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Sightings of the Paradoxical Commandments

The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Kent M. Keith and published in 1968 in his booklet for student leaders titled The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council. The Paradoxical Commandments immediately began circulating among student leaders and later the general public in the United States and overseas.

As the Paradoxical Commandments were shared, those who shared them occasionally changed a few words or changed the title and format. One version is known as the “Ten Commandments of Leadership.” The version that Mother Teresa put up on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta was titled “Anyway” and consisted of eight of the original ten Paradoxical Commandments, reformatted as a poem. Another version of the Paradoxical Commandments often attributed to Mother Teresa, but noticeably different from the version on her wall, is “The Final Analysis.”

Here is a shortlist of sightings:

Books, Speeches, Miscellaneous

In Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, compiled by Lucinda Vardey (1995), page 185. Eight of the original ten Paradoxical Commandments were reformatted as a poem titled “Anyway.” Vardey reported that it was “a sign on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, the children’s home in Calcutta.”

In The 8th Habit, by Stephen R. Covey (2004), p. 80. Covey used the “Final Analysis” version of the Paradoxical Commandments, and attributed the commandments to Mother Teresa.

In Superman: The Never-Ending Battle (2004), author Roger Stern describes how Superman’s father, Jonathan Kent, brought home a copy of the Paradoxical Commandments one day, and he and young Clark Kent framed them and put them up in the family library. ‘Words to live by, Clark,’ Jonathan had said, as he’d ticked off the ten simple rules for facing life’s adversity. ‘There will always be people who put you down, despite the good you do. Whenever that happens, just keep doing it anyway.’ Roger Stern was kind enough to say in the Acknowledgments: “A special thanks to the inspiration of Kent M. Keith, who in 1968 at the ripe old age of nineteen first wrote the “Paradoxical Commandments.” You can learn more about them at (Tell ’em Superman sent you.)”

In Becoming a Person of Influence, by John C. Maxwell (1997), p. 107. Maxwell correctly footnoted the source of the Paradoxical Commandments as Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Student Agencies) 1968.

In Turning Hurts into Halos, by Rev. Robert H. Schuller (1999), pages 1-2. Rev. Schuller described how he saw “Anyway” [The Paradoxical Commandments] framed and hung in the front lobby when he visited Mother Teresa’s orphanage as a member of the delegation that represented the United States at Mother Teresa’s funeral.

In The Seven Secrets, by John Hagee (2004), page 82. Hagee included eight of the original ten Paradoxical Commandments. He challenged his readers to live by these “do-it-anyway” decisions, and never give up.

In Keeping Spiritual Balance as We Grow Older, by Molly Srode and Bernie Srode (2005), pp. 66-67. The Srodes included the Paradoxical Commandments in a chapter about understanding what the right to choose is all about.

In In Search of the Good: A Catholic Understanding of Moral Living, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (2004), p. 207. The Paradoxical Commandments are part of the chapter entitled “Free to be fully alive.”

In The Leading Edge, Newsletter of the Leadership and Management Section, Medical Library Association, Volume 14, No.1 (December 2001).

In the Rotary District 5690 News, Volume 2, Issue 12 (June 2003). The district includes Rotary Clubs in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma.

In Buddha never raised kids & Jesus didn’t drive carpool, by Vickie Falcone (2003), page 236. Falcone used “The Final Analysis” version of the Paradoxical Commandments, and cited them as “Mother Teresa’s adaptation of the Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith.” In fact, the version Falcone included in her book is not the version that was on Mother Teresa’s wall.

In Stomping Out Fear, by Neil T. Anderson, Dave Park, and Rich Miller (2003), pages 103-104. Attributed to Kent M. Keith.

In I’d Rather Teach Peace by Coleman McCarthy (2003), pages 22-23. McCarthy presents eight of the Paradoxical Commandments, slightly modified, under the title “Anyway.” McCarthy assumes that “Anyway” was written by Mother Teresa.

In Mind Like Water: Keeping Your Balance in a Chaotic World, by Jim Ballard (2002), pages 193-194. Attributed to Kent M. Keith.

In There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, by Wayne W. Dyer (2001), pages 106-110. Dyer used “The Final Analysis” version of the Paradoxical Commandments, attributing them to Mother Teresa, and describing them as “An Eight-Point Plan of Decontamination.” After learning of the authorship of the Paradoxical Commandments, Dyer revised his book so that new printings of his book attribute the Paradoxical Commandments to Kent M. Keith.

Set to music by Suzzy & Maggie Roche in their album, Zero Church (2001). The Roche sisters used “The Final Analysis” version of the Paradoxical Commandments. Their song is titled “Anyway.”

In Chapter 7 of Pastor Wayne Cordeiro’s book, Attitudes that Attract Success (2001).


In Chapter 7 of The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly, pages 250-251 (2000). Kelly asked his readers to “travel in your mind to a small orphanage in Calcutta, and on a wall there you will find these words” He used the “Anyway” version of the Paradoxical Commandments, formatted as a poem.

In Neil T. Anderson’s book, Victory Over the Darkness, second edition (2000), pages 213-214. A footnote says “source and author unknown.”

Translated into Japanese and used in homilies by a Japanese Catholic priest in Tokyo, Japan (2000).

In Perspective, a newsletter on prevention and education published by the East Carolina University Regional Training Center (Alcohol & Other Drugs) in December 1999/January 2000.

Used as a meditation/discussion piece at a gathering of high school student leaders before their annual state leadership workshop in Honolulu (1999).

In the October 28, 1999 edition of the newsletter of the Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club of Hong Kong.

In the retirement speech of a member of the state legislature in South Carolina (1999).

In a paper presented in 1999 by Data Haji Mustapha Ma at the Pudu Rotary Club, District 3300, Malaysia, on “Rotary: Beyond 2000.”

In an April 1998 report on the Suffolk County Special Olympics by Elissa Schott, who said that “these commandments along with hope and determination make up the essence of the Special Olympics.”

Titled “Words to Think About” and attributed to Karl Menninger in the preface of the 1997 Annual Report of the KEY Project in Hawaii (Windward Oahu).

On the bulletin board in the teachers’ lounge at Cate School in California (1997).

In the newsletter of the Gordon Institute of Tufts University, Fall 1996. The newsletter said: “The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership,’ written by an anonymous source, provide us with some perspective of human nature to consider as we embark on a new year in our program of Engineering Leadership.”

In the 1995 Baccalaureate Address of Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks, President of Mount Vernon Nazarene College.

In a handout of inspirational saying distributed to her graduate students by Dr. Fran Newman, a faculty member at the University of Southern California (1994).

In the Texas WIC News, published by the Texas Department of Health (1993).

In a handbook of poems and readings distributed at the Oklahoma Girls State program (1991).

In an Ann Landers column, attributed to E. T. Gurney, the Executive Director of the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

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