I know quotes and I’ve had my life changed by them. That’s what is so extraordinary about quotations to me. You can take a book’s worth of wisdom, distill it down into a single quote, and it can endure through the ages impacting lives, perhaps even hundreds of years from now. Here are 7 such profound quotes.
1) “Nothing in life has any real meaning except the meaning you give it.” — Tony Robbins
Many people wave off Tony Robbins because they think of him as the cheesy, overly-excited, big-toothed guy they see doing infomercials on late night TV. This is a mistake because Robbins has a knack for simplifying complex ideas down into easy-to-use concepts that go beyond anything I’d have thought possible before he came onto the scene.
In this case, what he’s referring to is the fact that almost everything that happens to you has no intrinsic meaning. Is a funeral a time for celebration because the person who passed has gone on to a better place or a time to be deeply sad? Is the emotion in your stomach before you give a speech fear or your body getting you ready to perform? If you walk up to someone of the opposite sex and she brushes you off, is it because there’s something wrong with the situation, something wrong with you, or something wrong with her?
Once you recognize how arbitrary many of the things that happen to you are, you can stop merely reacting to events and start asking a better question, “Which of the possible interpretations of this event best serves me?”
2) “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” — Young Guns
I am a planner’s planner. I’ve written articles on planning your life, I make a living analyzing politics, and I love to plan out long term dreams and goals.
And you know what I’ve learned by doing all of those things? It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how much you know, or how completely you think you have everything figured out; life is extraordinarily unpredictable. Granted, life’s not random, but polls can be wrong, huge shifts can occur because of a seemingly minor event, and the unthinkable can become thinkable much quicker than most people believe. In other words, most guarantees aren’t really guaranteed and if you think you KNOW what’s going to happen, think really hard before you bet the house on it because you may end up being wrong.
3) “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.” — Thomas Sowell
One of the weaknesses of human beings is that we tend to pay great attention to the seen and lose sight of the unseen. In other words, we think about the problem that’s directly in front of us, but don’t consider opportunity costs — and there’s an opportunity cost to EVERYTHING. If you spend your money on one thing, you lose the opportunity to spend your money on something else or even to just save the money for a rainy day. If you decide to go to the beach tomorrow, you lost the opportunity to spend that time watching a movie. If you decide to give a homeless person a five dollar bill, you may be encouraging him to freeload or you may be giving him money that will be used on drugs. On the other hand, by not giving him five dollars, you’re losing the opportunity to feel good about being compassionate to another human being and he may use that money to get dinner or even a used blazer at a Salvation Army that he could use to get a job.
4) “Find something you love to do so much that you’d do it for free and find a way to make it into a career.” — Anonymous
I used to do Amway in college. Although I can’t recommend that people follow in my footsteps, I can tell you that was where I first heard this quote.
It’s not advice that everyone can follow, but it’s probably the single best piece of advice I ever received in my life. It’s what convinced me to try to become a professional blogger, which was something I enjoyed so much that I was happy even when I was doing it for free. If you spend about a third of your life asleep and AT LEAST a third of your life working, finding a way to make a living doing something you love to do can literally transform decades of your life from drudgery to play. If you were trying to come up with a single change in trajectory that could have the biggest impact on your life, it would be hard to top this one.
5) “The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” — Viktor E. Frankl
Frankl came to his philosophy while nearly starving to death under some of the most brutal conditions imaginable in a Nazi concentration camp. In his case, he found that the people who didn’t give up, even in that hellhole, tended to be much more likely to make it out alive than the ones who gave up.
The lesson is applicable under much less extreme circumstances as well. You can be frustrated and angry because you’re stuck in a traffic jam or you can be patient and nonplussed. You can stew all day over an insult or you can let it roll off your back. You can focus on what you lost in the past instead of what you have to look forward to in the future.
In most cases, your attitude and what you decide to focus on will determine the direction of your life.
6) “It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short time and time again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself a worthy cause; who if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” — Teddy Roosevelt
It’s very easy to forget that making good decisions after the fact, when you know how things turned out, is several orders of magnitude easier than it is when life is coming at you at 90 miles per hour. Along the same lines, if you’re not careful, it can escape your attention that most critics are critics because they can’t do. It’s easier to teach business than to be a businessman, to be a film critic than to make films, or to criticize decisions made by professional coaches than to be a coach. This quote, once you truly understand it, will forever change the way you take criticism, give criticism, and view critics.