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.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with someone on Stumbleupon and Twitter. Thank you very much! =)

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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.

  • Why doesn’t it get old to hear the ancient wisdom (or the last century’s wisdom….). Thank you for the reminders. Loved it……esp. the short burst of poetic prose like that of Confucius!

  • Awesome quotes Henrik.

    From time to time I too share some quotes from my facebook. It was more to inspire myself than others but can’t to inspire others too.
    You added great ones here from my collections.
    Keep it up!


  • one more …
    “Do just once what others say you cannot do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again” – JAMES COOK.

  • Nastasja

    Been reading your blog for over a year now, always great.
    This one is especially good. Just the reminder I needed. Thanks!

  • Great collection of quotes, Hendrick. These are all master minds worthy of our attention. Carnegie was a man of action who had his inner world aligned with his outer world. Carnegie is one of my favorites because he is aligned with my personal credo is; If it aint practical, it aint spiritual.

  • Thanks a lot, Henrik, for these helpful tips. Especially I like the third… Facing your fear is really important, I already know it.

  • Nice site!
    Your Carl Jung quote and comment really caught my eye. For many months now, I have been reminding myself daily that ‘other people are your mirror.’ This is an amazing, effective exercise. Every time somebody irritates me, I think to myself ‘how am I doing the same thing?’ Every single time, I can identify the irritating behavior I see in others, in myself.

  • Great quotes! I too love quotes from the past, as I believe it validates how to be successful and happy by those who were and lived what we are teaching others. I have read some of the ones you offered, but a few were new to me.


  • This is a great post. I especially like the Carl Jung one.

    I read somewhere, and unfortunately will not be able to credit the source at this time, that fools learn from their own mistakes, wise people from the mistakes of others.

    Thanks for sharing Henrik, cheers!

  • JACKPOT! Boy have I been blessed in finding this AWESOME shot of insight and inspiration. I was working on business then stumbled no tripped on this. The world needs to have more things like this to reflect on and inspire. JAZZED! Thanks to you!!!

  • Nice post, I like timeless quotes a lot. One of my own personal favorites is:

    “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle

    Finding a passion, overcoming fears, focusing only on the most important tasks and making it a daily habit are the keys for happiness and success, in my opinion.

  • As always, you are right on the money with your use of fantastic quotes.

    I hadn’t come across the Emerson one regarding fear before. It’s gold.



  • Kate DuBois

    Henrik, a great synopsis of success. My personal favorite is Carl Jung’s quote about how other people’s faults can teach us a lot about ourselves.

    Another quote I’d add is from Hope Bradford, the author of The Beneficial Laws of Attraction: “we have myriad probable
    ‘outcomes’: accomplishments and disappointments highlighting
    the journey along the way.”

    There is no more important journey in life than that of choosely wisely; it is the key to all of your points and a successful life.

  • Thanks for all the comments and added insights, guys! :)

  • Thank you Henrik for more motivation and reminders that such great people have walked the path before us and we can learn so much from all of them!
    My favorite is Jung who is so prominent in my work as a therapist. It is always so illuminating to my clients and to me as well when we become faced with those that puzzle, annoy or trouble us the most! As we reflect on that piece in the silence, clarity becomes our greatest friend!
    Much love and light,