I don’t think there ever was a lazy man in this world. Every man has some sort of gift, and he prizes that gift beyond all others. He may be a professional billiard-player, or a Paderewski, or a poet—I don’t care what it is. But whatever it is, he takes a native delight in exploiting that gift, and you will find it is difficult to beguile him away from it. Well, there are thousands of other interests occupying other men, but those interests don’t appeal to the special tastes of the billiard champion or Paderewski. They are set down, therefore, as too lazy to do that or do this—to do, in short what they have no taste or inclination to do. In that sense, then I am phenomenally lazy. But when it comes to writing a book—I am not lazy. My family find it difficult to dig me out of my chair.
—Mark Twain (1835–1910) American Humorist
There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself.
Sometimes the best way to figure out who you are is to get to that place where you don’t have to be anything else.
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
—Martha Graham (1894–1991) American Choreographer
We mean by “politics” the people’s business—the most important business there is.
—Adlai Stevenson (1900–65) American Diplomat, Politician, Orator
It is not worth an intelligent man’s time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
—G. H. Hardy (1877–1947) English Mathematician
I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I’ve met.
—Dwight L. Moody (1837–99) Christian Religious Leader, Publisher
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; but, define yourself.
—Harvey Samuel Firestone (1868–1938) American Industrialist
Don’t listen to those who say, “It’s not done that way.” Maybe it’s not, but maybe you will. Don’t listen to those who say, “You’re taking too big a chance.” Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most importantly, don’t listen when the little voice of fear inside of you rears its ugly head and says, “They’re all smarter than you out there. They’re more talented, they’re taller, blonder, prettier, luckier and have connections … ” I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts, and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live, the chances are you’ll be a person worthy of your own respect.
—Neil Simon (1927–2018) American Playwright
Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.
—Carol Moseley Braun (b.1947) American Politician
There is nothing of which every man is so afraid, as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.
—Soren Kierkegaard (1813–55) Danish Philosopher, Theologian
A desire to be in charge of our own lives, a need for control, is born in each of us. It is essential to our mental health, and our success, that we take control.
—Robert F. Kennedy (1925–68) American Politician, Civil Rights Activist
Men make counterfeit money; in many more cases, money makes counterfeit men.
—Sydney J. Harris (1917–86) American Essayist, Drama Critic
If you doubt you can accomplish something, then you can’t accomplish it. You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.
—Rosalynn Carter (b.1927) American Humanitarian, First Lady
I am still learning—how to take joy in all the people I am, how to use all my selves in the service of what I believe, how to accept when I fail and rejoice when I succeed.
—Audre Lorde (1934–92) American Poet, Activist
People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.
—H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (b.1940) American Self-Help Author
It is in vain to hope to please all alike. Let a man stand with his face in what direction he will, he must necessarily turn his back on one half of the world.
—George D. Prentice (1802–70) American Journalist, Editor
We are all born originals—why is it so many of us die copies?
—Edward Young (1683–1765) English Poet
No one to blame! That was why most people led lives they hated, with people they hated. How wonderful to have someone to blame! How wonderful to live with one’s nemesis! You may be miserable, but you feel forever in the right. You may be fragmented, but you feel absolved of all the blame for it. Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.
—Erica Jong (b.1942) American Novelist, Feminist
Learn to live with self and you will learn to live with others.
—Edgar Cayce (1877–1945) American Faith Healer
A bird does not sing because he has an answer. He sings because he has a song.
—Joan Walsh Anglund (1926–2021) American Poet, Children’s Book Author
It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.
—Desiderius Erasmus (c.1469–1536) Dutch Humanist, Scholar
Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment—the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.
—Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) Argentine Writer, Essayist, Poet
How do the geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans, know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within, if only we would listen to it, that tells us so certainly when to go forth into the unknown.
—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) American Psychiatrist
You will make a lousy anybody else, but you are the best you in existence. You are the only one who can use your ability. It is an awesome responsibility.
—Zig Ziglar (1926–2012) American Author
No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.
—Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) Italian Monk, Founder of the Franciscan Order
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.
—Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961) Swiss Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Philosopher
One does what one can, not what one cannot.
—Agatha Christie (1890–1976) British Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Playwright
Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones tend to take care of themselves.
—Dale Carnegie (1888–1955) American Self-Help Author
How are you going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued? Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.
—Anne Lamott (b.1954) American Novelist