Three Quotes That Will Change Your Life

Changing a life is a lot to ask of a simple quotation. There are plenty of quotes for every occasion from which to choose, but quotes are not mantras or magic spells. You can try reciting them when the moon is full and you’ve just picked up a fresh supply of eye of newt, but a quote’s power is immune from planetary influences.

And you won’t make any friends among the newts.

The power of a quote to change your life comes from truly understanding the quote’s message and taking that message to heart. Only when a quote is put to work can it make a difference. Here are three quotes that just might do the job.

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

Socrates lived some 2,500 years ago. He taught Plato, who in turn taught Aristotle, who in his turn taught Alexander the Great. That hardly sounds like the resume of someone who knew nothing and who ended up in the philosophers’ Hall of Fame. Perhaps he was simply being modest, but words do not survive for thousands of years to demonstrate that an ancient Greek was not very good at self-promotion.

In one sense, though, Socrates was being modest after all. His words are an inducement to keep an open mind. No person has all the answers. There is always something left to learn, even for an expert and even if that expert is Socrates himself. In fact, these words are most important for those who think they have it all figured out. If Socrates could admit his ignorance, perhaps we can all benefit from a touch of humility and a willingness to be challenged by new ideas.

Of course, things did not end well for Socrates. After the Oracle of Delphi called him the world’s wisest man, Socrates approached Athenians known for their own wisdom in an attempt to disprove the Oracle’s claim. Socrates, the man who knew nothing, let it be known that he was not impressed. He was condemned to death for his troubles. Perhaps some wisdom is better kept to oneself.

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Lao Tzu

Some quotes get to be cliches, the equivalent of receiving an Academy Award for lifetime achievement. Those quotes have been around for a while, they are not flashy and they may end up in fortune cookies, but their longevity speaks to their reliability and their resonance with the human condition.

Lao Tzu himself is a bit of a mystery. He may or may not have existed, but, if he did, he was coining phrases in China shortly before Socrates had his day in Greece. His message about the long journey has been echoed around the globe in countless sayings, and its very ubiquity may make it easy to dismiss.

Yet, it abides. It survives today in the many systems that try to make it easy for people to get things done, especially those that break large, intimidating projects into manageable chunks. It speaks to procrastination and the value of simply making a start to avoid paralysis when faced with the enormity of the entire task.

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
Albert Einstein

The journey from Socrates to Einstein is a long one and the destination comes as a bit of a surprise. The preeminent physicist of the 20th century could have left us with something more profound than kissing pretty girls.

Einstein’s remark, though, makes for a natural complement to the sayings of Socrates and Lao Tzu. If, like Socrates, we remain open minded and humble, and we take Lao Tzu’s advice to take the first small step, Einstein advises us to pay attention. The trendier term is “mindfulness,” but it amounts to the same thing. Be in the moment. Be aware of the task at hand, whether large or small, and stay fully in the present moment. When even the small tasks are performed with respect and attention, the big jobs will follow suit.

Einstein may not have been the Don Juan of his time and you might not choose him for your driving instructor, but his attitude toward the mundane is one to emulate, even if we don’t quite get his more cosmic theories.

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2 Responses to “Three Quotes That Will Change Your Life”

  1. SAJEDA says:


  2. itsjustme says:

    After I read this, I had a monolog saying all of what you wrote in this post. It helped me memorize it and also helps me tell it to others. Also, it does helps me in the way the message you sent was intended to be perceived.
    Thank you

    PS. Subscribed!

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