Suzy Kassem is an American writer of Egyptian parentage whose insightful work often reflects themes of self-discovery and empowerment. In this quote, she underlines the destructive power of self-doubt and points out that the fear of failing can be more paralyzing than any actual setback. Often, it is our own hesitation that stifles our potential; it’s so easy to talk ourselves out of something scary or new with an unknown outcome. Kassem reminds us that although failure is difficult, it can also impart important lessons and growth — certainly more than we get out of never trying at all.
When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.
William Arthur Ward
William Arthur Ward was a motivational speaker of the mid-20th century, best known for his books of pithy sayings. His life advice covered everything from gratitude and friendship to hard work and consideration for others. Ward was also a prominent figure in his academic and social communities, gaining an honorary doctorate from Oklahoma City University and serving in various Methodist church leadership positions. With these words, he reminds us that being supportive of other people and choosing to see the best in them can help us grow into the best versions of ourselves.
When poet Alexander Pope wrote this line in his poem “An Essay on Man” in 1733, he was referring to humankind’s eternal hope for life after death. “The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home / Rests and expatiates in a life to come,” he wrote. But this sentiment can be applied to everyday life as well. We can take comfort knowing that hope is an innate and essential human quality. It’s in our nature to reach for what’s possible and to find optimism even in the toughest times.
Grant me courage to serve others; for in service there is true life.
Cesar Chavez spent his life fighting for the American workforce, and in particular Latin American farm workers. A civil rights activist and labor leader, he co-founded (along with Dolores Huerta) the National Farm Workers Association, which became the powerful United Farm Workers labor union. This line is part of a prayer Chavez wrote for farm workers in which he empathized with their struggle. He underlined the importance of serving others, writing, "give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers."
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.
An old and oft-repeated proverb warns us that “curiosity killed the cat” — in other words, there is danger in unnecessary investigation and inquisitiveness. One man who willfully ignored this advice was Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of all time. As Einstein saw it, curiosity and constant questioning are among the most vital and desirable characteristics of the human mind; he referred to curiosity as “holy” on more than occasion. This quote comes from a 1955 interview he gave to "Life" magazine, in which he went on to say, “One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”
I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.
Anne Frank was a German-born Jewish girl who gained posthumous fame after her personal diary was published in 1947, two years after her death at just 15 years old within the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Frank used the diary as an outlet for her thoughts while hiding with her family in an Amsterdam attic. This uplifting sentiment comes from an entry dated July 15, 1944 — less than one month before Nazi police discovered and arrested Frank and her fellow hideaway occupants. The diary not only serves as crucial historical documentation of the Holocaust, but also offers endearing insights into the young girl’s emotional and familial life in the annex. Her belief in humankind’s inherent goodness, set against the backdrop of the Third Reich’s mass genocide, is heartbreakingly hopeful. Frank’s persistent optimism in the face of such profound tragedy is an empowering reminder of our inexorable ability to focus on the light in even the darkest days.
Shel Silverstein’s life philosophy imbued his vast body of work. The poet, artist, playwright, bestselling author, and Grammy-winning songwriter slipped this insight into a conversation between anthropomorphized shapes in his picture book “The Missing Piece.” Published in 1976, the book follows a Pac-Man-precursing figure on an epic search for its lost segment. Upon rolling into a complementary chunk’s path, the protagonist tentatively asks, “Maybe you want to be your own piece?” The piece responds by asserting its agency. Silverstein was advocating for audiences of any age — including his then-6-year-old daughter — to build identities beyond their connections with others.
One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.
Sigmund Freud, the renowned neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, believed that our unconscious mind is as powerful as our conscious mind. It is often in life’s hardest times that we experience the most growth — though it may not feel like it to our conscious mind in the moment. Struggle can bring out hidden depths of tenacity and determination within us that may otherwise remain latent but are exactly what we need to cross the proverbial finish line. We may not look back fondly on those times of struggle, but through honest introspection, we can glean the beauty from them.
Anatole France was a French writer, poet, and journalist who was known for his wit and skepticism and was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize. This popular quote hints at the fact that, in addition to his prolific writing, he was also well known for living a life full of romantic affairs, including a long-lasting relationship with Miss Emma Laprévotte, who wed Anatole in 1920 and carried on his legacy after his death. The two themes of his life were art and love, and it would seem he trusted his instincts in both with great success.
Art hurts. Art urges voyages — and it is easier to stay at home.
On August 15, 1967, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks debuted her poem “Chicago's Picasso" as the city of Chicago unveiled a Pablo Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. This line from the poem describes her own discomfort when engaging with visual art as someone unfamiliar with the discipline. “Art is … something that you have to work in the presence of,” she later said when interviewed about her poem. “You just can't stay in your comfortable old grooves. You have to extend yourself.” Brooks was telling herself and others that the extra effort, though difficult, is worth the push. Her words suggest that the thoughtfulness and the challenge brought on by viewing art can be transformative.
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