5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours

Jackie Gingrich Cushman
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Posted: May 10, 2009 12:01 AM

Every family has traditions and values.  Some are passed down deliberately – going to Granny’s house on Christmas Eve, church on Sunday and holding doors open for other people.  Other values and principles are passed along by example – picking up trash from the ground, patience and hard work. 

Today, with the world facing economic and environmental challenges, it is important for us to not only set an example, but to clearly articulate a path to success.  This is the challenge that my father, Newt Gingrich, and I took on about two years ago.  This week, we are thrilled to announce the publication of “5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours.”

We decided to write this book two years ago, when my children, Maggie and Robert (who were 5 and 7 at the time), began asking how their Grandpa became speaker of the House.  I wanted them to learn that it took years of hard work and dedication, and that success happens over time, through the application of five core principles.

Dad and I decided to write a book that would include not only our personal stories but those from contributors representing a variety of walks of life to illuminate the principles  - essentially giving our readers a playbook for success.  The framework we started with?  The Five Principles for a Successful Life: Dream Big, Work Hard, Learn Every Day, Enjoy Life and Be True to Yourself – these are the principles that Dad had been referencing for years in his speeches and in his life.

A friend of mine, Patrick Kerney (Seattle Seahawks defensive end) was the first contributor to the project.  His story underscored the importance of including a variety of perspectives, since this is a book about life, not about politics.  

Dad and I set a goal: to hand our completed book to each student who completed the pilot Learn, Earn and Achieve program conducted by the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation, Inc. The program was a joint project; an idea of Dad’s that I implemented.

Last year, as we were writing the book, I was particularly inspired when one of the young men in the mathematics program told me, “I was failing.”  His use of the past tense meant that he believed he was going to pass math!  

Before creating a path to success, one must first define what is important and what constitutes success.  Here is what is important to me: God, family, community, country.  And here is what I enjoy the most: watching my daughter in ballet class, keeping score at my son’s baseball games, encouraging and helping my friends - sometimes by dropping off a meal or sending a note of support. I also like to shepherd our children during Sunday school, ask those who have the financial resources to help support those who do not – through giving to Genesis (a homeless shelter for newborn babies and their families), the Trust of Public Land (which saves land for people) and the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation (which focuses on innovative learning programs). 

Finally, here is my vision of success – being part of a strong, healthy family; being involved in my community and being inspired to act based on what is right and proper rather than on what is easiest or cheapest.

While freedom, individualism and opportunity are key elements in our lives, personal responsibility should lead to individual choices that build neighborhoods and communities, which then provide the backbone for a strong nation.  People should be empowered to act and participate through numerous and intricately intertwined organizations and institutions: including churches, civic organizations, arts, businesses and non-profits.

I hope that that you will buy our book, and that you will read it – pausing for a moment to define what success means to you, and then—and only then—begin applying these principles to your life. When you get stuck along the way, which you will, refer back to the stories in the book that were written by me, my father, and 42 amazing contributors. I promise you will find a new perspective and a renewed inspiration to help you keep moving forward. 

My big dream – that this book, and our website, will help you and others reach your full potential, creating personal success, weaving together organizations, industries and communities that will help this nation become stronger.

P.S. A special Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, Jackie Gingrich, for helping create principles for our family to pass along.