Sayings That Guide My Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was writing in my journal today and noticed at the front where I write some timely quotes that apply to my current situation. I decided just to post them up. I have most of these quotes memorized because I’ve heard Leonard Nimoy say them a million times playing Civilization IV (and have been since 2005).

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Junior Year English teacher, Mr. Harris, hammered this quote into our heads. He made us write it verbatim in order to pass a test. And you know what? I’m glad he did. You shouldn’t do the same things over and over again simply because you always have, if you have forgotten the reason. It’s sheer madness! You can take two directions with this: either rediscover why you did it in the first place so that it has meaning again, or simply stop doing it.

This Emerson quote is one of my two life mottoes. It inspired me to travel around the world. It roused me to get out of the consumer sales profession which I hated. It made me realize that graduate school was not the way to go in life. In fact, it was even my quote at the bottom of my email for a long time! Until it was replaced by:

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius



This is a Civilization IV quote. I always said this, but never really adopted it as a mantra until I got back from traveling. Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, a career, notoriety, or politics; you have to be patient. This doesn’t mean simply waiting for it to happen. This means that once you know what you want, you have to move. Don’t be discouraged because you have not achieved the goal. Keep plugging away with a few steps toward the goal every day. Take some time to celebrate what you accomplish along the way, then keep making steps.

While the first listed quote guided my life for a long time, this Confucius quote has taken it’s place. I was very impatient with myself for a long time. I felt that I had accomplished nothing. It also didn’t help that I didn’t know what I wanted or what my passion was. I was impatient with myself, which led to frustration, which led to me simply standing still.

While traveling, I found my real passion: history. More specifically, sharing history with people via guided tours. I decided I wanted to do that, so I started The Richmond Tour Guys in March. First, I bought several books and mapped a route. I filed for an LLC, bought a web domain and name, got a logo, and started the blog. The process took 2.5 months. Each day, I did something to move me toward the goal of starting this tour. Finally, on May 31st, I ran my first tour with 5 people, including my girlfriend. The next Sunday I had no people. I kept showing up, giving tours, and building a reputation (check out Trip Advisor!) until one weekend in July, I had a group of 25 people on my tour. My original goal was 20.

I didn’t fret or whine when I had nobody show up for that second week. I didn’t get frustrated and stand still. I just kept moving those small stones and reached my goal. (Where to go after that is the real question!)

“Give a man fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” – Japanese Proverb

This is a Civ truism. I use this one all the time. Basically, I’d rather somebody show me how to do something rather than do it for me, so I can then do it for myself. I also would rather teach somebody how to do something, so I don’t keep having to do it for them!

Anybody who has an older relative with a computer knows what I’m talking about.

“There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.”- Ali ibn Abi-Talib

Ben Franklin had a similar saying “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Knowledge is something that you can always take with you. It is also important to realize that today we have a problem of too much information and too little knowledge. Don’t get ’em confused.

“The frog in the well knows not the ocean.” – Japanese proverb

I got this from my favorite Economics professor in college, Prof. Syler. This is the quote that inspired me to travel. It inspired me to get out of my comfort zone living in Reno and move to random town in rural Virginia with a population of 12,000 people. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Reno, but it’s very confining. If you are confined in the same box all of the time, your mind can never expand beyond that box.

“You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” – Ancient Japanese Proverb

There seems to be a lot of Japanese proverbs here, but I guess they had some pretty smart dudes back in the day! This basically just means that you can’t change what you can’t change; you just have to adapt. The biggest example of this in my life is when my mother and then 3 months later my father passed away. It was very unexpected. I was caught off-guard and my world was rocked. But what could I do? I just had to suck it up deal with my new circumstances. It’s pretty similar to my post on Kurtis Blow’s immortal perspective on life.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun-Tzu

This is a saying that I need to meditate on a bit. It’s similar to my high school football coach’s oft-repeated piece of advice that “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” You got to have a plan to be successful, but don’t fall victim to….

“Paralyses by analyses”

A recent addition to my quote lexicon. The best laid plans go to waste. So just do your homework, have a rough outline, and fill in the rest as you go.

“The wisest men follow their own direction.” – Euripides

Another Civ quote. This basically says that you gotta be true to yourself and follow your gut; no matter what people are telling you. You should definitely seek advice and take it into consideration, but if your third mind tells you to go for it, do it. All you can do is make the best decision you can with the information that you have. Deal with the consequences later.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” – Native American saying

If you are chasing two things, then you never truly have your full focus on any one thing. In this case, rabbits. Ancient Native Americans didn’t need scientific studies to tell them that multitasking is not very efficient and sometimes you just have to prioritize.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without losing sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Another Civ 4 adage that applies to me wanting to travel. Similar to the frog in the well mentioned above. I think it applies not just to travel though. It applies to expanding your mind in all sort of ways. For example, it would have been easy for me stick with sales. I was good at it and the money was good. It was also my first career and I had no basis for comparison. So how did I know that was what I should do with my life? It was scary moving away from what was comfortable, but I did, and am much happier for it.

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” – Benjamin Franklin

It’s a timely platitude, but I don’t get into politics on this blog.

I have some more that I use quite often. Many of them have similar meanings, but these are my most oft-used axioms.