Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of my favorite writers. It is hard to box him into any one style because he does it all so flawlessly. While he is sometimes not an easy read, the effort is always worth it. There are nuggets of wisdom embedded throughout his work and the more you read him, the more thoughtful insight you come away with. He has a way of making sense out of life that is hard to match by anyone else. Personally, I recommend everyone keep a copy of his complete essays and reference the individual topics based on their current life situation.
The following quotes are just a very small snippet of his wisdom:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
“The ancestor of every action is a thought.”
“Thought is action in rehearsal.”
“Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.”
“There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.”
“Self-trust is the first secret of success.”
“No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.”
“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
“Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.”
“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”
“No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character.”
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
“Often a certain abdication of prudence and foresight is an element of success.”
“Some pursue happiness – others create it.”
“Life is a progress, and not a station.”
“Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself.”
“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
“All life is an experiment.”
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
I’ve seen more damage done in organizations and families by people saying what they think the other person wants to hear rather than telling them the truth. The whole concept of “white lies” has become commonplace and most people go through life telling them on a daily basis. Instead of dealing with realty (or at least our version of it) we prefer to not to risk the discomfort and awkwardness of being honest.
Many leaders I know struggle initially with the idea that the most value they bring to their company or organization is their ability to think not act. Of course, thought without action is meaningless. However, the top people in any organization need to regularly step back and reflect on strategic implications, priorities, etc.