Thousands of high achievers were interviewed from history. Here they share their personal insights with those who care to improve their lives and achieve their highest dreams:
1. They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts.
--Philip Sidney, 1590
2. Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.
--Frank A. Clark
3. The way of a superior man is threefold: virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear.
4. Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.
--Thomas Alva Edison
5. Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind.
--F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
--Harriet Beecher Stowe
7. Wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and the pain of problems.
--M. Scott Peck, MD
8. Failure is not the enemy of success. It is a teacher--a harsh teacher, but the best . . . if you are going to be a high achiever, you must learn to ‘fail’ your way to high achievement.
--John R. Noe
9. A man is not hurt so much by what happens, as by his opinion of what happens.
10. The only life worth living is the adventurous life. Of such a life the dominant characteristic is that it is unafraid. It is unafraid of what other people think . . . it does not adapt either its pace or its objectives to the pace and objectives of its neighbors. It thinks its own thoughts, it reads its own books, it develops its own hobbies, and it is governed by its own conscience. The herd may graze where it pleases or stampede where it pleases, but he who lives the adventurous life will remain unafraid when he finds himself alone.
--Raymond B. Fosdick
11. Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.
12. A great deal of talent is lost in the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men and women whom timidity prevented from making a first effort; who, if they could have been induced to begin, would in all probability have gone great length in the career of fame. The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can. It will not do to be perpetually calculating risks and adjusting nice changes; It did very well before the flood, when a man could consult his friend upon an intended publication for a hundred and fifty years, and still live to enjoy success afterwards; but at present, a man waits, and doubts and consults his brother and his particular friends, till one day he finds he is sixty years old and that he has lost so much time in consulting cousins and friends that he has no time remaining to follow their advice.
13. Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.
14. Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.
15. Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.
--John Adams (2nd U.S. President)
16. Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.
--Booker T. Washington
17. Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes, and seeing them gratified. He that labors in any great or laudable undertaking has his fatigues first supported by hope, and afterwards rewarded by joy.
18. He who every morning plans the transactions of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy day. The orderly arrangement of his time is like a ray of light which darts itself through all his occupations. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merrily to the chance of incidents, all things lie huddled together in one chaos, which admits of neither distribution nor a review.
19. The greatest man is he who chooses right with the most invincible resolution.
20. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself--and thus make yourself indispensable.
21. We first make our habits and then our habits make us.
22. When we have practiced good actions a while, they become easy. When they are easy we take pleasure in them. When they please us we do them frequently and then by frequency of act they grow into habit.
23. Whatever we learn to do we learn by actually doing it. Men come to be builders, for instance, by building and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just, by doing self-controlled acts we come to be self-controlled, and by doing brave acts we become brave.
24. The three great essentials of happiness are: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.
25. Imagination is more important than knowledge.
26. One of the cool things about imagination and harnessing it to use your creativity with, is that you can become anyone, you can do anything.
27. Oh God, open our eyes and let us see how simple a man’s life can be. Where we cannot convince, let us be willing to persuade. For small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.
--Peter Marshall (Last Final Prayer)
28. Life is made up not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles and kindnesses and small obligations given habitually are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.
29. I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.
30. The whole of science in nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking . . . he who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
31. Learning is acquired by reading books, but the much more necessary learning--the knowledge of the world--is only to be acquired by reading men and studying all the various editions of them.
32. You learn to play the flute by playing the flute.
33. Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him and in that I am his pupil.
34. I would walk twenty miles to listen to my worst enemy if I could learn something.
35. A wise man will hear, and will increase in learning.
--Proverbs 1:5 (350 BC)
36. To be sure, it is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive.
37. The feeling of “ah, that’s it,” which accompanies the clothing of a situation with meaning, is emotionally very satisfying, and is the major charm of scientific research, of artistic creation, and of the solution of crossword puzzles. It is why the intellectual life is fun.
38. Learning is a name superior to beauty; learning is better than hidden treasure. Learning is a companion on a journey to a strange country; learning is strength inexhaustible. A man in this world without learning is as a beast in the field.
--The Hitopadesa, intro, (500 AD)
39. A man of learning is never bored.
--Jean Paul Richter (Hesperus, viii, 1795)
40. The greatest possession you have is the 24 hours directly in front of you.
41. But a man postpones or remembers, he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past or heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he lives with nature in the present above time.
42. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
43. I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.
--Harry Emerson Fosdick
44. Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely ‘till the sun goes down and this is all that life really means.
--Robert Louis Stevenson
45. But the essence of being human is that in the brief moment we exist on this spinning planet, we can love some persons and some things in spite of the fact that time and death will ultimately claim us all.
46. Every day is a new life to a wise man.
47. Whoever considers the study of anatomy, I believe, will never be an atheist. The frame of man’s body and coherence of his parts being so strange and paradoxical that I hold it to be the greatest miracle of nature.
48. When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I feel and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and astonished at being here rather than there, for there is no reason why rather than there why not rather than then? Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me?
--Blaise Paschal, 17th century
49. I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
50. It is good to rub and polish your mind against the mind of others.
--Michel de Montaigne, 1580
51. Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.
--Leonardo da Vinci
52. A mind always employed is always happy.
53. An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.
54. Beware of small expenses--a small leak will sink a ship.
55. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.
56. People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.
--George Bernard Shaw
57. In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared minds.
58. A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
59. Those who do good as opportunity offers are sowing seeds all the time and they need not doubt the harvest.
60. Don’t fight with the pillow, but lay down your head, and kick every worriment out of bed.
--Edmund Vance Cook
61. It takes twenty years to make an overnight success.
62. The conditions of conquest are always easy. We have but to toil a while, endure a while, believe always and never turn back.
63. I hold a doctrine to which I owe not much, indeed, but all the little I ever had, namely that with ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance all things are attainable.
64. You see, fellow soldiers, that perseverance is more prevailing than violence, and that many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little. Assiduity and persistence are irresistible, and in time overthrow and destroy the greatest powers whatever, time being the favorable friend and assistant of those who use their judgment to await his occasions, and the destructive enemy of those who are unreasonably urging and pressing forward.
65. Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s little acorn that held its ground.
66. I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.
67. We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.
68. Most of us can learn to live in perfect comfort on higher levels of power. Everyone knows that on any given day there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not call forth. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. It is evident that our organism has stored-up reserves of energy that are ordinarily not called upon--deeper and deeper strata of explosible material, ready for use by anyone who probes so deep. The human individual usually lives far within his limits.
69. I have been driven to my knees many times because there was no place else to go.
70. A problem well stated is a problem half solved.
71. The world stands aside to let anyone pass who knows where he is going.
--David Starr Jordan
72. Abraham Lincoln’s principle for greatness can be adopted by nearly all. This was his rule: Whatsoever he had to do at all, he put his whole mind into it and held it all there until that was done. That makes men great almost anywhere.
--Russell H. Conwell, “Acres of Diamonds”
73. The human heart refuses to believe in a universe without a purpose.
74. No road is too long for the man who advances deliberately and without undue haste and no honors are too distant for the man who prepares himself for them with patience.
75. Rest is the sweet sauce of labor.
76. I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.
77. The unexamined life is not worth living.
78. The average man who wins what we call success in not a genius. He is a man who has merely the ordinary qualities that he shares with his fellows, but who has developed those ordinary qualities to a more than ordinary degree.
79. That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.
--Robert Louis Stevenson
80. If you would succeed you must form the habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do.
81. I will govern my life and thoughts as if the whole world were to see the one and to read the other.
82. We think so because all other people think so; or because--or because--after all, we do think so; or just because we were told so, and think we must think so; or because we once thought so, and think we still think so; or because, having thought so, we think we still think so; or because, having thought so, we think we will think so.
--Ascribed to Hery Sidgwick (1838-1901)
83. The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were drop into the mind, are the most valuable of any we have, and therefore should be secured, because they seldom return again.
--John Locke, May 16, 1699
84. A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of associations.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., 1858
85. Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
--Blaise Pascal, 1670
86. A man can stand a lot as long as he can stand himself. He can live without hope, without friends, without books, even without music, as long as he can listen to his own thoughts.
87. Improve your opportunities. Every hour lost in youth is a chance of future misfortune.
88. The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.
89. Let us use them (words) as we would use gold, handle them as though they were diamonds, choice things. Too many people’s words are just as common as dirt. Others consider them a little more valuable, but the wise man is careful of words.
90. 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 only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
91. When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
92. We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.
93. The glory of the star, the glory of the sun--we must not lose either in the other. We must not be so full of the hope of heaven that we cannot do our work on the earth; we must not be so lost in the work of the earth that we shall not be inspired by the hope of heaven.
94. Thou shalt ever joy at eventide if thou spend the day fruitfully.
--Thomas a Kempis, 1426
95. Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.
96. O Lord, Thou givest us everything at the price of an effort.
--Leonardo da Vinci
97. The best way to forget your own problems is to help someone solve his.
98. Worry effects the circulation--the heart the glands, the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.
--Dr. Charles Mayo
99. Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.
100. The best bridge between hope and despair is often a good night’s sleep.