In William Shakespeare’s immortal play “Romeo and Juliet,” Friar Laurence gives this advice to the young Romeo, who has decided to marry Juliet despite their families' deep blood feud. The words stand as a warning against Romeo’s recklessness, which ultimately proves fatal for the star-crossed lovers. And it remains good advice for us all: Moving too quickly, without thinking our choices through, can result in careless mistakes at best and avoidable catastrophes at worst. Often, slow and steady really is the best way forward.
As an internationally renowned architect, I. M. Pei was well-versed in the power of problem-solving. Two of his most famous building designs, the John F. Kennedy Library and the Hancock Tower in Boston, faced numerous issues along the way, but Pei felt that such challenging projects helped toughen him as an architect, and would stand the test of time. Pei’s words serve as a beacon to us in moments of doubt and difficulty. They remind us that our satisfaction at the finish line actually springs from the hardships we overcame along the way.
One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.
The starring character of English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton’s first book of short stories, 1911's “The Innocence of Father Brown,” is a priest-turned-detective who combines scientific observation with spirituality. At this moment, Father Brown is explaining to another priest how things can change based on perspective. This quote speaks to the value of humility: Looking down on the world from a lofty height makes things appear small, but when we are down in the valley looking up, we have a much better grasp of what we’re seeing.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky shared this classic bit of wisdom during a 1983 interview with commentator Bob McKenzie, and would later go on to explain that the words were passed down to him by his father, beloved Canadian philanthropist Walter Gretzky. Wayne said of his dad: “He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life." Gretzky Sr.’s words remind us that we cannot succeed unless we try — and we must take the shot if we want any hope of succeeding. More Quotes >
To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau spent two years living in a remote cabin on Walden Pond in Massachusetts, an experience that birthed his celebrated memoir, “Walden.” In that time, he gave up luxuries and aesthetics, believing it was a more honorable challenge to redefine the meaning of a good life. He wrote in "Walden" about the importance of being "awake" through life — to live deliberately and enjoy the essential and divine elements of being alive. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” he wrote, adding, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor … to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look." To him, shaping your outlook on life was the highest art of all.
Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
Not much is known about the life of Hafez, a 14th-century poet from Persia. But it’s thought that he was first drawn to the power of words upon hearing his father recite passages from the Quran. A celebrated court poet and lifelong teacher, Hafez specialized in ghazals, a form of love poem that expresses pain or loss, as well as the tender love entwined with it. His poems now serve as proverbs, offering wisdom and life lessons. His advice here acts as a lighthouse to each of us: We are most fulfilled when we follow the things that make us feel fully alive.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung is best known for his theories concerning the unconscious — our personalities, dreams, and intuitions. He believed that to develop a “true self,” each person has to distinguish the ego (individual identity) from the collective unconscious (shared symbols and patterns over human history). In that vein, Jung helped establish psychotherapy for people who felt their lives had lost meaning, guiding them to examine their individuality. His studies are a testament to the power of looking inward: When we understand ourselves and our place in the world, it gives us the clarity and insight we need to live with purpose.
Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.
Writer Madeleine L’Engle produced more than 60 works in her lifetime, including bestselling novels such as “A Wrinkle in Time” and several poetry collections. Of course, such a vast and impressive body of work didn’t come easily. L’Engle spoke often of the diligence and perseverance necessary to create. Waiting for a bolt of creative lightning to strike, she explained, is a surefire way to never get started. Her words here remind us that when we commit time and effort to our work, inspiration will follow.
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.
Bessie Anderson Stanley
In 1904, “Brown Book Magazine” held a contest in which they asked readers to define success. When Kansas woman Bessie Anderson Stanley submitted her answer, she likely never dreamed her words would someday be misattributed to famed authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Louis Stevenson. In the poem Stanley submitted, she highlighted appreciation of nature, kindness toward others, and having “left the world better than [one] found it” as tenets of a successful life. Stanley’s words ground us in what is truly important, and they remain resonant more than a century later.
Chemist Louis Pasteur pioneered several scientific breakthroughs, including the eponymous pasteurization process, as well as vaccines for anthrax and rabies. These breakthroughs came after Pasteur had studied and experimented for years — sometimes simply for the sake of science, rather than with a specific objective. These words, from his first address as dean of the Faculté des Sciences in Lille, France, call to mind that balance of hard work and exploration. Pasteur reminds us that we can’t simply hope to get lucky: It’s by investing time and effort into our pursuits that we often make our most exciting discoveries.
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