme Court. Their families often spent holidays and vacations together, shared a love of opera, and often called themselves “best buddies.” All of this aside, they fundamentally disagreed about nearly everything political. How did this work? Scalia explained it simply by saying, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake.”
In a time when politics and opinions are extremely important, we can look to this iconic duo for inspiration. Yes, you can fully disagree with someone and view their political beliefs as wrong, yet still love them for who they are. Perhaps this unlikely friendship can inspire friendships and discussions where we can listen to everyone’s opinion and just agree to disagree at times.
Life is about balance — set a time to officially check out of work
This idea was reinforced by Ruth Bader Ginsberg as she recalls her days in law school, “I went to class at 8:30am, and I came home at 4pm; that was children’s hour. It was a total break in my day, and children’s hour lasted until Jane went to sleep. Then I was happy to go back to the books, so I felt each part of my life made me rested from the other.”
Life is about balance, and it’s important to give yourself time to enjoy life outside of the office. You may have to work during the day, but give yourself a deadline when you have to stop. Leaving work at work and enjoying time for yourself will make a huge difference in your motivation and productivity. By giving yourself a deadline, you will force yourself to differentiate between work and free time.
Think of it like this: if you work hard and get everything done before your deadline, you have less to think about during your time off and you can truly enjoy time with friends and family.
Take care of yourself and exercise regularly
One of the biggest misconceptions about exercise is that you have to go all in and do an intense workout. Instead of taking on an intimidating exercise routine, do what you can and create an exercise regimen that is sustainable for you.
At 85, Ruth Bader Ginsberg hits the gym regularly in her “Super Diva” sweatshirt, and has called her longtime trainer “the most important person” in her life (after her family).
Exercising regularly will benefit your mental and physical health, and will help you take care of yourself so you can be the best person you can be. At the end of the day, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to reach your potential or take care of the ones you love. Self-love goes a long way. As a three-time cancer survivor and 85-year-old Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the poster child for taking care of yourself with regular exercise.
Enjoy life and drink the wine
In 2015, RBG made headlines because she fell asleep during the state of the union. Admittedly, this is not ideal, and this article does not condone drinking and falling asleep at work events, however RBG’s response is something we can admire. When questioned about it, she acknowledged that she was tired from drinking wine at dinner beforehand. RBG stated that “…the dinner was so delicious, it needed wine to accompany it.”
Life lesson? Drink the wine and enjoy yourself. You only live once!