7 of My Favorite Timeless Tips from the Last 2500 Years

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/denemiles/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

If you have read this website for while then you know I like wise, funny and inspirational sayings from last few thousands of years.

Because even though the world may have changed quite a bit during the years the timeless wisdom about life still often applies.

So today I’d like to share 7 of my absolute favorite lessons that I have learned from other people. The lessons I have had most use of and that pop up in my head the most.

1. Andrew Carnegie on paying attention to the more important things.

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”

I have to agree, I pay less and less attention to what people say. Because in the end, what someone does is the most important thing. Talking is easy, but walking your talk is harder. And walking it consistently even though you fall, slip back into old habits and make mistakes is a huge part of success.

Now, talking and discussing what you want to do can be very helpful. But at some point you also follow that up and take action.

And this is not just a good way to see people in a clear way. It’s also a good way to look at yourself more clearly. Because you can tell yourself and others all kinds of things all day. But what you are actually getting done shows a lot about who you are right now and how your future will look.

2. Carl Jung on what others may teach you about yourself.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

What we see in others is quite often what we see in ourselves. And what irritates us in people is may be what we don’t like in ourselves. What you judge in someone you are actually judging in yourself.

Therefore what you notice and what irritates you in others can teach you important things about yourself. Things you may not be aware of. In a way people can be like a mirror for you. A mirror that can help you to learn more about yourself, what you fear and how you may be fooling yourself.

3. Ralph Waldo Emerson on facing your fear.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”

This is perhaps my favorite quote about fear. From a distance and in your mind things may seem very difficult and frightening. But when you actually step up and take action I think many of us have been surprised of how the beard of that bully just comes off. Why is that?

Well, you can’t sit around think and waiting for courage and confidence to come knocking on the door. If you do, you may just experience the opposite effect. The more you think, the more fear you build within.

We often build scary monsters in our heads.

Maybe because of things we have learned from the news, the TV or the movies. Or we just think so much about something that our minds start to create totally unlikely horror scenarios of what may happen.

As you may have noticed in your own life, 80-90 percent of what we worry about never really comes into reality. Instead things can become anticlimactic when we take action. The beard of the bully comes off surprisingly easy if we just step up and take action.

And many times we get the courage we need after we have done what we feared. Not the other way around.

4. Wayne Dyer on taking responsibility for your life.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

You can look for the next big thing that will fix you. Read more blog articles. Read more personal development books. Look for people to help. And yes, some articles or books or people will give you insights that resonate deeply with you. But in the end, if you are an adult then no one is coming. No one is coming to save you. You have to take responsibility for your own life and what happens in it. Other things and people can certainly aid you quite a bit. But you are responsible.

You can go around blaming society or some people for your problems in your social life or finances or health. You can always find scapegoats to judge to feel better about yourself. For a while. You can look for people that will “fix you”. You can do this for the rest of your life if you like. It won’t change much. Whatever has to be done, it’s you who have to take responsibility and do it.

Yeah, things might always not go your way and you will probably have bad luck from time to time. But you still have to focus on yourself and doing what you can do in whatever situation that may arise in the outside world.

5. Gandhi on being human.

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

When you start to make myths out of people – even though they may have produced extraordinary results – you run the risk of becoming disconnected from them. You can start to feel like you could never achieve similar things that they did because they are so very different. So it’s important to keep in mind that everyone is just a human being no matter who they are.

And I think it’s important to remember that we are all human and prone to make mistakes. Holding people to unreasonable standards will only create more unnecessary conflicts in your world and negativity within you.

It’s also important to remember this to avoid falling into the pretty useless habit of beating yourself up over mistakes that you have made. And instead be able to see with clarity where you went wrong and what you can learn from your mistake. And then try again.

6. Confucius on understanding.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

This is very much true in my experience. You cannot understand something by reading about it on a blog or in a book. You may think you understand something. But it’s not until you try it in your own life that you know how it feels and you get the full experience.

That is one of the reasons why it’s crucial that you take action. No matter how many books you read on a topic or how much you discuss it with people you need to add real life experience. It’s also in real life that you learn the quickest, because here you have access to great feedback like failure.

7. Mark Twain on doing what you want to do.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Awesome quote. And I really don’t have much to add to that one. Well, maybe to write it down and keep it as a daily reminder – on your fridge or bathroom door – of what you can actually do with your life.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • when i studied abroad in college, i wrote a long journal entry about all my fellow students and how irritating they were. these same people became my best friends and taught me a ton.

    irritation is often the micro form of being judgmental.

    tim d
    free mobile gratitude journal

  • Great reminders of timeless wisdom in your article. I especially like the last quote, by Mark Twain. 20 years goes by in a flash even though as you begin a 20 year cycle you don’t think it will, and you think there’s more than enough time for everything. I appreciate the article.

  • It is amazing how many times a day we need to remind ourselves not to get angry at others, not to feel the victim, to seize what we want without guilt or shame, to be who we want to be and encourage others to do the same. Thanks for adding your words of encouragement! We all need it! I give out gold stars every day to people who need a reminder to reward themselves and others for their efforts, just for trying and write about it on my blog, http://www.goldstar4trying.com. You are, virtually, doing the same. Thank you!

  • Fatma

    I have enjoyed reading your articles and still I am. They are inspiring and motivating. Thank you.
    I have just a question about Carl Jung words. I remembered that you mentioned this fact before ; I mean people being mirrors of ourselves. I did not get it, what does that mean? I knew people who hate to see me happy but I did not feel the same for them. How could that be a mirror of myself?

  • Rajesh


    I happen to come to this blog thru a search on net…you have put together some of the greatest wisdom in simplest form. It almost felt as if I was talking to self again.

    thank you.