Favorite quotes

These quotes were compiled from many sources by Jason Fried. Thanks to everyone who’s shared one of these with me over the years.

Betty Reese 31 Oct 2005

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.

John Rawls 10 Mar 2005

The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have.

Aristotle 2 Aug 2007

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Stephen King

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut 1 Feb 2008

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.

Warren Buffett

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Gnarls Barkley

Everybody is somebody, but nobody wants to be themselves.

Thomas Sowell

Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options.

Michael McFaul

In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible.

George Patton

Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.

Thomas Edison

There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish something.

William Zinsser

Clutter is the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes.

Theodore Roosevelt 14 Jul 2006

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Margaret Thatcher

The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money.

Albert Einstein

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

George Orwell 3 Jan 2008

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

Henry David Thoreau

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Thomas Jefferson

Every man cannot have his way in all things. If his opinion prevails at some times, he should acquiesce on seeing that of others preponderate at other times. Without this mutual disposition we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.

Warren Buffet

Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.

Lin Yutang

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

Thomas Jefferson 26 Jun 2007

The hole and the patch should be commensurate.

Bertrand Russel

In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

Thomas Jefferson

Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

Steve Jobs

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life. We could be sitting in a monastery somewhere in Japan. We could be out sailing. Some of the [executive team] could be playing golf. They could be running other companies. And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. And we think it is.

Javier Pascual

Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.

Gilbert Chesterton 24 Sep 2007

It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.

Iggy Pop

It is very important what not to do.

Henry Ford 21 Sep 2007

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

Margaret Young 28 Oct 2007

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thomas Jefferson 4 Jan 2007

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

Andy Warhol

Don’t read what they write about you, just measure it in inches.

Albert Einstein 13 Jan 2008

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Wang Yangming

Knowledge is the beginning of practice; doing is the completion of knowing.

Winston Churchill 12 Sep 2007

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Less is only more where more is no good.

Ricardo Semler 28 Sep 2007

Every one of us has learned how to send emails on Sunday night. But how many of us know how to go a movie on Monday afternoon. You’ve unbalanced your life without balancing it with someone else.

Peter F. Drucker 18 Oct 2007

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Charles Mingus 19 Nov 2007

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

Walter Chrysler 26 Oct 2007

Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.

Stephen Hawking

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but illusion of knowledge.

Paul Giambarba

You know long it takes to do simple? About ten times longer than fast and dirty.

Emerson 11 Sep 2007

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Charles F. Kettering

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Art for Art’s sake is a philosophy of the well-fed.

Albert Einstein 11 Aug 2007

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.


Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

Eric Hoffer

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

Alan Kay 10 Mar 2005

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Stewart Brand 10 Mar 2005

Style is time’s fool. Form is time’s student.

Warren Buffett 10 Mar 2005

The real fortunes in this country have been made by people who have been right about the business they invested in, and not right about the timing of the stock market.

Albert Schweitzer

In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.

Sam Brown

Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance.

Daniel Burnham 10 Mar 2005

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Our fears are always more numerous than our dangers.

Dr. E. E. Peacock, Jr 10 Mar 2005

One day when I was a junior medical student, a very important Boston surgeon visited the school and delivered a great treatise on a large number of patients who had undergone successful operations for vascular reconstruction. At the end of the lecture, a young student at the back of the room timidly asked, “Do you have any controls?” Well, the great surgeon drew himself up to his full height, hit the desk, and said, “Do you mean did I not operate on half of the patients?” The hall grew very quiet then. The voice at the back of the room very hesitantly replied, “Yes, that’s what I had in mind.” Then the visitor’s fist really came down as he thundered, “Of course not. That would have doomed half of them to their death.” God, it was quiet then, and one could scarcely hear the small voice ask, “Which half?”

Howard Aiken 10 Mar 2005

Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.

Harry S Truman 10 Mar 2005

You can accomplish anything you want in life provided you don’t mind who gets the credit.

The Economist Editors 10 Mar 2005

The cynics may be proved right; they usually are. [From “Resign, Rumsfeld,” May 8, 2004.]

Robert H. Frank 10 Mar 2005

If the search is for examples that contradict the predictions of standard economic models, a good rule of thumb is to start in France.

Bill Gates 10 Mar 2005

Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s good that we have museums to document them.

The Red Herring 10 Mar 2005

The Red Herring: Is [Pixar] a hits business, then?
Steve Jobs: Oh, absolutely. But I will put forth my theory to you, because, of course, I get asked this question a lot. My response is very simple—I can only look back at my own history. The Apple 2 was a hit. The Apple 3 was a miss. Lisa was a miss. The Macintosh was a hit. Silicon Valley is a hits business. It’s no less of a hits business than I see in the film business. At least Pixar’s second film doesn’t have to be backwards compatible with its first. So that’s my answer. Life is a hits business as best as I can tell.

The New Yorker 10 Mar 2005

A videogame aficionado interviewed for J.C. Herz’s book “Joystick Nation” complains: “Nowadays, there’s no imagination required, the realism is so advanced.”

John F. Kennedy 10 Mar 2005

Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

H.L. Mencken 10 Mar 2005

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

David Ogilvy 10 Mar 2005

Don’t hire a dog, and then bark yourself.

Stanford Professor Bob Sutton 10 Mar 2005

When Chuck House wanted to develop the oscilloscope for HP, David Packard told him to abandon the project. Chuck went on “vacation” and came back with $2MM in orders. Packard later gave him an award inscribed with an accolade for “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering.”

Chinese proverb 10 Mar 2005

The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.

Donald Rumsfeld 10 Mar 2005

As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery 10 Mar 2005

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Harry Lime (Orson Welles), The Third Man 10 Mar 2005

Remember what the fellow said: In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. And in Switzerland they had brotherly love and 500 years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Bob Woodward 10 Mar 2005

All good work is done in defiance of management.

Barry Diller 14 Oct 2005

Put one dumb foot in front of the other and course-correct as you go.

Oscar Wilde 30 Oct 2005

A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

J. Gall 3 Nov 2005

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked….A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.

Patton 7 Nov 2005

A good plan violently executed today, is far and away better than a perfect plan next week.

Stephen Hawking 18 Nov 2005

People who boast about their IQ are losers.

Chef Philippe Legendre 27 Nov 2005

If you don’t love others you can’t cook. People who have no love to share eat poorly, and they don’t cook. If you love cooking, you will cook, at whatever level. People who like to be around a table, who like to share—they’ll try to cook, even if it’s only an egg. I would much prefer to eat an egg with friends than caviar with strangers.

Benjamin Franklin 19 Jan 2006

Well done is better than well said.

Danny O’Brien 29 Jan 2006

They that can give up general purpose computers for the sake of a little eye candy deserve neither computers nor eye candy.

Mohandas Gandhi 23 Feb 2006

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Christopher Alexander 22 Mar 2006

Most of the wonderful places in the world were not made by architects but by the people.

Albert Einstein 22 Mar 2006

The Universe is difficult to comprehend because it is obvious.

John Cage 16 Jul 2006

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

Abraham Lincoln

Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.

Alexander Fraser Tyler

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back to bondage.

Thelonius Monk 10 Aug 2006

I played the wrong wrong notes.

Bill Cosby 11 Sep 2006

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

Barry Goldwater 19 Sep 2006

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.

Albert Einstein 22 Sep 2006

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.

Charles Eames 3 Jan 2007

The details are not the details. They make the design.

Jacob Covey 4 Jan 2007

As much as anything, good design says that somebody is taking this object very seriously.

George C. Lichtenberg

A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.

Nolan Bushnell 4 Jan 2007

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it that makes a difference.

David Ogilvy 4 Jan 2007

I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.

Harley-Davidson Annual Report 4 Jan 2007

The secret to our enduring brand lies in delivering an experience rather than just a collection of products and services.

Blaise Pascal 4 Jan 2007

We are more easily persuaded, in general, by the reasons we ourselves discover than by those which are given to us by others.

Bob Dylan

I saw Bob Dylan getting criticized in Australia by this guy who was saying, “Your new songs aren’t as relevant as your old songs.” And Dylan just said, “Well, I’m out here writing songs – what are you doing?” – Bob Dylan

P.T. Barnum 4 Jan 2007

Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.

Theodore Roosevelt 17 Jan 2007

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Wayne Gretzky 29 Jan 2007

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.

Rudy Giuliani 30 Jan 2007

You know, I don’t agree with myself on everything.

Dieter Rams 28 May 2007

Having small touches of colour makes it more colourful than having the whole thing in colour.

Robert Frost 28 May 2007

Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length.

Yiddish Saying

Lose an hour in the morning, chase it all day

Osmo Wiio 8 Jun 2007

Communication usually fails, except by accident.

George Patton

We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun cocksuckers by the bushel-fucking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!

Steve Jobs

The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.

So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.