Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
Marie Curie is best known for her scientific breakthroughs in radiation and radioactivity, which won her two Nobel Prizes. Even after her husband and research partner Pierre Curie died, Marie carried on their work, introducing the first X-ray machines to the frontlines of World War I. She spoke these brave words upon discovering that her long-term exposure to radiation during her research had given her leukemia. Her rational outlook applies not just to science and mortality, but also to life: If we approach the unknown without fear, we’re more likely to gain understanding we didn’t have before.
The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
Confucius was a Chinese philosopher who lived more than 2,500 years ago. Yet despite the wide gap of time between his life and ours, he is still famous today for his wise teachings and philosophy. While Confucius’ political and cultural influence is hard to overstate, his beginnings were meager. This only further proves the point of the above quote, which reminds us that great movements often start with small steps.
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
This beautiful line comes from Edith Wharton’s long poem “Vesalius in Zante (1564).” The speaker of the poem is Inquisition-era anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), who left Spain to travel to the East in his fifties, when he could no longer bear to live and work in a society that forbade his scientific research. On his way home from Jerusalem, Vesalius was shipwrecked on the Greek island of Zante, where he fell ill and died, never to return home. In the poet’s imagining, the censored scientist finds consolation at the end of his life in the faith that others will carry on the work he was prevented from: “What one man failed to speak, another finds / Another word for,” Wharton writes. In other words, carrying on the “light” of another — be it ideas, joy, love, or inspiration — can be just as valuable as creating it yourself.
There’s a wall between you and what you want and you got to leap it.
Bob Dylan is generally regarded as one of the greatest songwriters in history — and he has a Nobel Prize in literature to prove it. The folk singer earned the award for his poetic and often moving lyrics. Take this one from Dylan’s 1981 song “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” off the album “Shot of Love.” It encourages us to seize the moment, to bust through our fears and overcome obstacles. We won’t reach our dreams, Dylan warns, without the courage to leap.
You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow is best known for his theory of the “Hierarchy of Needs,” which outlined the basic human needs that must be met before one can seek social or spiritual fulfillment. Feeling that psychology didn’t take into account human creativity or potential, Maslow defined the concept of “self-actualization” as a process in which humans continually strive to reach our best selves. Choice played a prominent part in his theories: Here, he reminds us that our progress in life is up to us — as long as we have the courage to move forward into the unknown.
Deserve your dream.
Octavio Paz, one of the most influential poets in the world, came from humble beginnings. He began publishing his work as a teenager and released his first poetry collection before the age of 20. His hard work earned him an esteemed career; he traveled the world as a diplomat and writer, becoming known internationally for his poems and essays and winning the Nobel Prize in literature in 1990. Here, his charge to “deserve your dream” reminds us that success is measured not just in what we achieve, but who we are. When we know we’ve lived with integrity, reaching our goals is that much sweeter.
A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.
John A. Shedd
In 1901, a Minnesota newspaper reported that President Theodore Roosevelt wanted his warships on the move, and that they would rust and rot if left in the harbor. Twenty-seven years later, a professor by the name of John A. Shedd solidified Roosevelt’s sentiment into a pithy, memorable quote to share with the world, reminding us that great experiences are sometimes found over the horizon. Just as ships are meant to sail the seas, so too are we meant to explore new ideas and experiences. It can take courage to leave life’s safe harbors, but the reward for such bravery is a life well-lived.
Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.
Fred Rogers is best known for his work as the creator and host of the beloved television series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which ran from 1968 to 2001. A major theme of his show was helping kids to understand their emotions, to know that “feelings are mentionable and manageable.” But Mister Rogers also acknowledged that it can take a lifetime to understand and love ourselves for the complicated, wonderful human beings that we are. This quote reminds us that no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, self-reflection and kindness are always noble endeavors.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. first delivered this famous line in a sermon at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957. It was later included in his 1963 book “Strength to Love,” in which King expounded on his philosophy of nonviolence and his belief that a powerful, loving presence binds all humans. Although he was regularly targeted by hate speech and discrimination, King adamantly insisted that only love could rid the world of its prejudice. To this day, as people protest peacefully for equality, they embody King’s ideals, promoting love in the belief that it will someday drive out hate.
It is a happy talent to know how to play.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was an American essayist, preacher, poet, and philosopher. This quote, which was included rather unceremoniously in one of Emerson’s journal entries from April 1835, offers insight into his values. He cautioned against taking societal rules so seriously that you sacrifice silliness and fun. In this he was ahead of his time. Science has shown that, in fact, playfulness is a learned trait, one that benefits us physically, socially, and emotionally at any age. It is, as Emerson said, an excellent ability to cultivate for a happy life.
I guess I would say, "haste makes waste."
Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.
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.
Success is a collection of problems solved.
I. M. Pei
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.
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.
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.
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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.
Chance favors only the prepared mind.
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.
Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, and writer, has traveled widely to spread his teachings on mindfulness and nonviolence. His persistent peaceful campaigns calling for an end to the Vietnam War in the 1960s brought him worldwide recognition, as well as nearly 40 years of exile from his home country. Here, he advises us to let go of our attachments in order to find happiness. He writes that to cling to anything — “anger, anxiety, or possessions” — can encumber our experience of freedom. Thich Nhat Hanh has said “letting go is a practice,” and an art that can be cultivated daily. By recognizing and releasing our desires, fears, hurt, and resentment, we can live our lives more freely and joyfully.
I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.
Louisa May Alcott
In Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 book “Little Women,” we follow the lives of four sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — as they grow up together and face all of life's trials and joys. Alcott based the book on her own childhood in Concord, Massachusetts. In this line, the character of Amy, the youngest sister, is expressing that every obstacle helps us grow and learn, making us stronger and braver the older we get.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
South African leader Nelson Mandela spent half a century fighting against the oppressive system of apartheid that segregated Black and white South Africans — a fight that led to his arrest in 1962 and a 27-year imprisonment. After his release from prison in 1990, Mandela spent the next four years participating in peace talks and negotiations to bring apartheid to an end, and in 1994 was elected as the first Black president of a revolutionized nation. Mandela never faltered in his belief in a more equal and just future, and that belief propelled him to act despite the risk. With this quote, from his 1994 memoir “Long Walk to Freedom,” he points out that courage and fear aren’t opposites; rather, true courage is taking action even when you’re scared. “The brave man,” he wrote, “is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Whatever you are, try to be a good one.
William Makepeace Thackeray
When essayist Laurence Hutton was a boy, he met British novelist William Makepeace Thackery (author of "Vanity Fair" and other books) and had an encounter that profoundly impacted his life. Thackeray asked Hutton what he wanted to be when he grew up, and Hutton replied, "A farmer." Thackeray’s apparent response was this piece of wisdom. Hutton tried his best to fulfill that advice, and we should, too. It doesn’t matter what you do in life; what matters is striving for excellence in any task, big or small, because the effort itself can be the greatest reward.
Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness.
Author Richard Bach wrote several bestselling books in the 1970s, many of which were semi-autobiographical and pulled from his own career as an aviator and Navy pilot. While most of his stories center on the experience of flying, with this quote Bach speaks to us about friendship and love, and the power of giving. He notes that a gift from a friend is more than the object being gifted: The thought behind it is an expression of love, because it’s a genuine wish for you to be happy.
Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success, and then just get a little more.
In 2008, a journalist with “The Atlantic” interviewed renowned poet Maya Angelou about race, feminism, and how to break down the barriers many people face in life. Prejudices “have been built over centuries,” Angelou said, and we can’t break through them immediately. Angelou encouraged readers not to be discouraged or disheartened if the hard work doesn’t pay off right away, because with persistence, eventually we’ll see some success — and a little bit of success can be the best motivator to keep trying. “We mustn't run out of steam," she said, "but keep plugging away."
Seek first the virtues of the mind; and other things either will come, or will not be wanted.
The English philosopher Francis Bacon wrote this line in his 1605 book, “The Proficience and Advancement of Learning.” With it, he suggests that in order to be happy, it’s important to do first what we believe is honorable and right. Bacon warned that, paradoxically, chasing success can sometimes be the least effective way to reach joy. "Fortune,” he wrote, “hath somewhat of the nature of a woman, that if she be too much wooed, she is the farther off." But if we live with virtue, he suggests, then good fortune will come our way — or, we’ll discover that a virtuous life can itself be the root of happiness.
Genius, like humanity, rusts for want of use.
English essayist William Hazlitt is best known for his humanist writings, which stress free will and self-actualization. In 1826, he published “On Application to Study,” an essay discussing how staying engaged keeps us moving forward. With this line, Hazlitt suggests that the drive for knowledge keeps our minds sharp — that genius is a muscle that can be exercised. He wrote that “by continuing our efforts, as by moving forwards in a road, we extend our views, and discover continually new tracts of country.” In other words, we will always learn something new when we’re out looking for it with an open mind.
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It is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come.
Minister and activist Malcolm X spent his life advocating for civil rights, helping to pave the way toward racial equality. In the final chapter of his 1964 autobiography, Malcolm X reflects on his past and his accomplishments. He recalls how greatly he suffered in life, but offers a message of hope, writing, "It is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come." His words remind us that pleasure can't be experienced without pain to compare it to, and the challenges we face bring a greater appreciation of the joy in life.
The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.
In his 2011 commencement speech at Dartmouth College, comedian Conan O’Brien drew from his own experiences with disappointment to deliver this poignant quote. After O’Brien lost his job as host of “The Tonight Show,” he was able to turn that setback into success, becoming the host of his own long-running talk show. This quote reminds us that the very moments that look like failure can be opportunities in disguise — opportunities to learn, to grow, and to gain wisdom and clarity that can lead us to achieve even greater things.
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
This quote, from Marthe Troly-Curtin’s 1911 novel “Phrynette Married,” suggests that the things we love doing are rarely a waste of time — even if they might seem unimportant to others. In the book, the character of Phrynette is told she wasted her father’s time by having him concentrate on raising her rather than working. But Phrynette points out that raising a child brought her father pleasure, so how could that be a waste? It’s a reminder to listen to and trust our own hearts, being careful not to let other people define happiness and success for us.
Fall in love with the masterpiece, and also the paint on the floor.
Morgan Harper Nichols
Artist and writer Morgan Harper Nichols’ work often pairs poetry with abstract paintings in soft colors and shapes. Her work frequently tackles the in-between moments of life — like learning to sit with uncertainty, or offering ourselves kindness. Her artistic process, like this quote, also speaks to the acceptance of our messy parts: Nichols’ paintings often start from the landscape of a previous work, which she then paints over to create an entirely new piece. Here, Nichols asks us to value not just our best qualities, but also the imperfections that make each of us unique.
It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.
Paulo Coelho’s novel “The Alchemist” follows a young Andalusian shepherd on a journey to the Egyptian pyramids, where he believes he will find hidden treasure. These words are spoken by an old wise woman who warns him to not get carried away. Indeed, the shepherd sees and experiences many things on his journey, but the ones that affect him most are the simplest: falling in love, meeting a mentor, and discovering what home means to him. Coelho’s story serves as a lesson to us not to discount the smaller or less elaborate wonders of life: The fulfillment we get from them may surprise us.
I don't know about this quote's suggestion. A person sure can get sidetracked and accomplish nothing.
When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it.
B. F. Skinner
In a 1956 issue of the medical journal “The American Psychologist,” Harvard professor and psychologist B. F. Skinner published an article in which he takes an alternate look at the scientific method. Instead of focusing on one subject in a formal setting, Skinner suggests taking things moment by moment and following whims to reach the best results. This approach can work wonders in everyday life as well. Following where our passion and curiosity may lead can open up a world of creativity and inspiration. We may even discover something completely new and fascinating just by breaking free of routine.
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
Patience may be a virtue, but it's a difficult one to cultivate — especially in a world that is moving ever-faster. Yet with this quote, Enlightenment-era philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau reminds us that patience also comes with great rewards. Such rewards are never instant, but can increase over time, like an investment that must be allowed to mature. Research suggests that people who cultivate patience experience better mental and even physical health, and have happier relationships with others over the course of their lives.
an inspirational story -
Every Single Thing
"I just don’t know what my purpose, what my mission in this life is!," a friend wrote me in an e-mail recently. For some reason her letter awakened an old memory in me so I wrote her back and shared this with her.
When I was a young Dad my family was struggling just to get by. I was getting a few days work here and there as a substitute teacher. I was teaching every subject and every grade from kindergarten to seniors in high school. Then near the end of the school year I got called in at the last second to teach at a local grade school. I got there late worrying about the Summer to come and the lack of work it would bring. The class I got had a bad case of Summer break fever too. To say they were rambunctious would be understating it.
They were bouncing off their seats, talking in class, and not playing attention to anything I said. Finally, it was time for recess and I was as happy as they were to get outside the hot classroom. I watched them run and play and hoped it would wear them out so the afternoon wouldn’t be as tough as the morning had been on me. It was then, however, that a little girl ran up to me. She had a handful of freshly picked wild flowers. She reached a Daisy out to me and said, “This is for you, Mr. Mazzella.” In that second I felt a joy I hadn’t felt all day. I smiled and thanked her for her gift as she skipped happily away.
You see, in that instant that little girl had completed a part of her purpose here on Earth. In that second she had completed a moment of her mission. The truth is every single thing we do is a part of our purpose here. Every single thing we do is a part of our mission. God put us here to learn to love each other as He loves us. It is a life long process too, so stop worrying about your mission and your purpose. You are living them each and every day.
The same is true for all of us. May all your days then be full of life, learning, and love.
Remember Steel Magnolias?
I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.
Robert Harling’s play and subsequent 1989 film “Steel Magnolias” focuses on a group of women living in a small town in the American South. One of them is Shelby (played by Julia Roberts in the movie), a type 1 diabetic whose condition makes childbearing dangerous. Determined to be a mother, she gets pregnant anyway. When her own mother (Sally Field) protests, she responds with these words above, choosing passing joy over what she worries will be an empty life. Not all our decisions may be as high-stakes as Shelby’s, but her intention serves as a worthy guide: We should always reach for what brings us fulfillment and wonder, regardless of the risk.
There is so much to be grateful for, words are poor things.
The irony of this quote is that celebrated novelist Marilynne Robinson is known precisely for her ability to capture the human experience in graceful prose. Still, if words are poor things, perhaps it is because Robinson has so much to be grateful for. Since the 1980 publication of her debut novel “Housekeeping” (which won the PEN Award for Best First Novel), Robinson has gone on to write a dozen books and collect numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize (for 2004's "Gilead"), the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the National Humanities Medal for her “grace and intelligence in writing.” This quote is a beautiful reminder for the rest of us, too: Taking time to appreciate all we have can be a powerful feeling.
Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.
It is the fate of many famous women to be known primarily for the tragedies in their lives, rather than for their lightness. Artist Frida Kahlo is often thought of in the context of her lifelong health travails and her torrid, sometimes violent romance with another larger-than-life Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. But, fiercely optimistic, Kahlo surrounded herself with beauty and brilliance — not only in the art for which she is so well known, but also in life. She had numerous friends and lovers. She painted her home a bright cobalt blue and called it Casa Azul. (Poet Carlos Pellicer said “the house … seems to lodge a bit of heaven.”) And she was deeply committed to social justice. “I must fight with all my strength so that the little positive things that my health allows me to do might be pointed toward helping the revolution,” she said. That was, for her, “the only real reason for living.”
Hi, “Don't let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It's your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don't let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality — not yours. There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others' prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience right now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. Adventure.”
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I'm reading a bio on Leonardo Da Vinci. Your note above sounds like his life.
You don't always have to be doing something. You can just be, and that's plenty.
Since writing her first poetry book in 1968, Alice Walker has gone on to publish more than 30 literary works, including her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Color Purple," and has spent decades advocating for women’s rights and civil rights. But through all this activity she maintains a sense of stillness, of just being. This quote is a welcome invitation to slow down and take in the simple joys of living — or, as Walker put it, to feel connected to and loved by the universe.
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
Born in Germany in 1879, physicist Albert Einstein was a curious, independent thinker from an early age. He worked as a clerk in a Swiss patent office as a young man while developing his groundbreaking theories regarding energy, space, time, and gravity. He excelled in visualizing his ideas and creating new explanations for stubborn scientific mysteries, often going against popular opinion and academic tradition. Instead, he applied his imaginative and analytical powers to many complex topics, including time travel, black holes, and atomic energy. Einstein’s studies earned him a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, and his work continues to demonstrate the enormous potential of an inquisitive and flexible mind.
A small act is worth a million thoughts.
The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is often called a provocateur for the way his work — and outspoken support of freedom and human rights — has challenged the government, resulting in arrests and detainment by authorities. He is also considered one of the greatest living conceptual artists. This quote refers to his 2009 call for an internet strike in reaction to a proposed censorship law in China. “It’s an act, rather than just talk,” Ai Weiwei said in an interview about the protest. His words remind us that's it's not always enough to just talk about ideas or plans. In activism as in life, taking action, no matter how small, is crucial in achieving our dreams.
Interesting. I would also love to check that out when I get the chance.
The first wealth is health.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson founded the Transcendentalist movement, which valued a strong connection to nature above all. He believed that good physical health strengthens our instinct to choose experiences that make life rich and full. Emerson lived out these beliefs, balancing a quiet life in the woods of Concord, Massachusetts with his travels across the United States and Europe giving lectures. When he developed memory problems later in life, he slowed his pace so he could preserve his health and still publish his writing. He reminds us that taking care of ourselves, both physically and mentally, is a crucial part of living out our goals and dreams.
Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.
This encouraging sentiment is the opening line of the poem “Courage” by Amelia Earhart, who was not only a pioneering aviator but also an accomplished writer and poet. And she certainly knew something about courage. The poem, written in 1927 shortly before Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, is an intimate peek into the trailblazer’s mind and motivation. She reflects that courage brings joy, and the willingness to push boundaries is the cost of admission to a fulfilling and vibrant life. It is no small price to pay, because bravery can only exist where there is also fear. But without courage, we can't experience true freedom or inner peace.
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
One of the most influential modern intellectuals, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first penned this sentiment in 1889. It has since undergone numerous and varied translations into English, but the core idea remains in every iteration. Having a strong purpose in life gives us a reason to continue on through adversity, and inspires us to find a way past any obstacles that may present themselves.
The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
Writer Madeleine L’Engle wasn’t limited by getting older: In fact, she didn’t publish her Newbery Medal-winning book “A Wrinkle in Time” until age 44. She always maintained that her diverse life experiences helped inform not just her writing career but also her personal life and philosophy. L’Engle’s quote above reminds us that we don’t have to dread aging. Though society often glorifies youth, getting older is actually an advantage, because every day adds to our collected experience, growing our confidence, intelligence, and wisdom.
Trust your gut. Forgive yourself. Be grateful.
In her breakout memoir, “Wild,” author Cheryl Strayed recounts her solo thousand-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. For a woman traveling alone and a backpacking novice, reeling from her mother’s death and a recent divorce, it was a risky journey to undertake. But Strayed’s mental and physical journey gave her an anchor in arguably the hardest time of her young life. Strayed’s commitment to self-compassion in the face of adversity is a testament to how much we can survive by trusting our own internal compass. By forgiving ourselves our missteps and recognizing what we do have, we can move forward in new, exciting ways.
When I grow up, I’m gonna look up from my phone and see my life.
Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is known for her insightful lyrics, which often put existential questions in conversational context. She frequently waxes on themes of nostalgia, reaching for memories rather than the present moment. But these lyrics, from the track “Garden Song” off the 2020 album “Punisher,” offer a rare exception. Bridgers calls out her own distraction by technology, something many of us can likely relate to. Her words warn us not to get so lost in our screens that we miss what’s actually happening, and invite us to choose being present in order to live more fully.
It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.
The poet Maya Angelou was eight years old when she suffered a trauma that left her ashamed of her own voice, and caused her to go mute for nearly five years. “I thought I would never speak again,” she recalled years later. For her, the process of self-forgiveness was a process of recognizing the power of her own voice. Finding her voice saved her — and continued to save her. “All these 60-odd years later,” she said in 2010, “if I am really shaken, I stop speaking — and I, then, bring myself out. I start. I sing. I speak. I speak loudly and firmly. Recite Poe and Shakespeare and James Weldon Johnson, and all, and all, and do it.”
Be happy, take care of your teeth, always let your conscience be your guide.
Pratt Institute’s class of 2010 had a kindred spirit in their commencement speaker. Punk troubadour Patti Smith was about the Brooklyn art school graduates’ age in 1967 when, like them, she moved to New York City to be an artist. Smith succeeded by refusing to confine herself to a single medium, and by interlacing her work with activism. Today, she’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, an award-winning author, and a visual artist whose drawings, silkscreens, and photographs have exhibited on three continents. Yet her humble (and humorous) parting advice underscores the importance of pure motives. “Pac[e] the floor because your muse is burning inside of you,” she said. “You don’t want to be pacing because you need a damn root canal.”
The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.
In her 2012 book “Daring Greatly,” researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown explores the topics of courage and vulnerability, encouraging readers to acknowledge their fears and turn toward them. With this quote she reminds us that we get better at the things we practice, even when what we’re practicing is courage itself. Every time we take a risk we exercise that muscle, getting a little stronger and a little braver, until the things that once seemed impossible become routine.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
The theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is widely considered to be the creator of existentialism. His studies led him to the idea that reflecting on our past and learning from previous experiences helps us understand our place in the world. Still, life must not be lived in the past. This quote warns us not to dwell on past regret or resentment. We have to let go in order to move forward — which is the only direction life can go.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.
Legendary Irish writer Oscar Wilde was a vibrant figure of late-19th-century society. He was a member of the Aesthetic movement, which upheld “art for art’s sake.” He was known as a finely dressed, decadent, and outspoken man who never tried to blend in with the crowd. Along with famous one-liners like this one, he’s well known for his books such as "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" and satirical plays such as “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Through these comedies, Wilde mocked the hypocrisies of high society, and let his sharp wit run wild, as it were. Wilde married a woman and became a father, but also had relationships with men, and was famously imprisoned for homosexuality for two years. He lived as his fullest self and openly shared his loves, tastes, and opinions, regardless of what others thought. When we validate and love ourselves, we find we have a true companion for life.
In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.
On his 80th birthday, Robert Frost was asked, “In all your years and all your travels, what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned about life?” You would think someone like Frost, who won the Pulitzer Prize four times, would give a colorful and poetic response, but his abridged reply was just as moving in its simplicity: “It goes on.” While Frost’s work is widely celebrated, his personal life was marked with tragedy. He lost both his parents at a young age, and outlived four of his six children before losing his wife. Yet still, life went on, and Frost found more opportunities for love and laughter. Regardless of the pain we may face, it is always possible that the best is yet to come.
Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.
The Roman philosopher Seneca grew up during the first century CE in a high-born patrician family in ancient Rome. This granted him an education in philosophy and rhetoric. His oratory skills earned him a seat in the Senate and a role as Emperor Nero's advisor. Seneca's intellectual prowess formed from great practice and effort, which led him to elegantly point out that just as physical muscles grow under strain and stress, our “mental muscle” strengthens with challenges. If you want your mind to grow, give it plenty of opportunities for exercise.
Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.
The French philosopher and writer Albert Camus spent his life learning to overcome difficulty. Camus lived too many of his days during wartime, including World War II, unable to escape the German invasion of Paris. Camus joined the resistance and fought with his words as the editor-in-chief of an outlawed newspaper called "Combat." His clear and consistent writing on the human conscience won him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1957. As this quote suggests, it was his ability to adapt to his circumstances that protected his heart despite the tragedies he witnessed. And as he so movingly articulated, it is a fortuitous heart that has never been broken.
What good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?
John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, where he spent the summers of his youth working on nearby ranches — the setting for much of his literary work, including "Of Mice and Men" and "East of Eden." His experiences gave him insights into the lives of the downtrodden, who often served as the protagonists in his novels. These struggles, not to mention living through the Great Depression, gave Steinbeck a greater appreciation for the good times he enjoyed. Steinbeck followed up the quote above with, "You only truly, deeply appreciate and are grateful for something when you compare and contrast it to something worse."
Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.
Speaker and author Byron Katie regularly encourages us to look inside and ask ourselves the hard questions in order to grow as people. She refers to it as “The Work,” a process that helps us to confront stressful thoughts and feelings and eliminate them from our lives. With anger, in particular, whether it’s directed at ourselves or someone else, we’re held captive by those negative emotions. Until we forgive whatever caused the hurt, we’ll never be free from that negativity. So forgiveness actually becomes a form of self-care, allowing us to move forward unencumbered, to enjoy the freedom and lightness that comes from letting go.
In the depths of Winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
French Algerian writer Albert Camus grappled with many philosophical questions, including the meaning of life and how to weather its difficulties. In novels, plays, and essays, the Nobel Prize winner explored the depths, heights, and wonders of our existence. This quote was penned in a series of essays published in 1968, in which Camus urged humankind to persevere through adversity. In this volume, he wrote about recovering from World War II: “We must mend what has been torn apart” and “give happiness a meaning once more.” While Camus’ words on resilience were inspired by the specific struggles of his era, his hopefulness and belief that light outlives the dark is timeless.
If you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Arguably the most influential architect of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright believed passionately in the importance of beautiful buildings that complemented the natural environment. Drawing on his love for the landscapes of Wisconsin, where he spent much of his youth, he created a uniquely American style known as organic architecture. Many of his more than 1,000 building designs feature wide-open spaces, large windows, and an emphasis on horizontal rather than vertical construction. He was also an early adopter of green building practices such as solar heating and natural cooling. Wright once said he wanted to create architecture that “belonged where you see it standing” and was a “grace to the landscape.” His passionate belief that our living and work spaces should and could be beautiful made a lasting impression on architecture around the world.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.
A quarter century after her death, the timeless legacy of Ella Fitzgerald, the “First Lady of Song," endures. She triumphed over cultural roadblocks and personal struggles, and paved the way for other Black performers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald was born in racially segregated Virginia in 1917 and had a tumultuous youth. Then, after an amateur audition at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre in 1934, she found a true home on the stage. Fitzgerald said, "I felt the acceptance and love from my audience. I knew I wanted to sing before people the rest of my life." She went on to build a successful solo career, while also teaming up with greats like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Count Basie. Her passion for music, her beautiful and unique jazz singing style, and her ability to connect with the audience led her to win 13 Grammys, including the first awarded to a Black woman. Her wise words and illustrious career remind us of the power of doing what we love.
I can be someone’s and still be my own.
Shel Silverstein’s life philosophy imbued his vast body of work. The poet, artist, playwright, best-selling 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-six-year-old daughter — to build identities beyond their connections with others.
If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.
Shirley Chisholm, the first Black U.S. congresswoman and first Black candidate to make a bid for a major party presidential nomination, invited herself to many tables of power. A teacher by training, she represented New York state in the House of Representatives from 1968 to 1983. While she did not win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, she ran a spirited campaign with the slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed.” She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and active in the NAACP. Throughout her life, Chisholm fought for the rights of women and people of color. She did not wait for permission to stand up for her community, and encouraged others who were underrepresented to take their own rightful place in government.
The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.
Alexander Graham Bell
A Scottish-born American inventor, Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) is famous for introducing the world to the telephone. In 1876, after placing his first phone call to his assistant in the next room, Bell filed what is widely thought to be the most valuable patent in history. With this quote, the inventor extols the virtue of action, reminding us that no failure remains such, if we keep working to turn it into a success.
Education must not simply teach work - it must teach Life.
W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was the first Black American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, and he went on to be a founding member of the NAACP. This quote is pulled from an influential essay Du Bois published in 1903 in response to what he, and several other Black thought leaders of the time, saw as an overemphasis on industrial training for people of color. He feared that without multidisciplinary education, Black Americans would be forever relegated to second-class citizenry, barred from higher levels of leadership in both business and politics. “Work alone will not [uplift a people],” he wrote, “unless inspired by the right ideals and guided by intelligence.” The sentiment is as true today as it was in 1903.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
The philosopher Seneca contributed largely to an ancient Roman school of thought called Stoicism: the idea that, in life, some things are under our control, and some are not. Seneca’s quote here reminds us that we cannot dictate circumstance, but we can work hard and train in our chosen vocation so that when opportunity presents itself, we’re ready.
If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
Virginia Woolf, a celebrated 20th-century English writer, wrote often about truth, including this quote from a lecture she gave in 1940. In the lecture, she examined the circumstances and characteristics that form great writers. One virtue in her mind that stood above the rest was truth. Woolf believed that honesty breeds creativity, but the writer must tell all truths, including the unpleasant ones. It's difficult to openly paint ourselves as petty, vain, mean, selfish, unfaithful, or unsuccessful. But only after we take an honest look at ourselves are we able to see the truth in others.
All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.
In many ways, the creation of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland — ”the happiest place on Earth” — is the embodiment of dreams coming true. Almost everything Walt Disney introduced to the world first began as a dream. A pioneer of feature-length cartoons, he had to develop innovative advancements in cinema sound, technicolor, and cameras to make his ideas a reality. But to bring a vision to life also requires courage, and lots of it. We all have dreams, and like Disney, we may face obstacles on our way to pursuing them — but we should never let fear be one of them.
When we sow a seed, we plant a narrative of future possibility.
Sue Stuart-Smith is an author and prominent psychotherapist who believes gardening can help us process our thoughts and feelings. In her popular book, “The Well-Gardened Mind,” she describes the garden as a powerful space that mirrors our inner world. As we tend to the plants, we tend to ourselves. Within this mindset, the act of sowing and caring for a seed is also a hopeful investment in our own future. The time and labor we put into a garden comes back to us manyfold, not only through the beautiful and delicious plants we can enjoy, but in the healing benefits of slowing our pace, breathing fresh air, and connecting with nature.
The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.
Award-winning English author Neil Gaiman set out to write a short story for his daughter’s 18th birthday. But after two years, he only had three pages to show for his efforts. Then, over the course of three stressful days, he found a healthy distraction from the stress by diving into the story — and he found an ending, around 20 pages later. This hopeful sentiment was weaved into Gaiman’s reflection on the burst of creativity that produced his story “Sunbird.” Besides reminding people that they still have agency during life’s most challenging times, Gaiman explains that making art forges connections if the work is shared. Perhaps that’s why he has also written novels, graphic novels, comics, journalism, screenplays, and poetry.
We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
William Shakespeare’s plays often consider themes of change and metamorphosis, and these words from “Hamlet” are no exception. The character Ophelia goes mad after Prince Hamlet kills her father, and her remarks here can refer to both her father’s unexpected death and her own uncertain future. Shakespeare often wrote about personal transformation, in tales of enemies becoming lovers, or poor men becoming rich; he himself rose from a back-alley writer to a royal playwright. His words offer a twofold reminder: to be grateful for what we have in the present, and always hopeful about the possibility ahead.
What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?
In 19th-century England, a young writer named Mary Ann Evans assumed the pen name George Eliot and began publishing novels that were acclaimed for their realistic character development and compelling plotlines. This quote (originally published with slightly different wording) is from her fourth major work, “Middlemarch,” which is widely considered to be unsurpassed among novels of the Victorian age. The line was picked up and disseminated with slight variations appearing in subsequent publications, but the sentiment remains consistent: To be of service to the people in our lives is one of the most important things we can do with our time.
Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.
If you have dreams that feel just out of reach because fear keeps you from chasing after them, you’re not alone. As motivational speaker Les Brown warns with this quote, too many of us allow caution to limit our aspirations and potential. Instead of going after what we truly want, we let the fearful whispers of failure hold us back. But that nagging question — “What happens if I don’t make it?” — isn’t as scary as another question: “What happens if I don’t try?”
What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.
As one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement, Carl Rogers had a pioneering approach to studying the mind. His research focused on understanding the individual’s personality and relationships, and he believed that how we see ourselves affects the way others will see us. Instead of focusing on the dark impulses of humanity like many of his peers, Rogers noted that most people have positive intentions. As seen in this quote, he suggested that by letting people be their authentic selves, we become more accepting of both ourselves and each other.
Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.
Zelda Fitzgerald was a writer, artist, and lively socialite whose beauty captured the attention of author F. Scott Fitzgerald when she was a young debutante in Montgomery, Alabama. Though their marriage was often turbulent, the pair inspired and encouraged each other’s creative work, each serving as a muse for the other. Their love often found its way onto the pages of their writing, such as this line from Zelda Fitzgerald’s 1932 novel “Save Me the Waltz,” which closely parallels her own life and marriage.
Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.
An actress turned writer, Ruth Gordon was familiar with courage as a perpetual exercise. After a Broadway debut and a handful of successful films in the 1940s, she took a 22-year absence from movies, preferring the visceral courage of stage acting. After marrying screenwriter Garson Kanin, Gordon dove into new territory once again by collaborating with him on screenplays, netting several Oscar nominations. When she did return to the screen, her quirky characters — in films like "Rosemary's Baby" and "Harold and Maude" — made her a cult favorite. Gordon’s commitment to new ventures inspires us to embrace unfamiliar experiences: The more we do, the less frightening they’ll be, and the more we can grow.
Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world.
Perspective can make a world of difference. According to Amit Ray, a spiritual master known for his teachings on meditation, yoga, peace, and compassion, changing your point of view can improve how you see the world. If your mind chooses to see the best in people, it will. But the opposite is true too. If you focus only on the things that go wrong in your day, it will seem like the world is out to get you. In other words, what we experience mirrors our own perspective, and we can adjust it to get a better view.
It is not easy to be a pioneer - but oh, it is fascinating!
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first American woman to receive a degree in medicine. Despite being excluded by professors and classmates alike, Blackwell graduated at the top of her class in 1849. She interned at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, where she met Florence Nightingale, and the two women fought together for better hospital conditions. Blackwell then returned to New York, where she opened a small clinic to serve disadvantaged women and children. During the Civil War, she trained nurses for Union hospitals, and in 1868 she opened a medical college, eventually becoming a professor of gynecology. She published several books in her later years, including an autobiography in 1895, which recounts her difficult but fascinating pioneering work.
The measure of a man's greatness is not the number of servants he has, but the number of people he serves. - John Hagee
You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down.
Donning a short, thick mustache, dusty top hat, and thin wooden cane, Charlie Chaplin’s comedic character “The Tramp” is inarguably the most memorable figure of the silent film era. This quote is from the song “Swing High Little Girl,” which Chaplin wrote and sang for the opening credits of his 1928 silent film “The Circus” when it was rereleased with a new score in 1969. The lyrics reflect the optimism found in much of Chaplin’s work. They suggest that success often requires expectation and enthusiasm — you have to keep your head up to find what you’re looking for.
To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Author Benjamin Alire Saenz wrote this line in his young adult novel “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.” The book’s protagonist is 15-year-old Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza, a quiet and lonely boy whose father comes home from the Vietnam War a changed man. At first, Ari is angry at his father’s uncommunicative and withdrawn manner, but as he matures, he is able to see it from a new perspective. Ari reflects, “And loved my father too, for the careful way he spoke. I came to understand that my father was a careful man.” Ari sees there is beauty in understanding the power our words can have.
Don't wait. The time will never be just right.
Napoleon Hill was a well-known self-help author in the early 20th century, whose books conveyed a sense of urgency to take action. He understood that change can be scary, and because of this, many people hesitate before pursuing the things they truly want. It’s easy to tell ourselves the timing and circumstances aren’t perfect, and use that as an excuse to put things off until later. But Hill reminds us that the timing will never be "just right," and now is as good a time as any to get to work on chasing your dreams.
No wise man ever wished to be younger.
Throughout his adulthood, Dublin-born satirist and author Jonathan Swift suffered from an inner ear disorder that resulted in vertigo spells and hearing loss. Meniere’s disease, the culprit, did not receive a name during his lifetime. The uncertainty surrounding his ailment likely spurred Swift to ponder aging when the majority of his years lay ahead of him. In 1699, at age 32, he crafted an amusing list called, “When I Come to Be Old.” Yet this particular quote came later in Swift’s life, appearing in the essay “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting.” In Swift’s time (like ours), people constantly yearned for their youth. To him, that was a foolish, fruitless impulse. Swift contended that discerning individuals savor the understanding that maturity brings.
All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
Author Ernest Hemingway is known for his brusque, straightforward writing style, in both his narration and sentence structure. While Hemingway’s novels are renowned, his memoirs are equally respected, painting vivid and unflinching pictures of the First World War and Paris’ “Lost Generation” of artists. It’s no surprise, then, that Hemingway advised looking inward when setting forth to write. These words, from his Paris memoir “A Moveable Feast,” urge us to look for that spark in ourselves. Everything we need to start can be found within our own lives and experiences.
Men who are in earnest are not afraid of consequences.
Jamaica-born Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) was a civil rights activist and Black nationalist whose views often incited backlash. A public speaker and advocate, he led the Pan-Africanism movement, connecting people of African descent worldwide. However, his activism made him a target of the Bureau of Investigation (later known as the FBI), resulting in his arrest and controversial 1923 conviction for mail fraud. Garvey continued to write papers even from prison, and after he was released, he went on to speak to the League of Nations about race. Garvey’s lifelong dedication shows us that committing to a cause can offset our fears and empower us beyond our imagination.
The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.
Paulo Coelho is the author of the acclaimed book “The Alchemist,” which has sold more than 65 million copies in 80 different languages. But it was a long and winding road to that success. Coelho dropped out of law school and pursued failed careers in acting, theater directing, journalism, and songwriting before becoming a celebrated author. What’s more, “The Alchemist,” first published in 1998, originally sold fewer than 1,000 copies, and the publisher decided not to reprint the book. But Coelho didn't give up. He kept trying and found another publisher willing to take a chance on him. His story shows that it’s not how many times you get knocked down that defines a life, but whether you have the strength and persistence to keep getting up and moving forward.
Not what we have but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance.
Jean Antoine Petit-Senn
Satirist and poet Jean Antoine Petit-Senn lived in Geneva during the 1800s and spent his days writing sharp satirical commentary. As is the case with many poets, Petit-Senn’s work was not fully appreciated until after his death, leaving him with little financial success during his lifetime. But as he states in this quote, “abundance” need not be measured by the amount of money or things we amass in our lifetime, but rather by the amount of passion, love, and joy we feel. Learning to appreciate what we have over longing for what we don’t brings peace and contentment, which is the secret to happiness
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
Author, speaker, and pastor John Maxwell believed in this message so thoroughly, he made it the title of his 2013 book about how to succeed. The quote is a play on the more common phrase, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” which Maxwell points out stops short of the crucial lesson. In order to keep moving forward and achieve our greatest dreams, we must also learn from those losses. If we apply that knowledge and wisdom the next time around, we’ll be that much closer to reaching our goals.
The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek thinker who taught a popular philosophy based on simple pleasures. He believed our purpose on Earth was to fill our days with happiness, avoiding fear and pain. But even Epicurus knew that life wasn’t without its difficulties. In this quote, he shares his belief that we can find joy in overcoming obstacles — and the more complex the task, the greater the satisfaction that awaits on the other side.
The time is always ripe to do right.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this line in his 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” a message he addressed to clergymen who were critical of his nonviolent protests. This particular quote was King's response to calls for the racial justice movement to slow down and be patient. King described the liberation of Black Americans as woven into the overarching American goal of freedom. He urged his fellow clergymen and other bystanders to join this timely and urgent cause, because there is no wrong time to fight for justice.
The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
Most of us have dreams and goals we’d like to achieve, but how to go about reaching them can be so confusing and daunting that we never get started. With these words, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart encourages us to take action — even if it’s just beginning with a baby step. Earhart herself was seemingly born for adventure. Despite overwhelming odds, she set many aviation records, including becoming the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
I always liked Lucille Ball
Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.
It takes a lot of confidence to become a successful performer, and if anyone knew that, it was Lucille Ball. The “I Love Lucy” star is one of the most popular entertainers of all time, but Ball had a rough upbringing in Jamestown, NY, where her family struggled to put food on the table. As a teen, she moved to New York City for drama school, where she worked hard to find her confidence in a competitive scene. Eventually, her belief in herself paid off. After getting her start as a model, she moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s to pursue a career in television, finally landing her breakout role in CBS’ “I Love Lucy,” co-starring with her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. In this quote, Ball credits confidence and self-love with her success, reflecting that "you really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world."
Maybe I could absorb this saying and start the decluttering in my office.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
It’s easy to dream, but finding the motivation to get started is often the hardest part of the journey toward our goals. The secret? Take it one step at a time. It’s a sentiment that’s summed up perfectly in this well-known proverb from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who is considered the father of Taoism. It’s a simple metaphor, but a powerful motivator. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged when everything is ahead of us, but even our loftiest ambitions are achievable once we conjure the courage to take the first step.
We can always begin again.
Meditation guru Sharon Salzburg shared this important message as the finishing remark to her followers after a month-long meditation challenge in 2013. She recognized that meditation — like life — is a challenge, but we don’t need to be perfect on the first try. We can fail, and then learn from our mistakes. As long as we’re gentle with ourselves, we can always start over.
Our heads are round so thought can change direction.
This observation comes from French painter Francis Picabia, whose career embodied this idea so perfectly the quote was chosen as the title of a Museum of Modern Art exhibit about his life’s work. A singularly eclectic and unpredictable artist, Picabia was known for challenging conventional modernist art and frequently changing his own artistic style. His words and art remind us that creating something truly innovative requires being able to think flexibly, always staying open to new approaches, ideas, and possibilities.
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, if your cup is full may it be again.
Some Grateful Dead lyrics are pure poetry, like this one from the song “Ripple” off the 1970 album “American Beauty.” In the song, the cupbearer is reaching out to an ethereal fountain that seems to represent the kindness of others. The line, written by the band’s enigmatic lyricist, Robert Hunter, is a beautiful expression of generosity. It suggests a simple, genuine wish for a friend’s happiness, and a willingness to help.
Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
Miyamoto Musashi was a 17th-century Japanese samurai, artist, and writer known for his undefeated fighting record and philosophical work. After retiring from dueling, the swordsman turned to his community, mentoring students and sharing wisdom through his writing. This quote is part of the “Dokkōdō,” a short work written just before his death, which lays out tenets for an honest and simple life. His words here encourage us to extend our compassion outward, and find meaning in life by helping others.
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
Droll yet poignant, this line uttered by Mr. Dumby, a character created by Oscar Wilde for his 1892 play “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” expresses the value of learning from our errors. Remembered for his witty epigraphs as much as his groundbreaking satirical works, Wilde wrote of the follies and foibles of the upper class in Victorian England, and often brought his characters redemption through a hard-earned lesson. The Irish playwright reminds us that we all mess up from time to time, but we can extract valuable wisdom from those mistakes.
The soul would have no rainbow, had the eyes no tears.
John Vance Cheney
Writer and librarian John Vance Cheney often chose nature as his muse. Here he suggests that sadness, like rain, is a normal part of life, and just as a storm gives way to clearer skies, a good cry is often followed by a period of greater clarity. Cheney believed passing through sadness could engender a beautiful opening and expression of the soul, like a rainbow after a storm. This quote is reflective of much of Cheney’s creative writing, which often succinctly draws the reader's attention to the wonders of the natural world and their parallels and reverberations within the human spirit.
Feel compliments as deeply as you feel insults.
James Clear’s trajectory toward becoming a behavioral science expert began in high school, when he spent many months recovering from a life-threatening sports injury. Slowing down caused him to study others’ actions and take inventory of his own thought patterns. The author of the bestselling “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” noticed the shared tendency to downplay praise and amplify criticism. In September 2021, Clear shared this insight in his email newsletter: “It’s crazy how 1,000 people can compliment you and you’ll spend all day thinking about the one person who criticized you.” He encourages us to instead take time to appreciate each bit of recognition, a practice that promotes active listening and a healthy sense of self-worth.
With confidence, you have won before you have started.
Possessing a strong sense of who you are and what you are capable of can carry you a long way in reaching your goals. The opposite is also true: Taking on a difficult task while full of self-doubt and pessimism often leads to failure. Marcus Garvey, a Black leader and activist in the early 20th century, believed this so thoroughly that he saw confidence as a victory in itself. He said, “If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race of life.”
That virtue we appreciate is as much ours as another’s. We see so much only as we possess.
Henry David Thoreau
Best known for his book “Walden,” a series of essays about his time living alone in nature, Henry David Thoreau valued deep introspection over materialism. Rooted in his Transcendentalist belief in spirituality and simple virtues, Thoreau’s work often encourages the reader to be guided by their personal values, rather than societal expectations. It makes sense that what we value in others would already be present in us, be it kindness or courage. Thoreau reminds us that we are our own role models: In surrounding ourselves with people we admire, we realize the kind of people we are.
Find a purpose to serve, not a lifestyle to live.
American poet, philosopher, and essayist Criss Jami, sometimes known by his alter ego “TheKillosopher,” poses a unique challenge to readers of his 2015 book, “Killosophy.” The author asserts that perhaps our time on Earth is best spent in devotion to something — a cause, a community, a religion — rather than in pursuit of lifestyles defined and critiqued by an ever-changing culture.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Squire Bill Widener
This line was made famous by President Theodore Roosevelt, but he was actually quoting a Virginian soldier and community leader named Squire Bill Widener. Published in Roosevelt’s 1913 autobiography, this succinct quote summarizes the former President’s philosophy on life: that devotion to the pursuit of mere pleasure and success is hollow in comparison to a life lived dutifully for the people right in front of you. “Why, the greatest happiness,” Roosevelt wrote, “is the happiness that comes as a by-product of striving to do what must be done.”
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. Now 86 years old (as of October 2021), he has spent a lifetime advocating for peace and kindness. In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his five-point plan to restore peace between Tibet and China. He has traveled abroad more than any of his predecessors, citing the importance of responsibility and compassion between people from different backgrounds. His teachings guide us toward a more expansive idea of happiness — one that is founded on extending care to other people as well as ourselves.
We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.
Though he was born with a disorder that led to blindness, musician Stevie Wonder was so gifted and passionate about music that by the age of 10, he had already taught himself multiple instruments. At age 11, he was discovered by a Motown music executive and signed to a record deal. Still, Wonder never rested on his laurels, choosing instead to push himself. He studied classical piano, sought out mentors, and promoted social issues through music (including recording the 1985 charity single “We Are The World”). This quote reminds us that everyone can have an impact, no matter our circumstances — but it’s up to us to harness our unique skills.
Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
Billionaire investor and business magnate Warren Buffett’s description of shade on a warm, sunny day is a perfect metaphor for the importance of long-term thinking and investing in the future. When we realize our actions can either help or harm our future selves — or later generations — the choices we make become immensely impactful. It may require sacrifice and hard work today, but we will surely be thankful for our efforts in the long run.
Whoever is happy will make others happy too.
Anne Frank’s legacy of unshakeable hope gives great weight to this quote, which she wrote in her diary while enduring the horrors faced by Jewish families during the Holocaust. Entries Frank wrote while in hiding prove the young girl understood the infectious quality of happiness, and the importance of spreading joy during times of suffering.
In most things success depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.
A French political theorist of the Enlightenment era, the Baron de Montesquieu was familiar with the slow-moving nature of success. Though active in his local parliament and scientific academy, Montesquieu did not attain literary fame until nearly a decade into his career, with his epistolary novel, “Persian Letters.” He traveled abroad extensively to study governments across Europe, leading to some of his best-known writing. Montesquieu even considered a diplomatic career, but realized establishing it would take too long, choosing instead to devote himself further to his writing. His words and commitment to his work encourage us to be patient with our ambitions, giving each step the attention it needs so that we can continue to grow.
Dare to be naïve.
Inventor Buckminster Fuller was not a fan of know-it-alls. As you might expect, the visionary who engineered the Montreal Biosphere in 1967 was insatiably curious, a quality that fueled his passions for architecture, futurism, philosophy, and poetry. This sentiment permeated Fuller’s bibliography of more than 30 books. “It is one of our most exciting discoveries that local discovery leads to a complex of further discoveries,” he wrote in 1975’s “Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, Volume One.” In his opinion, it was auspicious to approach any situation from a deferential, inquisitive place. Conceding that there is much to learn is the best blueprint for discovering something new.
We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.
Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali writer gifted in many mediums, from short stories and essays to songs and plays. In 1913, he became the first non-European writer in history to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. Three years later, Tagore published “Stray Birds,” a collection of 326 philosophical verses and brief poems that includes this line. Despite his talents, Tagore understood that the best human trait is a modest and unassuming nature, which enables us to listen well, form unexpected bonds, and learn from others.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Each Wednesday for the majority of 12 years (from 1919 to 1931), future five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Mahatma Gandhi published “Young India,” an English-language journal that encouraged his followers to utilize nonviolent tactics for bettering their political and social status. His streak was interrupted when a pair of articles procured him a six-year prison sentence in Bombay (now Mumbai) for sedition. After two years, appendicitis led to Gandhi’s release, and neither the ailment nor his recent imprisonment kept him from resuming his entries. In an April 1931 issue, the lawyer, politician, and activist introduced the above wisdom. By refusing to hold grudges against even the most hostile forces, Gandhi cultivated his characteristic resilience.
The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.
Under the pseudonym “Poor Richard,” Benjamin Franklin wrote this aphorism in an edition of his yearly almanac, a collection of information, advice, and sayings published from 1733 to 1760. With these words, the founding father, inventor, and political philosopher draws a distinct line between the virtues of faith and reason. He asserts that logic can often get in the way of the cultivation of faith, whether in a deity or the belief in an idea or person. Clinging too closely to what we know, Franklin warns, can obscure the vastness of what we still have yet to learn.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We were visiting family and friends in Pennsylvania.
Great necessities call out great virtues.
It is in times of need, distress, and reckoning that great women and men rise to the occasion and act. First Lady Abigail Adams, along with her colonial American compatriots, witnessed countless examples of courage, sacrifice, humility, and honor during the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. In 1780, amid the trials of the Revolutionary War, Adams wrote these words in a letter to her young son, John Quincy Adams, to remind him that hard times require us to act on our best qualities.
Love is free; it is not practiced as a way of achieving other ends.
Pope Benedict XVI
Perhaps the most universally sacred virtue, love is most valuable when it is practiced purely and with no expectation of reward. Pope Benedict XVI summarized this concept in "Deus Caritas Est” (“God Is Love”), his first encyclical letter (a papal letter written to the Roman Catholic bishops) after his appointment as pope in 2005. This rumination on love — in both its earthly and divine forms — emphasizes its unconditional and generous nature, which seeks nothing in return.
Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
Ludwig van Beethoven
In a letter to German poet and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer Bettina von Arnim quoted this line first spoken by her friend Ludwig von Beethoven, whose musical ability had by that point (the early 1800s) taken Europe by storm. In the view of the virtuoso, the unspeakable quality of music to uncover deep emotion and understanding surpasses that of any works by sages and philosophers. For Beethoven, to hear and be moved by a musical composition is to experience the highest intellectual state.
The difference between misery and happiness depends on what we do with our attention.
Sharon Salzberg is a spiritual leader and meditation teacher who helped introduce Buddhist practices into Western culture in the 1970s. After a tumultuous childhood, Salzberg discovered meditation as a way to temper the chaos in her life. Her interest led her first to India for years of study, and then back to the U.S. where she co-founded the Insight Meditation Society. This quote comes from Salzberg’s book “Lovingkindness,” which encourages self-compassion as the first step to changing our perspective. We have more control over our outlook than we think, if we can learn to choose where to focus our energy.
If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
Maya Angelou’s life was anything but normal. At the age of 16, she became the first Black woman to drive a San Francisco cable car. Later, after training as a dancer, actress, and singer, she toured with the musical “Porgy and Bess.” She also recorded an album of calypso music, wrote and acted in plays, composed film soundtracks, and organized protests against racial discrimination. Though she is now known primarily as a poet and autobiographer, she never limited herself to just one identity. Even Angelou’s writing practice might seem a bit eccentric: She would check herself into a hotel room in the morning with a legal pad, deck of cards, Bible, thesaurus, and a bottle of sherry, and write until early afternoon. The goal, as she put it, was to “enchant” herself: to "relive the agony, the anguish,” and to feel at last the ecstatic relief of telling her truth.
The art of life is not controlling what happens to us, but using what happens to us.
A key figure of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem co-founded “Ms.” magazine (along with activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes), the first national feminist magazine in the U.S. Steinem also worked as a political columnist for “New York” magazine, and much of her reporting on women’s issues was groundbreaking: She wrote boldly on the societal pressure on women to choose between career and marriage, and went undercover to expose working conditions at the Playboy Club. Steinem has continued to tour the country as a speaker and women’s rights activist, pushing to elect more women to public office and promoting positive images of women in the media. Her lifelong commitment reminds us that we get to decide the impact our experiences have on our lives. While we may not control every outcome, we do have a choice in what motivates our actions.
I remember Helen Keller. What an awesome person.
A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
Helen Keller knew more than her fair share of hardships. After a series of illnesses, she lost her sight and hearing before her second birthday. Instead of letting her struggles define her, Keller became famous for her unique ability to overcome. Her first teacher, Anne Sullivan, introduced her to language and taught Keller how to read and write. Keller later qualified for Radcliffe College of Harvard University, where she became the first deaf and blind person to receive a college diploma in the United States. As she often said, she found happiness in life by facing adversity with remarkable hope and optimism.
I change myself, I change the world.
Gloria Anzaldúa was a Chicana poet and feminist theorist whose work often centered on intersectional identities. Born to a family of field workers on the Texas-Mexico border, Anzaldúa worked hard to earn a master’s degree in English and became a professor, simultaneously working with political groups such as farm worker collectives and feminist organizations. Anzaldúa’s writing often grapples with identity, and how it can shape not only our place in a community, but also our outlook on the world. The words above, from her 1987 book “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” are a reminder that working on our own personal development is the first step to shifting the world around us. In breaking down our own barriers, we make ourselves more effective vessels for change.
Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.
Historian and philosopher Will Durant is best known for co-authoring “The Story of Civilization,” an 11-volume series on Western history that he wrote with his wife Ariel Durant, originally published in 1935. His writings often synthesized complex philosophy concepts and historical events into digestible narratives for the modern reader. Though he was a professor and doctorate holder, Durant’s life wasn’t governed solely by studying. His material support of women’s suffrage and fairer working conditions equally guided his ideas about intolerance, morality, and justice. His words here encourage us to draw wisdom from our experiences as much as from learned knowledge.
Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.
Reading almost like a Russian nesting doll of wisdom, this quote from the ancient Greek statesman Pericles gives us a step-by-step understanding of how to achieve happiness, which, for him, begins with courage. In this formula, Pericles posits that in order to find joy and contentment in this life, we must have the liberty of choice, and to achieve and maintain that freedom, we must have ironclad will and unwavering devotion to our convictions.
Life is a collection of moments. Mindfulness is beautification of the moments.
Author and spiritual teacher Amit Ray often uses meditation as a technique to teach compassion and peace — within oneself and toward others. In this quote, Ray encourages living in the moment. Unless we are mindful of the present, time can slip past us without our awareness. But when we become more intentional about taking in and appreciating every moment, life takes on more beauty. Every occasion has the potential to be breathtaking — we just have to notice it.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.
Known as America's pastime, baseball is a game full of superstitions and stories. This quote is given by a fictional pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins), in the movie “Bull Durham,” written by screenwriter and director Ron Shelton. A former minor leaguer himself, Shelton accurately spoke about the unpredictability of the game — and life itself. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes the better team loses, and sometimes, it rains.
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
Writer Alex Haley explored family deeply in his work, namely in his book “Roots,” which was adapted into the 1977 award-winning TV miniseries of the same name. The book depicts Haley’s own ancestors, who were abducted from Gambia and sold into slavery in the American South, and follows that lineage until Haley himself. Often focusing on Black stories and communities in his writing, Haley was adamant that family history is crucial in shaping one’s identity. Though family can be complicated, those ties can tell us plenty about ourselves — and where we want to go from here.
The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder.
Before becoming a beloved writer of the 1970s, Richard Bach had a considerable career as a pilot. He first experienced the wonder of flying at age 14, and went on to serve as an aviator in the military as well as film shoots and flying circuses. These experiences influenced his 1970 novel “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” a story of a gull who flies for enjoyment rather than survival. Bach prioritized that sense of wonder throughout his life, and his philosophy invites us not to let fear stand in the way of seeking new experiences. In fact, it’s often when we push past that initial resistance that we stumble upon something truly wondrous.
Only by not forgetting the past can we be the master of the future.
The work of prolific Chinese writer Ba Jin often took the form of social commentary. His most famous novel, “Jia,” criticized the traditional Chinese family system. His work labeled him a counterrevolutionary during the country’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, and he was ostracized from society. In the early 2000s, Ba Jin called for the creation of an official Cultural Revolution museum to document the impact of the era, believing this would prevent China from repeating past mistakes. (Though a museum did open in 2005, it was covered up by the Chinese authorities less than a decade later.) With this quote, Ba Jin points out that no experience exists in a vacuum. By reflecting on where we’ve been, we can chart the course ahead to steer us in a better direction.
Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.
Dance is one of the most natural expressions of emotion that we have as humans, and to try to grade it in terms of “good” or “bad” is to undermine the whole point. Modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham was one of the most talented and famous dancers of the 20th century, and even she knew it didn’t matter if you could dance well — just let go of your inhibition and experience the joy of moving to the music. It’s a lesson that can be applied to all areas of life: Fear of imperfection should never cause us to miss out on life’s wonders.
It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.
In 1940, “New Yorker” veteran James Thurber published a children’s book — “Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated” — in which each story ends with a crisp moral. The above quote is the moral of “The Scotty Who Knew Too Much,” a parable about a presumptuous Scottish terrier who instigates hapless run-ins with a skunk, a porcupine, and a farm dog. No one has all the answers, and Thurber posits that pretending otherwise will get you into trouble. He encourages all generations to remember that curiosity is a sign of respect, and indicates a willingness to learn, and grow, from the presence of outside perspectives.
Do not fear mistakes, there are none.
Musical virtuoso Miles Davis assembled some of history’s most venerable jazz ensembles. Unbeknownst to audiences, he could also mentor his fellow musicians midway through a world-famous trumpet solo. Pianist Herbie Hancock — a member of Davis’ Second Great Quintet — fondly recalled one such instance. During a 1960s concert in Stuttgart, Germany, Hancock played what he judged as a very pronounced wrong chord. Covering his ears, he feared he had “reduced that great night to rubble.” An innate improviser, Davis responded with a series of notes that made Hancock’s chord sound intentional. “He did what any jazz musician should always try to do, and that is to make anything that happens into something of value,” Hancock said. It reminds us that so-called missteps are often just what we need to blaze a new trail.
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.
In a beautiful meditation on the power of friendship, French diarist and essayist Anaïs Nin wrote in 1937 that each person we meet and befriend invites us to explore more of ourselves and discover new insights. Our interests, personalities, dreams, hopes, and thoughts are made richer and brighter when shared with someone else, and sometimes it takes the arrival of a new friend to awaken our truest identities.
The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.
Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler was among the early pioneers of family and group counseling. One reason for his 1911 break with compatriot Sigmund Freud was that Adler believed external factors, such as adult relationships and employment, should be accounted for when treating patients (whereas Freud thought behavior was largely fueled by biology and childhood events). While listening to people reflect on their place in society, Adler heard lots of trepidation. This motivated him to help individuals grow comfortable with risks, because adventures and unforeseen joys await those who say yes.
The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.
With her daily life embroiled in the political turmoil of 20th-century South Africa, Nobel Prize-winning writer and anti-apartheid activist Nadine Gordimer knew a thing or two about truth. In a 1963 essay for “London Magazine,” titled “A Bolter and the Invincible Summer,” Gordimer asserted that though there are innumerous ugly realities in the world, there is also beauty in humankind’s devotion to finding truth and justice.
Success is sometimes the outcome of a whole string of failures.
Vincent van Gogh
With his spectacular paintings hanging in such venerable institutions as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it is hard to imagine that Vincent van Gogh ever experienced failure. But in reality, the Dutch post-impressionist artist went through overwhelming hardship in his life, both personally and professionally, and only found global fame and success after his death in 1890. If Van Gogh could see the silver lining of life’s dark storm clouds, then so can we.
If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.
Canadian poet, author, and performer Shane Koyczan offered this clever perspective on self-acceptance in a line from his poem “To This Day.” The anti-bullying work, which went viral in 2013, urges us to make it a practice to doggedly seek out and appreciate our best qualities. Self-love is a radical act, and we can only benefit from being kind to ourselves.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.
Proverbs 17:22, KJV Bible
This analogy from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs points out the link between emotional and physical well-being: Joy is a powerful emotion, as beneficial for an ailing soul as medical treatments are for a sick or injured body. This passage from Proverbs 17:22 suggests that if we possess good cheer, our confidence, laughter, and trust are likely to radiate to those we encounter. Sharing kindness — be it through gifts, singing, rituals, or visiting loved ones — is a worthy and healthy practice this holiday season, and beyond.
Let us not go back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.
These words conclude the forward to 1961’s “Lanterns and Lances,” the last essay collection that author James Thurber published during his prolific career. Although the writer and cartoonist’s work inspired the annual Thurber Prize for American Humor, here he expresses a sincere desire for his readers: Don’t let past disappointments color how you see the world. When entering any situation, assuming the worst suspends our ability to access authentic emotions, and, as a result, few clear-eyed, open-hearted decisions are made. By contrast, Thurber asserted that his creative life was guided by “a basic and indestructible thread of hope.”
Perhaps the greatest test of love is the way we act in times of need.
Suleika Jaouad was 22 years old in 2011 when she learned she had cancer. From her hospital bed, she spent years advocating for young patients in a “New York Times” column and Emmy-winning web series. In response, she received thousands of letters and emails from people of all ages who found resonance in her story. After Jaouad completed her final chemo treatment, she embarked on a 15,000-mile road trip to meet some of the readers and viewers who reached out when she was sick — an experience she shared in her 2019 TED Talk and subsequent bestseller, “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of Life Interrupted,” the source of this quote. Everyone she encountered had suffered traumas and yearned to connect. Jaouad obliged, forging tender friendships from the compassion of strangers.
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
The power of the human will is an incredible force, and even in the most daunting times, we are capable of making a positive difference. Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick certainly believed this, as evidenced by this quote from a 1968 interview he gave in “Playboy” magazine. Kubrick (who made “2001,” “The Shining,” and other classics) argued that any meaning in life must be created by ourselves, and once we accept this responsibility, we can “forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation.” When we accept the challenges and limitations of life, he said, “our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment.”
Time is how you spend your love.
This simple truism comes from the poem “The Last Saturday in Ulster,” written by Irish writer Nick Laird, the husband of celebrated English novelist Zadie Smith. Smith’s acclaimed third novel, 2005’s “On Beauty,” opens with this quote, which suggests that how we spend our time is one of the most powerful ways we can show our love. Its inclusion in the novel is a beautiful expression of love itself: Smith writes in the book’s acknowledgements, "It's Nick who knows that 'time is how you spend your love,' and that's why this book is dedicated to him, as is my life."
Time is how you spend your love.
That certainly is a beautiful thought, Angie. I don't know Nick Laird's writing, but I'm a fan of Zadie Smith's work. White Teeth was a delight, especially since when it came out I was teaching in the area of London where it was set.
When people talk about love they aren't always thinking of loving family and neighbor in a charitable way. I've not read either author but I'll make note of their names and when my to be read pile shrinks a but I'll pick up one of the titles.
Fear builds its phantoms which are more fearsome than reality itself.
Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister after the country became independent in 1947. A longtime activist for Indian independence, he was imprisoned eight times over the course of 24 years. Nehru often described British rule as perpetuating a climate of fear, and he sought to give citizens relief from the years of political turmoil. He spearheaded social reforms, brought widespread industrialization to India, and emphasized community and social responsibility. His words here remind us that fear can blind us to the reality in front of us, and we can achieve great things by not letting fear win.
The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a prolific 18th-century scholar and writer, and the first American to be honored in Poets’ Corner at London’s Westminster Abbey. Much of his work was influenced by Romanticism, a literary movement that emphasized the natural world and human emotion. His narrative poem “The Birds of Killingworth,” in which this quote appears, is no exception. Longfellow’s gentle, simple writing shines through in this line, reminding us to allow circumstances outside our control to play out. Sometimes, the wisest thing to do is nothing at all.
I don't know, is it?
Only the ephemeral is of lasting value.
Perhaps the moments we cherish most in life, suggests avant-garde playwright Eugene Ionesco, are the ones that only last a short while. With this quote, Ionesco argues that scarcity increases value, and those temporal wonders we experience — a perfect snowflake melting on a fingertip, or the last ring of laughter at a dinner party that had to end — become the memories we delight in forever.
Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.
The work of Chinese author and scholar Lin Yutang often acted as a cultural bridge in the early 20th century. He founded several Western-style satire magazines in Chinese, and in 1935 topped the “New York Times” bestseller list with “My Country and My People,” his English-language book on China. During the Sino-Japanese war in the 1930s, Lin also wrote social and political columns calling for international aid on behalf of the Chinese people. His words above match his trailblazing career, and remind us that not every road is laid out for us: We have to believe we can move forward together before taking the first step.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
An often overlooked English poet of the mid-19th century, Sarah Williams is best known for her poem “The Old Astronomer,” in which a dying astronomer offers his last words to his student. Grappling with mortality is a prominent theme in Williams’ writing, and in particular this poem, which she wrote while battling cancer not long before her own death. In this line from the poem, she urges us to value the bright spots in our lives, and to make peace — however we each can — with the impermanent nature of living.
The only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough.
English poet Ted Hughes is best known for his stark, no-frills writing on the natural world, which explores the inherent wild nature of both animals and humans. Hughes wrote numerous poetry collections and children’s books, and is also remembered as the husband of the renowned writer Sylvia Plath. Hughes’ words here remind us that taking risks is an essential part of living. With every chance we take, we make ourselves vulnerable to failure and hurt. But at the end of the day, we’re more likely to regret a life lived too cautiously to be enjoyed fully.
Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.
Famous for her clever aphorisms, journalist Mignon McLaughlin summarizes the nature of hope here in a simple but powerful way. When we are going through our darkest days, hope is the little ray of light that reminds us there are brighter times ahead. Hard times are not permanent, and holding on to hope that this, too, shall pass, is what gives us strength to get through them.
You cannot save people, you can only love them.
French-Cuban writer Anaïs Nin is known for her poignant, intimate personal diaries, which often read like novels, detailing the depth of her affection for various friends and lovers, and her sensitivity to the workings of the world around her. This quote is from an entry in September 1939: World War II had just begun, and Nin discovered that a close friend had enlisted in the French army. Even faced with the potential loss of a loved one, she relinquishes control, committing to love without conditions. Nin’s words remind us that often, the best thing we can do for the people close to us is simply to love them, without trying to manage or change them.
One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.
Now a legend of American literature, known for mentoring young sensations such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway as part of her Paris Salon, author Gertrude Stein was well into her thirties when she first published her work. Stein’s writing style became more experimental as she grew older, shunning the linear plot conventions of the time for more sprawling, reflective writing. Her words here remind us that though getting older is often disparaged, it offers us valuable experience and wisdom that inspire us to change as people — and that’s something to be grateful for.
There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.
Author and screenwriter Vicki Baum’s life was bookended by her youth in Austria and her final decades as a U.S. citizen. In between, she experienced major artistic breakthroughs while living in Germany. In 1929, she published the international bestseller “People in a Hotel” — the basis for “Grand Hotel,” 1932’s Best Picture Oscar winner starring Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and the Barrymore brothers. Yet this period of great literary success began with modern dance, a discovery Baum made while researching her successful earlier novel, 1921’s “Ina Raffay’s Dances.” Baum spent more than a decade studying modern dance, a creative outlet that brought her immense delight and opened her mind to new avenues of storytelling. Encouraged to improvise at the end of her very first class, she would later remember, “I felt as though I hadn’t begun to live until that afternoon.”
The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.
Norwegian polymath and polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen was no stranger to “impossible” challenges. He led many expeditions to the Arctic, including the first to cross the entire frozen expanse of the Greenland interior, in 1888. Later, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work in the wake of World War I, providing aid to thousands of refugees, prisoners of war, and victims of the famine in Russia. Nansen’s achievements prove that an “impossible” task is often simply something that’s never been done before. If we have the patience and tenacity to conquer even the most difficult goals, what was previously unimaginable suddenly comes into the realm of possibility.
Don't plan it all. Let life surprise you a little.
Julia Alvarez is an award-winning Dominican American poet, novelist, and essayist who drew national attention with her popular 1991 novel “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,” and 1994’s “In the Time of the Butterflies,” in which this quote appears. These simple words encourage us not to undervalue spontaneity: While we’re busy grasping for control, our most meaningful experiences are often the result of life’s unexpected twists and turns.
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
–Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)
61 days until spring begins
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Maya Angelou (1928-2014) is one of the most acclaimed writers of her time. First gaining the spotlight for her heartrending 1969 memoir “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” Angelou went on to write 30-plus bestselling books and was awarded over 50 honorary degrees plus many other honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010. But Angelou’s creativity wasn’t specific to prose and poetry. Before becoming a celebrated writer and poet, she pursued an acting and singing career, gaining both Tony and Emmy award nominations. After publishing several successful books, she also delved into spoken word albums and screenwriting, becoming the first Black woman to have a screenplay produced, in 1972. Over and over, Angelou pulled from her experiences and emotions to create new work that still resonates with people the world over. Her accomplishments remind us that our creativity cannot leave us. It is inherently part of us, a muscle that gets stronger with exercise.
If one has no sense of humor, one is in trouble.
Betty White’s memoir "If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)" was published when the beloved late comedienne was 89 years old. White, who would have turned 100 on January 17, preserved her positive and jolly attitude over the course of a more than 80-year career. To her, humor and gratitude went hand in hand: As she wrote in her memoir, “Old age isn’t for sissies… but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game." It’s a comment that brings to mind a favorite line of White’s alter ego, Rose Nylund, the character she played on the long-running sitcom "The Golden Girls": “My mother always used to say, ‘The older you get, the better you get, unless you're a banana.’”
Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.
Despite chairing the University of Cambridge philosophy department for eight years, Ludwig Wittgenstein was described by his biographer as a “reluctant professor.” He did not believe that philosophy should be approached like a job, and he often attempted to dissuade his students from pursuing academic careers. Indeed, Wittgenstein changed direction in his professional life numerous times. For a while, he lived in a wooden hut that he had built next to a Norwegian fjord; he later contemplated farm work in the Soviet Union. Deriving from a 1948 journal entry that Wittgenstein wrote at age 59, this bit of advice reminds us that the celebrated author was, unfailingly, young at heart. Wittgenstein was wary of anyone who tried to elevate themselves above others by sounding smart. Instead, he preferred the authenticity of those willing to laugh at themselves.
In a dark time, the eye begins to see.
Theodore Roethke’s poem “In a Dark Time” opens with an assertion: Hardships clarify who we are and what matters to us most. Without challenges to illuminate needs from wants, we risk taking aspects of our lives for granted. The Pulitzer Prize winner, who lost his father at age 14, understood the necessary alliance between darkness and light. As the poem continues, images are invoked of birds and insects, forests and caves, and the wind and the moon. Roethke believed his lifelong pull toward nature came from his father, who had owned and operated a 25-acre greenhouse in Michigan. “In a Dark Time” was included in Roethke’s posthumous 1964 book “The Far Field,” which won him his second National Book Award for Poetry.
There is only one success... to be able to spend your life in your own way.
With more than 100 books to his credit, Christopher Morley’s oeuvre includes novels as well as essay and poetry collections. Perhaps his best-known work is 1939’s “Kitty Foyle,” a novel that sold more than a million copies and was adapted into a film starring Ginger Rogers. The source of this quote, however, is a satirical novel that the American writer debuted 17 years earlier. In “Where the Blue Begins,” all the characters are anthropomorphized dogs, starting with Gissing, the protagonist. When three puppies fall under his care, Gissing travels to the city and attempts to earn money in various ways, such as managing a department store. His adventures in the workforce remind him that accomplishments are defined by individuals, not society, and self-awareness can clarify our own unique sense of success.
My piano teacher once said to me, "Aim for the stars, land on the moon; aim for the moon, don't get off the ground."
Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.
When Bruce Lee’s TV series “The Green Hornet” was canceled after a single season in 1967, the actor began teaching private martial arts lessons to famous students such as Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Pressed to name his unique fight style, 26-year-old Lee obliged with Jeet Kune Do, a Cantonese phrase meaning “The way of the intercepting fist.” This quote — uttered before Lee became a film icon with 1973’s “Enter the Dragon,” which was released just six days after his death — appears in Lee's posthumously published “Tao of Jeet Kune Do.” With it, Lee suggests that a meaningful goal equates to a steep climb. Even if you don’t achieve your highest objective, the steps taken will lead you somewhere satisfying.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. To find your gift is happiness.
We are often told that happiness, or at least its pursuit, is the most important goal in life. But many of us struggle to figure out just how to achieve this elusive joy. In his 2010 novel “I Shall Wear Midnight,” from his 41-book “Discworld” fantasy series, author and literary icon Sir Terry Pratchett offers us a hint: If we spend life’s precious days intentionally unearthing our own greatest talents, passions, and abilities, happiness will follow where they lead.
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It is not worthy of a human being to give up.
With this optimistic sentiment, Swedish diplomat Alva Myrdal assures us that even in the face of extreme difficulty, resilience and tenacity are innate qualities of the human spirit. Myrdal was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 for her distinguished work with the nuclear disarmament movement, which sought to convince the United States and Soviet Union to abandon their nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Her work and words show that it is always possible for hope, virtue, and peace to triumph.
The beginning of wisdom is to do away with fear.
As many of us know, fear is often the greatest roadblock to our happiness and inner peace. What’s more, as Ethiopian philanthropist Yohannes Gebregeorgis points out here, it is also the enemy of wisdom. A champion of literacy in his home country and beyond, Gebregeorgis recognizes that we cannot begin to learn and grow until we conquer the things that scare us, and move forward with courage.
The human mind always makes progress, but it is progress in spirals.
Madame de Staël
The path through life is not a straight line, and neither is the road to change. Political theorist Madame de Staël, who lived through the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, explains here that it is human nature to make progress in increments, as our beliefs are challenged, reconstructed, and transformed over time.
The world is like a mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.
In the tradition of the Igbo people, an ethnic group in southern Nigeria, the mask, or masquerade, is a sacred ritual involving theater, dance, and costumes, representing spiritual and tribal elements of the culture. Nigerian author Chinua Achebe references this Igbo tradition in his 1988 book “Arrow of God,” emphasizing that if we want to experience all of the beautiful dynamics the world has to offer, we have to dance along with it.
The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.
In India during the early 20th century, few artists exercised more influence than writer and painter Rabindranath Tagore. A persuasive advocate for Indian independence, he did not live to see the 1947 milestone achieved. Yet following the example set by his father, Maharishi Debendranath, Tagore devoted his years to benefiting future generations. On the site of his father’s meditation center in Santiniketan, India, Tagore created an experimental school with five students and five teachers. That school blossomed into Vishva-Bharati University, now a century-old public institution with an enrollment in the thousands. As his quote implies, no legacy is more worthwhile than bettering the world for others.
Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.
French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) had boundless zest for her craft. In 1905, when her traveling production of “La Tosca” stopped in Rio de Janeiro, the 61-year-old ensured a memorable finale by spontaneously leaping from a parapet. Although she sustained a lifelong knee injury, playwrights responded by creating parts she could perform while seated, enabling Bernhardt to continue performing on international stages for more than a dozen years. In all avenues of life, she contended that passion was a reciprocal quality. Effort inspires effort, and putting yourself out there leads to better collaboration and stronger relationships.
That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.
Lying in his grandmother’s garden under the warm autumn sun, Jim Burden, the narrator of Willa Cather’s 1918 novel “My Antonia,” observes the perfection of the ladybugs crawling next to him in the grass. In the peaceful joy of the moment, he concludes that happiness is found when we acknowledge the simple beauty of nature that exists all around us, and relax into our place within it.
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
Irish poet, author, and dramatist W.B. Yeats observes here that poetry is best nurtured by our own internal conflict and contemplation. While we exercise our language and communication skills by debating with others, poetry is something deeply personal, expressing the unspoken, unresolved thoughts in our minds and feelings in our hearts.
Art is made in hindsight.
Making history as the first Black American artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line, late fashion designer Virgil Abloh (1980-2021) was revered for his cutting-edge creations, which uniquely combined streetwear and high fashion. He gave this quote in an interview with "Billboard," where he explained the concept behind the logo for his streetwear line, Off-White. Abloh recalled crossing out a rejected mock-up, and later, when he glanced at the scribble, he realized the design would make the perfect logo. He recognized that a work of art is not always intentional, but also depends on how it is experienced by others.
All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade.
In his classic 1878 novel “Anna Karenina,” Leo Tolstoy reminds the reader that there are always ups and downs in life, and that expecting perfection will inevitably lead to disappointment. Things are not black and white, but messy shades of gray. Once we can accept the nuance and complexity of our existence, we can come to appreciate the good while taking the difficult in stride.
Your reaction matters more than what happens to you
“Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.
Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot.
He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing.
After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the boiled eggs out and placed them in a bowl.
He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her he asked. ‘Daughter, what do you see?’
‘Potatoes, eggs, and coffee,’ she hastily replied.
‘Look closer,’ he said, ‘and touch the potatoes.’ She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.
‘Father, what does this mean?’ she asked.
He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity– the boiling water.
However, each one reacted differently.
The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak.
The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.
However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.
‘Which are you,’ he asked his daughter. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?’
Nice is different than good.
After a terrifying brush with the big, bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood reflects on the experience through song in the musical “Into the Woods,” composed and written by late Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. The show tells the interwoven stories of many classic fairy-tale characters, but with a darker, humanized twist. In this moment, Little Red realizes that even though the Wolf was nice to her, his genteel behavior was superficial. As many of us have experienced, her first brush with danger leaves her a little more wary and wise as she continues her journey through the woods.
Out of the wreck I rise.
With this short but poignant line, 19th-century poet Robert Browning imagined the title character of his poem “Ixion” rising out of hell after gaining insight into his wrongdoings. The poem follows the Greek myth of the same name about the wicked king of the Lapiths, who is remembered for his deceitful dalliances with the gods and his eternal punishment in the underworld. The myth is frequently referenced in classical literature, but Browning decided that rather than have his subject stay bound in suffering forever, Ixion should learn from his mistakes, repent for his actions, and ultimately find redemption. No matter how many wrong turns we take, Browning implies, we can always find hope, grace, and renewal.
Patience is also a form of action.
French artist Auguste Rodin understood well the inherent virtue of patience. He is known for his expressive sculptures — most famously “The Thinker,” completed in 1904. Rodin spent long hours carefully crafting his creations from bronze and marble. His masterpieces, as well as his words above, remind us that slowing down and taking time for contemplation are also crucial parts of moving forward
The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention.
This oft-repeated quote reminds us that while our thoughts and aims may be noble, it is our actions that speak loudest. Though the source of this quote remains anonymous (despite having been attributed to everyone from John Burroughs to Oscar Wilde), it has endured for decades thanks to the fundamental truth of its message. No matter how lofty our plans may be, they make little impact if we don’t eventually act on them.
We go through life. We shed our skins. We become ourselves.
Patti Smith’s life went through many different chapters: First a factory assembly-line worker and a spoken-word poet, she rose to a successful career as a singer-songwriter and wrote a series of autobiographical books later in life. Her first of these, “Just Kids,” written about her experience as a struggling artist in 1960s New York City, earned a National Book Award and a place on “The New York Times” bestseller list. Smith is considered a female pioneer of punk rock, lighting the way for other women in that male-dominated world. Her growth as a multidisciplinary artist reminds us that change is good for the human spirit, and evolving to discover our most authentic selves can bring bounties we can’t even imagine.
All that you’ve loved is all you own.
Ranked 55th on "Rolling Stone's" "Greatest Songwriters of All Time" list, Tom Waits has penned tracks for the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, and Rod Stewart, plus his own 17 albums. Years before he became a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Waits threaded this line into “Take It With Me,” a ballad from his 1999 album “Mule Variations.” Accompanied by a soft piano melody, he reminds listeners that our interactions with material goods are fleeting — what defines us are the experiences we collect. To Waits, the fondness we form for people and places stays etched in our souls forever.
Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.
One of the most famous and fearless American journalists of the 20th century, Dorothy Thompson was an early advocate for women’s suffrage, and later used her observations on the ground in 1930s Germany to warn of the rise of Nazism. Thompson’s courage in telling important stories serves as a beacon for the rest of us: If we can get past fear, our experience of life expands enormously.
You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.
Pema Chödrön has studied Tibetan Buddhism since 1974, and has authored several books interpreting Buddhist philosophy for Western readers. She focuses especially on self-compassion and the choice to lean into life’s fluctuations, rather than trying to control them. Her words here encourage us to ground ourselves when we get overwhelmed by our circumstances. If we remember that all feelings eventually pass, like a storm that gives way to clear skies, we can gain agency in any situation.
I don't watch this show (a bit late) but I know that laughter is the best medicine.
You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time — of anything.
Stephen Colbert is perhaps best known for his parodic Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report,” which focused on politics and current events. Yet Colbert, who now hosts "The Late Show" on CBS, is also beloved for bringing humanity to his comedy; he has addressed subjects including his mother’s passing in 2013, and the Paris terrorist attacks of 2015. Colbert has said that his performances have been the key to winning his longtime battle with anxiety. His approach to comedy serves as a good rule of thumb for the rest of us: Laughter really is the best medicine.
The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps cool.
William McFee was a 20th-century British writer known for his novels set at sea, an apt choice considering McFee himself was born on his father’s ship and later worked as a ship engineer. McFee served in the British Navy during World War I, publishing several novels and nonfiction works from his various postings. After 20 years at sea, he turned to a full-time career as a writer. Journalist Christopher Morley once praised the engineer’s touch he saw in McFee’s writing, calling him “patient, dogged, [and] purposeful.” McFee’s words here remind us to balance our passions with a level head: Marrying drive with patience and diligence remains the best way to move toward our goals.
True love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the classic 1943 novel “The Little Prince,” wrote often on themes of love, suffering, and connection. Saint-Exupéry himself was known for his long, complex marriage to writer and artist Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry, who inspired the character of the Rose in “The Little Prince.” In the book, the Prince and the Rose eventually realize that while they do love each other, they show it in different ways. With this line, Saint-Exupéry reminds us that true love should always feel nourishing.
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
This observation comes from celebrated satirist Jonathan Swift’s 1706 collection of essays and one-liners, “Thoughts on Various Subjects.” With this clever turn of phrase, Swift muses that vision is the ability to see not just what’s in front of us, but possibilities, dreams, and triumphs that haven’t happened yet — because that is the first step in being able to pursue them.
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.
In 1974, Dolly Parton — who has written more than 3,000 songs — was ecstatic when Elvis Presley wanted to record a cover of her latest hit, “I Will Always Love You.” But Presley’s manager told Parton the deal could only move forward if she signed away half the song’s publishing rights. “I cried all night,” she said about declining the offer, one of the smartest decisions of her career. Within the next 18 years, the song made two major film appearances: Parton sang a rendition in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1982) and Whitney Houston made the ballad one of the biggest recordings of all time via “The Bodyguard” (1992). Before Parton, no artist had garnered two No. 1 records with the same song, let alone three as a writer — and she kept all her royalties. As Parton acknowledges in this quote, sadness is finite, and enduring hardship is necessary to appreciate life’s joys.
Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
According to popular folklore, every French town has a street named after 19th-century writer Victor Hugo. While the “Les Misérables” author was not beloved by the imperial Bonapartist regime — which forced him into exile for 19 years — he collected friends among many creatives, especially musicians. Besides being close with pianist Franz Liszt and conductor Hector Berlioz, Hugo also wrote the libretto for Louise Bertin’s “La Esmeralda,” an opera based on his 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” Today, Hugo’s texts have inspired more than 1,000 works of ballet, opera, and musical theater, and every two years, in the Channel Islands, fans celebrate him at the Victor Hugo International Music Festival. With this quote, he underscores how our feelings can be intensified and alleviated by the movement of melody. From a single piano to a symphony of 100, music can conjure a shared emotional catharsis from thin air.
I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.
Legendary comedian Joan Rivers was just the second woman in U.S. history to helm her own late-night talk show. Before that opportunity arrived in 1986, she spent decades forging a path for future comics. In a 2012 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Rivers recalled her first break as a comedy writer: scripting dialogue for Topo Gigio, a mouse puppet slated to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” While Topo Gigio’s 1961 debut could have been a one-off occurrence, Rivers’ words connected with the audience, and the puppet enjoyed an 11-year run on the series. During this time, Rivers became a familiar face on both “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” By consistently recognizing and accepting challenges, she expanded her career into the realms of author and entrepreneur. Saying yes to opportunities is how you discover what you’re good at, and what you love.
I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.
Although Sylvia Plath won a Pulitzer Prize for her book “The Collected Poems,” she is perhaps best known for “The Bell Jar,” a 1963 novel based on events that shaped her life. Alfred A. Knopf, Plath’s first American publisher, passed on “The Bell Jar” twice. But through the author’s strong belief in her talent and her dedication, she acquired a measured response to such brushoffs. Plath understood that professional writing meant courting criticism — first from editors, then reviewers, and finally readers. Rather than fretting over responses she couldn’t control, Plath celebrated each time she was vulnerable enough to send her work out into the world.
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
Onstage and on-screen, Judy Garland was splendid at channeling characters, especially through song. Yet in private moments — which, for the lifelong star, were few and far between — she prided herself on her authenticity. The Oscar nominee and Grammy winner found that highlighting her favorite parts of her personality — from her sense of humor and strong convictions to her encyclopedic entertainment knowledge — drove others to embrace her even more. Long before her daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft became performers, Garland taught them that people who are true to themselves leave the strongest imprints on the world.
Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.
First Lady Abigail Adams and second U.S. President John Adams were the earliest occupants of the White House. From the start of their courtship until the end of their public service, the couple exchanged more than 1,100 letters. These historical documents verify that Abigail was her husband’s closest political adviser for decades. On November 27, 1775, while home with their children in Quincy, Massachusetts, she wrote to John in Philadelphia, where he and his fellow Second Continental Congress delegates were debating which principles should underpin the fledgling U.S. government. Given their formidable challenge, Abigail offered these words of advice, maintaining that haste rarely fosters meaningful solutions.
Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.
In 2005, Joan Didion (1934-2021) published her memoir about the recent, sudden death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne. About two months before the book's publication, Didion also lost the couple's only child, daughter Quintana Roo. When she adapted her book on grief “The Year of Magical Thinking” — a National Book Award winner — into a one-woman Broadway show starring Vanessa Redgrave, she broadened its scope to consider the two great losses of her life. With these lines, Didion reflects that life’s most meaningful moments aren’t likely to feel grand or cinematic — profound events are still surrounded by normal context. Didion compels us to embrace each mundane-seeming moment, because we never know when things are going to change.
"Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance." (Abigail Adams)
That's a great quote, Angie. Thanks, Joy
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer with more than 30 literary works under her belt, including her most famous novel, "The Color Purple." Her writing often explores the crossroads of race and gender — particularly centering the experiences of Black women. A former social worker and teacher, Walker also has a long history advocating for civil rights. “Activism is my rent for living on the planet,” she has said. Her commitment to equal rights and representation encourages us to stand up for our own beliefs and values, and to never let society or other people diminish our sense of self-worth.
No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.
One of the most famous writers of the early 20th century, Virginia Woolf is known for her fluid and experimental style across forms, from novels and essays to biographies and letters. Woolf also championed feminism and pacifism at a time when neither was popular. Though she won few accolades during her lifetime, her groundbreaking work has cemented her legacy as a literary and social pioneer. Her words here remind us that we can make more of an impact than we realize by simply being ourselves, without pretense or expectation.
I restore myself when I'm alone. A career is born in public — talent in privacy.
Beloved actress Marilyn Monroe had a complex relationship with fame: Though she is an icon of midcentury Hollywood glamour, she often spoke of the pressure that came with such popularity, and she retreated from public attention despite several high-profile relationships. After getting her start in lightweight roles, she made the mid-career decision to study with the renowned acting coach Lee Strasberg, away from the limelight. Her roles after this choice — such as the acclaimed 1959 film “Some Like It Hot” — catapulted the actress to global stardom. Her words here remind us that we make some of our most meaningful progress in private, when we are free of the expectations and projections of others.
A person without imagination is like a teabag without hot water.
Known as the godfather of British graphic design, Alan Fletcher was one of the leading pioneers of independent design after World War II. His trailblazer mentality was evident in his education, as he attended four separate art schools, each more forward-thinking than the last. He is known for his playful use of color and clever witticisms — rare elements in British graphic design at the time, which have since become modern industry staples. Fletcher’s lively sense of innovation encourages us to always think outside the box: Without imagination, we might never discover our true purpose and potential.
It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.
William S. Burroughs
Author William S. Burroughs was a founding member of the Beat Generation, a bohemian literary and social movement that formed after World War II. Burroughs was known for the humor and stark honesty of his writing, which often tackled difficult subjects including addiction and identity. He experimented with new forms of literature, delved into recording music, and traveled extensively throughout his life. His approach to creating and living encourages us to see risk not as an enemy, but as a necessity for a life of love and fulfillment.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama, serving as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, he has dedicated his life's work to promoting nonviolence and compassion between individuals and nations. Since the 1980s, he has also worked extensively with modern scientists to develop evidence-based techniques for mindfulness and well-being. His words here encourage us to look for the silver lining whenever we are faced with disappointment: Letting go of our expectations may lead to an even better outcome than what we thought we wanted.
A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.
When he was in his early 20s, chemical engineer Frank Capra was working odd jobs near San Francisco, such as pruning fruit trees and selling books door to door. Then he saw a 1922 newspaper ad: Workers were needed at a gymnasium to help adapt a Rudyard Kipling poem into a silent short film. With confidence, Capra — who had grown up in Los Angeles but had no cinematic ties — told the production he was from Hollywood, nabbing his first directorial gig, en route to helming several classic films. By the following decade’s end, he had won three Best Director Oscars, for "It Happened One Night" (1934), "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936), and "You Can't Take It With You" (1938). And 1946 saw the release of perhaps his most enduring and beloved film, "It's a Wonderful Life." Capra urged people to follow their instincts, regardless of their past experience. Curiosities should be pursued, for every half-formed idea has the potential to become a work of art.
When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.
In her 2013 memoir, “I Am Malala,” the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai reflected on the nature of courage in the face of injustice. When she was shot by Taliban extremists and left for dead in 2012, at just 15 years old, Yousafzai was not scared away from continuing her humanitarian work. After a miraculous recovery, she became even more impassioned and outspoken about the need for women’s education in Pakistan, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Though the Taliban meant to silence her, Yousafzai instead found her voice was louder than ever, and she has since become a role model to millions worldwide.
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
American psychologist Carl Rogers, one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research, presents this “curious paradox” in his 1961 book “On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy.” Rogers encourages us to stop focusing our energy on trying to improve ourselves and simply learn to accept who we are, flaws and all. Ironically, it’s often that very acceptance that creates space for personal growth and change.
We must turn to each other and not on each other.
In his powerful address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, activist, minister, and then-presidential candidate Jesse Jackson implored his audience to set aside differences and remember our shared humanity. Jackson campaigned on the idea of a diverse “Rainbow Coalition” to advocate for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. Though he lost the nomination, Jackson achieved historic success during the race, winning more than 3 million votes during the primaries, and becoming the first Black American to win a major party state primary or caucus.
What do you do when there's nowhere to turn? You drive straight ahead.
During her 2013 TED Talk, physician Leslie Gordon recalled how she chose her course of action when faced with heartbreaking news in the summer of 1998. Gordon and her husband learned that their 22-month-old son, Sam, had been diagnosed with progeria, an extremely rare syndrome that causes rapid aging and premature death. There was very little existing research about the disease, or support groups for people affected by it, and Gordon realized she needed to blaze her own trail to advocate for her son and others like him. Gordon created the Progeria Research Foundation, where she and her team continue to reach promising milestones in the search for a cure.
The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony spent most of her later life, in the 1890s, as president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. After enduring a lifetime of sexist ridicule for her activism, post-presidency — in her late-seventies and into her eighties — she attended speaking engagements in Europe, where she was embraced as an American hero. Although Anthony did not live to see women earn the right to vote in 1920, in her later years she witnessed the public deferring to her wisdom. Age brings experience, and the shared respect for that experience — as well as the work done on your past self — has the power to make a great impact on society.
It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.
The message of modern culture often centers around doing more: getting more likes, buying more things, consuming more content, making more money. But for Bruce Lee, less was more. In his book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” which outlines his philosophy on martial arts (published posthumously in 1975), the actor and martial artist recommended simplifying our daily lives. By stripping away unnecessary distractions, we make room for the objects, experiences, and people that are essential to our happiness and peace.
See all human behavior as one of two things: either love, or a call for love
With these simple words, author, activist, and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson exposes the very heart of empathy and compassion. It’s easy to let feelings of anger, blame, or judgment cause animosity with others. But if we take a moment to analyze the behavior of those around us, Williamson suggests, we’re likely to notice that they are either acting out of love or the deeply human fear of living without it. We can always shift perspective and choose to view each other empathetically, recognizing that all human beings are searching for love and belonging.
I will either find a way, or make one.
In 218 BCE, during the Second Punic War, the great Carthaginian general Hannibal led his army from modern-day Spain all the way to Italy and toward Rome, in one of the most famous military achievements in history. As the troops neared the daunting peaks of the Alps, Hannibal’s generals warned him they would not be able to cross the mountain range with the horses and elephants they brought with them. Refusing to be deterred, Hannibal responded with the quote above: “Aut inveniam viam aut faciam.” He and his troops forged their own path across the mountains, and continued their march through Italy.
Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.
As Alice makes her journey through Wonderland in Lewis Carroll’s beloved 1865 children’s story “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,” the young girl comes upon an unpleasant Duchess, described as having a sharp and pointy chin. To Alice’s discomfort, the Duchess rests her chin on the child’s shoulder and shares this bit of wisdom. If a bizarre old Duchess can uncover lessons and meaning in the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, we’re sure to find them in our own lives, too, on this side of the looking glass.
Champions keep playing until they get it right.
Billie Jean King
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, as well as an advocate for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, Billie Jean King is no stranger to the champion mentality, both on and off the court. This quote speaks to her characteristic tenacity, courage, and dedication, which led her to 39 Grand Slam titles, a record 20 Wimbledon titles, a spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and a career that broke barriers for generations of women athletes.
Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
Even for one of the most influential scientific geniuses in history, knowledge was not the ultimate end goal. In Albert Einstein’s 1931 collection of essays titled “Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms,” he argued that the apparent dualities of science and religion, knowledge and imagination, and logic and wonder are in fact compatible, and together they enrich the human experience. Einstein spoke frequently about imagination, which he believed was a crucial component of scientific progress. "Logic will get you from A to B," he said. "Imagination will take you everywhere." The famed physicist reminds us that it is imagination that gives wings to knowledge, by pointing the way to new possibilities.
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
Pope John Paul II
While visiting the U.S. in 1995, Pope John Paul II gave a moving homily to the crowds gathered at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. In it, he referenced Abraham Lincoln and his dedication to freedom and equality for all people. Having grown up in Poland during the rise of the Nazi party, Pope John Paul II shared an urgent passion for human rights. During the homily, the pope asserted that a true expression of freedom is not acting on selfish impulse, but committing our lives to serving the greater good and standing up for what is right.
Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
Author of such modernist works as “Tropic of Capricorn” and “The Rosy Crucifixion,” Henry Miller was a creative iconoclast in the early 20th century. He broke with many literary traditions in favor of stream-of-consciousness, surrealist, and even mystical writings. Miller’s spirited approach was outlined by the “11 Commandments for Writing” he devised in the 1930s while working on “Tropic of Cancer.” Commandment number three banished anxiety and worry, and Miller gave himself permission to invest fully and passionately in whatever task was before him.
Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.
Today, Stephen King is one of the most successful authors in history: The horror king has more than 50 bestselling novels under his belt, several of which have been adapted into classic films such as "Carrie" and "The Shining.” Yet for many years, King struggled with addiction while enduring repeated rejection of his written works. In his 2000 book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” King reminds readers that hope and positive thinking are the only productive responses to failure. "The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it," he recalled in his memoir. "I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing."
From Jesus Calling:
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.
This beautifully hopeful line begins a short poem by 14th-century Persian poet and mystic Hafiz, who is known for his lyrical musings on theology and philosophy. The poem reflects on love, loneliness, and belonging in the greater context of time and space. Sometimes in our most difficult and darkest moments, we need to be reminded of the power of our own value and beauty. As Hafiz writes, "Look what happens with a love like that / It lights the whole sky."
Find the thing you do well and do it again and again for the rest of your life.
It took time for Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson to find his place in the music world. Beginning his musical studies at age 11, he abandoned formal training as a teenager and instead spent more than a decade experimenting with different compositions and genres. Once he struck the unique mix of acoustic and electronic sounds that now defines his work, Jóhannsson began releasing his own albums. He went on to compose numerous orchestral pieces and film scores, including "The Theory of Everything" (2014), "Arrival" (2016), and "Last and First Men" (2020). His devotion to mastering his art encourages us not to give up on finding the spark in our lives — the thing that drives us and makes us feel most alive.
Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.
From Hamlet to Romeo, many of Shakespeare’s characters experience moments of self-doubt. In the Bard’s comedy “Measure for Measure,” mild Isabella worries that she can’t prevent her brother’s execution, but with this line, his friend Lucio persuades her to take the chance. For the rest of us, it stands as a warning not to let fear keep us from trying: Taking a calculated risk could bring gifts we can’t imagine.
Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.
George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984” centers around the dangers of nationalism, censorship, and totalitarianism. But the author also deftly dissects what it means to be human. In a moment of clarity, the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, recognizes that all people, even his enemies, have an intrinsic desire for connection. With this line, he observes that even love itself can feel lacking without true understanding to give it depth.
We must believe that we are gifted for something.
Polish physicist Marie Curie made history in 1903 as the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, in physics, and then again in 1911 as the only woman to ever (thus far) win a second Nobel, in chemistry. She earned these honors for her groundbreaking work in discovering two new elements: radium and polonium. Though she received much acclaim for her research, Curie also suffered many hardships in her life, including the death of her beloved husband and research partner, Pierre Curie, as well as long-term physical ailments from her work with radioactive materials. Through it all, Curie remained hopeful and optimistic. In her 1937 biography, she wrote, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.
Novelist and poet Barbara Kingsolver has published 16 books over the course of her career, but the last months of the 20th century marked a turning point. Not only did she publish “The Poisonwood Bible” in 1998, a novel that sold more than 4 million copies, but the following year she founded what’s now called the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, North America’s largest monetary award for an unpublished work of fiction. In a 2015 interview, Kingsolver emphasized her passion for helping individuals find their voices. Through listening and processing what’s going on around us — and in other communities — we'll encounter and come up with new ideas, allowing us to advance the conversation.
You can't do your job and be afraid.
Armed with Vassar College and Yale University drama degrees, 26-year-old Meryl Streep was eager to book her first film role. Federico De Laurentiis — son of the legendary movie producer Dino De Laurentiis — saw the actress onstage and arranged a 1975 audition for her to play the female lead in his father’s “King Kong” remake. When Streep entered the elder De Laurentiis’ office, he turned to Federico and, in Italian, remarked, “Che brutta,” which roughly translates to, “What an ugly woman.” Instead of slinking away, an emboldened Streep acknowledged his disapproval in her own perfect Italian. While she didn’t get the part, other producers embraced her talents, and within five years she had won an Academy Award, for “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Today, Streep has three Oscar wins and 21 nominations, the most of any performer ever. Here, the acclaimed actress advocates for making decisions based on your insight and instincts, and not letting fear derail the work.
Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.
Rose Franken was a Jewish American novelist and playwright celebrated for her work in the first half of the 20th century. On the whole, Franken’s writing was characterized by a playful sense of humor and unexpected plot twists. Her famous “Claudia” stories centered around a naive 18-year-old adjusting to married life. Franken herself outlived two husbands in her 92 years of life, giving an air of authority to her proclamation that only real lovers can be silly. To let loose with a loved one requires a vulnerability that passion doesn’t necessarily include. To see someone as they are, even as they act a fool, and to love them even more for it, is something special indeed.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.
Known as the father of American literature, Mark Twain is famous for his classic novels “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1876) and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1884). But it was in his 1894 novel “Pudd’nhead Wilson” that Twain wrote these memorable words on the subject of courage. Though courage and fear are often viewed as opposite experiences, they are actually intrinsically related: Fear is a common and natural feeling, but bravery comes from being able to overcome it.
Music is one of the healthiest forms of transcendence and magic.
After more than three decades in the music industry, the multitalented recording artist Moby shared this insight about his craft in an interview in 2016. The musician struggled with substance abuse early in his career, before exploring healthier lifestyles and avenues of spiritual satisfaction — including music itself. “Music,” he reflected, “can operate as such a powerful and profound healing modality even though technically it has no material substance. But somehow it can make you dance, can make you cry, can make you sing, can make you drive across a country, can make you do all sorts of things.”
One day, if you have a little bit of talent and a lot of hard work, you're going to find out who you are.
In a 2015 interview with “The Talks,” acclaimed chef Massimo Bottura briefly summarized his path from cooking with his mother as a young boy to opening his Michelin-starred restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. Bottura, who is famous for his avant-garde twists on traditional Italian dishes and ingredients, has no shortage of talent and inspiration. Yet here he reminds us that tireless hard work is also necessary to discover our true path.
More Quotes >
Mix a little foolishness with your prudence; it's good to be silly at the right moment.
From Roman poet Horace comes a bit of levity not always found in moral adages. In a quote from "Odes," his collection of lyric poems published between 23 and 13 BCE, Horace reminds us that while virtue and discipline are important, it is just as necessary to find lightness, humor, and silliness in life. Moments of laughter and playfulness rescue us from feeling the weight of our obligations, and help us stay balanced as we navigate the day to day.
April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
From time immemorial, spring’s awakening has signaled to humanity the promise of new beginnings. In William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 98,” a love poem published in 1609, the prolific poet and playwright personifies the glorious month of April as the herald of youth, vitality, and hope. For the Bard, the coming of spring — the twittering birds, ambrosial flowers, and long-awaited sunny skies — brought with it all the delights of a fresh start.
Time is everything; time is quality.
Our most valuable and fleeting resource in life is time, something well-understood by celebrated Spanish actor Javier Bardem, best known for his role in 2007’s No Country for Old Men, which won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In a 2018 interview with The Talks, Bardem defined success as being a good father and husband (to fellow star Penelope Cruz), by devoting his time and attention to his family. Quality time spent with loved ones or pursuing our passions is a gift, and one that should never be wasted.
Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.
William Arthur Ward
Just as the length of a wick in a candle determines how long the flame will last, the depth of one's curiosity fuels their pursuit of knowledge. It’s an apt metaphor, coined by motivational writer William Arthur Ward (1921-1994). Ward published more than 100 poems, articles, and essays, as well as a book titled The Inspirational Maxim. Since Ward first wrote about curiosity, science has quantified its benefits in new and fascinating ways. One such study indicated that when we are curious, changes in our brain prepare us to learn not only the information we originally sought out, but also incidental information we might encounter along the way. Ward may not have had neuroimaging technology, but his instincts were correct: Curiosity is at the center of our capacity to learn.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.
Specializing in self-improvement and interpersonal skills, American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie talked often about the power of action. It’s easy to let our small doubts and anxieties balloon into overwhelming fears — because we allow them too much time and space to grow rather than taking action to face them. “If you want to conquer fear,” Carnegie urged, “do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
I learned that you have to push away the demand of people's expectations by believing in your instincts.
Italian designer Stefano Pilati is best known for helming the famed fashion house Yves Saint Laurent. But his path to creative success wasn’t straightforward: Pilati studied as a land surveyor before he decided to pursue fashion, and worked his way up through apprenticeships and manufacturing jobs. After leading several established brands, including YSL, Pilati finally launched his own fashion line in 2017. His steady commitment to his dreams, regardless of other people’s opinions, encourages us to follow our intuition. When we drop in and listen, the path ahead gets clearer.
The older I get, the more I want to be authentically myself.
Best known for her roles in films such as Still Alice and Boogie Nights, Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore has also authored bestselling children’s books about self-acceptance. The eight installments of her Freckleface Strawberry series were inspired by her girlhood as a conspicuous redhead. Like many young people, Freckleface Strawberry gets her ideas about who she wants to be and what she wants to do from looking outward. Moore, 61, wants to help kids learn a lesson she realized with the passing decades. As she mentions in this quote, growing older brings clarity, and once you grasp what you like about yourself, determining your priorities becomes easier.
It is not enough to know your craft — you have to have feeling.
Though he is now a renowned artist, French painter Édouard Manet’s work was considered strange and even scandalous in the 19th century. His paintings often broke artistic conventions in both form and content, depicting subjects such as nude women and bullfighters. His commitment to painting reality, rather than restrictive social norms, cemented his reputation as a groundbreaking artist. With these words, he encourages us not to fall back on structure: The more heart we put into something, the more likely it is that its effects will ripple out beyond ourselves.
Find your style and stick to it.
Legendary Spanish fashion designer Manolo Blahnik has certainly earned the authority to give advice about style. Since founding his eponymous line of high-end shoes in the 1970s, Blahnik has become a household name in fashion. In an interview with The Talks in 2018, the designer expressed his distaste for trends, saying, “I like independence. I love the eccentrics.” He went on to encourage everyone to find their own style, have confidence in it, and never let anyone tell you to change it.
An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in.
Failure is an inescapable part of the journey to achieving something great — whether it’s a personal goal, an academic standard, or, for American engineer and inventor Charles Kettering, the next big patent. Known for such inventions as the electrical starting motor and leaded gasoline (among others), Kettering understood that a good innovator can — and should — fail as many times as necessary on the way to success.
Let everything you do be done in love.
Written around 53 CE, the Bible’s First Epistle to the Corinthians was originally a letter authored by the apostle Paul to the Christian church in the city of Corinth, in modern-day Greece. In the epistle, Paul urged these early followers of Jesus to be united in their faith, stand strong, and to always speak and act through the filter of radical, unconditional love.
The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.
In her popular 2013 book Lean In, which shines a light on the importance of women in leadership positions, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg presents the ideal attributes of a good leader. For Sandberg, there is nothing more valuable to an organization — be it a school, family, or Fortune 500 company — than when the people in positions of power can humble themselves enough to listen, learn, and digest new information.
Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love. St. Gianna Beretta Molla
I can't give you a recipe for success, but I can give you a recipe for failure: try to please everybody.
Frank Langella is a much-lauded American actor, performing on stage and screen since the 1960s. His list of accolades is long and distinguished; most recently, he earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as Richard Nixon in the 2008 film Frost/Nixon. In 2012, Langella published a memoir titled Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them, which shared his experiences living among the elite figures of show business. In an interview about the book, Langella was asked if he liked being the center of attention, and he replied that his attitude has shifted with age. After decades in the spotlight, he’s learned an important lesson: “You should live your life as you wish.”
The ultimate luxury in life remains nature.
After spending two decades at L’Uomo Vogue — the menswear counterpart to Vogue Italia — Robert Rabensteiner is now the fashion editor-at-large for Condé Nast’s Italian division. Part of his job is appraising runway collections in New York, Paris, London, and Milan, his primary residence. Yet some of his most cherished trips, to a remote chalet near his hometown in the Austrian Alps, are far less elaborate. Hidden deep in the forest, the chalet is only accessible by riding a chairlift, then taking a half-hour trek. When his mother died, Rabensteiner sought refuge in the house and, more so, its calm setting. With this quote, he speaks to a feeling shared by so many of us: that the connection to nature offers an unparalleled source of wonder, healing, and joy.
The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.
In 1879, Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé, who was known to his own people as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder-Traveling-Over-the-Mountains), traveled to Washington, D.C., to negotiate the return of his homeland, a swath of North America that spanned from the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana to the Wallowas of eastern Oregon. While he was visiting, he granted an interview to reporters and began by saying, “My friends, I have been asked to show you my heart.” What followed was a passionate polemic for equality, circling back over and over again to the idea that all men are brothers, and should have equal rights on Earth. Almost 150 years later, it is an idea that remains worth fighting for.
The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.
In her 1961 essay "On Self-Respect," writer and cultural icon Joan Didion laid out one of the most essential truths about self-love. When we are accountable for our words and actions — and act with integrity even in the face of adversity — we are far more likely to find pride, confidence, and respect for ourselves. Taking responsibility is not always easy, but it’s a worthy pursuit. As Didion wrote, “people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character.”
The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.
An emblem of Hollywood’s Golden Age, actor James Dean found critical and commercial success in a career cut short by his accidental death at age 24 in 1955. But despite his iconic image and global fame, the "Rebel Without a Cause" star reflected that he derived the greatest satisfaction from the work itself, not the fruits of that labor. It’s a sentiment so often echoed by those who have achieved fame that it’s worth taking to heart: The journey to success is often just as fulfilling as the final destination.
To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
Famous for her abstract, closeup paintings of flowers, modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe was a master of perception and vision. In an excerpt from a 1944 exhibition catalog, she wrote about how the beauty, detail, and value of something simple like a flower often goes overlooked in our busy lives. She wrote, "I'll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it." In other words, to fully appreciate the good things in life — from the beauty of nature to the joy of friendship — we have to take time to notice them, by choosing to give them our full attention.
We need men who can dream of things that never were.
John F. Kennedy
In 1963, John F. Kennedy became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Ireland. In his address to the Parliament in Dublin, he spoke of Irish emigration to the United States, Ireland’s support for American independence, and the small nation’s own historic struggle for freedom from the British. Kennedy also reflected upon his own Irish ancestry, speculating about what would have been had Ireland been independent when his great-grandfather came to America. During the address, he praised the Irish character as one of “hope, confidence, and imagination” — traits the young President considered vital in a world whose problems could not be solved by skeptics or cynics, but rather by dreamers and visionaries.
It's only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis
With this simple but poignant observation, science-fiction writer Margaret Bonnano — best known for writing a series of "Star Trek" novels between 1985 and 2010 — muses that life is not an abstract concept, but the aggregate of how we spend each of our days. It’s a surprisingly powerful motivator — a reminder not to waste any time. If we can live in the moment and find gratitude and joy in the present, we will eventually be able to look back on a lifetime of happiness.
Success is the process itself.
Reflecting on his career as an Oscar-winning actor, producer, and screenwriter, Matt Damon recognized that his greatest sense of accomplishment came not from the box office or critics or even awards, but from the process of creating itself. In a 2019 interview with "The Talks," he shared that true fulfillment comes from loving what you do. “It’s really about feeling that I did my best work,” he said, “feeling that we told the story we wanted to tell in the way we wanted to tell it. That’s really the definition of success.”
That's the very reason they put rubbers on the end of pencils... because people make mistakes.
This message of forgiveness and do-overs speaks to actress and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s own view on life. Best known as the creator, writer, and star of the beloved TV comedy "Fleabag," and the showrunner of the spy thriller series "Killing Eve," Waller-Bridge brings to life unconventional women who make a lot of mistakes. But just as this metaphor suggests, her lovably flawed characters often get a chance at redemption. Moving past their mistakes offers them an opportunity to prove something to themselves, and come out stronger and more confident on the other side.
You can't shake hands with a clenched fist.
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was the third prime minister of India, as well as the first — and so far, only — woman to hold the position. She served four terms, stepping in and out of the role during the tumultuous period of the mid-20th century. In her life, she fought for India's independence from Britain and rose to become a highly influential leader, though with a complicated legacy. As a powerful figure in government, she was often called upon to host negotiations between reluctant parties. She understood that even when there is animosity, an agreement can be reached if both sides are willing to listen and shake hands. Step one is to unclench the fists; we can only move forward after letting go of anger.
We are stronger when we listen, and smarter when we share.
Rania Al-Abdullah, the wife of King Abdullah II, has served as the queen of Jordan for more than 20 years, and in that time she has been a champion for her people as well as several humanitarian causes around the world. In her efforts to promote global education, the rights of women and children, community empowerment, and cultural understanding, she reminds us that we are always better together. When we can engage in respectful dialogue, free to share our thoughts, feelings, and stories, everyone benefits.
Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult.
George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans in 1819, chose to write under a male pen name for two reasons: She wanted to avoid the stereotype of women’s writing of her day, and sought to protect herself from the scandal of being an unmarried woman living with a married man. Truth, in her personal life, was indeed difficult — but truth was also of vital importance to Eliot, even in her fiction. Her novels, including "Middlemarch" and "Silas Marner," were a realistic portrayal of life, full of detailed depictions and psychological insight. As she once wrote, “I aspire to give no more than a faithful account of men and things as they have mirrored themselves in my mind.”
I'm afraid I'm an incorrigible life-lover, life-wonderer, and adventurer.
Most people recognize Edith Wharton’s name from her enduring works of fiction, including her novels "The Age of Innocence" (1920) and "Ethan Frome" (1911). But many would be surprised to learn that the accomplished author was also a veritable Renaissance woman with myriad passions and talents. Throughout her life, and despite the restrictions imposed on women at that time, she made a name for herself as an interior decorator, garden designer, travel writer, war journalist, and the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize. In a letter to a friend just before her death in 1937, Wharton wrote, “I wish I knew what people meant when they say they find ‘emptiness’ in this wonderful adventure of living.”
Leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room.
Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in 150 years when she was sworn in at 37 years old in 2017. Since then, she has worked steadily on gender equality initiatives such as equal pay for women and paid parental leave, and comforted her country through times of crisis. The prime minister’s words here remind us that leaders make the most impact when they listen to the people around them, try to find common ground, and lift up those who need it most.
If the risk is fully aligned with your purpose and mission, then it’s worth considering.
Having started more than 20 companies, entrepreneur Peter Diamandis is intimately familiar with risk-taking. A veteran of Silicon Valley, Diamandis’ initiatives, including starting the XPRIZE Foundation, center around futuristic concepts such as AI, space tourism, and human longevity. His projects focus on technologies with enormous potential to change the way we live, inviting both risk and progress. Diamandis’ words encourage us not to write off the bold move: Taking a leap of faith can help us grow in ways we can’t imagine.
Truth is ever to be found in simplicity.
One of the most influential scientists in history, Isaac Newton laid the foundation for modern physics, invented the field of calculus, and developed the laws of motion and the theory of gravity. He was also a lifelong philosopher who asked and tried to answer many questions about the universe. Newton was committed to seeking out truths about the world we live in, and he concluded that regardless of the complexities of the universe, "Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things."
Ruins, for me, are the beginning. With the debris, you can construct new ideas.
Anselm Kiefer is a prolific visual artist. In his decades-long career, he has created countless paintings, installations, sculptures, prints, and photographs, often incorporating material such as lead, clay, and ash into his finished works. A lifelong resident of Germany, he draws inspiration from the history and culture of Europe. He often revisits the same material — say, a wheat field — over and over, so his work becomes a sort of historical record in itself, showing how something can come into being, pass away, and rise again. This is a theme of Kiefer’s work: Everything comes from something, and sometimes ruins are, in fact, just the beginning.
Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play.
For more than 60 years, Jane Goodall studied the social and family life of chimpanzees, and today she is considered the world’s leading expert on these particular primates. But her path wasn’t easy: Her initial studies faced criticism from her primarily male colleagues, many of whom saw her as lacking objectivity. Yet it was her close relationship with the chimpanzees that allowed her to see the animals in a whole new light — and to see them as far more similar to humans than the scientific community typically believed. Goodall’s career has inspired countless others to fight for environmental conservation and animal rights. As this quote reminds us, on this planet — our only home — everyone has the ability to make a difference.
To have become a deeper man is the privilege of those who have suffered.
When Irish author and playwright Oscar Wilde wrote that suffering was a “privilege,” he did so from experience. Wilde, who was convicted and imprisoned for having a sexual relationship with a man, understood that overcoming adversity gives us perspective, appreciation, and understanding. While incarcerated at Reading Gaol in England in 1897, Wilde wrote a letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, describing the spiritual awakening he experienced in prison. The letter was eventually published in 1905, five years after Wilde’s death, under the title "De Profundis," a Latin term meaning “from the depths.”
Joy is that kind of happiness that does not depend on what happens.
David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk and co-founder of an interfaith organization called the Center for Spiritual Studies. In 1974, he was awarded the Martin Buber Award for his work in building dialogues between religions. Steindl-Rast is also a popular lecturer best known for his teachings on gratitude: He posits that being grateful is the foundation of happiness, because it reminds us of the joy we already have. His words here encourage us to treasure the gifts that come our way, regardless of what may happen next.
Learning never exhausts the mind.
Leonardo da Vinci
Italian painter and polymath Leonardo da Vinci was a luminary of the Renaissance era — he not only painted such famed works as the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper,” he was also an architect, inventor, and military engineer. In his lifetime, he sketched concepts resembling the modern-day bicycle and a flying machine, and drew some of the first anatomical charts on human record. His words and life’s work remind us that broadening our horizons is healthy: Exploring new fields and skills will only create a richer life.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
William Blake was born in 1757 to a large family living in London. He had no formal schooling, but instead roamed the streets and often wandered the surrounding countryside. He was artistically inclined even from a young age, but it wasn’t until he found a community of artists and writers that he published his first book of poems, in 1783. This quote is from the poem “Proverbs of Hell,” in which Blake celebrates the divinity of all things, from the lion’s wrath to the peacock’s pride, the bird’s nest, the spider’s web, and most certainly the friendship of men.
If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.
During his nearly 40-year career, jazz legend Miles Davis constantly evolved his style, pushing and challenging the boundaries of jazz music. He experimented with jazz fusion, funk, synthesizers, rock, and African rhythms, while at the same time finding new ways to connect on an emotional level with his audience. He abandoned the more traditional use of vibrato on his trumpet, creating a sound that was closer to the human voice. Like all great jazz musicians, Davis was a master of improvisation. As such, he saw musical mistakes as opportunities — a philosophy he carried into the rest of his life. It’s how we react to so-called mistakes that determine whether the ultimate outcome will be negative or positive. As the great jazz pianist Herbie Hancock said, “Miles was able to turn something that was wrong into something that was right.”
Make glorious, amazing mistakes.
Neil Gaiman — a British fiction writer, graphic novelist, comic creator, and the screenwriter behind iconic tales including "Coraline," "American Gods," and the "Graveyard Book" — is also a prolific diarist and blogger. His eponymous website features a journal section where he posts musings, photos, personal stories, and the sort of wit and wisdom you’d expect from a writer whose literary accolades include multiple awards. This beautiful quote dates to a journal entry from late 2011, where Gaiman wishes his readers not only a happy new year but a year of “glorious, amazing mistakes.” “Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.” A fabulous sentiment — you can’t create and you can’t grow without taking wrong turns.
What you think about day and night forms your character and personality.
Masami Saionji is a Japanese spiritual teacher and lecturer who has given talks and led events all over the world, including at the United Nations. In 2019, her work earned her the Luxembourg Peace Prize for Outstanding Peace Activist. Saionji has also authored over 20 books on subjects from managing stress to connecting with the universe. Her teachings highlight the idea that our thoughts can shape our experience of life. We have the power to create our own reality; if we put our minds to it, we can choose peace in every moment.
Only love can heal the wounds of the past.
A feminist pioneer and social critic, bell hooks (1952-2021) is known for her writings on the intersections of race and gender, centering the experiences of Black women. Her book “All About Love” recasts love as a choice, as well as a crucial foundation for social change. She advocated for developing a “love ethic,” one that acknowledges the needs of the collective as well as the individual. Her words remind us that even the deepest injuries can mend if we are patient and compassionate toward ourselves and other people.
The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.
David Foster Wallace
It’s a fact of life that the truth can hurt, as David Foster Wallace expresses in this line from his epic 1996 novel "Infinite Jest." In this philosophical comic novel, Wallace explores our relationship with entertainment, which can serve as a distraction from the hard realities of life. Finding out the truth — about ourselves, others, or our relationships — can be devastating at first, but it also provides a kind of hopeful freedom. When we face and accept the truth, we're able to see more clearly, and can move forward stronger than before.
Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.
In Charles Dickens’ classic 1861 novel “Great Expectations,” the author employs the kind and simple blacksmith, Joe, to deliver this bittersweet bit of wisdom. As he parts ways with Pip, the story’s protagonist, Joe remarks that it is merely the nature of life to have to say goodbye to the people, places, and experiences we have loved. It’s rarely easy, but we can take comfort knowing that at the end of each parting is a brand new beginning.
Everybody who is honest is interesting.
Austrian graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister is known for the album covers he has masterminded for artists such as the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed. Sagmeister has said he became a designer after failing as a musician and journalist: That honesty led him to a Fulbright Scholarship at the Pratt Institute in New York City and a 2005 Grammy Award for art direction. His words encourage us to be candid about our motivations and goals, because authenticity can be the best compass to happiness.
Do not whine... Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.
Writer Joan Didion gave this advice to herself in “Blue Nights,” a 2011 memoir written during one of the darkest periods of her life, following the death of her daughter Quintana Roo only a few years after her husband, John Gregory Dunne, passed away. Like many people struggling with grief, Didion was looking for a way through it, and from that place of darkness, we can glean a bit of light. In life’s most difficult moments, we all search for a path that helps us persist. In the face of great adversity, to simply carry on can be an act of courage.
Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist and lecturer, a poet philosopher, and an activist abolitionist. He also led the transcendentalist movement — a philosophical movement that gained traction along the East Coast of the United States in the 1820s. The core of transcendentalism is a belief in the inherent goodness of people and, even more importantly, of nature; further, transcendentalists believed in self-reliance, intuition, and divinity in everyday life. "Nature," which Emerson published in 1836, was a foundational and informational essay espousing the tenets of his philosophical and spiritual movement. This quote — a celebration of the natural order — is a reminder that time heals all wounds, but it takes wisdom and patience to get there.
Life goes by fast. Enjoy it. Calm down. It's all funny.
Joan Rivers was the definition of multitalented. A comedian, Emmy winner, Grammy winner, Tony nominee, and television trailblazer, she became the first woman to host a late-night network talk show with 1986’s “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.” This quote isn’t just a mantra that Rivers preached but one she lived by. Her wit shined brightest while interviewing celebrities on the red carpet – even the biggest A-listers found themselves the subject of her biting humor, as she consistently prioritized being funny over being reverent. Rivers herself was the target of many quips, but rather than let it get her down, she once again embraced humor, with self-deprecating comments such as, “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.” Rivers was an inspiration not only for comedians, but for all of us — a reminder to maintain a lighthearted attitude in our lives so long as we’re lucky to be here.
Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925, is most famous for his 1913 comedic play “Pygmalion,” which was later adapted into the 1956 Broadway musical “My Fair Lady." But Shaw’s path to literary success was a long one. He spent his 20s struggling to pay the bills as his first four novels were summarily rejected by every publisher in London. Nine years after resolving to become a writer, he began to gain some traction with his journalism, publishing art criticism and book reviews, but it was only once he began to write for the stage that his career found real momentum. His playwriting earned him both critical and popular acclaim. In his 94 years of life, Shaw certainly came to understand that life is not always easy, but his art is a testament to the fact that it can be delightful.
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
Onstage and on-screen, Judy Garland was splendid at channeling characters, especially through song. Yet in private moments — which, for the lifelong star, were few and far between — she prided herself on her authenticity. The Oscar nominee and Grammy winner found that highlighting her favorite parts of her personality — from her sense of humor and strong convictions to her encyclopedic entertainment knowledge — drove others to embrace her even more. Long before her daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft became performers, Garland taught them that people who are true to themselves leave the strongest imprints on the world.
Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Anyone considering a career change might tire of people telling them, “Do what you love, and the rest will follow.” How can you be so sure? What counts as “love"? This is work we’re talking about! For anyone looking less for a passion project and more for what they’d be really good at, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal tweeted this advice in 2013. It’s deceptively Zen: If you watch your mind at work, you’ll start to notice patterns of thought, which will show you where your strengths are. It’ll also be good practice for when you do finally land that new gig, since good work does — always and necessarily — require focus and attention.
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.
Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox first grabbed the attention of America with his portrayal of Alex P. Keaton on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties," and he went on to star in such popular films as "Back to the Future" and "Teen Wolf." In 1998, while working on the sitcom "Spin City," Fox publicly disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In the decades that followed, and despite worsening symptoms, he continued to act and do voice-over work while advocating for people living with Parkinson’s. The titles of his four books — “An Optimist Considers Mortality,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future,” “The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist,” and “Lucky Man” — all speak to the unique, positive predisposition that Fox brings to his life and the challenges he’s faced.
A novel worth reading is an education of the heart.
While interviewing Susan Sontag for "The Paris Review" in 1995, Edward Hirsch asked the writer and activist whether it was old-fashioned to think that the purpose of literature is to educate us about life. Sontag unequivocally confirmed that novels enlighten us. She went on to say, “[Novels enlarge] your sense of human possibility, of what human nature is, of what happens in the world.” When we read a story, we experience, on an intellectual and emotional level, the successes and failures of the characters — and we learn empathy and understanding from their stories.
No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.
In 1972, writer and activist Alice Walker delivered this empowering message to students at her alma mater of Sarah Lawrence College. Following the success of her novel "The Color Purple" in 1982, Walker published this speech in her collection of essays "In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens." With this statement, she encourages self-respect in the face of mistreatment by those who dismiss, limit, or neglect your value. She reinforces this advice throughout the speech by highlighting the often-overlooked contributions of Black women. In so doing, she braces women of color for the reality of their struggle, while inspiring them with the determination to overcome it. It's a credo that can resonate with anyone: A true friend is someone who supports you and encourages you to be your best, authentic self.
All you have to do is take a close look at yourself and you will understand everyone else.
Isaac Asimov is considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers of the 20th century, alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. Hugely prolific, he wrote or edited some 500 books, ranging from guides to the works of Shakespeare to collections of lewd limericks. But he is best known for his hard sci-fi novels, especially the “Foundation” and “Robot” series. Asimov was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, so he certainly knew his science. He knew people too; like his friend and fellow writer Kurt Vonnegut, he served as the president of the American Humanist Association. Indeed, societal evolution plays a key role in Asimov’s Hugo Award-winning “Foundation” series, whose central characters try to predict the outcomes of galaxy-spanning events — while also trying to understand one another on a personal level.
Joy is not in things, it is in us.
A revered speaker whom Theodore Roosevelt once invited to the White House, Charles Wagner began as a poor French preacher shunned by the orthodox sect of his church. In his best-known book, "The Simple Life," he insisted that we control our own emotional fulfillment as much as external circumstances do. Despite the adversity he faced, he found joy by following his internal compass: He started his own church, wrote nearly 30 books, and founded organizations to support the working class. His life is a reminder that your current situation doesn’t have to control you; indeed, your outlook and mindset can change the situation, and cultivate joy even in the most difficult times.
Let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.
Few scientists of the past half-century are as popular as Carl Sagan. As an astronomer and planetary scientist, he’s perhaps best known for his research on extraterrestrial life. He also penned a number of popular science books, such as 1994’s “Pale Blue Dot”; co-wrote and narrated the hit television series “Cosmos”; and wrote the 1985 sci-fi novel “Contact.” Sagan was a passionate advocate of skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, but argued that critical thinking must go hand-in-hand with kindness. While we may strongly disagree with people who do not share our beliefs, we must not fall into the trap of self-righteousness, because none of us is perfect, and “none of us comes fully equipped.”
Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world; let the world catch up to you.
Beyoncé Knowles is not only a powerhouse in the music scene, she’s also a stellar mentor. Her words often impart valuable life lessons, like this advice she gave R&B duo Chloe X Halle, sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey. It emphasizes the importance of staying true to yourself, even — or especially — if that makes you stand apart from the crowd. It’s a wise warning: Don’t stunt your own growth by toning down your natural talents and skills. Instead, like Queen Bey, show others what’s possible, and the world may just follow where you lead.
Freedom lies in being bold.
In the early years of his life, Robert Frost worked as a teacher, cobbler, editor, and farmer, but it is poetry for which he will always be remembered. In 1912, Frost and his wife, Elinor, moved to England, where he was inspired by the prominent English poets of the day, including Robert Graves, Edward Thomas, and Ezra Pound. By the time the couple returned to the states in 1915, Frost had published two full-length poetry collections. In the decades that followed, he received four Pulitzer Prizes as well as many other accolades and honors; in 1961 he became the first poet to speak at a presidential inauguration, reciting his patriotic poem "The Gift Outright." Frost always maintained that he preferred the company of eccentric, interesting people. In a 1952 interview with “The New Yorker,” the poet espoused his preference for “people who have as much personality as I have,” concluding that “freedom lies in being bold.”
As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.
Katharine Hepburn made her Broadway debut in 1928, the same year she graduated from Bryn Mawr College. After a four-year rise to stardom on the stage, she was invited to Hollywood to work with the RKO Radio Pictures movie studio. Having been raised to value honesty, education, and physical fitness, Hepburn was considered outspoken and eccentric. While other starlets of the time strove to maintain the appearance of flawless glamour, she dressed casually in public and wore pantsuits long before it was fashionable for women to do so. Her career spanned over 60 years, during which she won four Academy Awards and countless other accolades. She died in 2003 at the age of 96, and will forever be remembered as one of the great stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.
For a lyric sung to the sky by a crooked-nosed puppet who’s possibly an alien, this is a striking expression of the joy of connecting. The song, “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday,” was written by composer and songwriter Paul Williams and performed by Gonzo (David Goelz) in "The Muppet Movie." In this context, Gonzo twists the emotional paradox even further, as he’s longingly awaiting a friend he’s yet to meet. Blending hope and grief, he reveals a sense of connection with a kind of presence — a kindred spirit — just beyond his reach. Years later, the presence he longed for finally emerges in the movie "Muppets From Space" — it’s his home planet, reaching out after having tracked him down. His emotional journey reflects a universal desire for connection. It assures us of old friends looking to finally meet us, serving as a reminder that ultimately, we’re never alone.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
In 1931, when poet T.S. Eliot wrote this line in the preface to “Transit of Venus,” a collection of poems by poet Harry Crosby, he was likely pulling from Crosby’s past as both a World War I veteran and an artist. Eliot continued the line above by reflecting that “one has to be a very great poet to justify such perilous adventures.” It suggests that the road to reach our full capability can be perilous, but if we are strong enough to continue pushing forward into new and unknown territory, we’ll be rewarded with personal greatness.
How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.
Known as the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale made her mark during the Crimean War. She organized care for wounded soldiers and checked on them during the night — a practice that led to her nickname, “the Lady With the Lamp.” Nightingale became an icon of Victorian culture, and at the same time raised the reputation of nursing, previously regarded as a menial profession. But she was more than a pioneering nurse; she was also a social reformer who helped improve health care throughout British society, while at the same time expanding the “acceptable” roles of women in the workplace. Nightingale’s name is now synonymous with care and kindness — and also courage. She dedicated herself to helping others and, in doing so, forever changed the way medicine is practiced.
The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.
Frederick Douglass’ oratory skills were a powerful force, and his words carried weight whenever spoken. He escaped slavery and rose to prominence as an abolitionist and social reformer in the 19th century. Recognizing the crucial link between literacy and freedom, he taught himself to read and write, and used his words to advance the cause of liberty. This quote — from a speech Douglass gave to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the D.C. Emancipation Act, which freed enslaved people in America’s capital — references how the country was nearly torn apart during the Civil War amid the scourge of slavery, before that destructive force was abolished with the 13th Amendment in 1865. Douglass preached the wisdom in rejecting division, in order to ensure a healthier nation built upon “one country, one citizenship, and one liberty for all the people.”
Beauty is truth, truth beauty.
It’s almost mind-boggling to think that John Keats lived to just 25 years old. By the time of his death in 1821, he had produced poems of such beauty that he became regarded — albeit not during his lifetime — as one of the greatest of all the Romantic poets, alongside the likes of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. His odes rank among his most popular and studied works, none more so than “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” the source of this famed insight. In five stanzas, Keats reflects upon the urn, and how it serves as a silent voice of the past — a literal vessel for time and memory. The meaning of the poem’s final two lines has had critics arguing among themselves since at least the 1950s: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Enigmatic, certainly, and at the same time, unquestionably beautiful.
Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.
This proverb, which speaks to the importance of patience, diligence, and integrity, originated with the Renaissance master Michelangelo. According to legend, a friend paid a visit to Michelangelo’s studio, where there was a statue in progress. The renowned sculptor and painter explained that he had only made very small adjustments to the work since the last time the man visited. “But these are just trifles,” said the man. Yet to the artist, the seemingly minuscule edits were the necessary steps in achieving greatness.
To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that.
Teresa of Ávila
To St. Teresa of Ávila, a 16th-century Spanish nun and mystic philosopher, courage was the most important virtue. When Teresa was only 11, her mother died, which left her grief-stricken and prompted her to turn to Christianity’s Virgin Mary as her spiritual mother. At age 20, she devoted herself to the Catholic Church and entered a convent, where she spent the rest of her life contemplating the profound matters of the soul. With this insight, she reminds us that life is rarely easy, but courage gets us through even the greatest obstacles.
I think you travel to search and come back home to find yourself there.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Venturing into the world is often seen as a rite of passage, whether it’s leaving the family home or moving to a different continent. For MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, leaving her home country of Nigeria to live in the United States, and traveling around the world to promote her books, began a journey to find herself. Whether a sense of wanderlust is inherent in us or not, exploring beyond the life we know, filled with familiar people, is one path to discovering who we really are — which elements of our cultural identity fit and which we prefer to leave behind. As Adichie observed, it’s the journey that helps us find who we are, and discover where home really is.
Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help.
In 1960, primatologist Jane Goodall went into the Tanzanian jungle to observe the chimpanzee community in Gombe Stream National Park. Day after day she sat quietly among the animals, and eventually she observed the chimpanzees using tools, a discovery that changed the way we think about primates. After reading her findings, her mentor, paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, famously said, "We must now redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as human." The more Goodall learned about the chimpanzees, the more concerned she became for their survival. In 1997, she established the Jane Goodall Institute and began educating people about other primates. Now in her 80s, she travels 300 days a year speaking on behalf of chimpanzees and working tirelessly to help preserve their populations.
Stop making excuses; you're the only one stopping you.
For every great idea, there are a hundred reasons not to do it — if we let ourselves come up with them. For Issa Rae, the creator, writer, and star of the HBO series “Insecure,” finding her creative voice meant not making excuses. It’s easy to procrastinate, doubt, or find reasons to not chase our dreams, in any part of our lives. Rae’s words here remind us that success often follows once we get out of our own way, and instead of talking ourselves out of something difficult, find a reason to do it.
The blizzard doesn't last forever; it just seems so.
Snoopy, from the “Peanuts” comic strip, had a love-hate relationship with his typewriter. When science fiction author Ray Bradbury was asked to write an essay inspired by a Snoopy comic in 2012, he felt that conflicted relationship with the written word deep in his heart. Bradbury penned an essay about the flurries of rejections he received while trying to get his stories published, and then the breakthrough in his 40s when things started working out. He encouraged Snoopy to stay strong — though it seems like problems last forever, they will eventually subside, and we will come out the other side.
Fear has a very concrete power of keeping us from doing and saying the things that are our purpose.
In her popular 2017 TED Talk “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable,” bestselling author, speaker, and podcast host Luvvie Ajayi pointed out the undeniable power of fear. That powerful force can wind up controlling our actions — or inaction, as is often the case. But Ajayi encouraged her audience to use it as a motivator. “I'm not going to let fear dictate what I do,” she said. “Anything that scares me, I'm going to actively pursue it.” Feeling afraid doesn’t have to be a warning sign of what to avoid; instead, it can act as a beacon, lighting a path for us to push outside our comfort zone, which is the only way to grow.
Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.
This opening line of Edith Wharton’s dramatic monologue “Vesalius in Zante (1564)” feels like a breath of fresh air. Its speaker is Andreas Vesalius, a Spanish Inquisition-era anatomist who faced such backlash for his studies — scientific research was then forbidden — that, in despair, he burned his manuscripts and abandoned his calling. Vesalius could not bear a life of restricted inquiry forever, though. In his 50s he fled Spain for Jerusalem, yet on his way home was shipwrecked on a Greek island and died. Wharton’s poem, which imagines Vesalius’ final moments, ends as it begins, with a window: “Turn me in my bed. / The window darkens as the hours swing round; / But yonder, look, the other casement glows! / Let me face westward as my sun goes down.” Though the great man's life is ending, Wharton seems to say, it has been a satisfying one — defined, in the end, by truth and integrity.
Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.
In Paulo Coelho’s beloved novel “The Alchemist,” readers meet a young boy who has fallen in love with “a woman of the desert.” But the boy is afraid to take action on his heart’s desire because he might get hurt in return. That’s normal — many of us fear putting ourselves out there because it might not work out. But it’s important to remember that the fear is usually worse than any hurt you might experience. We can handle suffering, but when we are afraid we tend to underestimate our own strength. And of course, we may not be met with suffering after all — but the only way to know is to push fear to the side and go for what we want.
In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.
A child star turned Hollywood actor, producer, and talk show host, Drew Barrymore has lived most of her life in the public eye: Her struggles with addiction, family issues, relationships, and breakups were all watched by the world — as were her comebacks. With this quote, Barrymore gets at what has helped her cultivate that goofy joie de vivre that makes her so universally likable: being able to learn from adversity, and turn pain into strength.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.
It’s unknown exactly when Amelia Earhart, the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic, said this quote, but it reflected her personality in full. The remainder of the quote says, “The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure. The process is its own reward.” Earhart chased her own dreams, and her words inspire us to do the same regardless of the challenges. You can have as much determination as you want, but to reach your goals you also have to take the difficult step of acting on that will.
Always remember: Silence and smile are two very powerful tools.
Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho’s books — in particular, his beloved 1988 bestseller, “The Alchemist” — are infused with a spirituality that has resonated with millions of readers. In 2017 he took to Twitter to offer his followers this piece of advice. “Smile is the way to solve many problems,” he wrote. “Silence is the way to avoid many problems.” Coelho reminds us that the power of words can cut both ways, and the discretion to know when to keep quiet and offer a kind smile is just as valuable.
Love is really... a recognition of another person’s integrity and truth.
Poet, essayist, and novelist Robert Graves wrote often about love, which he saw as more than a sentiment, feeling, or burst of passion. Love in its true form, he suggested, is an understanding and appreciation of what makes a person wholly unique. To Graves, love was something given freely with no expectations. “Love is giving and giving and giving… not looking for any return,” he said in an interview in 1963. “Until you do that, you can’t love.”
It takes courage and strength to be empathetic.
In 2017, at the age of 37, Jacinda Ardern became one of the youngest prime ministers in the history of New Zealand. A year later she made international history by bringing her three-month-old daughter to the United Nations General Assembly so she could continue to breastfeed through the trip. An outspoken feminist, Ardern is known for her charisma and optimism. One of her first actions in office was to make the reduction of child poverty a top priority. Though her term in office has been defined by the global pandemic and economic downturn, she continues to stand as a beacon of hope and empathy, fighting for human rights both at home and abroad.
The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. She paid her fare and sat in the first row of back seats reserved for Black citizens on the segregated bus. When a white man boarded and found himself with no seat in the “white” section, the bus driver ordered Parks and three other Black passengers in her row to stand. Three of the passengers obeyed. Parks did not. Her defiance led to her arrest, and set in motion the Montgomery bus boycott — turning Parks into a symbol of the civil rights movement. She later wrote that it wasn’t physical tiredness that made her refuse to give up her seat, writing, “No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
Discworld, the fictional universe that bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett created for his 41-book fantasy series of the same name, is nothing if not a chance to see the world differently. His imaginative universe is a flat disc carried on the backs of four elephants who are all standing on the back of a turtle. On Pratchett’s website, Discworld is described as “a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different.” That description gets at the heart of this quote, from Pratchett’s book “A Hat Full of Sky.” When you leave a place you’ve known forever and experience something new, it changes both you and that place. You return to something familiar, but it looks different because your perspective has changed. Leaving and coming home again expands your worldview, much more than staying put ever would.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Throughout her life as an author and social reformer, Helen Keller motivated people around the world to overcome obstacles, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Despite losing both her sight and hearing when she was just 19 months old, she went on to become a prolific writer, lecturer, and disability rights advocate, helping found the American Civil Liberties Union and authoring hundreds of essays.
Keller wrote these words of encouragement in her 1940 book “Let Us Have Faith,” calling upon us to take chances in life, and trust in the path of discovery.
The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
Ida B. Wells
Journalist and activist Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) spent her life crusading to find the truth and shed a light on inequality in America. As a civil rights leader who was born into slavery, Wells used her platform to expose the mistreatment of Black Americans after the U.S. Civil War. This quote epitomizes her mission in life. When injustice rears its head, the way to enact change is not to look away, but rather to educate people about it and have hard conversations about who we are and what we stand for — to have the courage to create enough light to help people see the truth.
Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.
In his darkly humorous writing style, author Kurt Vonnegut excelled at using satire to make a statement. Novels such as "Cat's Cradle" and "Slaughterhouse-Five" served as unabashed critiques of technology and war, though Vonnegut's honesty also extended to more lighthearted matters. This quote — which appeared in his 2005 memoir "A Man Without a Country" — encourages artistic creativity as a means to make "life more bearable." While acknowledging that life is often difficult, Vonnegut argues that artistic pursuits — the process, not simply the products — offer vital catharsis and gratification. Whether singing in the shower or writing a poem, the act of creating something original can enrich the soul and provide a deep sense of reward.
I need to do this -
Just set one day’s work in front of the last day's work. That's the way it comes out.
John Steinbeck had already received critical acclaim for “Of Mice and Men” when, in 1938, he began to write “The Grapes of Wrath.” Not one to rest on his laurels, the author was more driven than ever to create his best work. To that end, he kept what he called “the diary of a book,” later published as “Working Days.” Full of dogged determination and inspiration, as well as stinging self-doubt and self-reproach, the diary reveals the creative process throughout the 100 days Steinbeck spent writing the novel. He constantly reminds himself to keep going, to write each day no matter what, and to accept doubt and forge onward. “I am sure of one thing — it isn’t the great book I had hoped it would be,” he wrote in the diary. “It’s just a run-of-the-mill book.” He was wrong, of course. “The Grapes of Wrath” won a Pulitzer and earned Steinbeck the Nobel Prize.
Missed one - I call this one the "Labor of Love"
To rank the effort above the prize may be called love.
Confucius was a giant of a philosopher, up there with the likes of Socrates, Aristotle, and Buddha. His teachings have been fundamental to Chinese and East Asian culture for some 2,500 years, and remain highly influential today. Confucianism emphasizes morality and traditional values, including justice, kindness, sincerity, and respect for one’s elders. The philosopher was also a strong believer in the value of effort. For Confucius, trying your best to achieve something was of greater importance than the goal itself.
There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm.
This line comes from Washington Irving’s short story “The Adventure of the German Student,” which is actually a pretty dark and ghostly tale. But these words come at a joyful time in the story. The main character has just met a woman and immediately falls in love with her; at this moment he is explaining how he plans to take care of her. His earnest enthusiasm wins her over. Time and again, when we let our joy and passion shine through, we’re rewarded with happiness.
The best friend is he that, when he wishes a person's good, wishes it for that person's own sake.
Aristotle's influential treatise "Nicomachean Ethics" is considered one of the most important philosophical works ever written. In it, the ancient Greek philosopher examines what is good in life and how people should live honorably and ethically. The topic given the most time in the entire treatise is friendship, of which Aristotle saw three kinds. The lowest friendships are those of utility, in which there is no great regard for the other person beyond what they can provide. Then there are friendships of pleasure, in which two people like to be together, but the relationship is often temporary and can end easily. The highest form of friendship exists between good people who are alike in their virtuousness. In this most noble of friendships, both people truly care for each other without seeking anything in return.
Get up quickly — just switch on the white light of the will.
Author, critic, activist, philosopher, humanist: Susan Sontag was one of America’s most influential intellectuals. Though she published dozens of books, plays, monographs, and films on a vast variety of topics, from photography to AIDS to communism, she thought of herself as a student all her life. In her journals, Sontag recorded her thoughts, notes on her works in progress, and fragments from her voracious reading. This note from October 1973 reads like an instruction to herself. When the whole world is out there, just waiting to be studied, one mustn’t hesitate.
Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
—Hebrews 12:3 NASB
Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.
Great literary and artistic geniuses are celebrated for their vision and creativity, but even they can’t compete with the pure imagination of a child. The French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire was very much aware of this, and wrote about it in his influential 1863 essay “The Painter of Modern Life.” For Baudelaire, the ability to tap into this childlike way of thinking and seeing was a fundamental part of adult genius. “The child sees everything as a novelty,” he wrote. “The child is always ‘drunk.’ Nothing is more like what we call inspiration than the joy the child feels in drinking in shape and color.”
Love is something that if you give it away, you end up having more.
American singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds believed that love should be so common and plentiful that it’s like a penny — passed back and forth between strangers and always easy to find. In her campy 1955 folk song “Love Is Something (Magic Penny),” the San Francisco native calls on us to show kindness in our daily interactions with others. Referring to love as the true “treasure” of life, Reynolds reminds us that acts of love rarely go wasted. “Hold it tight and you won't have any,” she sings. “Lend it, spend it, and you'll have so many.”
If you believe you're a success, crikey, I should think it will come up and get you by the... tail.
Ophelia. Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Victoria. M. These are just a few of the iconic characters Dame Judi Dench has portrayed on screen and onstage, to great acclaim and many awards. Success has certainly not eluded her, but her colorful words here are a warning to stay humble. Despite her many accolades, she’s never been considered a prima donna or difficult to work with; no torrid stories follow her from set to set. Here, one of Britain’s greatest actors shares her thoughts on keeping one’s head — and not letting fame, ego, or riches blind us to who we are.
Imagine living life so carefully that there are no signs you lived at all.
It’s safe to say that most people want to leave some kind of mark on the world, or the people in it. And while there may not be one clear-cut way to do that, according to author Raven Leilani, one way not to do it is by playing it safe. In her debut 2020 novel "Luster," Leilani explores the themes of burgeoning adulthood, making it on your own, and self-actualization through the lens of a young Black woman. There are parallels to the author’s life and the character she’s sketched in "Luster," primarily the theme of following your dreams and having the courage to take risks. The line above warns against living too cautiously, and is reminiscent of this well-known maxim: It’s better to regret the things you did than the things you didn’t do.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
French philosopher Simone Weil paid close attention to the world around her, even from a young age: At five years old, during World War I, she refused sugar because French soldiers at the front didn’t have access to it. She went on to study and teach philosophy, and became a prolific social activist: In addition to attending numerous protests and writing for leftist publications, she became a member of the French Resistance during World War II. Her words remind us that when we give our attention to something or someone, we are giving one of the most precious parts of ourselves.
There is no deeper desire than the desire of being revealed.
Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran is known for his deeply expressive poetry. Though his 1923 novel “The Prophet” is his most commercially successful work, his poetry remains some of his most-quoted, touching on themes from love and religion to loneliness and sorrow. Here, he encourages us to move toward vulnerability: By opening up and letting others see who we are, we invite the rich connections and deep relationships that make life fulfilling.
A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future.
Lois Wyse was a prolific advertising executive in the mid-20th century, with several well-known slogans under her belt, including the famous catchphrase, "With a name like Smucker's, it has to be good." Among the more than 65 books she authored is the 1995 title “Women Make the Best Friends,” in which Wyse gathers observations and stories about the importance and joy of close friendships. Her words here push us to see our friendships not as fleeting connections, but as beacons of stability and joy amid life’s tumultuous changes.
I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention… To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.
To iconic punk artist Henry Rollins, being stagnant and unimaginative is among the biggest transgressions one can make in life. From his time as the frontman for the pioneering hard-core band Black Flag, to his work as a vocal advocate for social change, Rollins is constantly challenging himself and others to break the mold. As a musician, poet, radio host, and actor, he is known for his passion, intensity, and refusal to stop creating. With these words from his 1997 collection of writing, “The Portable Henry Rollins,” Rollins challenges us to travel down life’s unbeaten paths, do things our own way, and embrace the qualities that make us unique.
I'd rather live with a tender heart, because that is the key to feeling the beat of all of the other hearts.
When actress, comedian, and author Jenny Slate sat down to write her essay book "Little Weirds," she leaned away from the comedic tones she’s known for on screen and focused instead on family and relationships. The book was published in 2019 and became a phenomenon for lines like this one, that stress the importance of community in finding oneself. A tender heart is the key to unlocking empathy, and only when we are vulnerable and open to the wishes of others can we find a sense of purpose, belonging, and solidarity in society.
It always seems impossible until it's done.
As the first Black president of South Africa and a lifelong anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela faced more than his share of seemingly impossible challenges. Over his lifetime, he spent a total of 27 years in prison for fighting against the country’s institutionalized racial oppression. In 1993, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and was sworn in as president of South Africa only a year later. Here, he encourages us to keep pushing toward our goals, even when we are discouraged: That determination can often trigger the turning point we’ve been waiting for.
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
Pablo Neruda, born in Chile in 1904 as Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, is generally considered the greatest Spanish-language poet of his time. Though he is often remembered for his exquisite love poems, his later work was deeply political. After he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1971, his heartfelt acceptance speech explored the connection between poetry and politics. Given his passion for social justice, this quote is generally understood as an encouraging nod to revolutionaries the world over.
I dream of a world full of love <3
Imagine what could be if everyone loved themselves and others too?!
Maybe it's a silly idea, but get yourself a handful of love fortune cookies and we'll see if it works - the cookies are free and digital - let's bend the universe together! <3
stay tuned - symwu <3
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: "I'm with you kid. Let's go."
Writer Maya Angelou is best known for her heartrending 1969 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which describes a childhood that was unsteady and often traumatic, including a five-year period where she became mute after an assault. But she blossomed in young adulthood, discovering a love for literature and writing. Angelou was the first Black woman to drive a San Francisco streetcar, and tried out careers in singing and acting before becoming a writer. Her remarkable life experiences stand as a reminder that bold action makes our lives fuller and more interesting — as long as we continue to embrace what’s possible.
Success always demands a greater effort.
Winston Churchill, one of the greatest orators in modern history, often spoke about success in life and politics. He was frequently misquoted on the subject, too. But we do know that he said, “Success always demands a greater effort,” as he wrote it in December 1940 to Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, while discussing troop deployments around the world and his plan to “gather a very large army representing the whole empire.” Ultimately, few people were more inspiring or influential in World War II than Churchill, in what was one of the most important and necessary successes in human history: victory against Nazi Germany and the Axis forces.
Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it.
When it came time for comic performer Gilda Radner to title her candid 1989 autobiography, the Emmy winner decided on one of her famous catchphrases (as Roseanne Roseannadanna) from Saturday Night Live: “It’s always something.” Radner’s brutally honest book dealt with her sudden confrontation with death after a terminal cancer diagnosis at age 40, and also reflected on how to best live out one’s days. With these words, Radner concludes that life often does not go according to plan, and true happiness can depend on how we react and move forward when life changes course.
To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.
A beloved Buddhist teacher and author, Pema Chödrön has studied Tibetan Buddhism since 1974, and is now a resident teacher at Gampo Abbey, a Western Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia. Her books, which interpret Buddhist philosophy for a Western audience, often invite the reader to let go of the need for control, and instead lean into life’s frequent upheavals and changes. Here, she reminds us that the moments we feel the most off balance are deceptive: They are also often the moments in which we experience the most growth.
Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.
Curiosity is never-ending. As English author Samuel Johnson wrote in the 18th century, it expands your mind — and the more that happens, the more curious you become. Johnson explained, “He who easily comprehends all that is before him, and soon exhausts any single subject, is always eager for new inquiries; and in proportion as the intellectual eye takes in a wider prospect, it must be gratified with variety, by more rapid flights and bolder excursions.” So as we learn, our thirst for knowledge deepens, and our curiosity leads us to explore even further — turning learning into a lifelong process of enrichment.
Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves.
While enduring the horrors of a concentration camp in 1943, Dutch author Etty Hillesum wrote these profound words in her diary. As she ruminated on the vital importance of remaining present in each day and banishing the worries of tomorrow from her spirit, Hillesum realized that the only thing we have control over is our own minds. If we can find peace within, we can make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like 'struggle.'
Ah, Mister Rogers, the wholesome father figure whom generations of kids grew to cherish thanks to his regularly shared nuggets of wisdom. He had so much good advice, in fact, that he filled an entire book with it, called “You Are Special: Words of Wisdom for All Ages From a Beloved Neighbor.” In this quote from that book, Mister Rogers tells us that love isn’t effortless. You can care about someone easily, but to continue to care about them as they grow and change — and sometimes cause pain — takes some work. But some things are worth working for, and when it comes to love, it’s almost always worth it to put in the effort.
Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: "I'm with you kid. Let's go."
Writer Maya Angelou is best known for her heartrending 1969 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which describes a childhood that was unsteady and often traumatic, including a five-year period where she became mute after an assault. But she blossomed in young adulthood, discovering a love for literature and writing. Angelou was the first Black woman to drive a San Francisco streetcar, and tried out careers in singing and acting before becoming a writer. Her remarkable life experiences stand as a reminder that bold action makes our lives fuller and more interesting — as long as we continue to embrace what’s possible.
Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.
Renowned for popularizing the concept of the “hero’s journey” in storytelling (in which the hero goes on an adventure, learns a lesson, and returns transformed), writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell posits here that we can’t follow someone else’s footsteps to success, happiness, or fulfillment. There is no set template for how a life should be lived: It is your life, after all, and you must make each step of the way uniquely your own.
You must believe that your past is not your future.
It is all too easy to become weighed down by the regrets, losses, or difficult memories of the past. But, as business and leadership expert Gayle Carson insists here, we can’t let the past define us. This quote reminds us that we have the power to overcome old patterns and pain in order to create the life we want and deserve. Where we have been does not dictate where we are going, and with determination and positivity, we can chart a new course for ourselves at any time in our lives.
Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.
William A. Ward
In today’s hustle culture it’s easy to feel sometimes that achievement and productivity are the only standards by which our value is measured. But it’s crucial to remember that every success starts with a small step, an initial investment, a simple plan. With this quote, motivational writer William A. Ward speaks to the importance of patience, urging us to find satisfaction and pride in even our smallest strides.
Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier.
During her tenure as First Lady from 1933 to 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt redefined the nation’s idea of how the President’s wife should pass her time. She called weekly press conferences with women journalists, personally wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column sharing her thoughts on the issues of the time, fought for civil rights, and sought to help refugees in the midst of World War II. In a time when wives, especially political wives, were meant to be quiet supporters of their husbands, she was a bold pioneer, leading by example to show all the good that women can do in the world.
We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.
Anaïs Nin carved out a provocative niche for herself in the literary world of the 20th century, writing novels and short stories that she published herself, painstakingly typesetting the printing press and decorating the bindings for each book. On the whole, her work was largely ignored by the public until the 1960s, when feminism and surrealism (themes that dominated Nin’s writing) gained traction in the popular culture of the time. While some critics panned her writing as self-indulgent, others praised her for her psychological insights. She is best known for her published diaries, written from 1931 to 1974, in which she chronicled her personal journey of self-discovery as she sought other states, other lives, and other souls.
Pain nourishes courage. You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.
Mary Tyler Moore
Actress Mary Tyler Moore inspired a generation of women with her groundbreaking television characters that interwove feminism into mainstream pop culture. Moore's work on the timeless and culturally significant "Mary Tyler Moore Show" — in which she portrayed a single, career-oriented news producer working in a male-dominated environment — revolutionized TV roles for women and challenged society’s restrictive gender norms. Her quote here speaks to fictional and real-life trailblazers alike, whose paths are often riddled with harrowing pitfalls. Luck and complacency may be nice and easy on a personal level, but the ability to overcome adversity has the real power to influence others in a meaningful and life-changing way.
If you feel you are in a black hole, don't give up. There's a way out.
In 2015, at the Hawking Radiation Conference in Stockholm, Stephen Hawking delivered this now-famous quote. While this was certainly an inspiring slice of advice, Hawking was very much focused on physics. To be precise, he was focused on the peculiar phenomenon of how the physical state of something disappearing into a black hole appears to be completely lost — which, according to the known laws of the universe, shouldn’t be possible. (Something entering a black hole should, in theory, come out somewhere.) Hawking suggested two possibilities to explain this, and here’s where things get trippy. Either information entering a black hole is translated into a “hologram” on the edge of the black hole itself, or it passes through and enters an alternative universe. So, yes, don’t give up because there’s always a way out — even if the exit leads to an entirely different reality.
Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems.
Cartoonist Bill Watterson is the creator of "Calvin and Hobbes," the popular comic strip about a six-year-old boy and a tiger who do nothing but play. So it’s no surprise he sees that freedom as an important element of creativity. “I’ve been amazed at how one idea leads to others if I allow my mind to play and wander,” he said in a 1990 commencement speech at Kenyon College. Indulging your curiosity and childlike sense of wonder can open up creative paths that lead to surprising solutions. Next time you find you’ve hit a wall, try approaching the problem as a six-year-old might: with imagination, no pressure, and lots of flexibility.
You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
Possessing an unparalleled humility, legendary college basketball coach John Wooden used his patented "Pyramid of Success" to give his young, impressionable players the tools to succeed at both basketball and life. Wooden turned a fledgling UCLA athletics program into a powerhouse that won 10 NCAA national titles, and all the while he maintained that true success wasn't based on accolades, but rather on being your best self. This quote speaks to Wooden's ideology; he lived life by what he called a "Seven Point Creed," which shunned egoism and prioritized helping others. It's a reminder that the greatest reward isn't necessarily wealth or fame, but being there for others, regardless of whether you receive anything in return.
Just because things hadn't gone the way I had planned didn't necessarily mean they had gone wrong.
Author Ann Patchett's self-inspired essay "What Now?" — the work in which these reaffirming words appear — offers hope to those who find themselves at a crossroads. Patchett describes being thrust into many unfamiliar situations but finding fulfillment throughout those unexpected journeys, much like many of the characters endured in "Bel Canto," a gritty yet tender novel for which she received critical acclaim. This quote is a reminder that our path in life is always changing, and curveballs can offer some of our greatest lessons and joys. While we may set out to accomplish certain goals, there's no greater tool than having an open mind and a willingness to accept wherever the road may take us.
Being successful doesn't mean anything in and of itself. It just means that you're successful.
Few modern filmmakers shine brighter than Greta Gerwig, though she'd be the first to admit there's more to life than success. Gerwig (who began her career as an actor) is the visionary director and writer behind acclaimed films such as 2019’s "Little Women," 2012’s "Frances Ha," and 2017’s "Lady Bird," in which this quote appears. While many of her films have been nominated for awards, it's their immeasurable societal impact that proves more rewarding. These sage words — penned by Gerwig and spoken by actress Laurie Metcalf's character Marion MacPherson to her daughter, Lady Bird — are a reminder that achievements don't necessarily equate to happiness, nor do they define a life. Whether you're a big shot or small fry, true joy is in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn't matter how successful you are so long as you feel fulfilled.
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
Paul Lewis Boese
When we are hurt, forgiving the people at fault can be incredibly difficult; we’re wired to keep defenses up to protect ourselves from more pain. But anger, resentment, and hatred are damaging emotions to hold onto, and a source of pain in themselves. Forgiving someone doesn’t have to mean reconciliation — it doesn’t change or condone the wrongs that were done — but it does help us let go of that negativity to make room to heal and move on. It “enlarges the future,” as Paul Boese wrote in 1967. The American businessman and writer published many of his philosophical thoughts in a weekly quote magazine, and his words on forgiveness have been an inspiration to countless people in the decades since. They remind us that forgiveness isn’t an eraser; it’s a blank page, and a chance to write a happier future.
The only lasting truth is change.
When she was nine years old, Octavia Butler saw a science fiction movie called “Devil Girl From Mars” and thought to herself: “I can write a better story than that.” She went on to become the first widely recognized Black female science fiction writer, publishing 12 novels in all. She was the only sci-fi writer ever to be awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, which she added to her Nebula Award, Hugo Award, and PEN Lifetime Achievement Award. She used fiction to tell stories of deep truth, imparting wisdom that transcends genre, gender, or race. Even as the times have changed, her stories continue to entertain and enlighten.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
In 1892, St. James’s Theatre in London staged the first performance of Oscar Wilde’s four-act comedy “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” The play’s wildly improbable plot, following an upper-class woman who suspects her husband of having an affair, didn’t stop it from becoming the Irish playwright’s first hit. Theatergoers loved it, especially Wilde’s characteristically dazzling dialogue. The play gave us many of his most quotable lines, including “I can resist anything except temptation” and “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.” But the most famous quote is this one, spoken by Lord Darlington to Mr. Dumby, a man who thinks all people are good. His simple but poignant observation about hope remains one of Wilde’s most succinct and beautiful lines.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
In 1931, when poet T.S. Eliot wrote this line in the preface to “Transit of Venus,” a collection of poems by poet Harry Crosby, he was likely pulling from Crosby’s past as both a World War I veteran and an artist. Eliot continued the line above by reflecting that “one has to be a very great poet to justify such perilous adventures.” It suggests that the road to reach our full capability can be perilous, but if we are strong enough to continue pushing forward into new and unknown territory, we’ll be rewarded with personal greatness.
Words are the clothing of our thoughts.
Among the works of 18th-century Anglo Irish author and clergyman Jonathan Swift, none is more well known than “Gulliver's Travels.” In the 300 years since its publication, the story of Gulliver has been referenced in countless songs, movies, and television shows. Swift was a satirist raised on rationalism and committed to the strong morals of his faith. In his writing, descriptive passages not only served to illustrate elements of his stories, but also gave insight into the characters conveying the descriptions. In Swift’s hands, words were indeed the clothing of thoughts.
R. (3) Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Daily I call upon you, O LORD;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work wonders for the dead?
Will the shades arise to give you thanks?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Do they declare your mercy in the grave,
your faithfulness among those who have perished?
Are your wonders made known in the darkness,
or your justice in the land of oblivion?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
with my morning prayer I wait upon you.
Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face?