Jenna and co-host Hoda Kotb were discussing a segment from Wednesday that featured poet Cleo Wade, who ended her appearance with the best advice she ever received. That inspired Jenna to pass along the “list of rules” her grandfather lived by.
“My grandpa, who lived until he was 94, I’ll never forget. Well, first of all, he had this little list of rules that he lived by and they're all really good ones, like, ‘Don’t talk all the time. Listen to your mentors and friends and learn from them,’” she said while Hoda laughed.
Jenna shared the list with TODAY:
- Don’t get down when your life takes a bad turn.
- Don’t blame others for your setbacks.
- When things go well, always give credit to others.
- Don’t talk all the time. Listen to your friends and mentors and learn from them.
- Don’t brag about yourself. Let others point out your virtues, your strong points.
- Give someone a hand. When a friend is hurting, show that friend you care.
- Nobody likes an overbearing big shot.
- As you succeed, be kind to people. Thank those who help you along the way.
- Don’t be afraid to shed a tear when your heart is broken or because a friend is hurting.
Jenna said the rules have become a staple in her own life.
“I actually have them memorized, which is kind of weird,” she said, while passing them on.
“And, ‘Nobody likes an overbearing big shot,’ which sounds so much like his words. And, ‘Help a friend when they’re hurting.’ One of them, which I obviously listen to a lot, is, ‘It’s OK to cry when life takes a bad turn or when a friend hurts,’” she said while getting choked up.
Jenna said there was one piece of advice in particular he gave her before he died in 2018 that has stuck with her.
“And so he had these list of rules, but I’ll remember we were sitting in Maine one night around the dinner table and it was the last summer of his life,” she said.
“And he looked at me and he couldn’t hear very well and so he wasn’t as much part of the conversation and he loved conversations. He loved conversations where there were agreements, where there were disagreements, with friends, with political ‘enemies’ who became friends and he leaned over to me and he could barely speak and he said, ‘Don’t forget to enjoy the game.’”
Jenna said those words crushed her because of what it really meant.
“And it broke my heart into a thousand pieces because what he meant is life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate it,” she said, while wiping her eyes. “I think he also probably felt by that point he wasn’t in it as much.”