Kent M. Keith

At a Rotary Club meeting in 1997, a member stood up and declared that he would like to honor the recently deceased Mother Teresa by reading a poem she had written called Anyway.

Fellow Rotarian Kent Keith bowed his head in contemplation, and was astonished when he recognized the poem as a version of The Paradoxical Commandments, which he himself had authored back in 1968 at the age of nineteen in a book for student leaders. As Keith himself writes:

“I went up after the meeting and asked him where he got the poem. He said it was in a book about Mother Teresa, but he couldn’t remember the title. So the next night I went to a bookstore and started looking through the shelf of books about the life and works of Mother Teresa. I found it, on the last page before the appendices in Mother Teresa: A Simple Path. The Paradoxical Commandments had been reformatted to look like a poem, and they had been retitled “Anyway.” There was no author listed, but at the bottom of the page, it said: “From a sign on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, the children’s home in Calcutta.”

Mother Teresa thought that the Paradoxical Commandments were important enough to put up on the wall of her children’s home. That really hit me. I wanted to laugh, and cry, and shout–and I was getting chills up and down my spine. Perhaps it hit me hard because I had a lot of respect for Mother Teresa, and perhaps because I knew something about children’s homes. Whatever the reason, it had a huge impact on me. That was when I decided to speak and write about the Paradoxical Commandments again, thirty years after I first wrote them.

anyway-bookIndeed, Kent has become a sought-after speaker all over the globe. His presentations and seminars are focused on servant leadership and finding personal meaning at home and at work. In 2002, his inspiring book, Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments, became a national bestseller. His masterpiece, both in its original form and the version favored by Mother Teresa, have appeared in everything from a Superman book to a Martina McBride hit song (see the above video) to books by Wayne Dyer and Stephen Covey. (Ironically, that same book by Dyer was directly impacted by the story he contributed to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.)

Click here for more details on how Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments have been misattributed.

Personally, I prefer the version of the Paradoxical Commandments often misattributed to Mother Teresa. It never fails to inspire me:


People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
. . . Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
. . . Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
. . . Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
. . . Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
. . . Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
. . . Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
. . . Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
. . . Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

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Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.

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Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.

SiSe_fullcover_final.inddPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.

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4 Responses to “Anyway”

  1. Simon Says:

    Wow! I featured this wonderful poem on my blog last Christmas – misattributed to Mother Theresa of course! I’d better set the record straight some time. This sort of thing seems to happen quite often. There’s a wonderful poem by Marianne Williamson which is often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela, because he used it in his inauguration speech. It starts:
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…”
    But the really amazing thing is that Kent Keith wrote his poem at such a young age! He has every reason to be proud of it.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yep, I try to correct people about that Marianne Williamson quote, too. It’s from her book, “A Return to Love” (pages 190-191). I even mentioned it to Marianne when she spoke at an expo in Minneapolis and she said she was a little frustrated that is it so often misattributed. Nelson Mandela used the quote during his inauguration speech and people just assumed that he wrote it. I heard a monk attribute it to Mandela during a lecture at the annual Self-Realization Fellowship COnvocation in Los Angeles a few years back. Oh, well. The important thing is that her words are inspiring people.

    For the record, here is the passage from Marianne’s book:

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

  3. Kim Says:

    I love Anyway by Martina McBride. I have lost count of the times I’ve listened to it since you posted it yesterday. I even went to You Tube and added it as a favorite. It really speaks to me about how we need to do what we KNOW we need to do, even if we are afraid or don’t think it will make a difference. It will, but we may never know how. We are very powerful beings and when you do something you were afraid to do, you are in a sense taking your power back and you get this huge sense of your own power surging thru your viens — it’s a high like no other, and makes you want to go out and do more so you can feel like that again.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Well said, Kim. Anytime you make a decision our of fear, you lose part of your spirit in the sense that you relinquish control of that part of you in that moment. In order to reclaim your spirit, you must act out of love and/or forgiveness. Wouldn’t it be great if more people could experience the feeling that you describe?

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