Happy New Year!
It’s that time of year where we begin reflecting on old habits we want to ditch for the new year and since I’m participating in Dry January IRL, I decided to switch it up a bit on the blog and post about the positive things I want to bring into the new year. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite quotes — the quotes that I’ve heard at some point in my life that I cherish and will definitely be calling on to make 2017 (and beyond) a success. Enjoy!
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
I don’t remember the first time I came across this one, but it’s easily the one I have to remind
myself of most often. It’s just so easy to fall into life comparison when we live in this carefully curated world where everybody’s only sharing our bests—the best moments, the best food, the best trips, all using the best filters. And it’s the same in business— we’re presented with the Ubers and the Facebooks, the best moments of the best companies, and if we’re not living in the Valley working on the next unicorn, our endeavors look pretty pale in comparison. Which is why we have to stop comparing. Think about it: comparing your situation to someone else’s creates this binary idea that life is either “this” or “that” and the truth is there is no single definition of success, or a single way one’s life should look, but when we compare, that’s exactly what we’re buying into. This quote pops into my head every time I find myself scrolling through my timeline at all of those bests and begin to feel like I’m not at my best, and it makes me instantly aware that I’m actively choosing to participate in something that brings me down. And when I shift my focus onto all that’s actually right in my life—and there’s plenty—I’m much happier. Because if I’m honest, my issues are often a bunch of first-world problems that someone else with bigger issues would gladly trade.
“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson
This one. I love it and hate it, because it’s just so true. It’s a longer version of “Get over yourself.” Or, the even shorter, “Shit happens.” Often when we find ourselves in unfavorable situations, we think “Why me?” or “Why is this happening?” And, when you think about it, those are some pretty counterproductive questions, because the universe just is. It’s nice when it makes sense to me, but it actually doesn’t have to make sense to me. It’s like when I’m walking through a door and there’s a guy walking through the door before me and he doesn’t hold the door. Sometimes, I get a little salty about it. But, the truth is, he’s not obligated to hold that door. It’s nice if a person holds a door, but definitely not necessary and it actually doesn’t mean anything about the person if they don’t. Likewise, I appreciate when the universe makes sense to me, but when it doesn’t, it’s a non-event and that’s okay. There’s this very weird feeling when you give in to the idea that for some things you won’t have an answer to the why, so no, this quote doesn’t feel good, but helps remind me that there’s a bigger picture and I’m not actually the center of it…and that’s okay.
“Everybody’s running from pain, but what they should run from is the easy button.” —Glennon Doyle Melton
As I was writing this series, Glennon Doyle Melton said this during an interview and and it had to make it on my list. Pushing the easy button is, well, easy and it’s so safe that I think we all want to push it, even though we know the things we really want are in the opposite direction of that easy button. This quote reminds me that while doing the hard things sometimes presents more pain, usually it’s the easy stuff that’s more harmful in the long-run — it’s just that with the hard stuff, the pain points you’ll encounter are more obvious. For instance, working on your startup idea (the more difficult choice) versus Netflix binging (easy button) this weekend. The pain of working on your startup is easy to quantify, you know you’ll stay up late, it’s work, you have to cancel other plans, etc. but when you’re done, you’ll feel good about making progress. With the Netflix binge there’s pain too, but the instant gratification of binging covers up the pain. Once the weekend’s over you’ll feel bad because you didn’t move the needle on your startup and now you have nothing to show for it. So, there’s definitely a hidden cost to the easy button.
“When you leave a place, leave it better than it was before you got there.” —Rick
Back when I was in college I had a friend named Rick. Rick had this habit of always cleaning my room whenever he’d visit. Now, being the skeptical person I am, I couldn’t decide if he did it because he thought I was a slob or if he wanted to snoop through my things, so when I asked as much, he said that his mom told him to always leave a place better than it was before he got there and I fell in love…with that concept. I like to think of this in the sense of being aware of the energy I put out and trying to make sure it’s positive. So, while I haven’t cleaned many of my friends’ homes, I do try to make their space better by adding positive energy—by sharing useful information, laughs or sometimes by just listening.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” —Anonymous
Humans are complex creatures and as such, sometimes we can be pretty hard to get along with and sometimes if a person annoys us, just really rubs us the wrong way, we may give the internal eye roll before hearing them out and giving credence to what they’re saying. That’s where this quote comes in. Usually I am reminded of this as I’m doing that aforementioned eye roll. Or, sometimes I give the eye roll if what they’re saying is fine, it’s just them I’m not into. This quote is useful because it eases me into respecting opinions and ideas that aren’t my own. I don’t have to love a person to respect their ideas. There’s also a lesson in patience and treating each instance as unique: sure a person may have been wrong a few times, but that doesn’t mean they are, or will be, wrong every time. It’s happened to me so many times. I’ve had people in business and in my personal life, provide spectacularly bad advice to me and then in a different situation, turn around and provide really great advice, so I have learned to keep an open mind. And then there’s this other quote that goes nicely with this one about a rake and a sickle. When people are giving you advice, take it with a rake and a sickle– rake in the valuable items and take the sickle to the crap. Yes, sometimes even with the best intentions, we can give crap advice — maybe someone who loves you and doesn’t want to see you hurt tells you to dream smaller — that’s advice you should take the sickle to, because even though they’re trying to give good advice, that advice isn’t helpful. But, tomorrow, that person may turn around and give you some bomb advice for how to have a critical conversation without losing your cool— rake it in, because even a broken clock…
“I don’t know much, but what I do know, I know well.” —Mr. Menon
This is one of my all-time favorites. Mr. Menon was my etymology professor who I thought was the most knowledgeable person I’d ever encountered during my summer at Choate Rosemary Hall. He was brilliant. He could deduce what a word meant without having ever heard the word, but by simply analyzing its origin. To me, that was a close kin to clairvoyance. So imagine how baffled I was when this person who I thought knew everything, said that he didn’t know much at all? I chalked it up to false modesty. But, as I got older, I realized the quote’s brilliance. I mean, there I was taking a class on the subject of his expertise, so of course everything he said was accurate.
But, imagine if we dropped him into a class on, I don’t know, say astrophysics, then I may not consider him brilliant at all. There’s a chance that I would think he’s actually unintelligent, which wouldn’t be the case, but outside of his comfort zone, it would appear that way. When I took English in high school I was a star student: I was confident and eager, always first to raise my hand and I even volunteered to do extra credit projects. In Math class, I showed up late, sat in the back so I wouldn’t get called on and barely got by. Once my English teacher and Math teacher were having a conversation about me and imagine their surprise when they each had a wildly different description of the type of student I was. And they were both right — my English teacher always saw me in my element, and every time my Math teacher saw me I was in a vulnerable place.
People seem brilliant when they get to talk about their area of expertise. This quote gives me permission to be okay with not knowing everything under the sun, but at the same time, it compels me to really learn about the subjects I care about so that I can confidently say that the things I do know, I know well. Most importantly though, it’s a reminder to not be so judgmental when I encounter people who don’t know something—maybe they’re just discussing a topic outside of their expertise.
BONUS: I wanted to choose quotes that could clearly be tied to professional endeavors, and although these two bonuses below may not fit into that category, they’re two of my favorites nonetheless. They both came from family members, my mom and my grandad, C.G.
“Keep living.” —Mama
This one’s from my mama. It’s one of those things, like so many things your mom says, that just goes in one ear and out the other, but then years later you go “Wow, she knew what she was talking about.” This quote always surfaces when I feel overwhelmed or I can’t see my way out of a situation because I’m so close to it. This quote is definitely not comforting when you’re struggling, but once you’ve overcome whatever it is you’re going through and you look back at what you’ve accomplished, you’re like “Yep, it’s true.” This one is a bit abstract so I want to give a simple example of its perfect use. Remember that guy in junior high who was so hot, but didn’t know you existed and you thought he would forever be hot and perfect and you’d pine forever? (Just me, huh?) This is when someone, usually someone older, would say to you, “Keep living.” And you’d think they just didn’t get it and then a few years later, you’re browsing Facebook and you see that guy and you wouldn’t look twice at him now. Maybe it’s a breakup, or a never-ending project for which you just can’t see a positive outcome. Just keep living. Life really is like a wave—it has its peaks and valleys and sometimes you’re in the valley, but if you keep living, you’ll hit another peak.
“When people are being nice, they don’t have to be being nice to you.” —Granddaddy C.G.
This is classic Granddaddy C.G. and I have to couple this quote with my other now-favorite C.G. saying “People need people.” I like the one about people being nice and I took it to heart. But the other one…honestly, I could take a whole new blog post to describe my aversion to the idea that people need people. I mean it goes so counter to the whole “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” thing, (which is actually not even possible). I think we’re all generally raised to be fairly independent, so to be hit in the face with the idea that people need people just didn’t fit my logic…until I grew up and realized it was true, that nothing I’ve done has happened without other people. Like, I couldn’t get to work without another human, since I don’t drive, so yeah, I probably need people way more than most. There are so many people who are important to me and yes, who I genuinely, need. I don’t think the issue is with knowing this to be true, rather, it’s in verbalizing it to the people we need and showing appreciation when they’re there when we need them. I’m so thankful granddaddy said it often enough for it to stick even though it took decades for me to actually get it.