Remind yourself of important lessons

The U.S. president known as a fierce fighter, Indian hater and hothead—Andrew Jackson—actually used wallpaper to help him lead the country. Wallpaper?

It’s true. The walls at Jackson’s home depict a story inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. They show how Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, learns to resist the temptations of luxury and power, aspiring instead to a life of simplicity and self-control.

Those were qualities that Jackson sorely needed, and, at some level, he knew it. Also like Telemachus, Jackson had never known his father. So, the ruthless politician copied some features of Telemachus’s story by adopting and counseling orphans.

The lesson: As Jackson did, leaders often display tokens of important events; objects that tell a story, like a worker’s jury-rigged machine part that ushered in a new process, or a ball of glass melted in a fire that taught company leaders a hard lesson. Keeping these icons around will help you remember … and grow.

— Adapted from “Andrew Jackson: Savage Sophisticate,” Stephen Bertman, American History.