The Thought for the Day – John Marshall

To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well. – John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, 1801-1835


John Marshall was the fourth chief justice of the United States. Prior to this appointment, Marshall had served in Congress and was secretary of state at the end of the John Adams Administration and his influence on America was profound.

Under his leadership the supreme court went from a relatively minor part of the government to a co-equal branch, putting the standards established in the Constitution into practical effect through judicial review. Marshall was also responsible starting the practice of the court issuing a single opinion, instead of each justice writing their own, and for ending the tradition of justices wearing powdered wigs and red robes. His 34 years as chief justice is longest such tenure in American history.  

To listen well…

Good listening, the type of listening that is as powerful as talking well, is not always easy because it involves overcoming human nature. It’s not all that difficult, though. All it really takes is interest – sometimes feigned – in what the other person is saying. It means not interrupting and not merely keeping quiet until it is your turn to talk again. Listening pays dividends, too, because you’ve made someone feel important, especially if you are older or senior to them, and this is apt to make them feel good about you, too.

We must also listen to ourselves, paying attention to our inner voice, the instinct that shows us the path we should be taking in our lives. This isn’t always easy, either, because following this path requires courage to do and patience to see it through to the end. Worse, the equally scary prospects of success and failure await us.

But we must do it. We must listen to others and ourselves is we want to get on in this life. Fortunately, listening is a skill that is not particularly difficult to cultivate and provides benefits that last a lifetime.

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.

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