Words to the Wise

  • Zeal without knowledge is fire without light. – Thomas Fuller, M.D. (1732)

  • What we say to dogs: “Okay Ginger! I’ve had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand Ginger? Stay out of the garbage or else!”

    What they hear: “blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah blah” – The Far Side, Gary Larson

  • You can not manage what you can not measure. – anon.

  • A bad decision is better than no decision at all. – anon.

  • If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing. – Anatole France

  • People can be divided into three groups: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. – John W. Newbern

  • If a society can not help the many who are poor, it can not save the few who are rich. – John F. Kennedy (1961)

  • You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. – Indira Ghandi

  • You don’t win a war by dying for your country. You win it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his. – Gen. George S. Patton (paraphrased)

  • Courage is not the absence of all fear, rather it is instead the overcoming of that fear. – dks

  • Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate. – dks

  • It’s not what you accomplish in this life that matters, it’s what you overcome. – Golfer Jonny Miller

  • If a person has no cause for which he is willing to give his
    life, he stands for nothing. – Quentin Aanenson

  • The most important step in arriving at the right answer is in asking the right question – Albert Einstein (paraphrased)

  • All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward. – Ellen Glasgow

  • Bureaucracy is not an obstruction to democracy, but an inevitable compliment to it. – Economist Joseph A. Schumpter

  • If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you, but the bureaucracy will not. – Admiral Hyman Rickover

  • There are three roles that are required for things to get done. The Visionary, to come up with the ideas. The Implementer, to get things done. And the Chaplain, to put back the pieces of people that the first two took apart. – Gen. Colin Powell (paraphrased).

  • Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. – Napoleon Bonaparte

  • The only freedom which deserves the name [is one that leaves] each person as the proper guardian of his own health… – John Stuart Mill

  • It’s not that smart people don’t make mistakes. It’s that they learn from them when they do. Stupid people just keep repeating the same ones. – dks

  • I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat. – Will Rogers

  • …[non-violent] non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Ignorance may be bliss, but it isn’t a virtue. – Bob Lewis (1999)

  • My mind is terribly wasted. – Quayle for President 2000 as quoted by Spencer F. Katt

  • The best way to predict the future is to invent it. – Alan Kay

  • Linux is free only if your time has no value. – Jamie Zawinski

  • You are grownup not when you can take care of yourself, but rather when you can take care of others. – anon.

  • Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside. – Alexander Pope (1709)

  • Decisions are tools to remove confusion. – Brian Valentine, Microsoft

  • You must be an intellectual. No ordinary person would believe that. – George Orwell

  • Knowing the difference between right and wrong is the easy part. It’s the choosing of right over wrong that is so difficult. – dks

  • Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. – William James Bryant

  • You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life — but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud. – T.R. Fehrenbach

  • A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. – William James (1842-1910)

  • A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right. – Thomas Paine – Common Sense

  • A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried. – G. K. Chesterton

  • A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. – George S. Patton, General

  • Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive. – Ayn Rand

  • I don’t know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. – Albert Einstein

  • Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought. – Albert Szent-Gyorgi, 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine

  • The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. – John Kenneth Galbraith

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

  • I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, two men are called a law firm, and three or more become a Congress. – Attributed to John Adams in the play “1776”

  • Truth — and we could say freedom — is seldom found in extremes. – Anon.

  • The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. – General Douglas MacArthur

  • Production is making things. Yield is making things that work. – Robert X. Cringely (2000).

  • …the way to maximize yields is not to aim for zero defects but for zero variation. – Robert X. Cringely (2000).

  • We suffer as a society and a culture when we don’t pay the true value of goods and services delivered. We create a lack of production. Less good music is recorded if we remove the incentive to create it. – Singer Courtney Love (2000)

  • Four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly; and to decide impartially. – Socrates

  • …it [advertising] takes real needs and desires and says they are only satisfied by purchasing products. So what’s real about advertising is its appeals. What’s false about advertising is the answers it provides to those appeals. – Sut Jhally (2000)

  • Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses – for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it… – Herman Melville

  • …the future business of businesses that have a future will be about subtle differences, not wholesale conformity; about diversity, not homogeneity; about breaking rules, not enforcing them; about pushing the envelope, not punching the clock; about invitation, not protection; about doing it first, not doing it “right”; about making it better, not making it perfect; about telling the truth, not spinning bigger lies; about turning people on, not “packaging” them; and perhaps above all, about building convivial communities and knowledge ecologies, not leveraging demographic sectors. – The Cluetrain Manifesto : The End of Business As Usual by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger

  • Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse). – Eric S. Raymond

  • Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  • In politics, you are who you pretend to be. – Michael Kinsley (2000)

  • Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. – Thomas Edison

  • You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing. – Arthur Ashe

  • I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow. – Woodrow Wilson

  • Eating words has never given me indigestion. – Winston Churchill

  • It takes less time to do a thing right than it does to explain why you did it wrong. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion. – Diogenes Laertius

  • …for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. – II Corinthians 4:18

  • Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

  • Cogito ergo sum – Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

  • We don’t ask who is your boss, we ask to whom you are reporting. – Nokia’s Director of Technology Policy – Erkki Ormala

  • To the man who wants to use a hammer badly, a lot of things look like nails that need hammering. – Mark Twain (1835-1910)

  • You make the road by walking it. – Puanani Burgess

  • The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value. – Theodore Roosevelt

  • The success of America has never been proven by cities of gold, but by citizens of character. Men and women who work hard, dream big, love their family, serve their neighbor. Values that turn a piece of earth into a neighborhood, a community, a chosen nation. – George W. Bush

  • A child doesn’t learn a lesson because parents get upset and talk, but because parents do something. – A Mother

  • The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. – Bertrand Russell, quoted in the book A Word a Day

  • Comfort the troubled; trouble the comfortable. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • Knowledge itself is power (Ipsa scientia potestas est). – Francis Bacon

  • A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. – Letter from James Madison to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822 in Padover 1953. Quoted in Carpenter 1995.

  • Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. – Reinhold Niebuhr

  • On norms of reciprocity: If you don’t go to anybody’s funeral, they won’t come to yours. – Yogi Berra

  • In a fight between a bear and an alligator, what determines the victor is the terrain. – Marc Andreessen

  • All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value! So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore! – Howard Beale, in “Network”, by Paddy Chayevsky

  • Quality is determined not by what the consumer is willing to pay for; rather, quality is determined by the competition. Only if there is economic incentive to do so will a company build a better mouse trap. –
    Brent Melson
    , senior test designer at NSTL (formerly National Software Test Lab).

  • For everyday work, my Linux client is 99% promise and 1% delivery. – Doc Searls, Senior Editor, Linux Journal

  • To realize that our knowledge is ignorance, this is a noble insight. To regard our ignorance as knowledge, this is mental sickness. — Tao Teh Ching

  • Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people… it is true that most stupid people are conservatives. – John Stuart Mill

  • Good organization is a technology in its own right, is as powerful a force multiplier as any machine – and far cheaper, too! – Shafritz and Russell (1997)

  • Downsizing [in and of itself] is like removing grains from a pile of sand: afterward, it’s still a pile of sand. Reinvention is like mixing the sand with carbon or magnesium and blasting it with intense heat: afterward, it is pure silicon. – David Osborne and Peter Plastrik in Banishing Bureaucracy

  • If the press is not free, if speech is not independent and untrammeled, if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen. – William E. Borah, US Senator, Idaho(R) from 1903 to his death in 1940.

  • I’m describing in a paragraph what took 14 hours to figure out [CSS implementation to replace tables]. You may want to sniff glue for a while, then reread this when you get out of rehab. – Jeffrey Zeldman

  • When one door closes, another opens: but we often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. – Alexander Graham Bell

  • He who lives must be prepared for change. – Goethe

  • I never gain by sacrifice that which I can gain by strategy. – General Douglas McArthur.

  • It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal. – William Bridges

  • Conservatism is the worship of dead revolutions. – Clinton Rossiter

  • One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. – Andre Gide

  • Form ever follows function. – Louis Henri Sullivan as quoted in “Seamless Government”, by Russell M. Linden

  • Success in the future will depend on businesses that produce products and services that give an innovative and unique response to the customer or client in the market place. – Peter Block in Stewardship

  • At some point each of us has to discover that our self-interest is better served by doing good work than getting good things. – Peter Block, ibid.

  • The promise of America is opportunity, not guarantee. — Abraham Lincoln

  • In business, men do not arrive at totalitarian methods because they are evil, but because they wish to do the good in what seems to them the most efficient way, or because they wish merely to survive, or with no more evil intent than to prosper. – Earl Shorris in Scenes from Corporate Life

  • The customer is the purpose of our work, and not an interruption to it. — anon.

  • It is a myth that people resist change. People resist what other people make them do, not what they themselves choose to do. . . . That’s why companies that innovate successfully year after year seek their people’s ideas, let them initiate new projects and encourage more experiments.” Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in The Vineyard Gazette, Summer, 1997.

  • A financial analyst once asked me if I was afraid of losing control of our organization. I told him I’ve never had control and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done, and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchs and control mechanisms you need…I have always believed that the best leader is the best server. And if you’re a servant, by definition you’re not controlling.

    My best lesson in leadership came during my early days as a trial lawyer. Wanting to learn from the best, I went to see two of the most renowned litigators in San Antonio try cases. One sat there and never objected to anything, but was very gentle with witnesses and established a rapport with the jury. The other was an aggressive, thundering hell-raiser. And both seemed to win every case. That’s when I realized there are many different paths, not one right path. That’s true of leadership as well. People with different personalities, different approaches, different values succeed not because one set of values or practices is superior, but because their values and practices are genuine. And when you and your organization are true to yourselves — when you deliver results and a singular experience — customers can spot it from 30,000 feet. – Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

  • Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers. It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government. – John Jay, Federalist Papers No. 2

  • Yamato damashi – “Go for broke”

  • The game plan here is not to get more people in prison. The game plan here is to try to reduce crime. – Kentucky Rep. Robert D. Wilkey

  • A truly brilliant man would find a way not to go to war. – Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, after being congratulated on his brilliant attack on Pearl Harbor. Quoted from the film, Pearl Harbor

  • Our dignity as persons is wrapped up in our autonomy and our ability to control who has access to us, whether physical contact or video surveillance. If we cannot live our daily lives without our every innocent and trivial movement being recorded and analyzed by government agents, then we have lost something significant. To the extent that the government spies on us, it can control us. – Carlton Vogt

  • If we think [the people] not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion. – Thomas Jefferson.

  • Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not themselves. – Abraham Lincoln, April 1856

  • Contemporary public servants are neither martyrs nor saints; they are simply individuals charged with making collective decisions and enforcing previous decisions on behalf of the public interest. – B. Guy Peters, The Future of Governing, pg. 2

  • The failure to understand the logical basis of reforms and to make them compatible with what else is being tried in a government is a prescription for failure, and perhaps even worse. That is, implementing incompatible reforms can lead to negative synergy as easily as it can to positive synergy, or more easily, and with that to an actual reduction in the effectiveness of government. – ibid, pg 64

  • Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others. – Jon Postel

  • The public good, is in nothing more essentially interested than in the protection of every individual’s private rights. – Blackstone

  • [s]ocial intervention becomes a race between the ingenuity of the regulatee and the loophole closing of the regulator, with a continuing expansion in the volume of regulations as the outcome. – economist Charles Schultze in Public Use of Private Interest, pg. 57

  • The costs of bureaucracy – a preference for procedure over purpose or seeking the lowest common denominator – may emerge in a different light when viewed as part of the price paid for predictability of agreement over time among diverse groups. – Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky in Implementation pg. 133

  • When a place gets crowded enough to require IDs, social collapse is not far away. – the character “Lazarus Long” in Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love

  • Once one agrees to share a canoe with a bear, it is extremely difficult to get him out without obtaining his agreement or getting wet. – A old proverb.

  • No single actor, public or private, has all [the] knowledge and information required to solve complex dynamic and diversified problems; no actor has sufficient overview to make the application of needed instruments effective. – Jan Koomiman in Governance and Governability: Using Complexity, Dynamics and Diversity. 1993

  • Start where you are; use what you have; do what you can. – Arthur Ashe

  • Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. Let them eat cake.

  • When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it. – British physicist Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

  • We specialize because we can’t know everything. We delegate because we can’t run everything. Today it’s important that we abstract because recent history has forced us to accept that everything is temporary. That’s neither deep nor bleak, just true. People change jobs, companies change hands, customers change loyalties, partnerships are broken and made, and the vendor you favor today could do something stupid tomorrow. Except in rare and unpredictable cases, your company’s individual technology choices will not change how your customers, partners, and suppliers behave. – Tom
    Yager

  • We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works. US Secretary of State
    Colin Powell before the World Economic Forum

  • For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. – H. L. Mencken

  • The advantage of a free market is that it allows millions of decision-makers to respond individually to freely determined prices, allocating resources – labor, capital and human ingenuity – in a manor that can’t be mimicked by a central plan, however brilliant the central planner. – Freidrich von Hayek

  • It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. – David Hume

  • Life is a battle with the phantoms of the mind. – Isben

  • Six rules for winning people to your side: 1. Treat everyone you meet as though he or she is important. 2. Be friends. 3. Let the other person do the talking. Be a good listener. 4. Don’t argue. You may win a point, but you will lose a friend. 5. Put yourself in the person’s shoes. 6. Practice finding good in others.

  • Commandments for parents: 1. You will break no promises. 2. You will not be over-protective, but allow your child to learn from his own mistakes. 3. You will teach your child by example, as well as by precepts. 4. You will instill no fears in your child. 5. You will try to earn his love by being fair, with humor and understanding. 6. You will not force your child to develop into your own image, but allow him to become the best person his own nature permits.

  • We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food and bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth and our friendly helpers in this isle. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. – A prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson, written while in Honolulu.

  • Information without argument, is meaningless – and it produces a culture of satisfied sheep. – unknown

  • I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in the other. Paradoxical as it sounds, goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. So the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented, and the happiest people are not those who make happiness their main aim. The name of this idea? Obliquity – John
    Kay

  • We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been. – George Merck

  • Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness… aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way. – John Stuart Mill

  • Bad news travels First Class, good news walks. – dks

  • The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself. – Pat Moynihan

  • The central debate in advertising is not “creative vs strategic”. The debate is “quality vs quantity”. What kind of conversation do you want to have with whom, and how much is it going to cost? – Hugh Macleod

  • War, including and especially technological war, is an operation primarily against the will of the opponent. – Colonel Francis X. Kane, USAF (Ret) in The Technological War, Air University Review, July-August 1972.

  • “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

    “There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

    “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”


    Reich-Marshall Hermann Göring
    in Gilbert, G.M. Nuremberg Diary. New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1947 (pp. 278-279) as quoted in Snopes.com.

  • I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. To win is to honor Him. – Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell from the movie Chariots of Fire.

  • The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. . . . The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. – The Federalist No. 45, pp. 292-293 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (J. Madison).

  • The real evil isn’t the Hitler. The evil is the good German. The evil is all those people who could’ve…stopped it. – Law professor Larry Lessig (referring to an alleged pedophile).

  • In the last few years, we’ve stumbled. We stumbled at the death of the president, the war, and on and on. When you stumble a lot you tend to look at your feet. Now we have to make people lift their eyes back to the horizon and see the line of ancestors behind us saying, “Make my life have meaning,” and to our inheritors before us saying, “create the world we will live in.” Commander of Babylon 5 – John Sheridan.

  • Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary. – St. Francis

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One response to “Words to the Wise

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