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Inspirational and Motivational Quotes

Inspirational and Motivational Quotes for Leadership, Self-Development, Training, Teaching, Writing, and Speeches

Here are some of the best inspirational quotes for training and teaching, personal fulfilment, self-development, visualisation, and general motivational purposes.

Quotes - notably positive suggestions - are very strong medicine, especially when we see them frequently (for example see the free posters which contain many quotes featured in this collection).

Simply reading a few wonderful quotes can often help make you feel good about yourself and life in general. Quotes help especially through visualization. The brain responds almost magically.

Funny quotes which are humorous and also clever and meaningful, are particularly effective, because we all love to be entertained and amused while we are learning.

These quotes can also be helpful for presentations, public speaking, management, leadership and coaching - especially for ethical development of people, teams, and organizations.

A great quote can convey a complex concept in just a few words, and in an age of information-overload, this is extremely useful obviously - to cut through the crap - to get your point across - to help people sit up and take real notice.

Quotes can help people to remember a point or lesson. The best quotes are very memorable. Some people carry their favourite quotations with them for all of their lives.

These powerful quotes have been moved here from the original quotes collection which includes less serious sayings, maxims, and examples of amusing language of various sorts.

You will have seen some of famous quotes below before but perhaps not known the origins and authors. Other quotations in this collection are less well-known, but are inspirational just the same.

Some of these quotes are commonly misunderstood, mis-quoted, and falsely attributed, which this collection seeks to clarify, for example:

Please note that where quotes on this page refer to 'man' or 'men' this is not intended to be discriminatory, and where appropriate you should use a similar explanation when using quotes which could give such an impression.

See the section on motivation for explanation of why quotes and sayings inspire people, including yourself, and how these inspirational quotes stimulate motivation and self-belief, and promote self-development, personal growth and fulfilment.

And to help make use of quotes, see the free businessballs posters which contain some of these inspirational quotes, as well as other amusing and helpful maxims for learning and development.

Send your favourite quote .

This section moved here (April 2008) from the general quotes and sayings webpage which contains other various funny quotes, maxims, rules and principles.

This collection attempts to offer and where relevant explain some of the ( IMHO ) best quotes for leadership, education, personal fulfillment, development and achievement.

The left column contains established and commonly used quotes and extracts. The right column contains some self-penned quotes, contributed to this webpage by readers.

Late Fragment - Raymond Carver

This is simply beautiful and moving, and for many people a maxim and aim for life and personal fulfilment.

Late Fragment

"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth."

(Raymond Carver, 1938-88, US poet and short story writer - his stirring epigrammatic poem Late Fragment is on his tombstone.)

My Symphony - William Henry Channing

Known as My Symphony, the following uplifting passage was written by William Henry Channing, 1810-84, an American Christian socialist clergyman, writer, philosopher, and Chaplain of the US House of Representatives (thanks J J Grant).

"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden, and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony." (William Henry Channing, 1810-84, US clergyman and philosopher.)

"I don't despise, because no-one should live rent-free inside your head." (Anne Robinson, journalist and TV presenter, when asked by interviewer Roseanna Greenstreet which living person does she most despise, Guardian Weekend, 14 Aug 2010)

"I cannot be that I am not, I want to be that I am." (Charlotte Sebego, South African Public Servant, born 1969, wrote these beautiful words on 22 May 2008, and kindly submitted them for publication on the Businessballs website in October 2009.)

"Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day." (Zen Proverb. Thanks CB)

"The minute you start thinking that you've done it all, that's when you're in the rear view mirror." (Chris DeWolfe, co-founder of, talking about market leading and innovation, quoted in the Guardian newspaper, 10 Nov 2008.)

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." (Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American author and commentator, aka Samuel L Clemens - thanks J Greenwood.)

"It is tempting to call for better leadership, but we probably expect too much from the leaders of the nations. Those nations are too big, the connections not strong enough, the commitment to the future not long enough. It is better to look smaller, to our now-smaller organisations, to local communities and cities, to families and clusters of friends, to small networks of portfolio people with time to give to something bigger than themselves. We have to fashion our own directions in our own places." (Charles Handy, b.1932, Irish author and philosopher on work and society. The quote is from his 1994 book The Empty Raincoat. The term 'portfolio people' is Handy's term for modern independent people who determine their own work patterns and interests. The quote reminds us all that we can lead and change things for ourselves, rather than wait for traditional top-down leadership, which might not be able, even if willing to do so.)

"People and things do not upset us. Rather, we upset ourselves by believing that they can upset us." (Albert Ellis, 1913-2007, American psychologist, philosopher and teacher, and developer of REBT, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, from from Ellis' 1961 book, A Guide to Rational Living. See the similar quote from Greek philosopher Epictetus , whose ideas from 2,000 years ago perhaps helped inspire Ellis's REBT thinking.)

"Bottom line: It's not our life events (Actions) that themselves directly disturb us, (produce unpleasant emotional Consequences). It's our irrational demandingness, our shoulds, oughts, and musts (Beliefs) that largely do the job." (Robert H Moore's succinct outline of the ABC model: Action-Belief-Consequences, which features in Albert Ellis' REBT theory and the 1975 second edition of his book, A Guide to Rational Living.)

"Any fact facing us, however difficult, even seemingly hopeless, is not so important as our attitude towards that fact. How you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You may permit a fact to overwhelm you mentally before you deal with it actually. On the other hand, a confident and optimistic thought pattern can overcome or modify the fact altogether." (Norman Vincent Peale, 1898-1993, author and protestant minister, from his 1953 book, The Power of Positive Thinking.)

"An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian statesman and spiritual leader, humanitarian and constitutional independence reformer, thanks T Kirkland.)

"If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room." (Dame Anita Roddick, 1942-2007, British businesswoman, humanitarian, founder of The Body Shop, thanks TK.)

"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to." (attributed to W C Fields - William Claude Dukenfeld, 1880-1946, American actor and wit, thanks N Ward.)

"Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't." (Richard Bach, b.1936, American writer and pilot, thanks R Malan. The quote is often erroneously shown as "Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete: if you're alive, it isn't." Or similar variations. The correct version appears on the back cover of Bach's 1977 book Illusions, being also the last lines of chapter 15.)

"You will not be punished for your anger. You'll be punished by your anger." (Traditional Buddhist quote of unknown origins, thanks R M)

"When you do a good turn you feel rich, even if you are broke." (Lionel Blue, 1930-2016, British rabbi, journalist, broadcaster, from a BBC Radio 4 'Thought for the Day' broadcast, 17 September 2008.)

The Butterflies Metaphor

"There is nothing wrong with stomach butterflies! You just have to get them to fly in formation!"

The butterflies metaphor is famously used in various 'quote' versions within training for presentations or public-speaking. The quote is helpful also for actors and other entertainers and stage performers. The quote perfectly suggests that feeling nervous is not a bad thing - in fact it's normal and can be very stimulating and exciting - the point is to manage the feelings and get them working for you rather than against you. This is usually a matter of experience and practice, from which comes confidence. See the presentations page. The origins of the butterflies quote are unknown to me. If you know please tell me . Thanks A Higgs, 15 Aug 2008, for informing me that the above version of the quote is attributed to Bert Decker in the book What's Your Point by Bob Boylan, Adams Media Corporation Holbrook, Massachusetts 2001, page 109. Bert Decker is an author and trainer in communications, and while he has used the quote since the late 1970s, he kindly confirmed to me that he didn't originate it and doesn't know who did. As I say, please contact me if you know. I am separately informed (thanks H Kemp, 15 Jan 2009) that the Painter's Keys website attributes the quote to Dr Rob Gilbert. The Painter's Keys website is however not able to connect this attribution with a reliable reference source. If you know anything more about the origins of the butterflies quote please tell me. Additionally (thanks C Michael) the quote is attributed (by author Elizabeth Urech in her 2004 book Speaking Globally) to American actress Helen Hayes (Helen Hayes Brown, 1900-93) as: "Of course I get butterflies before I go on stage. You just need to be sure that those butterflies are flying in formation..." I am seeking clarification of source from Ms Urech, and will update this item accordingly if I discover more.

"I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them." (Benedict Spinoza, also known as Baruch, 1632-77, Jewish born Dutch philosopher and theologian. This beautiful yet simple quote is a modern translation extracted from the Introduction to Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, first published around 1670 - opinions vary as to precise publication date. The quote illustrates a fundamental aspect of wisdom - namely objectivity - found in modern behavioural concepts such as emotional intelligence and ethical leadership and decision-making . A longer more literal and arguably more beautiful translation of the passage is: "...I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions; and to this end I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger, envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary, and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavour to understand their nature..." Spinoza was indeed a very clever fellow. Here is the fully translated Tractatus Theologico-Politicus .)

"If we are not trusted, we have no business." (Larry Page, co-founder of Google, interviewed at Google's Zeitgeist conference, May 2008.)

"If you don't have fun, you don't have a show." (Attributed to Bertolt Brecht, 1898-1956, German dramatist and playwright - who incidentally wrote the lyrics to the song Mack the Knife.)

"Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them." (Epictetus, Greek philosopher, c.80AD, from the Enchiridion, a manual and collection of Epictetus sayings compiled after his death by his student Arrian - thanks A Protopapas. See also the Albert Ellis quote, from REBT theory , which perhaps drew inspiration from the original Epictetus maxim and related philosophy. Epictetus taught the concept of achieving inner freedom through self-sacrifice, care for others and love of one's enemies, notions which underpin many of today's most progressive life codes.)

"What we have got is whole generations of people helping children to pass exams. But to really fire children's imaginations you need teachers who don't give them answers, but give them questions. There's a dictum in primary education: when a child asks a really good question, don't answer it. Give them the information to work it out, so they can think: 'By God, I've got it!' That's how the brain works." (John Abbott, educationalist, writer and president of the 21st Century Learning Initiative . While this quote was first aimed at children's education, the principle applies to learning and development for grown-ups just the same.)

"Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is a shadow of the other." (Carl Gustav Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist and humanist. This quote is translated from German, and the English translation is perhaps not as subtle in meaning as the original German, notably the phrase 'will to power', which might more simply be translated (thanks U Howson) to mean "...motive to dominate...", or "...need to have power..." The German is: "Wo die Liebe herrscht, da gibt es keinen Machtwillen, und wo die Macht den Vorrang hat, da fehlt die Liebe. Das eine ist der Schatten des andern." Whatever, the quote is immensely significant and meaningful - it captures the idea that feelings of love and compassion are directly opposite the need or urge to dominate, or to impose personal power. Many believe that the two positions (love and domination) are somehow an effective combination, as in 'benevolent autocracy', but they are not, which Jung's quote very elegantly emphasises. For an introduction to Jung's ideas, especially the notion of the conscious and unconscious opposites within us all, see the Jung section on the personality styles page .)

"Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear." (Benedict Spinoza, also known as Baruch, 1632-77, Jewish born Dutch philosopher and theologian. This wonderful quote, from Ethics, 1677, helps reassure us that in fear there is always hope, and that when we hope, we also fear, and so we can embrace and welcome both feelings.)

"Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another." (G K Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1874-1936, English writer, reported in The Observer newspaper, 1924.)

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, physicist and genius, Swiss-American, of Bavarian-Jewish birth, from Notes on Pacifism. This quote applies to personal relationships and organizational management, as well as to leadership on a much bigger scale.)

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty." (George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, 1856-1950 - this quote might alternatively be interpreted to emphasize the need to question instructions which we are ashamed to follow.)

"The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved." (Attributed to Victor Hugo, 1802-85. Easily overlooked, especially in difficult situations, this is often a useful guiding principle when dealing with others.)

"Someone has somewhere commented on the fact that millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon." (Susan Ertz, British-American novelist, 1894-1985.)

"No man is an island, entirely of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of your friends or of your own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved with Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." (John Donne, 1572-1631, English poet, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII, written in 1624, adapted above into more modern language from the original prose: "No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.")

Newly Authored or Self-Penned Quotes and Maxims

Send your own quote .

Occasionally I am sent quotes and maxims which people have created themselves, the best of which I show here below.

If you send a quote please tell me your name as you'd like it to appear with the quote, plus your occupation or how you'd like to be described, where in the world you are, and when you created the saying.

"A negative attitude will ensure you live down to your expectations." (Val Handley-Greaves, team leader, UK - 18 May 2011 - first published here 17 June 2013)

The following quotes were submitted by Abdul Star, 'Just an Average Guy', and published here 26 Apr 2013:

"Tonight my friends, dream a beautiful dream. Tomorrow my friends, make that dream a reality.'' (Abdul Star - 17 Apr 2013)

''Sometimes the world can seem a very dark place but we all carry a beacon of light in our hearts. Let it shine!'' (Abdul Star - 22 Mar 2013)

''It is more honourable to help someone when you are not in a position to do so than to help someone when you are.'' (Abdul Star - 17 Feb 2013)

''Life! Those precious few moments within eternity.'' (Abdul Star - 2 Feb 2013)

''Gonna live my life in such a way that when Death comes, I'll be able to look him in the eye, smile, extend my hand and say.. 'Shall we..?''' (Abdul Star - 20 Oct 2010)

The above quotes were submitted by Abdul Star, 'Just an Average Guy', and published here 26 Apr 2013.

"I have learned from 25 years in 'street sales' that: People don't want to know as much as you know. They want to know how much you care." (Jeffrey L Bachman, district manager, Topeka, Kansas, USA - 18 Apr 2012)

"Hope rarely begs observation but always craves expression. Hope is the sign of the cross and the Namaste bow. It threatens, it comforts, it shakes and it rests in those who embrace its mystery." (Dedra Serafin, psychiatric nurse, Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 17 Mar 2012)

"When we let others be, we are." (Charlotte Sebego, South African Public Servant - 15 Jan 2012 - there seems no evidence that anyone has penned this simple beautiful maxim before - hopefully someone will inform me if there is.)

"We need to learn to measure what is important, not to treat what we can measure as important." (inspired primarily Steve McNamara's comment to the US Congress in the 1970s about using the headcount of dead Viet Cong as a measure of the US military success - Ed Fish, Manchester, England - 3 Nov 2011, first published in management thesis 2002)

"... Adulthood brings with it many responsibilities, but if you can't eat dessert first, you have the worst of all worlds: responsibility without the freedom to do what you want." (Ironherder - 26 Jul 2011, although written before this - more Ironherder quotes )

"We must eat, we must sleep; if you would like to achieve success why not create it into a must?" (Amita Tak - Bank Analyst, UK - 1 Nov 2010)

"Ignoring is condoning." (Fidelma Tinneny, nurse, care trainer and inspirational speaker, UK - published originally in the Berkshire Care Training and Consultancy's Leadership and Management in Care Award programme, 2005, and here, 8 Sep 2010)

"Don't let the measure of your life be just six feet!" (Lee Wilson, Logistics Technician, UK - 12 Mar 2010)

"The more we know about leadership, the more we understand it is about relationships." (Carol Mead, director of community outreach organisation, Canberra, Australia - 26 Feb 2010)

"If you had been to the future, what would you do that you had not done?.."
(Nomthandazo Nhlapo - Facilitator for Financial Institution, South Africa - 9 Feb 2010)

"One must be careful when teaching others not to eat each other... you might end up feeding them thereafter." (M Moody - Texas USA - 7 Jan 2010)

"Nothing cleans a house like company coming." (Mabel McGrury Lynn, 1906-82, homemaker, Virginia, USA. The maxim, dating from the 1980s, is a fitting reminder for staff to be well-organized at all times, and not to regard good housekeeping as something that's not required until a visit from the inspectors or the corporation chief - thanks S Gage, Mabel Lynn's great granddaughter.)

"If you have a dream.. Living it is already in progress, because, you can't fulfil dreams you don't have.. so, enjoy them and move forward and live your dreams fully!" (Patricia M Trexler - Pennsylvania US - 6 Nov 2009)

"When you miss someone who is gone, Hold your heart, She/he is there, And doesn't want you to hurt." (Patricia M Trexler - Pennsylvania US - 6 Nov 2009)

"I am a person who thinks it does not matter if my glass is half empty or full - just lead me to the water to keep it full.." (Margaret Jewell - Jun 2009)

"When the Leader gets up and starts walking, the people will get up and start walking with him/her." (Bob Mischler, Engineering Manager, Ottowa - 29 May 2009)

"Your success or happiness does not depend on how the environment adapts to you, but how you adapt to the environment." (Jacoub Nel, Lecturer, Bahrain - 12 Jan 2009)

"(Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today), if you enjoy it today you can do it again tomorrow." (John Burgess, Healthcare Management Specialist, Devon - 9 Dec 2008.)

"A problem is something you may find goes along with an opportunity long before you can find a way to exploit it." (Drew Byrne, aphorist, London - inspired by Drucker et al - 9 Dec 2008)

"Discipline is not the cage, discipline is the key." (Denver M Lane, Co-Founder and CEO, Instant Impact Training Inc - Dec 2008.)

"When you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the floor, be thankful you have a floor." (Denver M Lane, Co-Founder and CEO, Instant Impact Training Inc - Dec 2008.)

"Getting everything done is not always a sign of good time management; it can also be a sign of not having enough to do." (Susan Billbess, writer - Nov 2008.)

"At the end of the day; it just gets dark." (Bill Lindsay - 26 Nov 2008)

"The right thing does not always mean you are right, but it means you have approached it in the right way." (Terry Prescod, Matron at Forensic Unit, London - 27 Oct 2008)

"I cannot be that I am not, I want to be that I am." (Charlotte Sebego, South African Public Servant - 22 May 2008)

N.B. By sending your own quote or maxim you effectively agree that:

1. It can be published on this website, and that others can use it within the terms of this website.
2. It's yours, as far as you know, and that you have at least checked on the web that it does not already exist in the same or very similar form.
3. It will be attributed to your name, with your occupation or description and location if you tell me, and the date you created it, sent it, or when published on this page.

"When politics become religionised, bad things happen." (Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, said in a BBC radio broadcast 1st Feb 2008, about the dangers of confusing religion with leadership.)

"It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another." (George MacDonald, 1824-1905, Scottish poet and minister, much admired by other writers.)

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." (Emily Dickinson, 1830-86, American poet.)

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." (Generally attributed to Alfred Adler, 1870-1937, Austrian-born psychiatrist, colleague of Freud and Jung, founder of 'individual psychology' and first to define the inferiority complex.)

"I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." (Andy Rooney, b. 1919, American journalist, author and TV correspondent - the quote is featured here because it's a good one, and also because it is so often quoted without attribution. The quote seems to be from series of short quotes by Rooney entitled Enlightened Perspective, each beginning with "I've learned.." If anyone can shed more light on which of Rooney's books or essays is the precise source please let me know .)

Anthony Seldon is a pioneering educationist. His ideas about developing young people apply just the same to developing grown-ups. Here is a quote which captures very well his philosophy for what a school should be, and as I say, the principles transfer naturally to the workplace:

"This is about helping children become themselves. What is a school if it isn't helping people find what they want to do? I don't just mean careers. I mean teaching how to sing, dance, paint, act, write poetry, play tennis, play the guitar. We'd be a better, more harmonious society if people had these interests developed when they were young. But they don't. That's a cause of depression. And the things I'm talking about: children need them here [in school], but the more deprived the background, the less the infrastructure at home, the greater the need. If schools aren't going to do these things, who is?" (Anthony Seldon, writer, educationist, school head, and advocate of developing young people's personal potential, as opposed to merely giving instruction to fit the university-to-career sausage machine. From an interview with Peter Wilby in May 2007 , in which Seldon also references Gardner's Multiple Intelligence theory and its crucial relevance to developing young people. See also Erik Erikson's theory on life stages - notably school years, and the working years too - to understand why so many people grow up with no sense of value, purpose, or belief in their ability to make a contribution to life. Just as schools must improve the way they develop young people, so business and employers must improve the way they develop adults.)

"If rulers learn to undervalue the lives of their own subjects by the custom of war, how much more do they undervalue the lives of their enemies! As they learn to hear of the loss of five hundred or a thousand of their own men, with perhaps less feeling than they would hear of the death of a favorite horse or dog, so they learn to hear of the death of thousands after thousands on the side of the enemy with joy and exultation." (Noah Worcester, aka Philo Pacificus, 1758-1837, American writer, pacifist and minister, from A Solemn Review of the Custom of War, 1814, transcribed by Tom Lock.)

"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life". (generally attributed to Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, Russian novelist and philosopher - if you know the actual source please tell me .)

"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him." (Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, Russian novelist and philosopher, from The Kingdom of God is within You, chapter 3, 1894, translated by Constance Garnett and transcribed by Tom Lock.)

"There are no conditions of life to which a man cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone about him." (Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, Russian novelist and philosopher, from Anna Karenina, part 7 chapter 13, 1875-7, translated by Rosemary Edmonds.)

"Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyse it by encumbering it with remedies." (Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, Russian novelist and philosopher, from War and Peace, 1865-9, book 10 chapter 29, translated by A & L Maude.)

"Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." (Hubert H Humphrey, 1911-78, American Democratic politician.)

"Get involved in an issue that you're passionate about. It almost doesn't matter what it is ... We give too much of our power away, to the professional politicians, to the lobbyists, to cynicism. And our democracy suffers as a result." (Barack Obama, b.1961, US senator for Illinois and US presidential alternative, from a publicity interview about his 2006 book, Audacity of Hope.)

"When you focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points, and emphasize common sense over ideology, you'd be surprised what can be accomplished." (Barack Obama, b.1961, US senator for Illinois and US presidential alternative, from a publicity interview about his 2006 book, Audacity of Hope.)

"How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day from every opening flower."
(Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, English independent minister and hymn writer, from 'Against Idleness and Mischief' in which also appears the famous expression: "For Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.")

"Don't hurry, don't worry. You're only here for a short visit. So be sure to stop and smell the flowers." (Walter C Hagen, 1892-1969, American world champion golfer, from the New York Times, 22 May 1977.)

"Everything is data." (This expression, whose origin is unclear and is probably untraceable, most typically occurs in the field of information management, but its meaning comes to life when used in the context of human relationships and behaviour. To explain: in the information management context the operative word is 'everything', meaning that every piece of information is relevant and is worthy of recording and analysing. This of course is perfectly fine, and is true for many situations. However in the human relationships context, 'data' is the operative word, meaning that everything (whatever it is) should be regarded objectively and non-judgementally. Data isn't necessarily good or bad. Data just 'is'. As such, "Everything is data," reminds us of the importance of seeing things for what they are, and not how we feel about them. The expression helps us to be objective and fair, and to put our feelings and emotions to one side when reacting and making decisions, especially when our reactions and decisions affect others. Thanks B Heyn for inspiring this.)

"No cord nor cable can so forcibly draw, or hold so fast, as love can do with a twined thread." (Robert Burton, 1577-1640, English writer and clergyman, from The Anatomy of Melancholy, written 1621-51.)

"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended." (Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, 1918-2013, South African lawyer, statesman and 1993 Nobel Peace Prizewinner. This quote is from Mandela's inspirational 1994 book, Long Walk to Freedom.)

"It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth - and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had." (Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1926-2004, psychiatrist, humanitarian, teacher, author, and pioneer of bereavement and hospice care. Used with permission, with thanks to and .)

"It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied. Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger." (Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931, Syrian writer, poet and artist, from his inspirational book The Prophet)

"In one of my classes I ask my students to write on the subject, 'If I were to die tomorrow, how would I live tonight?' Answering this question always brings great insight." ( Professor Leo F Buscaglia , 1924-1998, teacher, writer and humanitarian, from his remarkable book, Love, 1972.)

"Carpe Diem" ('Seize the day', Horace, 65-8BC, Roman poet, from 'Odes' Book 1.)

"Aut Viam Invenium Aut Facium" ('Where there's a will there's a way', literally, 'I'll either find a way or make one'.)

"Cogito Ergo Sum" ('I think, therefore I exist', popularised by René Descartes, 1596-1650, French philosopher, from Discourse on Method, 1637.)

"Facta Non Verba" ('Actions speak louder than words', literally, 'Deeds not words'.)

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." (Attributed to Anais Nin, French-born American writer, 1903-1977.)

"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." (Martha Washington, 1731-1802, wife of US President George Washington and the first US First Lady, 1789-1797. Ack Douglas Miller, writer, who features this quote in his excellent book 'Positive Thinking, Positive Action' .)

"While you teach, you learn." (Based on the words of Seneca The Younger, 4BC-AD65, Roman philosopher and poet: "Even while men teach, men learn", from Epistulae Morales 7:viii.)

"Getting everything done is not always a sign of good time management, it can also be a sign of not having enough to do." (S Billbess)

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." (Richard Bach, b.1936, American writer and pilot, from his 1977 book, Illusions.)

"If you don't know what port you are sailing to, no wind is favourable." (Seneca 'The Younger', 4BC-AD65, Roman philosopher and poet, translated loosely from the original Latin: "Ignoranti, quem portum petat, nullus suus ventus est", from Epistulae Morales 73:iii.)

"It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong." (Leo Rosten, 1908-1997, US academic, teacher and writer, as referenced by Leo Buscaglia in his 1972 book called Love.)

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." (Variously attributed, including almost certainly wrongly to Theodore Roosevelt. Most likely origin seems to be Don Swartz, a US broadcaster and entertainer. A different Don Swartz, an American change management consultant and writer has confirmed he is not the author of this quote. If you know for sure please tell me. Ack L Harris.)

"Cerca Trova" ('Seek and you shall find', or 'He who searches shall find' an old Italian saying, pronounced 'cherka-trohva'. The saying originally appears - although not in Italian of course - in the Bible, Matthew VII;vii as "Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you." The later Italian 'Cerca Trova' version partly owes its popularity to the artist Giorgio Vasari who used it in a fresco he painted on a wall of The Hall of Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence around 1563. The words Cerca Trova appear on a soldier's banner, and are believed by some to be a reference to the great 'lost' mural by Leonardo da Vinci, The Battle of Anghiari, painted around 1500, depicting the Florentine victory over Milan, which previously adorned the wall and which Vasari was commissioned to cover in celebration of the ruling Medici family. Efforts are ongoing in Florence to solve the mystery of whether Leonardo's painting is indeed hidden and recoverable beneath Vasari's work.)

"If you don't create your reality, your reality will create you." ( Lizzie West , b.1973, American singer-songwriter. Incidentally Lizzie West, aside from her wonderful talent, humanitarian philosophy and social justice activities, also wrote and performed a beautiful interpretation of the Mary Frye poem, 'Do not stand at my grave and weep' , which appears on her CD 'Holy Road: Freedom Songs', track title 'Prayer'. Lizzie West's second album is an exceptional work too.)

"In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope." (Charles Revson, 1906-75, founder of the Revlon corporation, as quoted by his biographer Andrew Tobias in the 1976 book Fire and Ice. While Revson is not a great model for responsible and compassionate leadership, this quote illustrates an essential aspect of business and selling and communications, ie., that people need to know what something means to them, beyond what something merely is .)

"The salary of the chief executive of the large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself." (John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006, American economist and social responsibility advocate - the quote is from Annals of an Abiding Liberal, 1980, and sadly it remains widely applicable today.)

"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." (Patrick White, 1912-90, Australian novelist and 1973 Nobel Prizewinner for Literature, from The Solid Mandala, 1966)

"The best careers advice to give to the young is 'Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it'." (Katherine Whitehorn, b.1926, English journalist and writer, from The Observer in 1975 - the principle applies today still, and to grown-up careers too..)

"How can I take an interest in my work when I don't like it?" (Francis Bacon, 1909-93, English philosopher and statesman, attributed.)

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, aka Lord Acton of Aldenham, 1834-1902, English historian and founding editor of the Cambridge Modern History, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887. We've all heard the quote, but not many know its origins.)

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." (Anne Frank, 1929-45, German Jewish, or stateless or Dutch, depending on your interpretation of her nationality, diarist and holocaust victim, from The Diary of Anne Frank, first published in 1947. In terms of nationality, Anne Frank was born in Germany to a German father and Dutch-German mother. She moved with her family to Holland in 1933 until capture in 1944. Technically her nationality has not been absolutely resolved.)

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." (Anne Frank, 1929-45, German Jewish diarist and holocaust victim, from The Diary of Anne Frank, entry dated 15 July 1944.)

"Compassion is not a sloppy sentimental feeling for people who are underprivileged or sick... it is an absolutely practical belief that regardless of a person's background, ability or ability to pay, he should be provided with the best that society has to offer." (Neil Kinnock, b.1942, Welsh Labour politician, from his maiden speech in 1970.)

"Once the last tree is cut and the last river poisoned, you will find you cannot eat your money." (Traditional saying, referenced by Joyce McLean in the Globe and Mail, 1989.)

"My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon." (Traditional Japanese haiku verse teaching us to see the good in all things, referenced by Leo Buscaglia in his 1972 book called Love.)

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again." (Variously attributed to quakers Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855, and William Penn, 1644-1718, and to Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian spiritual leader, humanitarian and constitutional independence reformer. This quote is also shown as a slightly different version, as below.)

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again." (Variously attributed to quakers Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855, and William Penn, 1644-1718, and to Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian spiritual leader, humanitarian and constitutional independence reformer. This quote is also shown as a slightly different version, as above.)

"If you don't know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else." (Laurence Peter, 1919-90, Canadian academic and expert on organised hierarchies, from his 1969 book The Peter Principle.)

"There is hardly anything in the world that some man can't make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey." (John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English art critic and social commentator, thanks R Parker)

And some more lovely Ruskin quotes:

"There is no wealth but life."

"Better the rudest work that tells a story or records a fact, than the richest without meaning."

"To know anything well involves a profound sensation of ignorance."

"Let us reform our schools and we shall find little reform needed in our prisons."

"The essence of lying is in deception, not in words." (See the Mehrabian item for related theory and explanation.)

"Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness."

(John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English art critic and social commentator)

The Mandela Inaugural Speech Myth

The following quote is not Nelson Mandela's and he's never used it. It's commonly believed that Mandela used these words in his 1994 inauguration speech. He didn't. It comes from the book A Return To Love, 1992, by Marianne Williamson .

" 'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?... Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do... It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (Marianne Williamson, author, from A Return To Love, 1992. Ack C Wilson and J Cooke. The version below includes references to God, which will suit some people, but not others - use whichever is appropriate.)

" 'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (Marianne Williamson, author, from A Return To Love, 1992. Ack C Wilson and J Cooke. The version above excludes the references to God, which some people will prefer, but not others - use whichever is appropriate.)

The Everybody Somebody Anybody Nobody Story (Or Poem)

The 'everybody somebody...' story (also referred to as a poem) appears in a wide variety of forms - often with the title - 'That's Not My Job' or 'Who's To Blame?' The sequence of the words (everybody, somebody, anybody, nobody) also varies in the headings of different versions. The order shown here seems most popular and logical, although I'm open to better suggestions. Most common first lines are either: 'This is a story about four people..' or 'There were four people named.. (everybody somebody anybody nobody...)'

The story, or poem, is probably a shortened simplified version of the longer 'A Poem About Responsibility' (below), which is popularly, although not wholly reliably, attributed to Charles Osgood (the American CBS News anchorman and writer). Perhaps it's the other way around and the 'Osgood version' of the poem is an extended version of the shorter one, although this seems less likely. If anyone can provide any further details about the Osgood poem, or the origins of the shorter version (for instance is Osgood the US news presenter or a different Osgood?, and when was the poem published?, etc), then please let me know .

I reckon the following is closest to a definitive sensible short version. Adapt it to suit your situation. (Most versions seem to include the words in parentheses [brackets] although personally I think the verse is improved by taking these words out.)

That's Not My Job (aka Who's To Blame? Whose Responsibility? and The Everybody Somebody Anybody Nobody Story - take your pick...)

This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did.
Somebody got angry (about that) because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody knew that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Somebody wouldn't do it.
And (/It ended up that) Everybody blamed Somebody because (/when) Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

or the alternative last line:

And (/It ended up that) Everybody blamed Somebody because Nobody actually asked Anybody.

(The alternative last line is more appropriate for illustrating principles of responsibility and delegation, whereas the one above it is more appropriate for principles of individuals taking personal responsibility, irrespective of delegation):

Please bear in mind that the 'Osgood poem' below may be subject to copyright and so care should be taken when using it, especially for overt commercial exploitation, although I've offered these versions and sought clarification very visibly for several years and not yet received any claims or suggestions of authorship, or requests to show different details of origins/copyright, which rather indicates that origins may actually be uncertain or even anonymous. Further details of copyright will be shown here when I discover them. Of course the shorter 'everybody somebody... story' might also be subject to copyright, who knows? If you do please tell me. I am featuring both here to show that the 'Somebody Anybody Everybody Nobody' poem has a big brother, which might well pre-date it and as such deserves some credit, along with Charles Osgood, if he actually wrote it.

A Poem About Responsibility

There was a most important job that needed to be done,
And no reason not to do it, there was absolutely none.
But in vital matters such as this, the thing you have to ask
Is who exactly will it be who'll carry out the task?

Anybody could have told you that everybody knew
That this was something somebody would surely have to do.
Nobody was unwilling; anybody had the ability.
But nobody believed that it was their responsibility.

It seemed to be a job that anybody could have done,
If anybody thought he was supposed to be the one.
But since everybody recognised that anybody could,
Everybody took for granted that somebody would.

But nobody told anybody that we are aware of,
That he would be in charge of seeing it was taken care of.
And nobody took it on himself to follow through,
And do what everybody thought that somebody would do.

When what everybody needed so did not get done at all,
Everybody was complaining that somebody dropped the ball.
Anybody then could see it was an awful crying shame,
And everybody looked around for somebody to blame.

Somebody should have done the job
And Everybody should have,
But in the end Nobody did
What Anybody could have.

(popularly attributed to Charles Osgood)

If you can confirm the authorship of this poem or the short versions please let me know .

With thanks to the many people who've enquired about this or sent different versions of the short version suggesting it be included on the site.

"Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small steps." (David Lloyd George, 1863-1945, Welsh Liberal Statesman - with acknowledgements to Barbara Heyn.)

"We must become the change we want to see." (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian statesman and spiritual leader, humanitarian and constitutional independence reformer - thanks B Heyn.)

"It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed." (Harvey Samuel Firestone, 1868-1938, US industrialist, and founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, who pioneered the pneumatic car tyre for the Model-T Ford - ack B Heyn.)

"The workplace should primarily be an incubator for the human spirit." (Anita Roddick, 1942-2007, British businesswoman, founder of the Body Shop organisation, writer and humanitarian.)

"There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." (Peter Drucker, 1909-2005, Austrian born US management guru, writer and seminal business thinker - from Drucker's 1963 book: Peter Drucker - On the Profession of Management, p 67.)

"The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." (William James, 1842-1910, US psychologist and philosopher.)

"Lives based on having are less free than lives based either on doing or being." (William James, 1842-1910, US psychologist and philosopher.)

"Be willing to have it so; acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune." (William James, 1842-1910, US psychologist and philosopher.)

"Cocaine is God's way of saying you are making too much money." (attributed to Robin Williams, US comedian and actor, and also to rock musician and occasional actor Sting, each coincidentally born in 1951 - I am advised, Sep 2007, that this quote was definitely used by Robin Williams, on his album/special 'Live at the Met' as part of a longer story - thanks Dr C Seward)

"A war regarded as inevitable or even probable, and therefore much prepared for, has a very good chance of eventually being fought." (Anais Nin, 1903-1977, French-born American writer and psychoanalyst - see also the Murphy's Plough story )

A lesson from a great man:

"My great mistake, the fault for which I can't forgive myself, is that one day I ceased my obstinate pursuit of my own individuality." (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, Irish playwright, poet and humorist)

"Along this tree
From root to crown
Ideas flow up
And vetoes down."
(Peter F Drucker, 1909-2005, Austrian born US management guru, writer and seminal business thinker. If this quote applies to your organisation then do what you can to change things.)

The Guy In The Glass Poem

The Guy In The Glass poem has been subject of much confusion and some distortion, and is rarely properly attributed. Duncan Fletcher, the England Cricket coach is not alone in failing to attribute it when recited the poem in a BBC Radio interview (Radio 5 Live, 23 October 2005). Fletcher explained that all the England players had been issued a copy of the poem, and he believed it to have been helpful in contributing to the team's development, culminating in their Ashes victory that year. Ex-captain Michael Atherton (some years before the Ashes winning team) has also in a separate interview referred to the poem as being of particular personal significance to him, and something he keeps with him at all times. It's a remarkable and powerful piece of writing. The Guy In The Glass poem was in fact written in 1934 by American writer Peter 'Dale' Wimbrow (1895-1954), and was first published in The American Magazine in May that year. Wimbrow submitted the poem in response to the magazine's request for its readers to send answers to an 18 year-old man's question as to , "...why an ambitious young man should be honest...". Thereafter the published poem seemingly went 'wild', so to speak, as great literary works sometimes do. Subsequent distorted versions commonly change the title to 'The Man In the Glass', or 'The Man In The Mirror', and many versions alter the word 'pelf' in the first line to 'self' believing the word 'pelf' to be a misprint. Pelf in fact means money or wealth, usually ill-gotten, derived from Old French pelfe and pelfre, meaning reward gained from plunder or contest or achievements, probably related to the same roots as the word pilfer. If you refer to the Guy In The Glass poem please use the correct words, and attribute it properly, to Dale Wimbrow, 1934. This is the correct version. It's about honesty of course, and more than this, the poem provides a philosophy for living a life of integrity and value.

The Guy In The Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father or Mother or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

©Dale Wimbrow, 1934.

Re-printed here with permission of Peter Wimbrow, Dale Wimbrow's son. More information and history about The Guy In The Glass poem is at .

"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." (Thomas Alva Edison, 1847-1931, US inventor of the light bulb, gramophone, electric valve, a megaphone, a storage battery, a system of electricity generation and distribution, and first person to produce talking motion pictures. Edison said this in 1903 apparently. See also the Leclerc alternative version below.)

"Genius is only a greater aptitude for patience." (George-Louis Leclerc, aka Compte de Buffon, 1707-88, French naturalist, written in 1803, a little ahead - 100 years actually - of Edison's version.)

"If 'A' is a success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x; y is play, and z is keeping your mouth shut." (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, Bavarian-Jewish-born Swiss-American Physicist and seminal thinker about the universe, in one of his lighter moments.)

"I don't drop players. I make changes." (Bill Shankly, 1913-81, Scottish manager of Liverpool Football Club, demonstrating the art of accentuating the positive. Shankly is also credited with one of the most famous of all football quotes, below.)

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that." (Bill Shankly, 1913-81, Scottish manager of Liverpool Football Club, on the importance of passion in your chosen field.)

"Age is deformed, youth unkind,
We scorn their bodies, they our mind."
(An Elizabethan comment about different people's perceptions that holds true today, written by Thomas Bastard - seriously, that's his real name - 1566-1618, English poet, epigram-writer and clergyman)

"Give me a smart idiot before a stupid genius any day." (Samuel Goldwyn, 1882-1974, Polish-Jewish-born US film producer.)

"A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent."
(William Blake, 1757-1827, English poet, painter and mystic.)

"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." (Richard Buckminster Fuller, 1895-1983, US engineer and architect.)

"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." (attributed to Bill Clinton, b.1946, US 42nd President, referring to the dangers of falling out with press and media folk; the quote was originally written by Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American author and commentator, aka Samuel L Clemens - thanks J Pollak-Kahn for the Mark Twain origin.)

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the great Indian statesman and spiritual leader, was once asked what he thought of Western Civilisation. Gandhi replied: "I think that it would be a very good idea." (see also the Gandhi shoe story )

"If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves." (Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist and humanist, written in 1932 - the principle applies to seeking to change anyone, or anything, not just children...)

"We call ours a utilitarian age, and we do not know the uses of any single thing. We have forgotten that water can cleanse, that fire can purify, and that the Earth is mother to us all." (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, playwright, author and poet. Prophetic words.)

The 'Serenity Prayer'

The 'Serenity Prayer' is powerful statement of personal philosophy for our times.

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other." (Written in 1934 by Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971, US theologian, writer and teacher.)

Paraphrased versions have been developed to appeal to a modern audience:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change; the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." (Using "God," at the beginning, and whether to refer to the quote as a prayer I'd say are optional depending on your audience - it's the philosophy that's important, not whether it's attached to a particular religion..)

"To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed." (Theodore Roosevelt, 1858-1919, from his Message to Congress, 3 December 1907)

"It is the same when Siddhartha has an aim, a goal. Siddhartha does nothing; he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he goes through the affairs of the world like the stone through water, without doing anything, without bestirring himself; he is drawn and lets himself fall." (Hermann Hesse, 1877-1962, Swiss novelist, poet, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, from his book Siddhartha, 1922, based on Gautama Buddha's early life. With acknowledgements to

"There is another more subtle way in which the innocence of childhood is lost: when the child is infected with the desire to become somebody. Contemplate the crowds of people who are striving might and main to become, not what Nature intended them to be - musicians, cooks, mechanics, carpenters, gardeners, inventors - but somebody: to become successful, famous, powerful; to become something that will bring, not quiet and self-fulfillment, but self-glorification and self-expansion." Tony deMello SJ, 1931-87, Indian spiritual leader and writer, from The Way to Love - with acknowledgements to thedailyinspiration)

"Smile tho' your heart is aching,
Smile even tho' it's breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by.
If you smile thro' your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You'll see the sun come shining through; for you."
(John Turner & Geoffrey Parsons, 1954. See the Smile song item above.)

"Close your eyes and imagine where you want to be. Imagine the complete journey you need to take in order to get there. Now go pack. Your reservations have been made." Michelle Ustaszeski (b.1969), American writer and photographer for inspirational products.

Come To The Edge

I am indebted to Davide Levi for alerting me to popular confusion surrounding one of the great inspirational poems, Come To The Edge. The Come To The Edge poem appears in a variety of forms, and is often wrongly attributed (including by this website a while ago, sorry) to the French poet Guilliame Apollinaire (1880-1918). In fact the British poet Christopher Logue (born 1926) wrote Come To The Edge, apparently in 1961-62. I am also grateful to Bob Janes, who pointed me towards a clearer explanation and the probable cause of the confusion, as explained (apparently) by Christopher Logue in an interview with Nigel Rees in 1995, which appears (apparently) on page 359 of Rees's book the 'Cassell Companion to Quotations' (Cassell, London, 1997): "...In 1961 or '62, Michael English and I were asked by Michael Kustow to design a poster/poem for an Apollinaire exhibition he was mounting at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts in London). I wrote 'Come to the Edge' and put the words 'Apollinaire said' at the beginning of it; a cross [probably meaning combination, not 'across' as I'd previously suggested - thanks Cliff] between a title and a first line. On the poster, the poem, plus 'Apollinaire said' framed an illustration of clouds. Later, when the poem was reprinted, I dropped the trope [a trope is a figurative of metaphorical use of a word, in this case 'said', since Apollinaire never 'said' the words]. Last year, though, the US 'magician' David Copperfield projected a garbled version of the poem on to a screen as part of his show, as well as printing it in his 'tour-book' the show's programme. I believe the poem has been reprinted in at least one US book without my permission. Maybe it had the trope attached to it still..." (Apparently)

Exactly why Logue chose to add the attribution 'Apollinaire said' to his original work is not made clear; this is the best explanation I have to date, for which I should also acknowledge other people referenced in Bob Janes's explanatory email, who previously researched this matter, notably publisher Steve Khinoy of SKA SwordPlay Books (who gave details of the above on the publisher's forum website, and who signed off his comments with the observation that "Indeed, a David Copperfield TV special show in the UK in 1995 concluded with an approximation of the poem ... attributed to Apollinaire"), and Brian Baranoski (who posted the details of the Rees book and Logue interview on on 4 Jan 1998).

Here is the correct original Christopher Logue version of Come To The Edge.

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
And they came,
and he pushed,
and they flew.

©Christopher Logue

Some versions of Come To The Edge substitute 'we' for 'he' in the last line, which is incorrect. Other common variations and distortions of the Come To The Edge poem include:

Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They came. It pushed them...
And they flew.

(With acknowledgements to Christopher Logue, Faber and Faber, publishers of Christopher Logue's poetry, and to Davide Levi.)

"Give me health and a day and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-82, American poet, writer, philosopher.)

"The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness." (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, English philosopher, mathematician, writer, peace-campaigner and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950.)

"To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead." (Bertrand Russell)

"It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly." (Bertrand Russell)

"Life is without meaning.
You bring the meaning to it.
The meaning of life is
whatever you ascribe it to be.
Being alive is the meaning."
(Joseph Campbell, 1904-87, American writer, anthropologist and philosopher.)

"A very different philosophy of management is arising. We are moving beyond strategy to purpose; beyond structure to process, and beyond systems to people.... Asshole management is not inevitable." (Sumantra Ghoshal, humanist management thinker, writer and academic, 1948-2004, who believed that management should be, above all else, a force for good.)

"Keep doing what you've been doing and you will keep getting what you've been getting!" (Jackie B Cooper, American automotive industry trainer and pioneer, 1939-2001) Alternatively, "If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you've always got." (used by various speakers, notably Zig Ziglar)

"Live with compassion. Work with compassion. Die with compassion. Meditate with compassion. Enjoy with compassion. When problems come, experience them with compassion." (Lama Zopa Rinpoche, born Nepal 1946, Buddhist teacher, spiritual leader of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.)

The 'Success Poem'

"Success - To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded."

The origin of this quote has never been reliably established, despite it being commonly and possibly wrongly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, writer, philosopher, 1803-82. There seems clear evidence that a different version of the 'Success' poem was written in 1904 by Bessie A Stanley, an American housewife, in winning a competition organised by the Lincoln Sentinel newspaper, Kansas USA. Bessie Stanley's version apparently appeared in the authoritative Bartlett's Familiar Quotations until the 1960's. See the research by Dirk Kelder , and Robin Olsen which argues strongly that Bessie Stanley's version is the original: "Success - He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction." (Bessie A Stanley, 1904)

"When every situation which life can offer is turned to the profit of spiritual growth, no situation can really be a bad one." (Paul Brunton, 1898-1981, writer and philosopher, thanks G Eardley)

"One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in." (Wayne Gretzky, former National Hockey League superstar. (Ack D Christian)

"In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." (attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. Ack DC)

"People who regard themselves as highly efficacious act, think, and feel differently from those who perceive themselves as inefficacious. They produce their own future, rather than simply foretell it." (Albert Bandura, b.1925, American psychologist, writer, academic and prioneer of social cognitive theory, notably the 'self-regulatory mechanisms through which people exercise some measure of control over their thought processes, motivation, emotional life, and accomplishments' - see the quote below also. Incidentally, 'efficacious' means 'sure to produce desired effect'.)

"Humans are producers of their life circumstance not just products of them." (Albert Bandura - see above.)

"A gossip talks to you about other people. A bore talks about himself. A brilliant conversationalist talks to you about yourself." (attributed to William King, whoever he was - possibly William Rufus King, 1786-1853, the US politician and US Vice President, or more likely judging by similarly witty quotes attributed to him, William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1874-1950, Canadian Prime Minister. See the notes on empathy .)

"Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called 'the love of your fate'. Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, 'This is what I need.' It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment - not discouragement - you will find the strength is there. Any disaster that you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You'll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes." (Joseph Campbell 1904-87, American writer, anthropologist and philosopher - see the related Nietzsche quote below)

"There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win." (Elie Wiesel, b.1928 in Transylvania, Holocaust survivor, American citizen since 1963, author of several significant humanitarian books, 1976 Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Boston University, 1978 appointed Chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust, 1980 Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1986 Nobel Peace Prizewinner and established the The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity , which seeks to promote and aid the nurturing and inspiration of young people to build a better, more harmonious and humane world. With thanks to C Byrd and her teacher Da Shi Yin De. This wonderful quote provides an inspirational example of a deeply positive attitude to life and experience far beyond conventional measurement of reward.)

"Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe." (Elie Wiesel, writer)

"Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question." (Edward Estlin Cummings 1938, poet, 1894-1962. Think about it. Whatever its original context, the quote serves well to illustrate a central idea of coaching and helping people; ie., when someone asks for advice, they don't want someone else's answer, instead, they want help finding their own. A 'more beautiful question' can provide such help. This philosophy is also characterised in Sharon Drew Morgen's Facilitation methodology .)

"Seeker of truth, follow no path. All paths lead where truth is. Here." (EE Cummings. Incidentally there is plenty of evidence that Cummings did not expressly wish his name to be shown in lower case: 'e e cummings', as is the common pratice. Cummins did use lower case in his poetry but the consistent use of lower case for his name has been perpetuated by commentators since his death, erroneously.)

"Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is." (Will Rogers, cowboy, actor, philanthropist, 1879-1935. Ack CB)

"The average man's opinions are much less foolish than they would be if he thought for himself." (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, English philosopher, mathematician, writer, peace-campaigner and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950.)

Sadness From One Generation To The Next - Breaking The Cycle

The following quote is powerful and relevant for our times. It's about taking responsibility and forgiveness; and not using our past as an excuse. And striving to be grown-up - especially in our responsibility towards the next generation, irrespective of our own experiences.

"I have heard many stories about parents who have hurt their children so much, planting many seeds of suffering in them. But I believe that the parents did not mean to plant those seeds. They did not intend to make their children suffer. Maybe they received the same kind of seeds from their parents. There is a continuation in the transmission of seeds, and their father and mother might have gotten those seeds from their grandfather and grandmother. Most of us are victims of a kind of living that is not mindful, and the practice of mindful living, of meditation, can stop these kinds of suffering and end the transmission of such sorrow to our children and grandchildren. We can break the cycle by not allowing these kinds of seeds of suffering to be transmitted to our children, our friends, or anyone else." (Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist author, from 'Peace is Every Step' - this quote is a wonderful antidote for the desperation of Larkin's 'This Be The Verse' on the same subject of parental effects on children. Both quotes are excellent illustrations for Transactional Analysis , as is the wonderful Person Who Had Feelings story .)

"I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgement. It takes place every day." (Albert Camus, writer and philosopher, 1913-60, from 'La Chute', meaning 'The Fall', 1956.)

"Some men see things as they are and ask 'why?'; I dare to dream of things that never were and ask 'why not?'." (commonly attributed to Bobby Kennedy because when he used it he failed to credit the actual originator, George Bernard Shaw.)

"Make your heart like a lake, with calm, still surface, and great depths of kindness." (Lao Tzu, ack JH)

"Instead of making others right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there's a middle way, a very powerful middle way...... Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way..... true communication can happen only in that open space." (Pema Chodron, Buddhist nun who runs Gammpo Abbey retreat in Nova Scotia - thanks CB)

"What is the world full of? It is full of things that arise, persist, and cease. Grasp and cling to them, and they produce suffering. Don't grasp and cling to them, and they do not produce suffering." (Ajahn Buddhadasa - thanks CB)

"Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow." (Alice Mackenzie Swaim - thanks CB)

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." (Jack London, Ack CB)

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." (Anais Nin, French-born American writer, 1903-1977, Ack CB)

"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." (Fred Shero, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers hockey coach - Ack P Ho. This is a metaphor for taking responsibility for motivating yourself, rather than waiting for it to happen, which it won't unless you make it.)

"Fantastic things happen - to the way we feel, to the way we make other people feel. All this simply by using positive words." (Professor Leo F Buscaglia, teacher, writer and humanitarian, 1924-1998)

"It's not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely." (Leo F Buscaglia)

"Ninety per-cent of what we worry about never happens, yet we worry and worry. What a horrible way to go through life! What a horrible thing to do to your colon!" (Leo F Buscaglia, thanks Wayne)

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." (Anais Nin, French-born American writer 1903-77. Ack Ray Dodd - the quote appears in his book 'The Power Of Belief')

"(You have a choice as to whether) you are either part of the steam roller or part of the road." (unknown - ack TW - aphorism/argument for adopting a new idea, adapting to change, or contributing to performance improvement, rather like Eldridge Cleaver's wonderful quote "If you're not part of the solution ..."

"The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones." (unknown, ack TW)

"If your enemy turns to flee, give him a silver bridge." (Spanish proverb, in Spanish: "A enemigo que huye puente de plata.")

"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is within it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again - and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more." (Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American author and commentator, aka Samuel L Clemens)

"To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970)

"Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way a car is driven." (Edward de Bono, b.1933, British psychologist, writer and expert on thinking.)

"Character building begins in our infancy, and continues until death." (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962, US humanitarian and wife of President Franklin D Roosevelt.)

"No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent." (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962, US humanitarian) See Transactional Analysis , of which a helpful principle and related maxim is "Suffering is optional." (ack Anita Mountain)

"With every willing pair of hands comes a free brain." (Unknown, Ack KN)

"Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed." (Mark Twain)

"Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." (Mark Twain)

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." (Mark Twain - Thanks IM for these three Twain quotes)

"No-one ever listened themselves out of a job." (Calvin Coolidge, US President. Ack JC)

"There is none so blind as those who will not listen." (William Slater)

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." (Albert Camus, 1913-1960, French author & philosopher)

"Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity." (Albert Camus)

"We seldom confide in those who are better than we are." (Albert Camus, from La Chute, 1956)

"You cannot acquire experience by making experiments. You cannot create experience. You must undergo it." (Albert Camus)

"Do not walk behind me, I may not lead. Do not walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend." (attributed to Albert Camus)

"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss.... The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads and the boss drives." (Theodore Roosevelt)

"The marksman hitteth the target partly by pulling, partly by letting go. The boatsman reacheth the landing partly by pulling, partly by letting go." (Egyptian proverb)

"No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself." (William Penn)

"Take what you want. And then pay." (Aztec proverb, apparently..)

"Difficulty is not an obstacle, it is merely an attribute". (Wal Sakaluk)

"If it's hard to do, then you're doing it wrong." (Lynn Doolan)

"We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." (Albert Einstein)

"The true voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." (Marcel Proust. Thanks Robert Vázquez Pacheco)

"Despise violence. Despise national vanity and selflove. Protect the territory of conscience." (Susan Sontag. Thanks RVP)

"The future's already here; it just isn't evenly distributed." (William Gibson, science fiction writer)

"We are born princes and the civilizing process makes us frogs". (Eric Berne. Thanks CB)

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." (Rudyard Kipling. Thanks CB)

"Good management consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people." (John D Rockerfeller, 1839-1937, US oil magnate and philanthropist. The judgemental description of some people being 'average' should not distract from the essential principle that good managers help other people to do great things.)

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." (Harry S Truman, 1884-1972, US President)

"I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow." (Woodrow Wilson)

"Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" (Shirdi Sai Baba, Indian saint thanks Carole Byrd)

"Don't tell my mother I'm in politics: she thinks I play the piano in a whorehouse." (Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American writer and journalist)

If You Are Not Part Of The Solution...

A saying that appears on countless office walls, and is often used by managers and leaders when trying to encourage someone or a group with a negative view based on blame and the past, to adopt a positive view based on action and the future.

"If you're not part of the solution you must be part of the problem."

(The commonly used maxim is probably based on the original quote: "What we're saying today is that you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem..." by Eldridge Cleaver 1935-98, founder member and information minister of the Black Panthers, American political activist group, in a speech in 1968. (Thanks RVP for the Cleaver reference.)

"What should it profit a man if he would gain the whole world yet lose his soul." (The Holy Bible, Mark 8:36)

"A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline." (Harvey Mackay, thanks Brad Hanson)

"Form follows function." (Louis Henri Sullivan, American architect, 1856-1924)

"I strive to be brief, and I become obscure." (Horace, Roman poet, 65-8 BC. If you are a person who prefers to take time, and to be detailed and careful, don't be forced into hasty superficial ways. The world needs care and detail, especially for critical things, not least saving us all from the reckless actions of knee-jerking 70%-style leaders.)

Success Should Be Defined Relatively and Individually

A helpful quote for understanding and explaining that individual success ultimately should not be measured against other people's situations. Define your own purpose and meaning. Don't let others do it for you, or impose on you ridiculous standards and measures.

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed." (Booker T Washington, 1856-1915, American Educator and African-American spokesman, thanks for quote M Kincaid, and for biography correction M Yates and A Chatterjee.)

"A person who graduated yesterday and stops studying today is uneducated tomorrow." (Origin unknown, thanks BLP)

"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you." (William James, 1842-1910, American Philosopher, thanks Jean Stevens)

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer, 1749-1832, thanks Yvonne Bent)

"Respice, adspice, prospice." ("Look to the past the present and the future." Thanks Amy Willis)

"Don't let yesterday take up too much of today." (Will Rogers, 1879-1935, cowboy, actor, philanthropist)

"Nemo surdior est quam is qui non audiet." ("No man is more deaf than he who will not hear." Origin unknown, thanks AW)

"It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious." (Alfred N Whitehead, 1861-1947, thanks Katherine Hull)

"Intelligence is quickness to apprehend, as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended." (A N Whitehead)

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to look after them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." (John Steinbeck)

"You can't talk your way out of a situation you behave yourself into." (Dr Stephen Covey, thanks Eric Welburn)

"Catch a man a fish feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and feed him for life." (Unknown)

"There is sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed." (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian statesman and spiritual leader, humanitarian and constitutional independence reformer.)

"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you are still a rat." (Lily Tomlin, 1939- , US actress)

"Better go home and make a net, rather than dive for fish at random." (Chinese proverb)

"I keep six honest serving men, (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who." (Rudyard Kipling, from 'Just So Stories', 1902.)

Standing On The Shoulders of Giants..

"A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than the giant himself." (Attributed variously to Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, aka Lucan, Roman poet, AD39-65, and to Didacus Stella, aka Diego de Estella, Spanish theologian, 1524-78, and others since including Coleridge and Newton. See the Newton quote below.)

"If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (Sir Isaac Newton, 1643-1727, English physicist and philosopher, written in 1676 seemingly to fellow scientist Robert Hooke, and, as a matter of interest, abridged on the edge of the English modern £2 coin, apparently in Newton's honour. Rfeer also to the Lucanus/Stella quote on the same subject above.)

"A camel is a horse designed by a committeee." (Sir Alec Issigonis, 1906-88, Turkish-born British car designer - designer of the Morris Minor and original Austin Mini - incidentally James Surowiecki's wonderful book The Wisdom of Crowds presents an excellent perspective on the merits and strengths of collective wisdom.)

"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." (Samuel Johnson 1709- 84)

"The most important thing in life is not to capitalise on your successes; any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your mistakes." (William Bolitho, from 'Twelve against the Gods')

"It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." (Antoine de Saint Exupery from The Little Prince)

The Captain Of My Soul...

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud:
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed...
It matters not how strait the gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul."

(William Ernest Henley, 1849-1903, from 'Invictus', more precisely titled: Echoes, No4, In Memoriam RT Hamilton Bruce, written in 1888.)

"Everybody can get angry, that's easy. But getting angry at the right person, with the right intensity, at the right time, for the right reason and in the right way, that's hard." (attributed to Aristotle)

"Politics is the art of the possible." (Prince Otto von Bismarck, 1867)

"We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down." (Aneurin Bevan, British statesman, 1897-1960 - sometimes quoted as 'run over' instead of 'run down', and apparently reported in The Observer newspaper, 1953.)

"Even if you think you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." (Will Rogers, American cowboy, actor and humorist. Ack N Borkowski)

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do." (Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, 3rd President of the USA - not Samuel Jefferson as previously stated in error here, thanks J Schaefer)

"Seek first to understand, and then to be understood." (Dr Stephen Covey) N.B. Stephen Covey's maxim closely resembles a couple of lines from the 'Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi' which typically shows the sentiment as "....grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand;...". Interestingly although the prayer is eponymously titled and widely attributed to St Francis no-one actually knows its true origins. The prayer was apparently first published in a small spiritual magazine La Clochette in 1912 by a Catholic association called La League de la Sainte-Messa, under the auspice of its founder Father Esther Bouquerel. At this time the prayer was not attributed to St Francis; it appeared as an anonymous item. Significantly around 1920 the prayer was printed by a French Franciscan priest on the reverse of an image of St Francis, titled 'Priere pour la Paix' (Prayer for Peace), but again anonymously. This however seems to have led to the subsequent attribution of the prayer to St Francis, initially by a French Protestant movement, 'Les Chevaliers du Prince de la Paix' (the Knights of the Prince of Peace) in 1927; later by Kirby Page, a minister and writer, in his 1936 book 'Living Dangerously'; and also in US Cardinal Spellman's books around the late 1930's and 1940's. (Source:, which refers to the research of Dr Christian Renoux into this prayer, and which is summarised above. I am also grateful to Thomas Ryan for alerting me to the fact that the prayer existed before Covey's quote.)

"Management means helping people to get the best out of themselves, not organizing things." (Lauren Appley)

"He who wishes to talk well must first think well." (Origin unknown)

"When you speak, your speech should be better than your silence would have been." (Origin unknown)

"It's not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with the sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause and who, at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." (Theodore Roosevelt, 1858-1919, 26th US President and 1906 Nobel Peace Prize-winner.)

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian spiritual leader, humanitarian and constitutional independence reformer.)

"Experto Credite." ("Trust one who has proved it." Virgil, 2,000 years ago.)

"Life is like a very short visit to a toyshop between birth and death." (Desmond Morris, 1991.)

"Whoever in debate quotes authority uses not intellect, but memory." (Leonardo Da Vinci)

"If you don't agree with me it means you haven't been listening." (Sam Markewich.)

"The world is divided into people who do things, and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the first class. There's far less competition." (Dwight Morrow, 1935.)

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." (Samuel Johnson.)

"This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read." (Sir Winston Churchill.)

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." (attributed to Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BC, however the origins of this quote are arguably from the writing of the Chinese scholar Xunzi, 340-245 BC, for which clearer evidence seems to exist. The origin of the quote attributed to Confucius is not certain. The Xunzi quote - which is more subtle and complex, and literally translates as: "Not hearing is not as good as hearing, hearing is not as good as seeing, seeing is not as good as mentally knowing, mentally knowing is not as good as acting; true learning continues up to the point that action comes forth [or, only when a thing produces action can it be said to have been truly learned]" - can be traced to an original work, but it seems the Confucius version cannot. It is possible that the Western world simplified and attributed the quote to Confucius, being a popularly quoted source of Chinese wisdom. Thanks K Bennett.)

"When you are thirsty, it's too late to dig a well." (Japanese Proverb.)

"You can't clear the swamp when you're up to your arse in alligators." (Traditional, unknown.)

"The future of work consists of learning a living." (Marshall McLuhan, 1911-1980.)

"If it ain't broke don't fix it." (Bert Lance, member of Jimmy Carter's US government, 1977.)

"The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining." (John F Kennedy)

"He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and dance; one cannot fly into flying." (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900.)

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." (Nietzsche.)

"What does not kill us makes us stronger." (attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, 1844-1900, based on his words: "Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." from The Twilight of the Idols, 1899.)

"The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas." (Linus Pauling, 1901-1994, Nobel Laureate in chemistry and Nobel peace prize winner for his efforts to have above-ground nuclear testing banned - the only person to ever win two unshared Nobel prizes. Ack Dr K Bennett)

"What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do it." (Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914.)

"Behind an able man there are always other able men." (Chinese Proverb.)

"Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them." (Adlai Stevenson, 1900-1965.)

"I have always said that if I were a rich man I'd hire a professional praiser." (Sir Osbert Sitwell, 1892-1969.)

"A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." (George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950.)

"Managers are people who never put off until tomorrow what they can get somebody else to do today." (Unknown.)

"Not in doing what you like best, in liking what you do is the secret of happiness." (Sir James Matthew Barrie, aka J M Barrie, 1860-1937, Scottish novelist and playwright - creator of Peter Pan, 1904)

"I praise loudly. I blame softly." (Catherine the Great, 1729-1796.)

"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence." (Abigail Adams in 1780. Thanks to John Mcgregor)

"The cream always rises to the top." (Unknown)

The 'Cream rises' quote often prompts a reply when pointing to leaders of low repute, notably politicians and corporate chiefs of dishonest and untrustworthy character: "Yes but garbage floats too..." (Thanks B Taylor)

"Nature abhors a vacuum." (generally attributed to Benedict de Spinoza [aka Baruch - Hebrew name], 1632-77, Dutch philosopher and theologian, born of Jewish family in Amsterdam, the quote is from 'Ethics' [Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata], published posthumously 1677, Part I, Proposition, [the Everyman edition, translated by Adam Boyle]. During his lifetime Benedict de Spinoza's work was regarded as atheistical and subversive, and led to his expulsion from the Jewish community for heresy in 1656. His ideas grew in popularity with support after his death notably from Lessing, Goethe, Coleridge, and he is now regarded by professional philosophers as one of the great rationalist thinkers of the 17th century. [Source Bartletts Quotations and Chambers Biographies.] Interestingly however, Brewer in his 1870 dictionary attributes the expression to the Italian astronomer and all-round genuis Galileo, 1564-1642, who apparently used the expression 'nature abhors a vacuum' in describing how a water pump works. If Brewer was correct - and there is no reason to doubt him - then Galileo's use of the expression could well have predated the commonly referenced Benedict de Spinoza origin.)

"We do not want churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God..." (Chief Joseph, 1840-1904, of the Nez Percé Native Americans. With thanks to

"You've got to be before you can do, and you've got to do before you can have." (Zig Ziglar)

"What is fame? an empty bubble; Gold? a transient shining trouble." (James Grainger, from 'Solitude', 1755)

Send your favourite quote .

Please note that where quotations refer to 'man' or 'men' this is not intended to be discriminatory. When using certain quotes you should consider using similar explanation if appropriate.

see also


The poem 'Come To The Edge' in the inspirational quotes is ©Christopher Logue.

The poem 'The Guy In The Glass' is ©Dale Wimbrow, 1934.

'Smile' lyrics are ©Boune Co, NY.

'Late Fragment' is ©Raymond Carver's estate.

© (collection) alan chapman 1995-2014