25 Ideas to Live By

Some people collect stamps, baseball cards, dolls, or CD’s. Others collect Pez dispensers, airplane barf bags , or potato chips shaped like people, animals, and other non-tuberous objects.

I started collecting quotes back in graduate school, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life.

I always found inspiration in such nuggets of wisdom, clarity, and truth, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites in the hope that there is something on this list that lights a spark within you as well.

On goals

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can reach. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries and predecessors; try to be better than yourself.”
~William Faulkner

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
~Bruce Lee

“Goals are a means to an end, not the ultimate purpose of our lives. They are simply a tool to concentrate our focus and move us in a direction. The only reason we really pursue goals is to cause ourselves to expand and grow. Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it’s who you become, as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals, that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment.”
~Anthony Robbins

And the importance of taking action

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
~Leonardo da Vinci

“Once the “what” is decided, the “how” always follows. We must not make the “how” an excuse for not facing and accepting the “what.”
~Pearl S. Buck

“You can’t make footprints in the sands of time by sitting on your butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?”
~Bob Moawad

Even when it’s scary…

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.”
~Robert Cody

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.”
~Paulo Coelho

And we’re not sure if we have what it takes

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
~William Shakespeare

“How often in life we complete a task that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we started it.”
~Robert Brault

“I have memories – but only a fool stores his past in the future.”
~David Gerrold

Because despite what others have said or implied…

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.”
~Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

“Most of us are not raised to actively encounter our destiny. We may not know that we have one. As children, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others, that we will (or should) find our satisfactions as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are schooled to ask others. We are, in effect, trained to listen to others’ versions of ourselves. We are brought up in our life as told to us by someone else! When we survey our lives, seeking to fulfill our creativity, we often see we had a dream that went glimmering because we believed, and those around us believed, that the dream was beyond our reach. Many of us would have been, or at least might have been, done, tried something, if we had known who we really were.”
~Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way)

We’re here to change the status quo…

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies… Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die… It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”
~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
~George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
~Bruce Lee

And remind others that they are here to do the same

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~Maya Angelou

Even if it’s not easy

“I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy’s sleeping? I’m working. While the other guy’s eatin’? I’m working. While the other guy’s making love, I mean, I’m making love, too. But I’m working really hard at it.”
~Will Smith

“Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
~Japanese proverb

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”
~Randy Pausch

Just remember…

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
 Watch your words, for they become actions. 
Watch your actions, for they become habits. 
Watch your habits, for they become character.
 Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Because at the end of the day…

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
~Edmund Hillary (first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest)

And above all else…

“Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”
~John Wooden (legendary UCLA basketball coach)

So now what?

Wisdom is great, but as someone once said (Lao Tzu, perhaps?) – to know and not act is not to know. So take a quote that resonates with you and translate it into a specific action or action plan that you can implement today.

Any favorite deep thoughts you’d be willing to share below in the comments?

photo credit: katiew via photo pin cc

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15 Responses

  1. Hi Dr. Noa,

    Thanks for sharing your favourite quotes, I’ll definitely add them to my wall. I love collecting quotes and inspirational messages myself, sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me through the daily grind.

    One of my most treasured quotes is a rather lengthy passage from David Shenk’s book The Genius in All of Us regarding deliberate practice.

    “[Deliberate practice] requires a self-critique, a pathological restlessness, a passion to aim consistently just beyond one’s capability so that daily disappoint and failure is actually desired, and a never-ending resolve to dust oneself off and try again and again and again. It also requires enormous, life-altering amounts of time – a daily grinding commitment to becoming better.

    In the long term, the results can be highly satisfying. But in the short-term, from day to day and month to month, there’s nothing particularly fun about the process or the substantial sacrifices involved …

    … We do not – and cannot – know our own limits unless and until we push ourselves to them. Finding one’s true natural limit in any field takes many years and many thousand hours of intense pursuit…

    What are your limits?”

    Speaking of favourite books, I was actually excited to see that I’ve read 8 books on your favourite books list. (Thanks for the recommendation on Mastery, it was definitely one of the best books I have ever read.) I will hunt down the rest of them on your list ~

    Thanks again for all the work you put into this fantastic blog. As a lowly and often self-doubting undergrad pianist, this blog has really answered a lot of questions for me and has made a difference in my music and in my life!


  2. Noa, I found this post particularly beautiful. I too have collected quotes for a long time (since middle school) and will be adding these to that collection. Thank you for starting my day with some wonderful inspiration!

  3. I’ve been interested in quotes for quite some time now – thank you for adding these to my collection – but my favourite for years has been:

    “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it” – Stephen Leacock

    If I am feeling stuck, it always reminds me that there is more I can do, and to keep working.

  4. Terrific quotes. To add one: from the Bible, Matthew 7:7

    Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
    A page with a variety of translations: http://bible.cc/matthew/7-7.htm

    Sometimes the results can be immensely surprising, but you’ll recognize them when they happen. Stay open, but discerning.

  5. I love awesome quotes like these! Thanks for putting some of the better ones into a post.

    I especially love Bruce Lee quotes. If anyone hasn’t read it, there’s a book called “Striking Thoughts” that you guys should check out. It’s a collection of aphorisms from Bruce that he developed from daily living.

    It’s a great resource for inspiration on all different areas of life. Instant classic.

    Check it out!

  6. Oh so many… but my favorite quote right now comes from Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements.”

    1. Always be impeccable with your word.
    2. Never take anything personally.
    3. Don’t make assumptions.
    4. Always do your best, which will vary from day to day.

  7. “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein

  8. Heck, it’s not easy to figure out what I want to do with my life, there are so many things to decide. I want to become like so-or-so, yes or no ? The answers are so determinant that I won’t go to bed early as long as I won’t know what to do with my life, and which direction, and what. I have to know to ask people to collaborate with me.

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