Archive for the 'Potent Quotables' Category

The Can Do Man

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Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
John Wooden

I love to cook, but have a hard time boiling eggs.

Over the years, I’ve tested every method I could find to make them.

The internet has been a bust.

Food Network was no help, either.

If the Queen of England came over tomorrow and wanted one for dinner, we’d be ordering in.

For someone who enjoys being in the kitchen as much as I do, this is a bit distressing. How can I consider myself a decent cook if one of the most basic tasks eludes me?

I am frustrated by this fact until I remember what I am able to do.

Chocolate chip pancakes with blueberries.

Scallop and shrimp salad.

Pork tenderloin medallions with asparagus.

All of these dishes are palatable, to say the least. Why be concerned about something else?

The best use of my time — for myself or anyone else — is the things I do well.

Something about the American ethos glorifies the idea of turning weakness into strength. The legendary figures of this culture are perceived as heroes for rising above all that would hold them back.

Guided by this assumption, we come to believe triumph is rooted in overcoming faults.

Most of the time, it’s quite the opposite.

Success, in any walk of life, is about leveraging what we do¬†really well to create the desired result. All of us have done so — and will continue to — time and time again.

Greatness is the repeated expression and magnification of skill. Attempting to improve lesser talents takes time away from the pursuit of excellence in those that matter.

And, if we’re not careful, what we cannot do keeps us from doing what we can.

The Laws of Defeat

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Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.
Muhammad Ali

The Old School tells us to learn from failure.

“Identify the wrong turns,” they advise, “and then make them right the next time.” Retrace every step, analyze the mistakes and use them as an advantage in the future.

The New School says we ought to disregard breakdowns altogether.

“Forget it,” they shout, “there’s little use in remembering what’s been done poorly.” Better to wipe away any trace of a shortfall than hang it around our neck.

The truth is, of course, somewhere in between.

On the one hand, there is tremendous value in understanding which choices led to an undesired result. By picking apart the thinking behind each decision — and, in some cases, the information which shaped it — we are able to leverage similarities between yesterday and today to produce better outcomes tomorrow.

That said, the ability to compartmentalize those shortcomings — to keep them in the past — is vital going forward. Too much analysis can lead to an unnatural fear of opportunity. The burden of knowledge may have us avoid the very element which defines any success: risk.

What once was solid — our values and goals — is cast into doubt.

Rising from the ashes is confusing, it plays on our emotions and wreaks havoc on our perceptions.

Ultimately, losing affects our will more than anything else, so we must strike a fine balance.

Facing setbacks can diminish our spirit. Embarrassment or shame may leave us sensitive to the possibility of stepping into the arena again.

Or, having been stung by bitter disappointment, we are all the more prepared to sense and seize the next opening with all the energy we can muster.

That’s how we end up with a knock out.

The End of Life

The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use’. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.
George Mallory

One of my high school friends died a few days ago.

Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a child, she finally succumbed to it at the age of 31 — several years more than the typical patient.

I have tried to put myself in her position periodically since I found out Tuesday.

Of those who have the condition, a slim number survive past 23 or 24. Basically, from the time we parted at graduation, she must have known with striking immediacy the clock was ticking. When her sister passed away several years ago, I would imagine there could have been little doubt she was on borrowed time.

It seems she managed to hold on to happiness through it all.

She went to college.

She got married.

She affected other lives in a positive way.

She did stuff we consider “normal,” little things most of us take for granted assuming our lives will take us nearer to 100 than 35.


I would be remiss in attempting to answer for her, but she could have made different choices. She could have run through the last decade or so without a care. She could have been angry or defeated or bitter. She could have withdrawn into herself and waited for eternal slumber.

What I believe, though, is we are all ultimately driven by the desire to have thousands of heartfelt experiences permeated by a fullness of spirit as indefinable as it is universal. It is as though, in those beautiful moments, we are able to breathe in a soulful truth and feel it sweep through every cell in our bodies.

We are forced, if just for a second, to acknowledge something we instinctively know:

Joy is the end of life.

What We Were, Are and Will Be

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After your death you will be what you were before your birth.
Arthur Schopenhauer

We all wrestle with the concept of death.

Most of each day is spent in blissful ignorance of our fleeting nature. Other than the occasional action to push our last day further into the future via exercise or eating a certain way, the majority of our time is swept away in the river of mental occupations we encounter.

That’s fine, maybe even necessary.

Here, though, the German philospher taps squarely on the immutable fact of this life:

The soul is boundless.

What makes me me and you you is shuttled around in a body of four dimensions — length, width, height and time — for a set period before shaking free of the mortal coil. The qualities that define us, our quirks and habits and motivations, would all remain if we could somehow trade bodies as though they were T-shirts and jeans.

What does this mean?

Our uniquity is undeniable and unending.

Scripture speaks to this in various places, yet one in particular evokes a telling image:

The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields,
Or the primal dust of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
When He established the clouds above,
When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
When He assigned to the sea its limit,
So that the waters would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.
Proverbs 8:22-31, NKJV

God had all of us under His arm as He breathed the universe into existence.

Before there was heaven or earth, light or dark — before before — He set about forming every soul to ever exist, each one different and precious — sacred.

Then, like any attentive parent, He must have huddled us together and gone to work shaping a cosmos so vast and intricate and beautiful we are able to comprehend a mere fraction of it.

He sculpted every mountain and valley and stream.

He flung the stars across the sky.

He set galaxies in motion.

We were present.

And we will be again.

Spend Your Inheritance

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Royalty is inherited from another human being, blessedness from God.
Duke Ellington

There are certain things we get for being born.

A birthday.

A death day.


Only one is under our control.

We lie about our age.

We hit the gym to live forever.

We ignore our interests and passion.

The truth always comes out.

It is a curious thing, the uncomfortable dance of human consciousness. We sway gently from one idea to the next in pursuit of what’s “right” in the view of — most often — everyone but ourselves.

We are all born with a gift, a purpose so specific it can be performed best by us alone. We touch on it from time to time as we grow, recognizing ourselves in the mirror of our soul. It is as though we are spending an unlimited inheritance, writing checks from a bottomless pit full of inspiration.

The joy is palpable and undeniable.

Then we suppress it.

The chase for acceptance overwhelms the desire for fulfillment.

Why is that?

What makes us shirk the possibility of our own greatness?

Each of us has a something. In acknowledging (and to encourage) his ability, Ellington’s mother often said, “Edward, you are blessed.”

Perhaps your parents were less than supportive.

No matter.

You have “it.”

But you procrastinate.

You think you’ll look like a fool.

Stop waiting.

Stop wondering.

Decide to use it.

The Upside of Chaos

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
Friedrich Nietzche

The great ones always seem to have something more to prove.

If we tracked the career arcs of the most-admired athletes, entertainers and businessmen, we would often find them hunting for new ventures after high achievement in their chosen field or simply chasing down new dimensions to work they produced before.

The public sees the riches and fame and asks, “Why?”

Maybe they’re greedy.

Maybe it’s just ego.

Maybe it’s something different altogether.

When passion rules our lives — the kind tied to true purpose — there is an innate determination to keep going, like a surfer heading out again and again in the hopes of catching the perfect wave.

It’s not about the compensation.

It’s not even about the competition.

It’s about the connection.

To express our essence — whatever we are created to do — is to ride lightning.

The energy is necessary, because fulfilling our potential is a tiring endeavor.

It requires a single-minded doggedness and unfailing grit.

Those who push forward — who strain for the very edges of what’s possible — have a certain restlessness. Their minds are driven by the relentless pursuit of the horizon. When reaching a destination, they look around and say, “What’s next?” or “What could be done better?”

This “chaos,” as Nietzche calls it, is in actuality a quiet discontent with the idea of leaving something incomplete, of walking away before the tasks of this life are finished.

Seeking that kind of fulfillment naturally leads to upheaval and disarray.

Becoming engaged in the quest for the best of oneself demands inner turmoil.

We ask what’s possible.

We face what holds us back.

We change or rot.

We come to understand the underlying truth of what makes us legend:

No turbulence, no growth.

More Exceptional than Yesterday

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The goal is not to be better than the other man, but to be better than your previous self.
Hindu Proverb

I resumed two-a-days on Monday.

The regimen — a workout in the morning and another in the evening — is a staple of sports training the world over. Preseason conditioning is often centered around building endurance fast and double sessions (done right) are an excellent tool.

Truth is, they suck.

Regardless of the work put in during the offseason, the body almost always undergoes a period of shock and confusion while being thrown into the fire of intense exercise.

The benefit, over time, is amazing.

Quickness returns.

Breathing improves.

Sharpness results.

Life is a series of chances to get better.

We are reborn every morning from the “little death” of sleep, given the opportunity to be greater than the person who laid down the night before.

The process is simple.

Do one thing — only one — to be exceptional today.

Pay attention to the day, with all its routines and drudgery, then set aside a few minutes to do something wholly different than normal.

Push a little further, even if it hurts.

Just be more exceptional than yesterday.

Forget what everyone else is doing.

Compare “now” with “before” instead of “them” with “me.”

Doing so enables us to concentrate on producing a better result measured against a known outcome as opposed to hitting the moving target of what is socially desirable.

The truly great — those who defy all we believe is possible — use themselves as the guide.

They stand upon their own shoulders to reach the next plateau.

Every little step counts. Take one.

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