In the 18th century this was common practice. People would carry around journals and make a note of anything that spoke to them. It could be a quote, an idea, a question, a principle—anything they found to be profound or useful in life. Soon, they would have a wonderful collection of life’s greatest teachings all bound into a little leather journal. Somewhere along the way this fell out of practice. I say it’s time we bring it back. Personally, I keep my notes in a Moleskin journal, but if I don’t happen to have that on me I use DayOne as a backup. To get your personal bible kickstarted, here’s ten of my favorite quotes. Enjoy!
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
This is far and away my favorite poem. It’s a nice reminder that you are owed absolutely NOTHING. The universe does not care if you think life is fair or just or right. The universe is utterly indifferent to you. It is neither malicious nor benevolent. Though that may seem dark, I find it uplifting. Struggles are an inevitable part of life. If you treat every obstacle as a sign of terrible luck, or the world being out to get you, you may start to see yourself as a victim. Have you ever met a happy victim? I haven’t. Don’t expect things from the universe. It will inevitably challenge you. It is up to you alone to overcome those challenges.
“Whenever you are on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
This one is one of my long-time favorites. It’s a nice reminder not to succumb to groupthink. Few things are as dangerous as humanity’s tendency to blindly follow the pack. It take courage to stray, to carve out your own path. And not only does it take courage, it takes self awareness to realize you are not thinking, but following. So, do as Twain suggests. If you find yourself in the majority, pause, reflect, and examine whether or not you should truly be a part of the pack. A lone wolf is stronger than a herd of sheep.
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.”
-T. E. Lawrence
I found T. E. Lawrence—better known as Lawrence of Arabia—by way of Uncharted, aka, the greatest video game series of all time. More importantly, this quote is a nice reminder not to let your dreams and ambitions fade into the “dusty recesses” of your mind. Keep your dreams present, at the forefront of your consciousness. Write them down, visualize them, tell them to everyone you know so they can hold you accountable. Make your brain think your dreams are inevitable and let your subconscious push you toward them.
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
Friends, have you ever done something stupid? Me too. I do stupid things all the time. So do most humans. We are fickle, often irrational creatures. We struggle enough to figure out what’s best for us, yet alone others. Point being, don’t perceive every injury as an attack on yourself as an individual. Sometimes people are simply busy, tired, low on glucose, or, stupid.
“Beware the bareness of a busy life.”
Let’s be real. Socrates was a bit of an asshole. He basically ran around Athens making everyone look like a complete fool and then wondered why they didn’t like him. But, he was also incredibly smart. This nugget in particular stuck out to me. Often I occupy myself with tedious tasks that are not a priority. Why? Because I’m distracting myself from the more important tasks under the guise of “productivity”. Don’t do that. It is all too easy to occupy ourselves with things that don’t truly matter, with the extraneous fluff of life. Figure out what’s important you, what your goals are, and prioritize actions that will help you achieve them. Don’t spend five hours binge watching Black Mirror and another four hours discussing it on Reddit and then tell yourself you were too “busy” to work on that novel you’ve been meaning to write for years. You’re not busy. You’re just expending energy on the wrong things. Refocus and stop busying yourself with things that don’t matter to you.
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
This quote is actually from the Whole Earth Catalogue, but I found it by way of Steve Jobs. There will be a post on Jobs tomorrow, but for now you can check out the Tim Ferriss’ podcast episode with Stewart Brand (who created the Whole Earth Catalogue) where they discuss the quote.
“To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.”
Humans are deeply emotional creatures. Though we love to put on a brave face and pretend everything is perfectly okay, deep down we all have our demons to slay. I find it’s important to keep that in mind and not be too brash (but still honest) when interacting with others.
“If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough.”
It’s easy to become comfortable in life. To become settled or complacent. If you’re someone who enjoys the coziness of a 2-story home in the ‘burbs and that 401k, then by all means sink into your lounger, turn on Judge Judy, and forget I said anything. But if you’re someone who has ambition, who has a mission in life, this quote is a nice reminder not to let your foot off the gas. You can do more than you think you are capable of, and only if you push past those perceived limits will you realize how far you can go.
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Over the years I’ve read A LOT of political thinkers. Setting aside the Founding Fathers, Machiavelli is one of my favorites. This quote is a nice reminder that there are no “safe” paths in life. Hanging on to that well-paying job you hate might seem like the safe option, but you might also find yourself pushing 40 with a lengthy bucket list a less prospects than you had 10 years ago. Everything is a tradeoff. Figure out what’s important to you and act accordingly.
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
For this, I will refer you to last weeks post on The Power of Positive Thinking.