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27 quotes I found when I was 27 years old

27 quotes I found when I was 27 years old

When I was little I used to love collecting things. I’d collect random pieces of fabrics that looked appealing to me. Or buttons. Or rocks. Or bugs. Or pokemon cards.

I still love collecting things. One of my favourite things to collect nowadays are quotes.

If you ever find one that you like, and feel like sharing it with me, please do!

Here are 27 quotes that I picked up and enjoyed looking at when I was 27 years old.

1. A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.
— Winston Churchill

2. When we are contributing we can show up with the same enthusiasm we use when we’re asking for something.
— Seth Godin

3. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.
— Richard Feynman

4. Discipline weighs ounces, but regret weighs tons
— Jim Rohn

5. “You’re two people, the scheming little bastard I saw so easily and the fine, intelligent boy underneath that your grandfather, bless him, saw. But you’re coming of age soon and you’ll have to choose. A boy can be two, three, four potential people, but a man is only one. He murders the others.” That’s what Duddy Kravitz, the ambitious young hustler, heard as advice in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. It bears asking if you’re similarly young and ambitious, which potential person will you be? Which part of you will you allow to rule? The part that betrays your friends, family, principles to achieve success? Or are there other priorities?
— Ryan Holiday

6. When you understand that the glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.
— Tara Brach

7. Oh Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too much, who spreads himself too thinly with his words. Diluting all the things he has to say like butter spread too thinly on a piece of toast, or watered milk in some worn out hotel. But let me write the things I have to say, and then be silent ‘til I need to speak. Oh Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too little. A decade man, between each tale, or more, where every word becomes significant and dread replaces joy upon the page. Perfection is like chasing the horizon, you kept perfection, gave the rest to us. So let me know when I should just move on. But over and above those two mad specters of parsimony and profligacy, Lord, let me be brave. And let me, while I craft my tales, be wise. Let me say true things, in a voice that’s true. And with the truth in mind, let me write lies.’
— Neil Gaiman

8. Laughter is to shame, what grief is to sadness.
— Russel Brand (relaying someone else he heard it from. I couldn’t find the source.)

9. To a disciple who was forever complaining about others, the Master said, ‘If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth.’”
— Anthony de Mello

10. Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
— Cyril Connolly

11. What makes life worth living? No child asks itself that question. To children, life is self-evident. Life goes without saying: whether it is good or bad makes no difference. This is because children don’t see the world, don’t observe the world, don’t contemplate the world, but are so deeply immersed in the world that they don’t distinguish between it and their own selves. Not until … a distance appears between what they are and what the world is, does the question arise: what makes life worth living?
— Karl Ove Knausgård

12. Addiction is rife because we are continually taught that we can fulfill ourselves, improve ourselves, advance ourselves with the acquisition of an external material object, or through the validation or approval of other people. Wherever you are on the scale, if you’re using an external object as a tool to ameliorate inner malady, you’re engaged in addiction. Any behavior that you’re engaged in that you want to change and when you try to change it or try to stop it, you can’t, I think can rightly be referred to as an addiction.
— Russell Brand

13. Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days will bear the fruits of victory.
— Douglas MacArthur

14. Let me repeat once more that great quote by Don Juan in Carlos Castaneda’s A Separate Peace: “The difference between a warrior and an ordinary man is that a warrior sees everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man sees everything as either a blessing or a curse.”
— Michael E. Gerber

15. I think everybody should get rich and famous, and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.
— Jim Carrey

16. Trying and struggling looks like incompetence right up until the moment it looks like success.
— Shane Parrish

17. That which you most need will be found where you least want to look.
— Carl Jung

18. There have been so many times I have seen a man wanting to weep but instead beat his heart until it was unconscious.
— Nayyirah Waheed

19. Not taking risks one doesn’t understand is often the best form of risk management.
― Raghuram G. Rajan

20. How you make your money, is more important than how much money you make.
— Gary Vaynerchuk

21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
— Will Rogers

22. Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?
As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.
Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?
To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.
— Anthony De Mello

23. Do you make regular visits to yourself?
— Rumi

24. To do harm is to do yourself harm. To do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice — it degrades you.
— Marcus Aurelius

25. You can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.
— Clay Shirky

26. Forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days.
— Austin Kleon

27. Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows.
― Nisargadatta Maharaj

Keep Going

Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. — Maya Angelou

Some days it takes courage just to keep going.

Some days feel like weeks.

Some weeks feel like years.

Keep going.

Someone out there needs you to.

Maybe today that someone is you.

Criticize Beliefs, Not People

We are in the middle of shifting societal norms. It’s not entirely clear how we ought to behave in public. It’s not entirely clear what the responsible thing to do is. The grocery store, the great outdoors, apartment hallways — all of these places have become a battleground of clashing judgements.

People who think we should be more aggressively social distancing and staying indoors are judging people who are going outside regularly in urban areas. They might also be judging people who don’t wear a mask when they do go outside. They’re also definitely judging people who get within their 6-ft radius and act as if this basic element of social distancing doesn’t matter.

On the flip side, there are people who are judging others for being too paranoid, or overly precautious, or elitist. These people might also be judging the people who are judging them for being too judgemental.

Either way, there is a lot of judgement going around.

The dirty looks go both ways when one person is wearing a mask and the other person isn’t.

As I wrote in a previous piece, we have more room to express what we feel to the people who are closest to us, than we do with strangers. With strangers, unless they’re getting into our personal space, it’s a lot more uncomfortable to address behaviour that we think is wrong. Even if we did express our thoughts to strangers, it’s likely they would dismiss us.

But with friends, there’s some potential that expressing our judgement could have a positive effect.

If we are going to be critical of a friend, though, we should be careful to only criticize specific actions and beliefs. If we’re not careful we can slip into criticizing the person’s identity. Criticizing someone’s identity is a painful experience for all involved. We’re also less likely to create room for dialogue and change if we accidentally criticize who someone is as a person. So, we should focus on behaviours and beliefs, not on identities.

We have to avoid making someone feel like they’re a bad person for not have the same moral intuitions as we have. They’re not. We’ve just reached different conclusions on certain aspects of what to do, so far.

PS. We might be wrong, too. If we are, we can only hope that our friends will focus on our behaviour, and leave be our identity.

Be strong, be kind

“Be strong, be kind.”

It’s a simple phrase. It can sound like an aphorism. But as we try to deal with the chaos around us, this type of mental loop can help direct our actions.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, ends her daily press briefings during COVID-19 with these words: “Be strong, be kind.”

We’re seeing a version of this message become a mantra in many parts of the world.

There’s not a lot we can say right now with certainty.

But we can say this with certainty.

Swim towards the humanity

The days are starting to blend together.

The routines that we are hoping to make sacred — make rituals — sometimes feel dull and repetitive.

Sometimes even the idea of talking to a friend feels unappealing because COVID is so likely to dominate the conversation whether explicitly or implicitly.

It feels like some necessary amount of randomness is missing. Some bits and pieces of what make up our normal experience of humanness.

Things aren’t normal right now, but we can seek out humanity. We can swim towards it.

Bring back the randomness by looking at the details. Take in the full experience of what we are doing and seeing, big and small.

When we pour our tea, we can notice the way that the steam drifts up off the surface of the water as it slowly changes colour.

We can ask our friends to tell us a story about their past.

We can reread a book we love, with the new eyes of our current age and what life has shown us since we last read it.

Lean in to really taking in the tiny details of everyday existence. Notice all the beautiful bits of randomness that are there, waiting to be noticed. They are there in books, in movies, on the internet, in conversations, and in every waking moment.

Perhaps in these tiny details we can find some solace. Perhaps in these tiny details we can see a mirror of our humanness.

It could be a relief.

Find delight in the magic of our very existence

Find delight in the magic of our very existence

We are in a paradigm shifting moment. There’s a sense that we need to recalibrate. But it’s not entirely clear what we need to recalibrate towards. It sort of feels like we need more time to figure that out.

In some ways, yes, we do need more time. But there are also ways that we can start to recalibrate immediately.

We can recalibrate towards what is truly beautiful, towards human connection, and towards meaning.

We can move towards taking delight in the magic of our very existence.

It’s a gift to be alive. As Gary Vaynerchuk loves to remind us, the chances of any one of us existing, to begin with, are 400 trillion to 1. The fact that each and every one of us exists is nothing short of a statistical miracle. Even amidst the sorrow and pain in the world, this miracle of life continues.

As long as we continue to breathe.

Follow the Precautionary Principle during the Fog of War

“War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”
On War, Carl von Clausewitz, 1832

We are not at war with each other. But as a global community, we are waging a war against COVID19.

The fog of war seems to be in effect. The world has changed in just a few weeks. There is so much uncertainty. We don’t know what’s what on several different grounds. The institutions that are meant to help us make sense of reality — science and media — are doing their best, but they are struggling. They can’t always give us clear (or even non-contradictory) answers, to questions that are crucial.

The fog of war is what leads to things like friendly fire. It makes people lose the war.

While we are in the fog of war, we can try to minimize the risk of making dangerous mistakes by following the precautionary principle.

As I said in my previous post, Play it Safe: Follow the Precautionary Principle:

The precautionary principle is: when you don’t know the fragility of a system, behave as if it’s fragile.

When we don’t know just how risky something is, if the stakes are high, we should assume that it’s risky until we know otherwise.

We gain something and lose somethings by following the precautionary principle. Broadly, we gain safety and we lose some freedom.

If we follow the precautionary principle during the fog of war, we are less likely to accidentally put ourselves and others at risk.

But the cost of following the precautionary principle is that we often have to opt not to do things that we would like to do. In this way, it puts a damper on our freedom. But during wartime conditions, when the fog is thick, and the stakes are high, sometimes we as individuals need to carefully choose which freedoms we are willing to temporarily sacrifice.

There’s a big difference between having your freedoms taken away from you by someone else, and voluntarily choosing to sacrifice parts of your freedom for a period of time. The former is tyranny, the later is heroic.

So we should do our part, by taking every precaution that we can.

We are not socializing from home, we are at home trying to (virtually) socialize during a crisis

There is a lot of adjustment required right now. We’ve had to get used to so many new things at once. Amongst the changes has been a radical change in the way that we interact with other human beings. We are not socializing with people in the ways that we normally do.  

But we are social creatures, and we long for connection. So, we’re looking for ways to recreate parts of our pre-pandemic social life. We might be able to use video chat programs to do a virtual version of some of the things that we used to do together in-person. But for those of us who have been highly distanced for the last few weeks, even though technology opens up the possibility of virtual normalcy, something feels ominous about going back to a version of normal life while the pandemic continues. 

For those of us who have been both social distancing by staying at home and who have also not had the built-in social interaction that people who telework regularly get, we’ve ended up being quite acutely isolated. Many of us in this situation have only been regularly communicating with our closest friends and family. The prospect of suddenly engaging in group activities with anybody but our closest friends can produce a spike in anxiety. 

There’s a comforting idea that has been circulating in relation to teleworking, which I think could be useful to keep in mind when socializing from home as well. 

In teleworking, the idea is: you are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis trying to work 

Translating that into the context of socializing from home, we might say: we are not socializing from home, we are at home trying to (virtually) socialize during a crisis 

There’s a reason why the group zoom chats feel so weird — and it’s not just that the little technical bumps are jarring. We’re in an extremely disoriented position, and we’re trying to make the best of it. 

We do yearn for connection, though. So, we can let ourselves face the discomfort and gradually step back into an experience of socializing during this pandemic, through the virtual tools available to us.  

But while we gradually return to some parts of socializing, through virtual means, we need to be easy on ourselves. We need to be patient. Adjusting will take time. 

It’s okay that it feels disorienting. It’s okay that it’s not quite the same. It’s something. And with time, it will hopefully not feel quite so disorienting. 

In the meantime, we can notice that it’s kind of disorienting, and continue on. We don’t have to live in denial of how fundamental of a shift this is.   

Seek peace, not relief

The world feels like a scary place right now, even for those of us who get to stay at home. There’s so much uncertainty about what the future holds. And that uncertainty is incredibly uncomfortable at times.

When we try to process the discomfort that we’re feeling, we turn to many different things for relief. We all have our things. When we’re scared and we’re anxious, it’s natural to seek relief. Sometimes we just want to feel a bit less in touch with the stark reality of the moment. But sometimes while we grasp towards relief we can end up numbing out pretty hard.

We can only numb for so long though. And this pandemic is looking like it’s going to last for months, not weeks. This is going to affect us all for a while, and numbing isn’t a good long-term solution.

What we need for the long term is more than just relief. In order to be okay in the long-term, we have to move towards a sense of peace instead of just a sense of relief.

The problem with relief is that we need more and more to fuel our relief from the moment. We need to consume things for relief. Relief helps us push fear away. But it takes a lot of effort to keep pushing the fear away.

Peace is more sustainable in the long term. Peace is accepting the fear. Peace is being okay, despite the fear.

We can continue to seek relief from our fear by pushing it away, or we can try to find peace amidst our fear by accepting the fact that we’re feeling fear.

Peace is available to us in every moment. Peace is not something for rich people or monks or simpletons. Moving towards peace is always an option. Peace is one of those simple but not easy things.

We move towards peace by noticing when we seek relief. If we notice our impulse for relief, we can bring awareness to it. And in that tiny gap of time between noticing the impulse for relief and doing something to try to create relief, we can choose to try to move towards peace instead of relief.

On the most basic level, when we notice the impulse to seek relief through some kind of numbing or consuming, we can just sit there and try to notice what the impulse feels like, instead of acting on it right away. Sitting with that impulse might not sound very appealing, especially compared to doing the thing that we think will give us immediate relief. But noticing the gap between the impulse and our response is the first step to peace. The second step is to allow it to be okay that we’re feeling the impulse.

In order to move deeper into processing that impulse, without acting on it, we can turn towards a Buddhist meditation process called RAIN. It can be helpful to do a short guided meditation to help with this process. Tara Brach’s free RAIN meditations are my go-to for this.

Even if we don’t have the bandwidth to meditate, though, we can move towards peace, through even just a few seconds of increased awareness. It’s a step along the path to peace. Notice the impulse to seek relief and sit with that impulse for a second or two. Try to notice what the impulse to seek relief actually feels like.

The point is to create a gap between the impulse to seek relief, and the action of seeking relief. In that gap, we have the chance to choose a different response instead. And in that gap, we can find a moment of peace. Perhaps with time, and practice, our peace will grow.

Practice the Pause in Conversations

We don’t mean to be so self-centred in conversations. We want to listen to the other person. We want it to be a two-way street. But it’s so easy to slip into thinking about the next thing that we want to say, instead of really putting our attention on the other person and taking in what they’re saying to us.

Sometimes we do actually listen fully, but it’s easy to slip into the habit of being in our own heads during a conversation.

We can become more consistent listeners by practicing pausing in conversation. We can actively cultivate the habit of giving others our attention, by pausing.

During a conversation, when someone else says something, we can wait a moment and pause before we respond. During that moment we create the room to let what they just said resonate. What they said might impact us. After that brief pause, we can respond to them and have an actual conversation, instead of just telling them what we were waiting to say.

We’ll get our chance to say things as well — and hopefully, the other person will reciprocate this kindness and really take in what we’re saying as well. If they do, we can connect and share together on a much deeper level.

When we pause and actually take in what the other person is saying we are much more likely to have interesting conversations with people.

This is obvious stuff. We know that this is true. But it’s easier said than done. For many of us, practicing the pause will be difficult. If it’s difficult for us, then it’s more likely that we could benefit from doing it.

Some people intuitively practice the pause — or they’ve already learnt to prioritize it. Think of how much of a pleasure it is to talk to those people. We all want to talk to people who are present and listening to what we have to say.

Being in conversation with someone else who is also reciprocating this kind of pause — someone who is actually listening to what we are saying and is engaged with us, as opposed to someone who is waiting for their turn to talk — is an absolute delight.

Tara Brach — a clinical psychologist and meditation leader — sums up the practice of pausing as follows:

We may pause in a conversation, letting go of what we’re about to say, in order to genuinely listen and be with the other person.

In a pause we simply discontinue whatever we are doing—thinking, talking, walking, writing, planning, worrying, eating—and become wholeheartedly present, attentive and, often, physically still.

Remember that you already know the things that you know.

You may not know the things that the other person knows.

Be the type of conversationalist that you want to see in the world.