I’m a collector of quotes. I love it when I can find a phrase, a sentence, a particular grouping of words that can change my perspective, open my fucking eyes, and spread a little light for me.
I read, constantly. It’s the most important thing you can ever do with your time, because it’s an opportunity to tap into the collected knowledge of the entirety of human history — while sitting on the couch.
These are 10 quotes that I’ve picked up along the way. They have a lot of meaning to me, personally. And I think you can learn something from them. Something fucking good, lasting and true.
1. You have to participate.
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
― Marshall Mcluhan
There’s no free rides. When you’re living on this planet, you can’t just sit down and coast, expecting the rest of humanity to keep its eye on the ball for you. A life spent as a passenger, rather than someone contributing to making the world function, is a life wasted.
I know too many people who don’t want to participate. They think that life is an audience sport, something to be observed and watched from a distance. They’re not the only ones who miss out by not getting involved — some of them are incredibly talented, and I know we’re a little poorer for their lack of interest.
2. Cry. But for the right reasons.
“There are three things we cry for in life: things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.”
― Douglas Coupland
This is what it means to be human. To feel overcome with emotion when we have to say goodbye, and when we experience discovery, and when we look out at the world and are suddenly struck by how incredible it is. When we cry for these things, we are truly fucking alive.
And you can’t be too proud to cry. You can’t believe that crying is a sign of weakness, that boys don’t cry, any of that machismo 19th century bullshit. Crying is good. Crying is healthy. Cry for the right reasons.
3. Don’t try to leave yourself behind.
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
― Joan Didion
You can’t remake yourself, whenever you wish. You can’t completely discard older versions of yourself like incremental software upgrades. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t learn from that. You need to be able to continually progress, while maintaining a part of who you were.
I think there’s a beauty in remembering the clothes we used to wear. The books we used to read. The people we used to care for, and hurt. When you stop remembering, you stop moving.
4. Take care of each other.
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
― Ram Dass
We have to look after each other. We have to make sure we all get to wherever we are going together. It’s so incredibly easy to forget to be human, and we do it all the time. We hurt other people. We betray other people. We ignore other people. But that’s no way to live.
You have to reach out and touch the rest of the world. The other people. The other isolated souls. And you can do this online, you don’t even have to leave the fucking house. Find someone. Walk them home.
5. Dreams are good. But Living is just as important.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
― J.K. Rowling
You have to have dreams, they’re what keeps you going when things go completely to shit. They’re what motivates and drives and excites you enough to keep your feet firm and your pace steady.
But there’s a danger, always, in spending too much time dreaming yet forgetting to live in the now. To appreciate the pain and the joy and everything around you.
6. Stop being ashamed of your work.
“Everything that I’ve ever done I can still relate to, and feel connected to it in a way. There’s no part of my life that I look at and go, ‘I don’t recognize that person at all.’”
― Ian Mckaye
Everyone starts out the same way. Shit at what they do. You learn, and you improve, and you make tiny little changes every day to become better. That’s how every artist, writer, founder, scientist, developer and designer built their careers.
So when you look back at the work you did, you can’t feel ashamed of it. Celebrate your connection to it, because it proves your progress, and it shows how fucking hard you worked to get here, now!
7. Let yourself believe.
“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
Fiction, stories, wonder, awe, the magic of ideas — these still have a place in the world. It’s not all about work, money, economics and STEM. We occasionally need to have our heads in the clouds, at least for a few brief moments every day.
After all, not every idea can come from autobiographies and reports. A lot of great ideas come from pure imagination, and that’s fucking awesome. Don’t discount it. Let yourself believe.
8. Don’t overthink it.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss
A lot of the time, you don’t need to stress, worry, analyse and overthink. You need to take it one step at a time and let go of the bigger picture. It’s a lot more complex to attempt to solve everything all at once, when what you really need to be doing is coming up with the simplest answer for the simplest part of the problem.
Sometimes the questions are incredibly complicated. But only because we let them be, only because we don’t learn how to examine those questions at their smallest level.
9. Let the days come and go.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Some days are shit. Some days are awful. Some days you want to make like James Thurber and hide in a fucking box. But they don’t last forever, and they finish when you shut your eyes and sleep. Your problems won’t go away overnight, but your stress and your pain and your self-hatred — well, they could.
You can’t hold onto the bad. You have to let it go, as quickly as we all let go of the good things when we tire of them, or when the excitement of the moment slips away.
10. Think about the consequences.
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
― Isaac Asimov
Because we can do things, doesn’t always mean that we should. For me, this quote is up there with Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park — scientists are too concerned with whether they can, they don’t stop to ask if they should.
But the same applies in every other walk of life. You need to think about the consequences of your actions, and how you can hurt both yourself and others. You need to examine the reasons you’ve chosen to drop a stone in the water. And try to understand what the ripples will be.
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