Quotes to Live By

You can also view these individually. Other quotes from Steven Covey's book First Things First.


I begin to wonder how many things that I know would suddenly take on new meanings if only I could perceive the connections. I forsee a restless night.

-- Robert Scott Root-Bernstein, Discovery 1989 pg 265.

Creativity and Connections

To design something really well you have to get it. You have to really grok what it's all about. It takes a passionate commitment to thoroughly understand something -- chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don't take the time to do that. Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have. Unfortunately, that's too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. They don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have."

-- Steve Jobs, Wired


Do or do not, there is no try

-- Yoda, Empire Strike Back

The Tao of Politics

There are to evaluate people. If they are in positions of high status,
observe what they promote.
If they are wealthy, observe what they give.
If they are poor, observe what they refuse to accept.
If they are of low status, observe what they refuse to do.
If they are covetous, observe what they will not take.
See them change difficulties,
and you can know their courage.
Move them with joy and happiness, and you can observe their self-control.
Entrust them with goods and money,
and you can assess their humanity.
Shake them with fear,
and you can know their discipline.

-- Ref: The Lessons of the Masters of Huainan, (207 B.C.E. - 220 C.E.) Translation: by Thomas Cleary


To laugh often and love much,
to win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest critics;
to appreciate beauty; to give of one's self;
to know even one life has breathed easier because
you have lived --- that is to have succeeded.

-- Harry Emerson Fosdick

Success -- the Original Version

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved
much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of
intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his
niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he
found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued
soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to
express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them
the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory is a

-- Bessie A. Stanley (b.1879) in _Notes and Queries_ July 1976

Why Not

You see things; and you say "Why?"
But I dream things that never
were; and I say "Why not?"

-- George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah (1921) pt. 1, act 1

Change the World

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

-- Margaret Mead


Believe in the intelligence of men, power of nature, Believe in the certainty of change, and the fundemental principles of living -- Integrity and compassion.

-- PK Shiu

Thinking Machines

Asking whether machines can think is precisely as interesting as asking whether submarines can swim.

-- Dijkstra


When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown,
we must believe that one of two things will happen.
There will be something solid for us to stand on
or we will be taught to fly.

-- Patrick Overton


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined.

-- Thoreau


The person who believe that they can, and the person who believe that they can't are both right.


Stupidity / Hanlon's Razor

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.


Skill and Science

Skill and Science will always out wit ignorance and superstition



Sometimes men come by the name of genius in the same way that certain insects come by the name of centipede -- not because they have a hundred feet, but because most people can't count above fourteen.

-- G.C. Lichtenberg, _Reflections_ 1799


Care more than others think wise,
Risk more than others think safe,
Dream more than others think practical,
Expect more than others think possible.

-- Howard Schultz, Pour your heart into it.


People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

-- Mother Theresa

Make no Little Plans

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably in themselves will not realized.
Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.

-- Daniel H. Burnham, attributed.


I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

-- Douglas Adams


Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

-- Albert Einstein

Leading with Honor

I claim to be no more than an average man with less than average ability. I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. Nor can I claim any special merit for what I have been able to achieve with laborious research. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.

-- Gandhi


On the brink of the ocean of life and truth we are miserably dying....Sometimes we are furthest away when we are closest by. We stand on the brink of an ocean of power, but each must take the steps that would bring him there.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never give in!

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force and the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

-- Winston Churchill


Really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them. Therefore, they are humble.

-- John Ruskin


communicates an
compels a



When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

-- Sherlock Holmes


To act is easy . . . to think is hard.

-- Goethe

Illusion of Knowledge

The great obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

-- Daniel J. Boorstein

True Power

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same.

-- Nelson Mandela 1994 Inaugural Speech

To Err

The road to wisdom?
Well it's plain
and simple to express:
Err and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.

-- Danish poet Piet Hein, (made famous by Knuth's entryway to his home)


Find something you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life.

-- Harvey MacKay

The Ordinary

Superficial people find the extraordinary fascinating and profound people find the ordinary riveting



It is better to be wrong than to be vague

-- Freeman Dyson


To see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.

-- William Blake


90% of code written today is getting around other peoples mistakes

-- Alan Kay


You can only accomplish extraordinary things by involving excellent people who can do things that you cannot.

-- All's Fair, James Carville (Contributor), Mary Matalin, Peter Knobler (Contributor)


Integrity has no need of rules

-- Albert Camus


Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence without communications is irrelevant.

-- Gen. Alfred. M. Gray, USMC


I don't know that we--meaning people in general--ever do. Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It's a kind of understanding that flourishes if it's combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It's the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent

-- Isaac Asimov

Depths of Winter

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

-- Albert Camus

Educated mind

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

-- Aristotle


If you're in control you're not going fast enough.

-- Parnelli Jones (unconfirmed)


People will do tomorrow what they did today because that is what they did yesterday.



Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps most fatal to true happiness.

-- Bertrand Arthur Russell


Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

-- Ayn Rand, The Moratorium on Brains


Don't be so humble - you are not that great.

-- Golda Meir (1898-1978) to a visiting diplomat

Insulting book review

The covers of this book are too far apart.

-- Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

Getting what you want

It is not about getting what you want, it is about wanting it after you got it.

-- Ginny from Love Afair


To be nothingness is to possess the world.



Red rabbits who had lived for decades in close quarters placed a high value on politeness, and impressed that on their offspring.

-- Moving Mars, Greg Bear


Work is love made visible

-- Khalil Gibran


Until there is commitment there is hesitancey, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sort of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Taste is the only morality. Tell me what you like and I'll tell you who you are. A thing is worth precisely what it can do for you, not what you choose to pay for it.

-- John Ruskin

Taste and Microsoft

The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste, and what that means is - I don't mean that in a small way I mean that in a big way. In the sense that they they don't think of original ideas and they don't bring much culture into their product, and you say why is that important - well you know proportionally spaced fonts come from type setting and beautiful books, that's where one gets the idea - if it weren't for the Mac they would never have that in their products and, so I guess I am saddened, not by Microsoft's success - I have no problem with their success, they've earned their success for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products.

-- Steve Jobs


The killer and the bore are both marked by their fatal agbsence of empathy with the other person, their chilling dullness and mediocrity, and a thirst for power and attention that conceals their despair at having nothing to offer.

-- Phil Baker


Happiness is associated with being passionate about something.

-- George Plimpton


The end is the beginning. The circle is round.

-- Dadawa -- The Riddler

Do not rock the boat

You've got five apes in a cage. You've got a banana hanging by a string in the middle of the cage. You've got some stairs going to the banana. Now pretty soon one of those apes is going to go for the banana and as soon as he hits the stairs you take a hose and you spray all five apes with freezing cold water for five minutes. Now, some time passes and pretty soon another one of the apes is going to make the same attempt with the same result. All five apes get sprayed with a cold water. Now you turn off the cold water. You never use it again. One of the apes is going to go for the banana. He hits the stairs, the other four apes pounce on him and beat the shit out of him. Right? Okay, understandable. Now you replace one of those original apes with a new ape. After a while that new ape is going to spy that banana and when he goes for the stairs, the other four apes are going to jump on him and beat the shit out of him. Right? Now, time passes, you replace another one of the original apes with a new ape. That new ape is going to go for the banana. The other four apes beat the shit out of him. Right? Including the first new ape who has no idea why he's so enthusiastically beating the shit out of this poor guy nor why he himself had the shit beat out of him. Okay? Now you keep replacing these original apes with new apes until finally you've got a cage filled with fives apes who have never had the freezing cold water sprayed on them and never the less not one of those apes will never attempt to climb those stairs again. Why not? Because that's the way it's always been done around here.

-- Jackson Evans, The Contender

The Stockdale Paradox

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

-- Jim Collins in Good to Great paraphrasing Stockdale


That's what makes death so hard -- unsatisfied curiosity.

-- Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Accomplishment and Credit

You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit

-- Harry S. Truman


Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.

-- Niels Bohr


Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.

-- Albert Einstein

human stupidity

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

-- Albert Einstein

fools and fanatics

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

-- Bertrand Russell


Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

-- Sun Tzu

Unreasonable man

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

-- George Bernard Shaw

Whole of Life

You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life.

-- Jiddu Krishnamurti


Don't confuse the desire to perform with the ability to perform.

-- Larry McVoy


Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as `empty,' `meaningless,' or `dishonest,' and scorn to use them. No matter how `pure' their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

-- Lazarus Long

Computer Architect

Architect: Someone who knows the difference between that which could be done and that which should be done.

-- Larry McVoy


He was a very great artist at the business of designing aeroplanes, and like all great designers in the aircraft industry he was a perfect swine to deal with. There is, of course, a good deal of explanation in the psychology for this universal characteristic of the greatest aeroplane designers. A beautiful aircraft is the expression of the genius of a great engineer who is also a great artist. It is impossible for that man to carry out the whole of the design himself; he works through a design office staffed by a hundred draugthsman or more. A hundred minds, each with their own less competent ideas, are striving to modify the chief designer's original conception. If the design is to appear in the end as a great artistic unity, the chief designer must be a man of immensely powerful will, capable of imposing his idea and way of doing things on each of his hundred draughtsman, so that each one is too terrified to insert any of his own ideas. If the chief designer has not got this personality and strength of will, his original conception will be distorted in the design office and will appear as just another, not-so-good aeroplane. He will not then be ranked as a good chief designer. All really first class designers, for this reason, are both artists, engineers, and men of a powerful and intolerant temper, quick to resist the least modification of the plans, energetic in fighting the least infringement upon what they regard as their own sphere of action. If they were not so, they could not produce good aeroplanes.

-- Nevil Shute


The only thing worse than not being able to see, is being able to see but having no vision

-- Helen Keller

Life and Movies

Life isn't like it is in the movies, life is harder.

-- Alfredo To Salvatore in Cinema Paradiso


Aim for brevity while avoiding jargon.

-- Dijkstra


Always make new mistakes.

-- Esther Dyson

Theory and Practice

The difference between theory and practice tends to be very small in theory, but in practice it is very large indeed.

-- Anonymous

Starting New

Why are we afraid of the first time? Everyday in life is a first time. Every morning is new. We never live the same day twice. We never afraid of getting up every morning. Why (be afraid)?

-- Mr. Ota -- Yi Yi the movie


The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

-- Michelangeo


Design is about the ordinary thing done extra ordinarily well.

-- Stephen Bayley


Fashion is buying things you don't need with money you don't have to impress people you don't like.

-- Anon

Predicting the Future

Predicting the future is mostly a matter of managing not to blink as you witness the present.

-- William Gibson

The Law

The law is reason free from passion.

-- Aristotle


Speech is conveniently located midway between thought and action, where it often substitutes for both.

-- John Andrew Holmes


Design is thinking made visual.

-- Saul Bass


I was born not knowing, and have only a little time to change that here and there

-- Richard Feynman


Always be a little kinder than necessary.

-- James M. Barrie

Great Truth

There are two kinds of truths: small truth and great truth. You can recognize a small truth because its opposite is a falsehood. The opposite of a great truth is another great truth.

-- Niels Bohr

Einstein's Three Rules of Work

Out of clutter, find Simplicity.
From discord, find Harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

-- Albert Einstein


One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.

-- Nietzsche


I am only as smart as I need to be.

-- Cathy


Toys are healthy. Keep it up.

-- Chris Tsang


A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. -

-- William James


For as long as space remains And as long as sentient beings remain Until then may I too remain To dispel the suffering of all beings.

-- Shantideva

Information vs Knowledge

But it is vital to remember that information is not knowledge; that knowledge is not wisdom; and that wisdom is not foresight.

-- Arthur Clarke


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-- Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love


Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.

-- Ben Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1746

Home Design

There should be nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful

-- William Moris

Don't be Evil

Don't be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served -- as shareholders and in all other ways -- by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains. This is an important aspect of our culture and is broadly shared within hte company.

-- Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Google IPO

The Organic Commandment

Love is the virtue of the heart, Sincerity the virtue of the mind, decision the virtue of the will, courage the virtue of the spirit.

-- Frank Lloyd Wright

Be Silly

Be silly, Be honest, Be kind.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


The commercials soothed America's pain, its head pain, its gas pain, its heartache, its loneliness, the pain of babyhood and old age, of eing a parent and of being a child, the pain of manhood and women's pain, the pain of success and that of failure, the good pain of the athlete and the bad pain of the guilty, the anguish of loneliness and of ignorance, the needle-sharp torment of the cities and the dull, mad ache of the empty plains, the pain of wanting without knowing what was wanted, the agony of the howling void within each watching, semiconscious self. No wonder advertising was popular. It made things better. It showed you the road. It wasn't part of the problem. It solved things.

-- Salman Rushdie

Change One's Life

To change one's life: 1. Starte immediately, 2. Do it flamboyantly, 3. No exceptions.

-- William James


If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habbit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.

-- Colin Powell


We have been lousy stewards with our fancy sophisticated language and all the technology we have. We have really, really betrayed the planet. Worst of all, we have betrayed the future of our children and grandchildren, and that is why I am so passionate about my Roots and Shoots movement, which aims to help young people change their world by learning about conservation.

-- Jane Goodall


Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.

-- Kakuzo Okakura, he book of Tea