Ten Phrases to Live by

We are faced with twists and turns in life. There are always forks in the road. Some are the easy ones: the most direct route between two points is a straight line. That works great for about 2 percent of the decisions we face. Others are the roads less traveled and they are the ones we all too often fail to take.

Frequently, we are simply confronted with choices in which there is not optimal solution. There may not even seem to be any viable options. Under such circumstances it is easy to simply hunker-down and wait: for a key piece of information that will make all things clear or even for divine inspiration (which never seems to come at exactly the right time). Stasis seems like the safe mode.

The simple reality is that life is often hard. You are constantly getting beaten up. In the face of such challenges, it is easy to get discouraged. When you get dispirited, it is nice to have a place to turn for motivation. 

I have adopted “Ten Phrases to Live by” (in business and life in general).

1        SAS Motto (British Commandos): “Who Dares, Wins” Don’t be afraid to act, even when you face insurmountable odds. Most often, movement in any direction is progress. At least it will force the issue and new information will come in.

2        Louis Pasteur: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” It is not all about luck. Deep knowledge of the topic prepares you to take advantage of opportunities that others may miss.

3        My father’s favorite saying: “Remember, 50% of the world is below average.” It is easy to get caught up in optimism when you are working with a great team. Don’t get too excited. Statistically speaking, if you have just been in a meeting with two really bright people, you can expect that you will face a couple of morons in the near future.

4        Army General’s comment (about Common Sense): “There is nothing common about it.” What may seem intuitively obvious to you, may not be for others. Just accept that most people will never get it.

5        Greek historian Herodotus: “Great deeds are usually wrought at great risk.” Whatever endeavor you are facing will not come easy and there is no sure thing. You have to accept that the chance of failure is real. But, the truly valuable ideas are those that disrupt the status quo and it may require you to go “all in” to make it work. Understand that from the start.

6        Motto from my first Army command: “Ilegitimus non Carborundum” Latin aphorism for “Don’t let the bastard grind you down”. You will always be told that you “can’t do it.” Yes you can! Persevere.

7        Author John A Shed,  “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Like ships, we humans were built for a purpose, each his own. Forsaking the gifts God gave us and taking the easy way is antithetical to that goal. Despite the rough seas or pirates, we were meant to sail. We serve no purpose sitting in port and will never reach our destination by doing so.

8        Proverb attributed to Voltaire: “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” It is important to know when good is “good enough.”  Trying to be perfect will likely require far more resources than are available. The marginal cost for the last one or two percent of gain is often disproportional to the benefit. Life is really about managing expectations rather than achieving absolute perfection.

9        Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Isn’t this what life ought to be about. It is easy to get caught up in the mundane routine of daily activities and accept that this is all there is.  Don’t let that happen. A life un-lived is not worth living.

10    Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” This pretty well sums it all up. Go forth with enthusiasm whatever may come.

As I read through these, I have gained a new-found energy to face the challenges that stand before me. May they likewise inspire you to greater heights.

Godspeed on your journey!



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2 Responses

  1. Dave Parmly says:

    As the great philosopher Larry Wilkie often noted, “It’ll be that way sometimes.” His point was not lost on this young lieutenant. Stuff happens, deal with it and keep going.

    Great list.

  2. Greg Kogut says:

    Great message! Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.