In 2006, I started a Word document to capture lessons learned from various mistakes and accomplishments I had experienced in the earlier years of my career. I did this to help me do less of what didn’t work and more of what did. Over time, this document took on a life of its own and slowly evolved into a place to store quotes that resonated with me personally and professionally. Now that I’m over a decade into the process of trying to download the wisdom of some of the world’s greatest thinkers and business minds, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes and reactions to them.
- “All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third it is accepted as self-evident” (Arthur Schopenhauer). This is the song of anyone that has been a change agent on the right side of truth. Ridicule and opposition can take many forms in business and in life, but there are few things as sweet as knowing that you courageously embraced the right path, despite its challenges, and persevered to see your vision become a reality. What’s fascinating is when you reverse the order of this quote and examine things that had the early allure of being true but proved to be false.
- “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” (Albert Einstein). This one comes in handy when your background or skillset is different than that of the majority of your professional peers. There’s nothing wrong with not being like everyone else so long as you are not held to the same yardstick of tree climbing when you are by nature a much better swimmer. Best to find those situations where your very particular set of skills (nod to Liam Neeson) find impactful use and are valued accordingly. The best people in any discipline are simply those that have embraced their unique attributes and applied them in settings where they can be better than everyone else. This is the ‘genius’ to which Einstein was referring.
- “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do” (Andrew Carnegie). People tend to vote with their time and their behavior, so a good practice is to observe whether their words and actions are in sync. From my experience, this is one of the faster ways to determine whether you are dealing with someone that you can trust. In a related quote, Peter Drucker once said that the most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said – watching behavior can be a very useful tool to fill in gaps where people might not have been as forthright as they could have been.
- “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi). Without fail, this quote always results in an instant attitude adjustment for me because it holds up a mirror and asks me what I could be doing differently. It’s easy to see the speck in someone else’s eye while neglecting the plank in your own. If you aren’t willing to behave in a way that brings about the desired change, then how can you expect others to do the same?
- “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced” (Vincent Van Gogh). I find there’s a strange relationship between our fears and desires such that we frequently need to overcome that which we are most afraid of to accomplish our goals. Oftentimes fear can give way to doubt and a toxic inner feedback loop that can make success, however you define it, more challenging. A good way to reverse unproductive thinking is to take whatever steps, be them small or large, that move you towards your goal and build on little victories to enhance your confidence. Interesting how well the great painters understood this – Picasso echoed the sentiment when he said, “Action is the foundational key to all success.”
- “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you” (Mark Cuban). This is a classic motivator for the procrastinators out there. Regardless of the station you hold, there are powerful competitive forces at work that threaten to erode the ground you’ve fought to attain. And, it’s a good reminder that there are those out there that would love to have your job. Anything less than a 100% effort will not prevail in the long run.
- “Pessimistic visions about almost anything always strike the public as more erudite than optimistic ones” (Joseph Schumpeter). It’s easy to sound smart when you pass on an opportunity which is an unfortunate fact that compels many people to eschew action. What’s harder is to take a position, with full knowledge of the risks, and proceed with the belief that your prudent risk will find reward. Think of it this way, would you rather sound smart, which has little tangible value, or be the person who courageously seized on opportunity where others walked away? History is full of examples of the great reward afforded those that saw the glass half full.
- “The world does not belong to the pessimist. Believe me” (Warren Buffet). This is a wonderful follow up to Quote #7 above from a guy that, by last count, has over 80 billion reasons to back up his conclusion. What’s interesting is that Mr. Buffet is widely known for his tendency to say “no,” yet his words convey the truth that it’s his smart “yesses” which have yielded his success. This is a bit of an aside, but the man is simply a national treasure, and it seems that every time he’s given a platform, he shares conventional wisdom that makes me wonder, palm to forehead, why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. My list of quotes from Mr. Buffet alone could have populated an entire blog.
So, what do you think? Hopefully you saw as much truth in these quotes as I have, and I’d love to hear from anyone that has quotes to add to the list above.
About ClearLight Partners
ClearLight is a private equity firm headquartered in Southern California that invests in established, profitable middle- market companies in a range of industry sectors. Investment candidates are typically generating between $4-15 million of EBITDA (or, Operating Profit) and are operating in industries with strong growth prospects. Since inception, ClearLight has raised $900 million in capital across three funds from a single limited partner. The ClearLight team has extensive operating and financial experience and a history of successfully partnering with owners and management teams to drive growth and create value. For more information, visit www.clearlightpartners.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect any ClearLight opinion, position, or policy.