Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Inspiring quotes

As editor of a newsletter for a self-help support group I am always on the lookout for inspirational quotes. Apart from being space fillers, a good quotation can help to provide inspiration and motivation.

Dozens of websites serve as a source for quotes - inspirational or otherwise. Identifying those that are truly inspiring, that have some real substance and the many thousands of kitsch, corny and saccharine-filled quotes is my major problem. For every gem there are a hundred - perhaps a thousand - duds.

My favourite quote comes from quite an ancient source - the Talmud (Pirkei Avot 1:14). Written by Hillel. The translation from the Hebrew reads as follows:

"If I am not for myself, who will be?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?"

Written about 2000 years ago, it encompases great wisdom about ourselves, our relationship to others and the necessity to act. The last line provides the impetus. Do it now! Driving recently on the highway I noticed a billboard advertising Johnny Walker Black Label. This happens to be one of my favourite Scotch Whiskies. I was surprised to see the words "If you are not for you, who will be for you? and if not now when?" Our favourite quotes turn up in the most unexpected places!

Now in his 90th year, Nelson Mandela continues to provide hope and inspiration around the world. One of the few great leaders of our time, his life itself is an inspiration. How many people survive 23 years of imprisonment with such dignity? How many become President yet retain such humility? Having had the pleasure of meeting him I can say that he is one of the few Gentlemen of this world. He treats every person with respect. In his 1994 book "Long Road to Freedom" he wrote:

"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."

If that does not inspire, what will?

Of course Sir Winston Churchill is always a great source of quotes - not all inspirational! On this very subject he had this to say:

"It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations." Perhaps then he can make himself appear educated.

On success he comments:

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

A fact that is borne out by many successful people! How many give up after one failure?

Churchill is of course remembered most for his war-time speeches. Speeches that resounded throughout the free world in hours of great darkness. Millions listened to their radios for words of encouragement and inspiration. Words that helped to Allies to win the war against the forces of darkness.

"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

I'll end with the words of one of the top management gurus - Peter Druker. "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." Makes you think.

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