As we hit the midyear point of 2017, I want to continue the tradition of sharing quotes I have read during the last six months that resonated with me — and hopefully, they will resonate with you as well. I find quotes to be so inspiring, especially when I read and study them often, then apply the teachings in my life.
I’ve divided the following quotes and maxims into categories I feel are relevant to all of us as we strive to make the rest of the year both meaningful and successful. Some are from famous figures you will recognize, while others might be new discoveries for you. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
On Doing the Right Thing:
“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid one hundred days of sorrow.” -Chinese Proverb
This quote really resonates with me because it can be easy to overreact to things that are now in the past and out of your control. I work to transition my anger to positive behavior when it arises.
“If our emotions are not ultimately determined by external events alone but by our own beliefs and value judgments, then the habit of making healthy and rational judgments is more valuable to us than anything else.” -Donald Robertson
We should all strive to not allow external events to determine our happiness. Focus, as Robertson says, on the habit of making healthy and rational judgments that will benefit us in the long run.
“If it is not RIGHT do not do it; if it is not TRUE do not say it.” -Marcus Aurelius
This is a simple mantra to live by, but simple does not necessarily mean easy. This quote represents a high standard of personal responsibility that we should all strive for.
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” -Jerzy Gregorek
Gregorek lived in Poland during the tumultuous period when the country gained independence from the USSR. I love this quote because it reminds me of an amazing scene from the movie Scent of a Woman. At the end of the movie, Al Pacino’s character discusses how the main character, Charlie, has made some hard choices but ended up on the right path. The lesson here is that sometimes we have to make tough decisions to achieve what we really want from life.
On Responding to Failure:
“What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?” -Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote is really powerful. I think of it this way: If I were a superhero and could not fail, what would I do? Fear can be paralyzing, but if you can suspend your emotions for a moment and assume you cannot fail, it opens up a lot of ideas and opportunities about where to go next in your career and even in life overall.
“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.” -Serena Williams
Coming from the most successful tennis player of all time, this one says a lot. I have so much respect for tennis players because they are out there playing on their own and constantly face losses in the form of matches, sets, games and points. They have to overcome countless obstacles and rally to win.
“What to do with a mistake: 1. Recognize it. 2. Admit it. 3. Learn from it. 4. Forget it.” -Dean Smith
Well said, Coach Smith. Too often, I tend to wallow in my mistakes. This formula is perhaps simple, but not always easy to follow. I will try harder.
On Facing Our Fears:
“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt
“The quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do.” -Unknown
These two quotes both talk about facing fears. It may feel counterintuitive, as our natural instinct is to ignore our fears rather than address them, but I have to agree with both of these quotes. The more I lean into my fears, the more confident I become and the more opportunities, relationships and happiness open up to me.
“It hurts, but that’s all it does. The most difficult part of the training is training your mind. You build calluses on your feet to endure the road. You build calluses on your mind to endure the pain. There’s only one way to do that. You have to get out there and run.” -David Goggins
I heard a podcast with Goggins and was really impressed. Goggins is a former Navy SEAL who defended our country over the last decade or so in incredible fashion. However, he was not always as tough as he is today. Growing up as an African-American in an all-white neighborhood, he was ridiculed for his skin color. He decided at one point in his life to literally become the toughest man in the world. His list of physical and mental accomplishments is hard to believe, from at one point holding the pull-up record to running many of the hardest ultra-marathons in the world. I love his words about creating calluses on the mind to prepare for the inevitable difficulties of life.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” -Lucille Ball
I am a big fan of Ball and often watched reruns of I Love Lucy growing up. They don’t do comedy like that anymore. In this quote, Ball points out something important: Ultimately, you are not much good in the world if you don’t love yourself. We all struggle with this at some level. Striving to become the best version of yourself can come dangerously close to not being satisfied with who you are. But Ball reminds me to love who I am right now even as I strive to become better.
“Victory or defeat are largely out of my control, but putting up a good fight … putting up the kind of fight that makes the earth shake and the gods blush … this I can do.” -Daniele Bolelli
I compete a lot in life, both in business and in sports. This quote has a lot in common with the famous serenity prayer. It focuses on your actions as the key — not the outcomes. Outcomes are of course important, but only as external events. What makes you improve as a person is the process of continuing to try.
“If I stop to kick every barking dog I am not going to get where I’m going.” -Jackie Joyner-Kersee
In my role at Learning House, I am constantly encountering the metaphorical version of barking dogs along our path. I love this advice because it reminds us to be aware of issues that arise but stay focused on our chosen path. Sometimes it really is just a bark.
“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” -John Wooden
I read one of Wooden’s books this year and really loved this quote. Leadership and management can be tough at times. A key role as a leader is to coach others by providing feedback on where people are doing well and what areas still need work. Too often, emotions get involved and the message is lost. When I am able to coach my team in a way that does not cause resentment but allows a free flow of feedback and information in both directions, this is harmony.
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations can never effect a reform.” -Susan B. Anthony
I love this quote. I find myself thinking about my reputation first sometimes versus thinking about what I think is right. Ultimately, if you want to make a positive impact on the world, you are seeking change. This often brings conflict of some kind. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing, and we should focus on doing what is right rather than on our reputation.
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” -Peggy O’Mara
This is something I need to read often as I help raise three children under the age of 11. It’s so easy to get frustrated with young kids, but this advice is powerful because it reminds us that our children look to their parents for important guidance during their formative years.
Other Great Quotes:
“You can earn a university degree in our society … and never once receive an hour’s worth of instruction on goal setting, even though goal setting is more important to long-term happiness than any other single subject you could ever learn.” -Brian Tracy
Given my focus on higher education, this really resonated. I believe our education system does not do enough of this. Teaching kids, both in secondary and postsecondary institutions, “soft” life skills like goal setting is of the utmost importance in our society.
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
How good is this quote? I feel as though society assumes that all expertise comes from experience, but the fact is we can learn so much from others’ mistakes, as well as their good decisions. This is why I advocate reading biographies of famous people to learn from them — both the good and the bad.
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” -Maya Angelou
I love the way Angelou frames forgiveness. It’s not that it’s just a great virtue to have and for others to appreciate. It is a gift to yourself and a really powerful message!