I’m a collector of quotes. I love it when I can find a phrase, a sentence, a particular grouping of words that can change my perspective, open my eyes, and spread a little light for me.
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I read constantly. It’s the most important thing I think you can do with your time, because it’s an opportunity to tap into the collected knowledge of the entirety of human history—while sitting on the couch.
I’ve picked up these nine quotes along the way. They have a lot of meaning to me. And I think you can learn something from them. Something good, lasting, and true.
1. You have to participate.
There are no free rides. When you’re living on this planet, you can’t just sit down and coast, expecting the rest of humanity to keep its eye on the ball for you. A life spent as a passenger, rather than someone contributing to making the world function, is a life wasted.I know too many people who don’t want to participate. They think that life is an audience sport, something to be observed and watched from a distance. They’re not the only ones who miss out by not getting involved—some of them are incredibly talented, and I know we’re a little poorer for their lack of interest.
2. Cry. But for the right reasons.
This is what it means to be human. To feel overcome with emotion when we have to say goodbye, when we experience discovery, and when we look out at the world and are suddenly struck by how incredible it is. When we cry for these things, we are truly alive.You can’t be too proud to cry. You can’t believe that crying is a sign of weakness, that boys don’t cry, any of that machismo 19th century bullsh*t. Crying is good. Crying is healthy. Cry for the right reasons.
3. Don’t try to leave yourself behind.
You can’t remake yourself whenever you wish. You can’t completely discard older versions of yourself like incremental software upgrades. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t learn from that. You need to be able to continually progress while maintaining a part of who you were.I think there’s a beauty in remembering the clothes we used to wear. The books we used to read. The people we used to care for—and hurt. When you stop remembering, you stop moving.
4. Take care of each other.
We have to look after each other. We have to make sure we all get to wherever we are going together. It’s so incredibly easy to forget to be human, and we do it all the time. We hurt other people. We betray other people. We ignore other people. But that’s no way to live.You have to reach out and touch the rest of the world. The other people. The other isolated souls. And you can do this online—you don’t even have to leave the house. Find someone. Walk them home.
5. Dreams are good. But living is just as important.
You have to have dreams. They’re what keep you going when things go completely to sh*t. They’re what motivate and drive and excite you enough to keep your feet firm and your pace steady.But there’s a danger, always, in spending too much time dreaming yet forgetting to live in the now, to appreciate the pain and the joy and everything around you.
6. Stop being ashamed of your work.
Everyone starts out the same way. Sh*t at what they do. You learn, and you improve, and you make tiny little changes every day to become better. That’s how every artist, writer, founder, scientist, developer, and designer built their careers.So when you look back at the work you did, you can’t feel ashamed of it. Celebrate your connection to it, because it proves your progress, and it shows how hard you worked to get here now!
7. Don’t overthink it.
A lot of the time, you don’t need to stress, worry, analyze, and overthink. You need to take it one step at a time and let go of the bigger picture. It’s a lot more complex to attempt to solve everything all at once, when what you really need to be doing is coming up with the simplest answer for the simplest part of the problem.Sometimes the questions are incredibly complicated. But only because we let them be, only because we don’t learn how to examine those questions at their smallest level.
8. Let the days come and go.
Some days are sh*t. Some days are awful. Some days you want to make like James Thurber and hide in a box. But they don’t last forever, and they finish when you shut your eyes and sleep. Your problems won’t go away overnight, but your stress and your pain and your self-hatred—well, they could.You can’t hold onto the bad. You have to let it go as quickly as we all let go of the good things when we tire of them, or when the excitement of the moment slips away.
9. Think about the consequences.
Because we can do things doesn’t always mean that we should. For me, this quote is up there with Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park—scientists are too concerned with whether they can, and they don’t stop to ask if they should.But the same applies in every other walk of life. You need to think about the consequences of your actions and how you can hurt both yourself and others. You need to examine the reasons you’ve chosen to drop a stone in the water and try to understand what the ripples will be.
This article originally appeared on Medium and was republished with the author’s permission. Jon Westenberg founded the creative agency The Growth Mafia. The views expressed herein are his. Follow him on Twitter.