Inspiring WordsThe following quotations have been gathering in my journal for several years. At various times they have brought revelation or inspiration to me, and I include them here in hopes that you’ll appreciate one or more of them.

I thought about categorizing them – you know, travel, business, personal development, etc. – but since I read widely and don’t usually distinguish between my different roles in life, I included them here in no particular order.


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is this: what are you doing for others?”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“When inspiration doesn’t come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”
Sigmund Freud

“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.”
Eudora Welty

“The gap between ignorance and knowledge is much less than the gap between knowledge and action.”

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
Helen Keller

“One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”
Victor Hugo

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
Cheshire Cat, Alice
in Wonderland

“People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”
Joseph Cambell

“If we are meticulously careful with the use of the days, the years will take care of themselves.”
J. Oswald Sanders

“I learned… that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”
Brenda Ueland

“I used to tell the story about as a young man in high school one of the professors came in and put a broad white sheet on the board with a dot in the right hand corner and said, “Boys, what do you see?” And we all shouted, a black dot. He stood back and said, “not a single one of you saw the broad white sheet, you all saw the black dot.” He went on to tell us to focus on the broader picture, don’t focus on the negative.”
Koffi Annan

“It’s a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.
Roberto Benigni

“Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.”
-Leonardo Da Vinci

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”
-Adlai Stevenson

“People would rather be wrong than be different.”
-Henry Jacobsen

“There’s a lot of mediocrity being celebrated, and a lot of wonderful stuff being ignored or discouraged.”
Sean Penn

“The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.
John Stuart Mill

“Progress is a nice word, but change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.”
-Robert F. Kennedy

“The amount of financial and imaginative energy that’s put into mediocrity is just amazing, which I find to be fundamentally offensive as a human being.
William Hurt

“So the simple answer is: throw yourself 90% into what you do for money. Reserve that small part for self-protection. Be willing to stand back, to be objective and dispassionate. And channel the feelings you have, the reaction to disappointment and limitations, and put it into the work that really matters: your Art. Now be uncompromising. Insist on the highest quality from yourself. Be clear, be strong, be energetic and bold. Experiment, reach, push. Stay up later than you would on a client project. See yourself in this work, the real you. Keep working, keep fighting, be heedless of others. And keep telling yourself that you work to earn a living and that you must never forget to do the living that you have earned.”
Danny Gregory

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.”
Teddy Roosevelt

“A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world.”
-From a church in Sussex, England, ca.1730 (quoted in Getting Things Done)

“Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.”
Scottish proverb