Quote #60

“The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues.”
– Rene Descartes

We are quick to judge. The moment we notice something about a person that doesn’t sit well with us we tend to make that person into the thing we don’t like. Sure, it doesn’t always happen exactly like that, but it’s common on one level or another.

Have you ever met someone who is especially hard to be around? Have you ever found yourself to be difficult for others to work with?

Is it possible that those difficulties are hiding a truly wonderful person?

Remind yourself that someone with a great capacity for bad has an equally great capacity for good. We can help draw that out of people by the way we treat them. Do not be quick to judge, but always look for the good in people.

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Quote #59

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
– Ernest Hemingway

I’m doing two today because I feel like this one goes nicely with the previous one. Well, and the one before that. And several others.

As humans, we often compare ourselves to others. The problem is when that behavior results in someone concluding that they are better (or more important) than someone else.

Even if you were to achieve actual superiority over someone else (not sure this is possible), there is nothing noble in doing so. It is a selfish, immature endeavor that cannot make you an inherently better person. The sum of your efforts, all revolving around another person, will be that you are better than someone that you had no need (or ability, really) to compare yourself with.

It may seem like a more self-centered view, but the only person that matters in the race for superiority is you. The only person you can truly measure is yourself.

You may be comparing yourself with your neighbor and you may one day declare yourself to be superior to him. But his life is different from yours. He may be up against challenges that you know nothing about. Without his unique situation to accompany your efforts, what have you gained from feeling superior to him? All you’ve managed to do is belittle him in your own view, judging him without the full picture.

But you can judge your own self. You have the full picture of your own life. Use that to your advantage. Take a hard look at the you of the past and challenge yourself to being superior to that person. And do it again tomorrow. Do it every day.

Quote #58

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
– William Shakespeare

I have a few quotes that run along these lines.

I used to act like a know-it-all. In fact, I’d say that sometimes I still fall into that trap.

It’s easy to feel like you know a lot, or you know more than someone else. But it is important to remember how much there is to learn, no matter how much we may have already learned.

Quote #57

“The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”
– Sophocles

Sometimes I let things bother me when I shouldn’t. Other times, the bother that I experience is justified.

I am a little concerned for a lot of people. There seems to be a culture of disassociation from responsibility.

One of the key elements of happiness is to be able to clearly see and understand how we relate to the world. There are tons of ways to run from a problem, but when it comes to finding happiness, we must start within our selves.

It is easy to blame outside forces on our problems. The challenge is to accept what we cannot change and to change what we can.

Of course, to accept what we can change as our own responsibility (without blaming it on external factors) is a painful process. But once accepted, this great truth bestows a multitude of freedoms and happiness.

Quote #56

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor Frankl

This has been one of my favorite quotes lately. Between the principle taught in Quote #54 and the idea behind today’s quote, I think you’ve got a pretty good recipe for success.

We live in a very reactive culture. Our government reacts to things. Our parent style is becoming (as a society) more and more reactive. People take a reactive stance with relationships. Rarely do people go with the long, hard path through growth and personal improvement. Instead they react to things and live trapped in whatever moment is being presented to them. It’s like living life in the passenger seat.

I think everyone has experienced the space between stimulus and response. I still remember some of my earliest encounters with it.

When I was young my brother and I got on each other’s nerves a lot. We would often antagonize the other until he did something that would get him in trouble. I still remember one of the first times I decided I didn’t have to react in the way my brother intended me to. For a moment I was in control of what would come next. I felt the urge of the reaction setting in, but I made a choice instead of letting the reaction happen. I was free.

Surely most people have had an experience or two like mine. Yet we seem to forget that the choice is there. How often do we hear “I didn’t have a choice,” or , “I don’t know, I just reacted,” along with the telling of a story that didn’t go as well as it could have?

Of course, there are situations where reactions cannot be avoided. It is in those situations that preparedness and training become important. In an emergency it can be important to simply react, and as long as you have prepared yourself and received the proper training you can be sure that your reaction can save lives. But without preparing yourself first, an emergency could lead you to react in a way that could get you or other people killed. Fight, flight, or freeze. Those are the natural reactions of a human being in the face of intense stress, danger, or fright. But if you’ve trained for it the training can become instinctual.

Even outside of emergency response a little mental preparation can go a long way. Instead of waiting for your child to do something that shocks you and takes you by surprise, spend a little time preparing yourself for the worst. If you aren’t shocked you don’t have to react. If you choose your response you can prevent making a situation worse.

Regardless of the situation, a controlled response is always better than a knee-jerk reaction. Even with training, a clear mind and calm demeanor go a lot further than an unplanned reaction.

Quote #55

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”
– Frank Tibolt

This one is somewhat related to quote #54, which covered laziness. In that quote we looked at how laziness and impatience generally negative results.

Today I’m going to look at how waiting for inspiration is a form of laziness. Sometimes we lie to ourselves and say that we didn’t do something we needed to do because we didn’t feel like it. Waiting until you feel like doing something important is the same as waiting for inspiration to strike. If it has to get done, you do it. Often, once you spring into action you will feel better about it.

Of course, this extends beyond what must be done and into things that you want to do.

A couple of years ago I wrote a JavaScript application at work to handle the creation of our work center schedule. It automated most of a two to three hour job, allowing one man to create two months’ worth of schedule in less than thirty minutes. It has mostly worked well for the last couple years, generating more than a dozen schedules without a single hitch. However, the code was poorly written and was beginning to show signs of failure (not knowing the JavaScript had a built-in Date handler, I had manually written all of the date code, and it was bad).

For several months now I’ve been telling myself that I should make a new scheduler, but I didn’t feel inspired to do it. Instead, I felt inspired to write several other (completely useless) projects.

Then, one day last week, I decided that I didn’t need inspiration, I just needed to get started. So I did.

Now that I’ve been working on the project for a week (without much inspiration) I am beginning to feel inspired. The act of working on the project has generated the inspiration to keep working on it.

This might be an overly obvious principle to some, but to others it is a crippling obstacle, the inner workings of which they do not understand.

It is usually better to do something without feeling the inspiration than to put it off while you wait for the inspiration.

Quote #54

“There art two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness.”
– Franz Kafka

As much as I was dying yesterday to dive into a bunch of quotes about a lot of topics, today’s was much easier to pick.

Sometimes I pick quotes based on how much truth they have and how much I’ve been thinking about that truth recently. This particular truth has been manifesting itself all around me lately, and I wanted to share it with you today.

Though Franz is identifying the root of sins here, I would argue that these two, impatience and laziness, are responsible for most mistakes and errors. People who rush and hurry make more mistakes, and people who are too lazy to do things properly often cause society problems.

So if you’re going to fight any traits today, focus on impatience and laziness.