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What Quotes or Sayings Do You Find Actually Help You in Life?

By Petr Knava | Comment Diversions | May 3, 2017 |

By Petr Knava | Comment Diversions | May 3, 2017 |

A little while ago I brought back a question from a Reddit thread: ‘What’s Some Popular Saying That You Think Is Total Bullshit?’ In it, people poured cold water on what they thought were hackneyed and fundamentally misleading and/or disingenuous sayings.


“People get what they deserve.”

Bullshit! Many people get away with being narcissistic assholes their entire lives without consequence.

I’ve been thinking about this thread since then. Specifically about counter-examples of the question it was asking. In other words: What quotes or sayings do I actually find to be true, and/or helpful? And by this I mean specifically those quotes or sayings that I invoke not because they’re fun but because they resonate in such a way so as to provide a helping hand in the path through this life.

(Okay, and maybe because they’re a little bit fun too.)

Either way, I could think of four that each spoke to a different, recurring thought of mine:

1. Keep going you motherfucker, no matter what.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” - Confucius

On first glance it looks like just the most brute force, sledgehammer-style solution to feeling disheartened as a result of a lack of progress. But for a saying that consists of so few words it reveals surprising layers of depth and—more importantly—motivational power. Especially after swilling it around your brain a few times. With endless repetition over the years it’s become a bit of a totem for me, and it’s now probably my single most-repeated phrase. In his account of the words of Aristotle writer Will Durant birthed a saying similar to this one. It’s the one about excellence being a habit rather than an act (which is incidentally often misattributed to Aristotle himself). That one bubbles up quite a lot too for me too, but most of the time when it comes to encouraging myself to keep going despite setbacks or slow downs there’s nothing that can really beat Confucius’ formulation of the sentiment.

2. Shit is shitty, yeah. It always is. Are you gonna do something about it?

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

I mean, shit, man. That’s poetry. Look at the world we’re living in. Resistance is paramount. But resistance takes spirit. Who’s got the energy to keep their spirits up? Enter Gandalf stage left with some of the most inspirational shit to come out of any fictional character ever. Tolkien, you glorious pep-talking motherfucker, you.

3. Sometimes, it’s best to stop thinking and just do something. Anything.

Shepherd Book once said to me, ‘If you can’t do something smart, do something right.’ - Jayne Cobb, Serenity.

Obviously I’m not advocating mindless, moral-based impulse as a reliable solution to problems. But there are times when the higher cognitive processes that usually lead out of the labyrinth fail and a more instinctive approach is called for. Jayne remembering the late Shepherd before the Serenity’s desperate ploy against the Alliance is the sentiment for those times.

4. Coffee.

I gotta hold on to my angst. I preserve it because I need it. It keeps me sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be. - Lt. Vincent Hanna, Heat.

Basically. Um. Not much profound about that one to be honest. I just get a lot o shit done while hopped up on caffeine. That caffeine angst/energy zone? That’s the fucking sweet spot. This reminds me of it.


Petr Knava
lives in London and plays music

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.