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Arresting Aphorisms

  • "A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason." (Thomas Carlyle)
  • "No one can arrive from being talented alone. God gives talent; work transforms talent into genius." (Anna Pavlova, Russian ballet dancer)
  • "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed." (William Gibson)
  • You don't say, 'this is where I'll always be.' You say, 'this is where I am now.' (David Kahn)
  • “A plan relieves you of the torment of choice.” (Saul Bellow)
  • "No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back." (Turkish Proverb)
  • "Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise." (Cato the Elder, Roman statesman)
  • "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." (Linus Pauling)
  • "Concentrate on what you do have, not on what you don’t." (John Wooden)
  • "Wealth, like health, is at the expense of nobody." (Plato Valaskakis)
  • "Habits start out as cobwebs and grow to be cables." (Spanish proverb)
  • "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan." (John F. Kennedy)
  • "Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook." (William James)
  • "We are always getting ready to live, but never living." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." (Oscar Wilde)
  • "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Albert Einstein)
  • "People may not remember what you said or what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel." (Maya Angelou)
  • "You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do." (Jerry Garcia)
  • "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know they're some things we do not know. But there're also unknown unknowns; the ones we don't know we don't know." (Donald Rumsfeld)
  • "You have the watches, we have the time." (Afghan Proverb)
  • "I praise loudly. I blame softly." (Catherine the Great)
  • “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” (Lao Tzu)
  • “It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes.” (Flannery O'Connor)
  • "Solitude is a good place to visit but a poor play to stay." (Josh Billings)
  • "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." (Victor Borge)
  • "A private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.” (Lt. Col Paul Yingling, US Army)
  • "Women have sex in order to talk, and men talk in order to have sex." (Anonymous)
  • "A mind once stretched by a new idea can never return to its original dimensions." (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
  • "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." (Peter Drucker)
  • "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second best time is today." (Chinese Proverb)
  • "Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked." (Robert S. McNamara)
  • "It's easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble." (Warren Buffett)
  • "Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up to the step; we must step up the stairs." (Vaclav Havel)
  • "I cursed the fact that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." (Persian Proverb)
  • "Common sense is anything but common." (Voltaire)
  • "You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit." (Harry Truman)
  • "The last 1 percent most people keep in reserve is the extra percent champions have the courage to burn." (Chris Carmichael)
  • "If I has asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse." (Henry Ford)
  • "A goal without a plan is just a wish." (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
  • "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • "Discipline is doing what you don't want to do when you don't want to do it."
  • "Hurry when you have time, so you'll have time when you are in a hurry." (Dutch Proverb)
  • "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see." (Arthur Schopenhauer)
  • "One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity." (Bruce Lee)
  • "The goal is not to bend or change ourselves so we fit the norm; the goal is to find the group in which we are the norm." (Simon Sinek)
  • "Action expresses priorities." (Mohandas Gandhi)
  • Those who say 'yes' are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say 'no' are rewarded by the safety they attain." (Keith Johnstone)
  • Over the long term, you are more likely to fool yourself than others (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
  • "By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day." (Robert Frost)
  • "The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment. (Warren Bennis)
  • "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow." (Woodrow Wilson)
  • "The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet." (William Gibson)
  • "Many a false step was made by standing still." (Chinese Proverb)
  • "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." (Mark Twain)
  • "Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more take away." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  • "You can't hold a man down without staying down with him." (Booker T. Washington)
  • "Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or by the handle." (James Russell Lowell)
  • "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible." (Jonathan Swift)
  • "Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait." (Emerson)
  • "What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." (Logan Pearsall Smith)
  • "The sole substitute for an experience which we have not ourselves lived through is art and literature." (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)
  • "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." (Thomas Edison)
  • "My country is the world and my religion is to do good." (Thomas Paine)
  • "Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom hapen, as by little advantages that occur every day." (Benjamin Franklin)
  • "The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or a curse." (Carlos Castaneda)
  • "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." (Albert Einstein)
  • "Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow." (Norman Vincent Peale)
  • "The palest ink is clearer than the fondest memory." (Chinese Proverb)
  • "Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought." (Henri Bergson)
  • "History doesn't repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes." (Mark Twain)
  • "We do not remember days; we remember moments." (Cesare Pavese)
  • "The only way to have a friend is to be one." (Emerson)
  • "The only way around is through." (Robert Frost)
  • "Mountaintops inspire leaders but valleys mature them." (Winston Churchill)
  • "Friendships are like money - easier made then kept." (Samuel Butler)
  • "Black words on a white page are the soul laid bare." (Guy de Maupassant)
  • "A man is wealthy in proportion to the things he can do without." (Epicurus)
  • "Mistakes are the portals of discovery." (James Joyce)
  • "Happiness is wanting what you have, not getting what you want." (Sheryl Crow)
  • "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." (Oscar Wilde)
  • "Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, no one can help you as much." (Buddha)
  • "You understand life backward but you live life forward." (Soren Kierkegaard)
  • "Love decreases when it ceases to increase." (Chateaubriand)
  • "I quote others only the better to express myself." (Montaigne)
  • "Be quick .. but don't hurry." (John Wooden)
  • "Pain is just weakness leaving the body." (Nike Slogan)
  • Happiness = Performance - Expectations
  • "It is never too late to be what you might have been." (George Eliot)
  • "Always make new mistakes." (Esther Dyson)
  • "People more often need to be reminded than informed." (Samuel Butler)
  • "Old people are fond of giving good advice; it consoles them for no longer being capable of setting a bad example." (La Rochefoucauld)
  • "History doesn't repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes." (Mark Twain)
  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." (Aristotle)
  • "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift." (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • "We do not remember days ... we remember moments." (Cesare Pavese)

Ear Candy | Preferred Podcasts

  • 43 Folders Podcast
    Merlin Mann is consistently witty, insightful and entertaining - no mean feat - in his short but substantive podcasts on productivity. These are perfect snacks to feed your appetite for efficiency.
  • Harvard Business Review IdeaCast
    This is as good as you would expect a podcast would be coming from HBR. The production values and professionalism are first rate, as are the guests on each show.

Pop Philosophy Preferred

  • Tim Ferriss
    I love Tim's concepts of 'lifestyle design' and 'going on a media diet'. His advice and hacks on how to simplify your life are a welcome respite to our hyper-mediated world.
  • Thomas Friedman
    The Walter Lippmann of this generation. Whether you agree with his views or not, he is the most influential pundit today on the two issues that matters most in the modern world: globalization and the Middle East.
  • SHardy, Creative Generalist
    A genuinely inter-disciplinary intellectual - in the most positive sense of the term.
  • Merlin Mann
    One of the first - and best - Life Hackers out there.
  • Mark Cuban
    This Internet business pioneer and owner of the Dallas Mavericks also happens to be one of the most original - and outspoken - thinkers in media and technology today.
  • Malcolm Gladwell
    Gladwell practically invented the entire category of books that I devour with his seminal work, The Tipping Point.
  • Jon Kay
    He will come to be known someday as Canada's George Will. In the meantime, he influences friends and foes alike from his perch as Comments Editor at The National Post.
  • Fareed Zakaria
    Anyone who has watched 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos' (c'mon, you know you want to admit it!) has seen Zakaria consistently demonstrate his lucidity, eloquence and coherent world view. Not many people can go toe-to-toe with George Will and emerge unscathed, but he does it every week. Oh, in his spare time he is the Editor of Newsweek International, too ...
  • David Brooks
    Today's most trenchant social and political analyst.

Attention Management

Books marinating in my mind ...

  • Jason Fried: Rework

    Jason Fried: Rework
    You might have come across Jason Fried's excellent TED Talk on "why work doesn't happen at work", and if so you know how contrarian - and spot on - this book is likely to be. If you just want an elegantly-written prompt to think differently, read this book. If you're a successful business owner, study this book; and if you're a budding entrepreneur, devour this book.

  • Graham Bowley: No Way Down: Life and Death on K2

    Graham Bowley: No Way Down: Life and Death on K2
    I'm an incorrigible Armchair Mountaineer. I've read more books on Everest and K2 than I probably should have, but I just can't seem to get enough of the primal (and vicarious) thrill of standing on the summit of the world. While this story won't haunt you like the incomparable "Into Thin Air" did (I can't imagine anything could), it is a gripping, engrossing and well-told tale of almost as deadly an expedition on an even most dangerous mountain. Put on your oxygen mask, strap on your crampons and get ready for a great ride - and a great read.

  • Susan Casey: The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean

    Susan Casey: The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean
    Anybody who - like me - couldn't put down "The Perfect Storm" by Sebastian Junger will be intrigued by this book and its topic. Anybody who reads it will get their fix for rogue waves, but wonderfully they will also leave with a new appreciation for the unique genius of the men who choose to ride these giants. While a touch hagiographic at times towards the central surfing character, Laird Hamilton, one can't help but admire the man who is to 100 foot waves what Hillary is to Everest: their conqueror.

  • Timothy Ferriss: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

    Timothy Ferriss: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
    This book has the potential to change your life. I was skeptical going in but ultimately seduced by his sound advice and spot-on observations about the nature of work and life fulfillment. The book has just the right mix of tactical suggestions and "pop" philosophical insights to appeal to all types of readers. I suspect that I will 'gift' this book many times in the next few years, as my friends start to struggle with quarter and mid life crises.

  • David Allen: Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life

    David Allen: Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life
    Allen is the productivity guru behind 'GTD' (the appropriately-named 'Getting Things Done' system). Far more than a simple recipe on how to optimize your To-Do Lists, this very readable book walks you through the philosophy behind his approach. This is a must-read for GTD devotees, but also an extremely useful primer for anyone who seeks to be more effective. His simple premise - that one's ability to be productive is directly proportional to one's ability to relax - is both elegant and powerful.

  • Maureen Dowd: Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide

    Maureen Dowd: Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide
    Dowd - one of the few women to have broken through the 'glass ceiling' to gain a coveted column in the New York Times - serves up her familiar fare of quick wit, rapier-sharp ripostes and cutting political commentary. While there are a number of gems here, the book disappointingly ends on a flat - instead of a high - note. Still, the tome is worth reading for her incisive insights into modern sexual politics alone.

  • Daniel Gilbert: Stumbling on Happiness

    Daniel Gilbert: Stumbling on Happiness
    This book has less to do with happiness and more to do with perception, but I won't quibble with its' ultimate value to the reader. Daniel Gilbert lays bare the fascinating process by which we perceive, recall and reflect on the events that dot our lives. In doing so, he disabuses us of some of our most cherished notions about our memories. As he pithily points out, 'perceptions are portraits, not photographs.' You won't look at how you remember quite the same again after digesting this enthralling work.

  • Jillian Straus: Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We're Still Single

    Jillian Straus: Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We're Still Single
    It's become a trite cliche today to remark that marriage has waned as the premier social institution. If people wed at all, they marry later and for shorter periods - certainly not for richer or for poorer, as in our parents' day. This book goes a long way in explaining why ours has become the 'unhooked' generation, by shedding light on contributing factors such as the collapse of courtship and the emergence of our multiple-choice society.

  • Nancy Etcoff: Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

    Nancy Etcoff: Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty
    Ever wonder what informs our impressions of beauty? I did, until I devoured this book. It turns out that those notions are hardwired in the brain and reinforced by the forces of evolution. The author marshalls an impressive array of biological, psychological and anthropological arguments to explain that our attraction to beauty is, in the final analysis, driven by our desire to successfully pass on our genes. Beauty, therefore, is in fact much more than skin deep ...

  • Robert Baer: Blow the House Down: A Novel

    Robert Baer: Blow the House Down: A Novel
    Baer's book of fiction blows the doors off the CIA and lets the reader inside the rarified air of intelligence analysts, spy tradescraft and convoluted geopolitical intrigue. The author writes with an arresting authencity, gained as much from his prose as his past as a twenty veteran of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. Many an armchair secret agent will devour this novel in one sitting ~

  • Thomas Friedman: The World is Flat

    Thomas Friedman: The World is Flat
    Friedman's central thesis - that globalization creates a flat playing field where your competitor can be next door or on the next continent - is more of an evolutionary than revolutionary insight. However, he is a master at making complex matters appear simple, and this book's powerful conclusions will scare you as much as educate you.

  • William Gibson: Pattern Recognition

    William Gibson: Pattern Recognition
    My introduction to the man who invented 'The Matrix' was this book, his first foray into contemporary (as opposed to science) fiction. Gibson proves to be as shrewd an observer of today's technological dystopia as he was a prognosticator of tomorrow in 'Neuromancer.'

  • David Brooks: On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense

    David Brooks: On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense
    Brooks understands and deconstructs modern Middle America better than any writer today. This book peels back the layers to reveal the lives and longings of minivan-driving, church-going, cul-de-sac living suburbanites in all their glory.

  • Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.)

    Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.)
    This book will change your life - if you let it. It should be on the core curriculum for everyone living in our 21st Century world of the Long Tail and limitless choice.

  • Richard Linklater: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset

    Richard Linklater: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset
    I love reading screenplays from dialogue-driven movies. This anthology of the scripts from the two 'Before' films will not disappoint, with many a profound observation on life, love and longing proferred here by Linklater's two protagonists.

  • Thomas de Zengotita: Mediated

    Thomas de Zengotita: Mediated
    'Mediated' will help you make sense of the MySpace Generation. De Zengotita explains how so much of our existence is intermediated by representations of reality, and the consequences this holds for both our society and our self-conscious. This books offers up fascinating insights into our mediated age, and you won't walk through life quite the same way again after reading it.

  • Daniel H. Pink: A Whole New Mind

    Daniel H. Pink: A Whole New Mind
    This books is the perfect follow-up to reading The World is Flat. Friedman's opus frightens you into thinking that your job can and will be outsourced in a 'flat' world. Pink issues a persuasive manifesto for avoiding that fate, imploring one to develop the "right-brain" qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness and meaning to complement the "left brain" capabilities that powered the Information Age. Read this book to enhance the skills that can't be so easily replicated and outsourced ...

  • Chuck Klosterman: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs

    Chuck Klosterman: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
    Klosterman wields one of the truly most unique voices in social commentary today. Only he can establish the thread leading from Puck on MTV's 'The Real World' to Zack on 'Saved by the Bell'. Klosterman comes off as a pop culture polymath in this sweeping trip across the mass media landscape.

  • James Geary: The World in a Phrase

    James Geary: The World in a Phrase
    This compact little book charts the history of the aphorism, perhaps the perfect philosophical medium for the MySpace Generation. Along the way, Geary enlightens us with his lifetime's worth of collecting the pithiest turns of phrase. You will no doubt marvel, as I did, at how aphorists succeed in suffusing one small sentence with so much meaning ...

  • Chris Anderson: The Long Tail

    Chris Anderson: The Long Tail
    It's a good measure of this book's influence that Anderson's central metaphor has already penetrated into society's common lexicon of tech-savvy terms. This book does more than just popularize a phrase, however; it persuasively and painstakingly postulates the end of the mass market and the rise of selling, as the author puts it, "less to more people." One must read this book to understand the Internet's impact on the future of commerce itself, let alone what it might do to your business.