“I Have Learned” has shown up on the internet many times over the last 20 years under many versions attributed to various authors.  

The first time I was exposed to it was April 1999. This very long poem was printed on a sheet of paper found in my then recently departed husband’s, Tony Leonardo, file folder of personal inspirational poems. My head was not on straight at the time, and I was not yet able to absorb the meaning of this poem, much less read without tears. I recently rediscovered the file folder. Finding it again opened the door to contemplating my life lessons and sparked my curiosity about the author.  

My search led me to a short article attributing the poem to Kathy Kane Hansen.   


The 2008 article provides the original prose and informs us that Ms. Hansen is the original author and that it was written around 1971. My continued search to learn more about Ms. Hansen, her purpose in sharing her lessons learned, and where might she be now hit a brick wall.  

Nevertheless, I find myself continually reflecting on how these “I Have Learned” lessons apply to my life, and this reflection encourages me to journal my thoughts. Without a doubt, all of my greatest lessons were learned from my greatest challenges. I am inspired to share the poem and my reflections in memory of all the people who influenced me, including Tony, my parents, and other loved ones no longer with me.   

“I Have Learned” 

by Kathy Kane Hansen 1971  And… by Mary Patry 2019 

I’ve learned – that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved.  The rest is up to them.  

And I’ve learned – that I must love myself first to be open to love and that love from others is a gift, not an entitlement.   

I’ve learned – that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.  

And I’ve learned – that my caring for others is not a reciprocal state but one from my heart.  

I’ve learned – that it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.  

And I’ve learned – that my integrity is too precious to compromise for any reason.    

I’ve learned – that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts.   

And I’ve learned – material belongings are just things; people are what matter most.  

I’ve learned – that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you’d better know something. 

And I’ve learned – that charm is fleeting; substance survives all challenges and circumstances.  

I’ve learned – that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do.  But to the best, you can do.  

And I’ve learned – that seeking to be the best me is far more rewarding than worrying about how I compare to others.   

I’ve learned – that it’s not what happens to people that’s important. It’s what they do about it.   

And I’ve learned – shit happens. My ability to pick myself back up is all that matters.   

I’ve learned – that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life 

And I’ve learned – to take a breath, ask clarifying questions, and count to 5 before putting my foot in my mouth.  

I’ve learned – that no matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides. 

And I’ve learned – not to fall prey to the stories people tell themselves as well as those I tell myself.   

I’ve learned – that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.  

And I’ve learned – I am a work in progress, living a life of trial and errors to become my better self.   

I’ve learned – that it’s a lot easier to react than it is to think.  

And I’ve learned – sometimes it is okay to do nothing.  

I’ve learned – that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them 

And I’ve learned – the hard way that each goodbye or good night might be your last. Don’t waste them. 

I’ve learned – that you can keep going long after you think you can’t.  

And I’ve learned – that I am much more resilient than I realize.  

I’ve learned – that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel. 

And I’ve learned – that we cannot blame others for our decisions and actions. The buck stops here.  

I’ve learned – that either you control your attitude, or it controls you.  

And I’ve learned – no good comes when I have a bad attitude and go to a dark place.   

I’ve learned – that regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades and there had better be something else to take its place.  

And I’ve learned – friendship and laughter are the foundation of long-term passionate relationships.   

I’ve learned – that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.  

And I’ve learned – there are few true heroes in the world. Those that have performed heroic acts were open to stepping up with courage at the time.  

I’ve learned – that learning to forgive takes practice 

And I’ve learned – forgiveness is my best policy. 

I’ve learned – that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it.  

And I’ve learned – people often show their love for you in other ways, in addition to flowers and I love you.  

I’ve learned – that money is a lousy way of keeping score.  

And I’ve learned – that money is a lousy indicator of success.  

I’ve learned – that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.  

And I’ve learned – that my best friend and I do not need anything to have the best time together.  

I’ve learned – that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be the ones to help you get back up.  

And I’ve learned – that sometimes people will surprise you when you least expect their kindness and consideration.   

I’ve learned – that sometimes when I’m angry, I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.  

And I’ve learned – that there will be times when I am angry and reflecting that anger onto others is not good for anyone, including me.  

I’ve learned – that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.  

And I’ve learned – that true friendships last no matter where you go in the world. It only takes a phone call or facetime to reconnect.  

I’ve learned – that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.  

And I’ve learned – that my expectations for love may not match those whom I love. It is okay if we both know what to expect.  

I’ve learned – that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.  

And I’ve learned – there is a difference between my age and the wisdom of maturity. My graying hair and wrinkles do not define me. I am the sum of my experience.  

I’ve learned – that you should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or outlandish. Few things are more humiliating, and what a tragedy it would be if they believed it.  

And I’ve learned – I benefit from allowing myself the freedom of childlike hopes and dreams. My world would be very gray without rainbows. I would not expect any less from a child 

I’ve learned – that your family won’t always be there for you. It may seem funny, but people you aren’t related to can take care of you and love you and teach you to trust people again. Families aren’t biological.  

And I’ve learned – that my family won’t always be there for me and I cannot expect them to be. My chosen family of friends have taught me to trust people, and they know they can trust me. I know families do not need to be biological.  

I’ve learned – that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while, and you must forgive them for that.  

And I’ve learned – that I’ve made mistakes and that others will too. I choose to forgive, in hopes they will decide to forgive me also.   

I’ve learned – that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.  

And I’ve learned – I find it easier to forgive others over myself. I must continue to work on being kinder to myself.  

I’ve learned – that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.  

And I’ve learned – that I won’t die from a broken heart even when I feel I will. I know I will grow from it. 

I’ve learned – that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.  

And I’ve learned – my early life experiences sucked and were not my fault. I do not wish they were different as they helped shape who I am.  

I’ve learned – that sometimes when my friends fight, I’m forced to choose sides even when I don’t want to.  

And I’ve learned – to distance myself from friends in a fight as I want to be there for both of them when it is over.  

I’ve learned – that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.  

And I’ve learned – arguments do not define my love for you and that making up is so sweet. I’ve also learned that not arguing means that I don’t care enough to bother.  

I’ve learned – that sometimes you have to put the individual ahead of their actions.  

And I’ve learned – that my caring for you is more important than the outcome.  

I’ve learned – that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.  

And I’ve learned – my friends grow, and I grow. It is delightful when find we have landed at the same place.    

I’ve learned – that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever 

And I‘ve learned – that not all secrets need to be known. Some are left buried.  

I’ve learned – that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.  

And I’ve learned – that perspectives are in the eye of the beholder, and we can learn from our differences. 

I’ve learned – that no matter how you try to protect your children, they will eventually get hurt and you will hurt in the process.  

And I’ve learned – that to expect to protect my kids from all harm does more harm than good. I’ve learned to be ready to catch them when they fall.  

I’ve learned – that there are many ways of falling and staying in love.  

And I’ve learned – love comes and stays with me when my heart is open with realistic eyes and the mind to remember why.  

I’ve learned – that no matter the consequences, those who are honest with themselves get farther in life.  

And I’ve learned – lying to myself is the worst form of dishonesty and will only come back to bite me in the butt. Don’t. 

I’ve learned – that no matter how many friends you have if you are their pillar, you will feel lonely and lost at the times you need them most. 

And I’ve learned – that if I am always the pillar, they aren’t my friend and that I need to be open to people who can be there for me too.  

I’ve learned – that your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.  

And I’ve learned – that when I pay attention, I am often surprised by how good people are when I allow them to be.  

I’ve learned – that even when you think you have no more to give when a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.  

And I’ve learned – that I can find a reserve I did not know I had when someone I care about needs me. I am resourceful, especially when I am needed.  

I’ve learned – that writing, as well as talking, can ease emotional pains.  

And I’ve learned – that when I journal, I have the best conversations with myself.  

I’ve learned – that the paradigm we live in is not all that is offered to us.  

And I’ve learned – that I am more than my paradigm, and I don’t let it rule me.  

I’ve learned – that credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.  

And I’ve learned – that I am a decent human with no need for letters behind my name.    

I’ve learned – that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon.  

And I’ve learned – life is too short no matter how long my loved ones live. Enjoy each other today. 

I’ve learned – that although the word “love” can have many different meanings, it loses value when overly used.  

And I’ve learned – when I say I love you too often, I am desperate to convince my heart that it feels something I think it should. I’ve been there – have you? 

I’ve learned – that it’s hard to determine where to draw the line between being nice and not hurting people’s feelings and standing up for what you believe.  

And I’ve learned – that I will always stand up for what I believe and must use decorum and politeness while maintaining that stance. Integrity and kindness are not divisive.    

I invite my readers and followers to reflect on their life lessons. I trust that along the way you will be amazed at the wisdom you’ve accumulated. To make it easier, I created a tool to support you on this journey – link here to download: Life Lessons Worksheet 

Until next week, I wish you a safe Memorial Holiday weekend.  


ITeffectivity LLC was founded in 2013 with the mission of helping IT Leaders bring order to their ever-changing world. Since then, Mary has advised over 80 leaders on behalf of Fortune 100 firms to small non-profits.  


Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

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