Professional Development & Learning Services


By Free-Photos

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann (1872 – 1945)

Max Ehrmann was an American writer, poet, and attorney from Terre Haute, Indiana.  In the early 20th century (reportedly sometime between 1906 and 1920), Max wrote Desiderata (from Latin meaning “desired things”).  He acknowledged writing the prose for himself “because it counsels those virtues I felt most in need of.” Indeed, his words of sage advice and inspiration continue to be shared across and down generations a century later.

To me, Desiderata is among the most beautiful pieces of inspirational prose I’ve ever read or heard; I’ve been a fan since childhood.  Today, as a business person, Max’s story continues to teach me; because the little-known story behind authorship of his words is also a cautionary tale for those of us who create and must protect our intellectual property. A business lesson hidden behind his life lessons!

Though Max originally copyrighted Desiderata in 1927, and his widow renewed the term in 1954, over the years attribution to Max was lost.  Despite this composition not gaining popularity during the author’s lifetime, his widow included Desiderata with some of his other works published as The Poems of Max Ehrmann, three years after his death.  Still for decades, Desiderata was mistakenly attributed as a centuries old writing, by an unknown poet whose name was lost to history.  And this misunderstanding led many to believe Max’s work was under public domain for over 200 years.

It was during the 1960s and 1970s, when the poem finally gained widespread popularity with the counterculture movement, that Max’s estate initiated legal action to enforce his intellectual property rights. By that time, Desiderata had been freely shared across the world, copied and reprinted countless times, sold as posters, printed on mugs and t-shirts, and even put to music (earning Les Crane a “Best Spoken Word” Grammy Award in 1971).

In the end, Max’s estate was able to re-establish his legacy of authorship, but they lost the copyright battle.  Despite legally securing his copyright in 1927, Max made a costly mistake in 1942. He allowed his friend, WWII Army psychiatrist Dr. Merrill Moore, to hand out over 1,000 copies of the poem to his soldier-patients, all free of charge, and without any reference to Max’s copyright.  So, in 1976, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Max had basically forfeited his copyright “when he allowed Dr. Moore to freely distribute Desiderata without any copyright notations”.

And herein lies our business lesson.  Max’s story is an important reminder about knowing your legal rights and properly protecting your intellectual property.  Whether it’s safeguarding your poetry, artwork, photographs, training programs, game designs, computer codes, music, or screenplays, etc., being proactive from the start minimizes chances of being on the legal defensive later.

Yet somehow, despite the legal and financial complications, I believe Max Ehrmann would not have begrudged the outcome. After all, his words are still counseling many of us today, as we aspire to those very same virtues we need in our lives – 100 years after Max first penned Desiderata as his own “desired things”.

Author: Julie Ramdial, President of U Learn Enterprises, Inc.