Quotations about   accomplishment

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As a field, though fertile, cannot yield a harvest without cultivation, no more can the mind without learning.

[Ut ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest, sic sine doctrina animus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 2, ch. 5 / sec. 13 [Marcus] (45 BC) [tr. Peabody (1886)]
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Often rendered in reverse order: "A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation." (e.g., 1906). Original Latin. Alternate translations:

As a Field, though it be Fruitful, without Tillage cannot bring a good Crop, so the Soul without Learning.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

As the field naturally fruitful cannot produce a crop, without dressing, so neither can the mind, without improvement.
[tr. Main (1824)]

As the field, however fertile, cannot be fruitful without culture, so with the mind, without learning.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

As a field, although it may be naturally fruitful cannot produce a crop, without dressing, so neither can the mind, without education.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

Just as a field however fertile cannot be fruitful without cultivation, neither can the soul without instruction.
[tr. Douglas (1990)]

Just as a field, however fertile, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the soul cannot be without teaching.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

Added on 28-Jun-21 | Last updated 28-Jun-21
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The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but did you bring in the ship?

William McFee (1881-1966) English writer
(Attributed)
Added on 25-Jun-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-21
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There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Complete Neurotic’s Notebook (1981)
Added on 27-May-21 | Last updated 27-May-21
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Do the best you can where you are; and, when that is accomplished, God will open a door for you, and a voice will call, “Come up hither into a higher sphere.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts [ed. E. Proctor] (1858)
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Added on 12-Feb-21 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The Conduct of Life, ch. 6 “Worship” (1860)
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Added on 28-Apr-20 | Last updated 5-May-20
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Every man is in some sort a failure to himself. No one ever reaches the heights to which he aspires.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk”
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Added on 9-Jun-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-21
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When I go into my garden with a spade and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health, that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Man the Reformer,” lecture, Boston (25 Jan 1841)
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Added on 14-Nov-17 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Proverbs in Prose (1819)
Added on 10-Nov-17 | Last updated 10-Nov-17
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A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 7 (1847) [Nelly]
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Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 15-Dec-16
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It is not yours to finish the task, but neither are you free to set it aside.

tarfon-finish-the-task-wist_info-quote

No picture available
Tarfon (fl. 1st-2nd C AD) Jewish rabbi, sage
Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 2:15-16

Alt. trans.:
  • It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.
  • It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.
  • We need not finish the task but neither can we desist from it.
  • Although I am not free to avoid doing the work, it is not always necessary that I finish the task.
  • You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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You should make something. You should bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a film or gardening — everyone should create. You should do something, then sit back and say, “I did that.”

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
Interview with Scott Raab, Esquire (12 Jan 2012)
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Variant: "If you spend your days doing what you love, it is impossible to fail. So I go about my days trying to bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before. And then everyone gets furious about it. And then I sit back and say, 'I did that!'" [Biography interview (11 Jan 2016)]
Added on 11-May-16 | Last updated 11-May-16
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Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He, who can call to-day his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.

John Dryden (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist, critic
Imitation of Horace, Book 3, ode 29, l. 65 (1685)
Added on 11-May-16 | Last updated 11-May-16
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We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe: can we not take the leap?
Emerson - greatness - wist_info

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (28 Oct 1841)
Added on 21-Oct-15 | Last updated 21-Oct-15
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You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Jul-15 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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The Difficult is that which can be done immediately; the Impossible is that which takes a little longer.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Reader's Digest (Nov 1939), but without citation. The sentiment has a number of antecedents (see discussion here).
Added on 18-Jun-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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Every great improvement has come after repeated failures. Virtually nothing comes out right the first time. Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
    (Source)
Added on 12-Jun-15 | Last updated 12-Jun-15
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The world is divided into people who do things and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the first class. There’s far less competition.

Dwight Morrow (1873-1931) American businessman, diplomat, politician
(Attributed)

Quoted in Mary Margaret McBride, The Story of Dwight W. Morrow (1930).
Added on 11-Jun-15 | Last updated 11-Jun-15
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Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes: work never begun.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) English poet
Time Flies: A Reading Diary, “January 5” (1886)
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Added on 5-Jun-15 | Last updated 4-Dec-20
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There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Moreover, when we have an alibi for not writing a book, painting a picture, and so on, we have an alibi for not writing the greatest book and not painting the greatest picture. Small wonder that the effort expended and the punishment endured in obtaining a good alibi often exceed the effort and grief requisite for the attainment of a most marked achievement.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Sec. 181 (1955)
Added on 28-May-15 | Last updated 28-Sep-21
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Every man who is high up loves to think that he has done it all himself; and the wife smiles, and lets it go at that.

James Barrie (1860-1937) Scottish novelist and dramatist
What Every Woman Knows, Act 4 (1908)
Added on 30-Apr-15 | Last updated 30-Apr-15
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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
Added on 23-Apr-15 | Last updated 23-Apr-15
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Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It is not a day when you lounge around doing nothing: it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) British Prime Minister (1979-90), research chemist, barrister, politician
(Attributed)
Added on 16-Apr-15 | Last updated 16-Apr-15
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There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.

Charles Edward "C. E." Montague (1867-1928) English journalist, novelist, essayist
Disenchantment, ch. 15 (1922)
Added on 9-Apr-15 | Last updated 9-Apr-15
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For a thing to remain undone nothing more is needed than to think it done.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], #204 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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Added on 1-Apr-15 | Last updated 31-Jan-20
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To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.

Anatole France (1844-1924) French poet, journalist, novelist, Nobel Laureate [pseud. of Jaques-Anatole-François Thibault]
Speech, Académie Française (24 Dec 1896)
Added on 26-Mar-15 | Last updated 26-Mar-15
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Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. And everyone here will ultimately be judged — will ultimately judge himself — on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
“Day of Affirmation,” address, University of Capetown, South Africa (6 Jun 1966)
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Added on 1-Dec-14 | Last updated 1-Dec-14
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You can’t do the biggest things in this world unless you handle men; and you can’t handle men if you’re not in sympathy with them; and sympathy begins in humility.

George Horace Lorimer (1867-1937) American journalist, author, magazine editor
Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son (1901)
Added on 29-Jul-14 | Last updated 15-Oct-15
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Promise Little, and do Much; so shalt thou have Thanks.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, # 111 (1725)
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Added on 14-Nov-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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No pain, no palm;
No thorns, no throne;
No gall, no glory;
No cross, no crown.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
“No Cross, No Crown” (1682)

Originally written while a prisoner in the Tower of London (1668-69). See Quarles (1821).
Added on 22-May-12 | Last updated 24-May-16
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Some are very busy, and yet do nothing.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #4211 (1732)
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Added on 21-May-08 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“For an Autograph,” st. 5 (1868)
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Added on 11-Sep-07 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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There are two great rules in life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that every one can in the end get what he wants if he only tries. This is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is more or less of an exception to the general rule.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanagh: A Tale, ch. 1 (1849)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Apr-21
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