Sunday, October 12, 2014

The desire to feel important

"Half of the harm that is done is this world is due to people who want to feel important . . . . They do not mean to do harm . . . . They are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves." - T.S. Eliot
"Lack of something to feel important about is almost the greatest tragedy a man may have." - Arther E. Morgan 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Despite our faults . . .

"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself." - Victor Hugo

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Best advice?

"Follow your own advice."

It is so obvious, staring right at us, that we ignore it. Many times we know what needs to be done. And we help others. But we fail to benefit from our own wisdom.

Look inside. I think we'll find that we know more than we think. Apply our knowledge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


"The worst sorrows in life are not in its losses and misfortunes, but its fears." - Arthur Benson
"No power is strong enough to be lasting if it labors under the weight of fear." - Cicero
"If a man harbors any sort of fear, it percolates through all his thinking, damages his personality, makes him landlord to a ghost." - Lloyd Douglas
"Never take counsel of your fears." - Andrew Jackson 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live." - Henry Van Dyke
"Live and let live is not enough; live and help live is not too much." - Orion Madison
"You ought to know how to rise above the trivialities of life, in which most people are found drowning themselves." - D. T Suzuki 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On happiness

"If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are." - Montesquieu 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When to relax

"The time to relax is when you don't have time for it." - Sydney Harris

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Anxiety vs. Happiness

"A superior man is the one who is free from fear and anxieties." - Confucius 
As Adam Smith noted, the pursuit of success involves much anxiety. So then one way to be free from anxiety may be:
"Where ambition ends happiness begins." - Hungarian Proverb
I'm not saying we shouldn't have goals. We should, however, recognize that ambition has costs.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Who do we worship? Who do we despise?

"This disposition to admire, and almost worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, neglect persons of poor . . . condition . . . is . . . the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments. That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages."
From Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Do you really want that job?

"Since there was a recession at the time, I thought I probably couldn't get a really good job and should try to settle for a lesser position.  I found that even though I interviewed for positions for which I was unusually well qualified, I couldn't seem to get any job.  I finally realized that I couldn't get these jobs because I didn't really want them."
"I discovered that it was easier to get this better position because they could tell I really wanted it.  I learned that if you shoot for what you want, you stand a much better chance of getting it because you care much more."  
Both quotes are from an interview with Michael Marcus, a successful trader who was interviewed in Market Wizards by Jack D. Schwager.

Of course many times you can show how much you really want the job and still not get it.  Then there's the advice that says you shouldn't appear too needy because nobody likes desperation.

I think the larger point is that you should pursue what you really want (job, self-employment, project, art, etc.), and work to improve your chances of success if at first you don't succeed.  


Friday, April 25, 2014

"Wasting" time

Consider these two statements:
"Doing nothing is harmless, but being busy doing nothing is not." - Eric Hoffer
"Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted." - John Lennon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Just start

It's been said many times but it's worth saying again: there will never be the perfect moment to start a challenging task.  We always have things to do, obligations to meet, time to waste, and excuses to point to. So just start whatever it is you're trying to do.  Do one push up.  Write one sentence.  Walk one block. Make one phone call.  Action helps defeat fear and doubt   Or, more eloquently:
"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." - William Shakespeare in Measure for Measure.
 "Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius and power and magic in it." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yoda and C.S. Lewis on fear

"Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering." - Yoda.
"[H]atred is best combined with Fear.  Cowardice alone of all the vices, is purely painful - horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember; Hatred has its pleasures.  It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear.  The more he fears, the more he will hate." C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters (emphasis in original).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why we should read: reason number 1,527,342

"The best effect of any book is that it excites the reader to self-activity." - Thomas Carlyle
Many people think that only "serious" and "difficult" books can and should have a life-altering impact.  No.  Explore topics that you are curious about, and read the books that you want to read.  Read anything.  Read a "cheesy" self-help book if that is what you want to read.  And read another self-help book if you want more cheesy advice.  Just read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Start with what you have

"The Young Man's Best Companion, The Farrier's Sure Guide, The Veterinary Surgeon, Paradise Lost, The Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Ash's Dictionary, and Walkingame's Arithmetic, constituted his library; and though a limited series, it was one form which he had acquired more sound information by diligent perusal than many a man of opportunities has done from yards of laden shelves."
 From Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Adam Smith on where you are more likely to enjoy your meals more and sleep better

"[Why do people] imagine that their stomach is better, or their sleep sounder, in a palace than in a cottage?  The contrary has been so often observed, and indeed, is so very obvious, though it had never been observed, that there is nobody ignorant of it." - Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Looking for that "big" idea?

Instead, think in terms of practicality and usefulness:
"A marketable idea doesn't have to be a big, groundbreaking idea; it just has to provide a solution to a problem or be useful enough that other people are willing to pay for it.  Don't think innovation; think usefulness."  
That's from The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.

I think we throw away our ideas because we feel they are not "big" enough and simply don't have the wow factor that we think good ideas should have.  But it's getting started, actually doing something about even a simple idea that is difficult and the step that almost all of us don't take.  The idea you have is probably not original and many others have likely come up with the same thought, but acting on your idea will make you a rarity.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

If you are afraid of something . . .

Consider what Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
"Always do what you are afraid to do."
Also consider Seth Godin in Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? -
"When you feel the resistance, the stall, the fear, and the pull, you know you're on to something.  Whichever way the wind of resistance is coming from, that's the way to head - directly into the resistance."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's how you play the game

We will never be completely free from fear.  Consider Michael Lewis in Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life
"He was teaching us something far more important: how to cope with the two greatest enemies of a well-lived life, fear and failure.  To make the lesson stick, he made sure we encountered enough of both.  What he knew [. . .] was that we'd never conquer the weaknesses within ourselves.  We'd never drive the worst of ourselves away for good.  We'd never win.  The only glory to be had would be in the quality of the struggle."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Adam Smith on why we pursue fame despite its high costs

"It is [the public's attention and approval], which, notwithstanding the restraint it imposes, notwithstanding the loss of liberty with which it is attended, renders greatness the object of envy, and compensates, in the opinion mankind, all that toil, all that anxiety, all those mortifications which must be undergone in the pursuit of it; and what is of yet more consequence, all that leisure, all that ease, all that careless security, which are forfeited for[ever] by the acquisition [of fame and success]."
From The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Could helping others be just an excuse for not going for it?

"How much easier is self-sacrifice than self-realization!" - Eric Hoffer in Reflections on the Human Condition
It's not that helping others isn't important or worthwhile or even all important depending on the situation.  It could be that self-sacrifice is just easier than going out on your own, facing failure everyday, and pursuing your goals.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Do what you enjoy doing

"And now for your blunders.  On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends.  In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there - a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone."
 "The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack."
From The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Be bold

"Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." - Hellen Keller.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why we should read

"Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for." - Socrates.
And remember that books are not the only source of timeless wisdom.  Quotes like this one pack quite a punch.  So start immediately with a quote or two when you need some life wisdom and mental energy, then move on to books you want to read (not books that you are "supposed" to read).

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Protect your moments of inspiration and encouragement

"That which is unique and worthwhile in us makes itself felt only in flashes.  If we do not know how to catch and savor the flashes we are without growth and without exhilaration." - Eric Hoffer
"Men thin away to insignificance and oblivion quite as often by not making the most of good spirits when they have them as by lacking good spirits when they are indispensable." - From Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.
It's important that we build on our moments of inspiration.  We can act immediately on our thoughts.  We can also preserve our ideas and musings by writing them down. Your journal doesn't have to be a diary, and your entries don't need to be long and formal.  Instead, use a journal more as a scratch book where you can write anything that catches your imagination.  That could be words, phrases, sentences, or quotes.  Or even a recipe, or driving directions, or whatever.

When you review your journal, in addition to new ideas, you'll find that similar thoughts and ideas pop up. We know how we want to live, what values to live by.  But we forget constantly, and thus we need reminding constantly.  A journal is a tool that reminds you of your most important ideas and values.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One-sided love

"Don't take on about her Gabriel.  What difference does it make whose sweetheart she is, since she can't be yours?"
"That's the very thing I say to myself," said Gabriel.
From Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.

File under "things easier said than done."  Doesn't mean it's bad advice.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Skill vs. Luck

"[T]he aggregate of profits accruing from this single investment decision far exceeded the sum of all the others realized through 20 years of wide-ranging operations . . . involving much investigation, endless pondering, and countless individual decisions.  
Are there morals to this story of value to the intelligent investor?  An obvious one is that there are several different ways to make and keep money in Wall Street.  Another not so obvious, is that one lucky break, or one supremely shrewd decision - can we tell then apart? - may count for more than a lifetime of journeyman efforts.  But behind the luck or the crucial decision, there must usually exist a background of preparation and disciplined capacity.  One needs to be sufficiently established and recognized so that these opportunities will knock at his particular door."
From The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The most important battles are those within . . .

"Dig inside yourself. Inside there is a spring of goodness ready to gush at any moment, if you keep digging."
From Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The biggest mistake people make in life . . .

"The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy." - Malcolm S. Forbes

Saturday, February 8, 2014

What is the opposite of failure?

Success is one possibility.  What about safety and stability?  I think for most of us at most times, we pursue the opposite of failure by not trying at all: to avoid getting near even the possibility of failing.  We want to maintain a high batting average.  We want safety and security and to avoid embarrassment.

So, what is the opposite of failure?  It is nothing.  We don't act, and we don't learn anything.  Not failing through inaction is infinitely worse than failing.  Failure can lead to many positives.  Inaction produces . . . nothing.  

Avoid nothing.