Words To Live By

Grandpa Don shares inspiring wisdom through free booklets

By Jessica Laskey
February 2021

One of Don Wulf’s favorite thoughts is from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: The meaning and purpose of your life is to help others find theirs.

A favorite quote is from Dr. Seuss: To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.

Yet another is from the Bible: Nothing you can desire compares to wisdom. Proverbs 8:11.

Wulf and his wife Barbara, who have been married 70 years, live in Wilhaggin. Over the past several decades, they have collected meaningful quotes and words of wisdom and collated them into three booklets—one for teens, one about marriage and one on success.

The couple distribute the booklets throughout the community for free as a way of “giving back and thanking God.” Now 91, Wulf estimates they’ve collected close to 12,000 sayings from all kinds of sources: the Bible, philosophers, poets, writers, motivational speakers, presidents, diplomats and more.

The wisdom runs the gamut, from how to have a happy marriage (“Never, never, never criticize”) to how to stay motivated (“Your attitude more than anything else determines what happens to you”). But by far, what is the most important piece of advice according to Wulf?

“List chess as a hobby on all applications and resumes,” he says.

Wulf started playing chess in grade school in Minnesota and he thoroughly believes it helped him get into college, obtain a full scholarship to Harvard Business School and enjoy a successful 36-year career in marketing with Shell Oil.

“If you can play chess, you’re telling the person looking at your application that you’re intelligent, that you can plan ahead, strategize, concentrate and make decisions,” Wulf says.

Wulf encourages kids to start a chess club or play online, which helps develop skills in creativity and leadership, as well as lifelong friendships regardless of age, gender, nationality or physical ability.

Wulf has made it a point to teach the game to each generation of his family—four children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren—and he proudly reports that two of his chess-playing grandsons have gone on to successful military careers via West Point.

The Wulfs have distributed more than 700 booklets, 1,000 one-page handouts and more than 400 business cards with Don’s Instagram account, @grandpa_don_wows, over the past several years. Each booklet contains checklists, inspiring stories, song lyrics, worksheets and even comics that encourage readers to discover the “Joy of an Extraordinary Life,” a concept Wulf developed while living in Seattle 60 years ago.

Wulf details six areas of life—mental, physical, spiritual, family/home, friends/social and financial/career—that must be in balance to live a fulfilling life.

“The whole purpose of these booklets is to pass on this information and help people live better, happier, healthier lives,” says Wulf, who’s never accepted “a penny” for any of his work.

When Wulf isn’t compiling his next booklet or posting daily words of wisdom on Instagram, he’s Zooming with his far-flung family members, spending time with his high school sweetheart Barbara—and, of course, playing chess.

For more information, check out @grandpa_don_wows on Instagram.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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