Brutes find out where their talents lie;
A bear will not attempt to fly,
A foundered horse will oft debate
Before he tries a five barred gate.
A dog by instinct turns aside
Who sees the ditch too deep and wide,
But man we find the only creature
Who, led by folly, combats nature;
Who, when she loudly cries
—Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) Irish Satirist
To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.
—John Dewey (1859–1952) American Philosopher, Psychologist, Educator
Are you doing the kind of work you were built for, so that you can expect to be able to do very large amounts of that kind and thrive under it? Or are you doing a kind of which you can do comparatively little?
—B. C. Forbes (1880–1954) Scottish-born American Journalist, Publisher
I write lustily and humorously. It isn’t calculated; it’s the way I think. I’ve invented a writing style that expresses who I am.
—Erica Jong (b.1942) American Novelist, Feminist
Nature arms each man with some faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any other, and thus makes him necessary to society.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
You see me in my most virile moment when you see me doing what I do. When I am directing, a special energy comes upon me … It is only when I am doing my work that I feel truly alive. It is like having sex.
—Federico Fellini (1920–93) Italian Filmmaker
If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.
—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–68) American Civil Rights Leader, Clergyman
It is not a dreamlike state, but the somehow insulated state, that a great musician achieves in a great performance. He’s aware of where he is and what he’s doing, but his mind is on the playing of his instrument with an internal sense of rightness—it is not merely mechanical, it is not only spiritual; it is something of both, on a different plane and a more remote one.
—Arnold Palmer (b.1929) American Sportsperson
Each citizen should play his part in the community according to his individual gifts.
—Plato (428 BCE–347 BCE) Ancient Greek Philosopher, Mathematician, Educator
The same man cannot be skilled in everything; each has his special excellence.
—Euripides (480–406 BCE) Ancient Greek Dramatist
One should stick to the sort of thing for which one was made; I tried to be an herbalist, whereas I should keep to the butcher’s trade.
—Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95) French Poet, Short Story Writer
Everything keeps its best nature only by being put to its best use.
—Phillips Brooks (1835–93) American Episcopal Clergyman, Author
It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun. Yet, is it any more unusual to find grace in the texture and softly curved silhouette of a bun than to reflect lovingly on … the arrangement of textures and colors in a butterfly’s wing?
—Ray Kroc (1902–84) American Entrepreneur, Businessperson
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.
—Abraham Maslow (1908–70) American Psychologist, Academic, Humanist
I’d rather be a failure in something that I love than a success in something that I hate.
—George Burns (1896–1996) American Comedian
We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.
—Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) French Historian, Political Scientist
I’m a salami writer. I try to write good salami, but salami is salami.
—Stephen King (b.1947) American Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Screenwriter, Columnist, Film Director
The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: find what it is that interests you and that you can do well, and when you find it, put your whole soul into it—every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have.
—John D. Rockefeller III (1906–78) American Philanthropist
We do not write as we want, but as we can.
—W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) British Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Playwright
Men, whose trade is rat-catching, love to catch rats; the bug destroyer seizes on his bug with delight; and the suppressor is gratified by finding his vice.
—Sydney Smith (1771–1845) English Clergyman, Essayist, Wit
The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.
—Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) American-British Essayist, Bibliophile
Men are so constituted that every one undertakes what he sees another successful in, whether he has aptitude for it or not.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German Poet
Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around wondering about yourself.
—Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003) American Actor, TV Personality
If a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, he has gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know.
—Thomas Wolfe (1900–38) American Novelist
Whenever it is possible, a boy should choose some occupation which he should do even if he did not need the money.
—William Lyon Phelps (1865–1943) American Author, Critic, Scholar
Skills vary with the man. We must … strive by that which is born in us.
—Pindar (c.518–c.438 BCE) Greek Lyric Poet
When men are rightfully occupied, then their amusement grows out of their work as the color petals out of a fruitful garden.
—John Ruskin (1819–1900) English Writer, Art Critic
We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
—Shakti Gawain (b.1948) American Author, Environmentalist
I wrote because I had to. I couldn’t stop. There wasn’t anything else I could do. If no one ever bought anything, anything I ever did, I’d still be writing. It’s beyond a compulsion.
—Tennessee Williams (1911–83) American Playwright
To every man according to his several ability.
—The Holy Bible Scripture in the Christian Faith
The question “Who ought to be boss?” is like asking “Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?” Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.
—Henry Ford (1863–1947) American Businessperson, Engineer