Six Quotes That Have Improved My Life

by | Nov 16, 2020

This is a picture I took on the road to El Chalten, Argentina

I collect quotes and keep them in a Word document. Below are the six that I keep coming back to and which have had the biggest effects on my worldview. They are chock full of wisdom. I hope that you find them beneficial as well.

1. Persistence

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

-Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge was the 30th president of the United States and also was a member of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji). I am also a Fiji and as a pledge was required to memorize the above quote. I can still recite it word-for-word and think about it often. Most things worthwhile take effort and Coolidge’s quote reminds me to put in the work. A related quote that my grandfather, John R. Kidd, used to say all the time is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

2. Giving Credit

There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

-Ronald Reagan

I came across this wisdom early in my career and I am glad that I did so. It’s a simple concept but not always easy to follow. I’ve found that this is a key concept for being an effective leader and teammate.

3. The Joy of a Non-Toothache

When I have a toothache, I discover that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing.  I had to have a toothache in order to be enlightened, to know that not having one is wonderful.  My non-toothache is peace, is joy.  But when I do not have a toothache, I do not seem to be happy.  Therefore, I look deeply in the present moment and see that I have a non-toothache, that can make me very happy already.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote has been so useful. It has helped me enjoy everyday that I don’t have a “toothache.” I also think about this quote when I have a “toothache” — I tell myself to experience the discomfort fully so that I can use the memory of my current discomfort to gain peace in the future when the discomfort is gone. IFOD on this quote: The Joy of a Non-Toothache

4. Be a Beast

“Everybody wants to be a beast, until it’s time to do what real beasts do.“

-Eric Thomas

This is a recent addition to my list of great quotes, but one I think of often. It’s related to the Calvin Coolidge quote on persistence and is also similar to the concept of “if it were easy, everybody would do it.” One of the most clicked IFODs is about this quote: Beast Mode: Motivation and the Key to Success

5. Good Luck, Bad Luck

There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

Who knows?

The above parable reminds me that we can’t really know in the moment if something is good or bad luck. I read recently that Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy, etc) was supposed to be on one of the planes that flew into one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. He had stayed out late drinking, was hung over, and his travel agent had told him the wrong time for his flight. All those factors combined so that he was 10 minutes too late for his flight. Missing that flight probably seemed like a bad situation on the morning of September 11, 2001. Until it turned out that it was the biggest dose of good luck he ever experienced.

6. We Get One Life – Make It Count

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver

The above quote is the last two lines of the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. I think about this concept often – that we only get one life (probably) and that we need to make each day count. This quote goes well with thinking about your death each day (which can be productive).

7. Bonus Quote

You love them in blue
You love them in red
But most of all you love them in blue

-From the 1982 movie “Megaforce

I love this quote because its totally nonsensical. I sign every card with this quote and use it in most toasts. It reminds me that life is funny and makes no sense.


  1. Another quote: “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

  2. One of my favorite quotes by Mary Oliver

    “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”


  3. I think I am going to have to break down and watch Megaforce sometime soon. I remember when it came out. It looked like it would be dreadful, so I did not give serious thought to seeing it. But maybe it is dreadfully good? Anyway, I wish to demystify John Jennings a little, and it is clear that seeing Megaforce is on the keys to doing that.

    • It’s a really bad movie.

  4. Here’s my submission for best quote:

    “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
    I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
    I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
    – George Bernard Shaw

  5. Is that so ? Like that question too Harmon!

    Life is a marathon, not a race….

  6. Hi John!
    I loved the toothache quote. I have trouble with recurring vertigo, so the days the room isn’t spinning are great ones! I would add that the “toothaches” in life can help us be more empathic toward others.
    I used to tell my kids that the path of least resistance usually leads a person in the wrong direction (such as, going along with the crowd in order to be accepted).
    Did you see the movie, “The Founder”? The “persistence” quote was used in it. The key, I think, is to be persistent for good reasons, not for selfish ambitions.
    My favorite quotes and parables are from the Bible.

  7. Really a great message / reminder .

    Is that so ? Is always a good question to ask.

    Love the “non toothache “


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