Quotations about   effort

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I’m working at trying to be a good Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy — it’s serious business. It’s not something where you think, Oh, I’ve got it done. I did it all day, hotdiggety. The truth is, all day long you try to do it, try to be it, and then in the evening if you’re honest and have a little courage you look at yourself and say, Hmm. I only blew it eighty-six times. Not bad.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
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Divide the work and thus you’ll shorten it.

[Divisum sic breve fiet opus.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 4, Epigram 82
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As quoted in Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906); mislabeled as Epigram 83.Alt. trans.:
  • "If it be too much to read two volumes, let them roll up one of them; and the task, thus divided, will seem shorter." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "If two be too much, double one parcel down; / So half, perhaps, better the pleasure will crown." [tr. Elphinston]
  • "If it is too much to read two, let one book be rolled up: divided the work will thus become brief. [Si nimis est legisse duos, tibi charta plicetur / Altera: divisum sic breve fiet opus.]"  [tr. Ker (1919), Ep. 210]
Added on 10-Jan-18 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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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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Disgraceful ’tis to treat small things as difficult;
‘Tis silly to waste time on foolish trifles.

[Turpe est difficiles habere nugas,
Et stultus labor est ineptiarum.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 2, #86
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As quoted in the Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906). Alt. trans.: "It is absurd to make one's amusements difficult; and labor expended on follies is childish." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 18-Oct-17
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No labor, however humble, is dishonoring.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 49b

Alt. trans.: "Great is labor, for it honors the worker." [tr. Freedman] Alt. trans.: "Labor is great, as it brings honor to the laborer who performs it."
Added on 6-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.

Horace Mann (1796-1859) American educator
(Attributed)

Quoted in The Eclectic Magazine, Vol. 8 (Jan-Jun 1868), and in The Myrtle, Vol. 24, #40 (30 Jan 1875)
Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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Habit is habit, and not to be flung out the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, ch. 6, Epigraph “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar” (1894)
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Added on 25-May-17 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength — carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) Dutch evangelist, concentration camp survivor
He Cares, He Comforts (1977)
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See Spurgeon.
Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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Coming up with ideas is the easiest thing on earth. Putting them down is the hardest.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Writing for Television – Conversations with Rod Serling,” Ithaca College (1972)
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Added on 24-Apr-17 | Last updated 24-Apr-17
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If your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it won’t keep anyone else up either.

cain-writing-keep-you-up-at-night-wist_info-quote

James M. Cain (1892-1977) American author and journalist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Nov-16 | Last updated 1-Nov-16
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It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle — the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic. And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly — to get rid of the disease of racism. Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” sermon, National Cathedral, Washington, DC (31 Mar 1968)
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-16
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Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (26 Apr 1777)
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Added on 31-Aug-16 | Last updated 31-Aug-16
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The virtues, like the body, become strong more by labor than by nourishment.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
Added on 20-Jul-16 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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The only route to success is hard work. If you didn’t work hard I don’t think it counts as success.

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
Twitter (27 Nov 2012)
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Added on 14-Jul-16 | Last updated 14-Jul-16
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You know, if you’re an American and you’re born at this time in history especially, you’re lucky. We all are. We won the world history Powerball lottery, but a little modesty about it might keep the heat off of us. I can’t stand the people who say things like, “We built this country!” You built nothing. I think the railroads were pretty much up by 1980.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Victory Begins at Home (20 Jan 2004)
Added on 4-May-16 | Last updated 4-May-16
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Phileas Fogg had won his wager, and had made his journey around the world in eighty days. To do this he had employed every means of conveyance — steamers, railways, carriages, yachts, trading-vessels, sledges, elephants. The eccentric gentleman had throughout displayed all his marvellous qualities of coolness and exactitude. But what then? What had he really gained by all this trouble? What had he brought back from this long and weary journey?

Nothing, say you? Perhaps so; nothing but a charming woman, who, strange as it may appear, made him the happiest of men!

Truly, would you not for less than that make the tour around the world?

[Phileas Fogg avait gagné son pari. Il avait accompli en quatre-vingts jours ce voyage autour du monde! Il avait employé pour ce faire tous les moyens de transport, paquebots, railways, voitures, yachts, bâtiments de commerce, traîneaux, éléphant. L’excentrique gentleman avait déployé dans cette affaire ses merveilleuses qualités de sang-froid et d’exactitude. Mais après ? Qu’avait-il gagné à ce déplacement? Qu’avait-il rapporté de ce voyage?

Rien, dira-t-on? Rien, soit, si ce n’est une charmante femme, qui — quelque invraisemblable que cela puisse paraître — le rendit le plus heureux des hommes!

En vérité, ne ferait-on pas, pour moins que cela, le Tour du Monde?]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Around the World in Eighty Days, ch. 37 (1873)
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Added on 22-Apr-16 | Last updated 22-Apr-16
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No victor believes in chance.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
The Gay Science [Die fröhliche Wissenschaft], Book 3 (1882)
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I have said time and again there is no place on this earth to which I would not travel, there is no chore I would not undertake if I had any faintest hope that, by so doing, I would promote the general cause of world peace.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
News Conference (23 Mar 1955)
Added on 9-Feb-16 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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The way’s not easy where the prize is great:
I hope no virtues, where I smell no sweat.

Quarles - smell no sweat - wist_info quote

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Emblems, Emblem 11, Epigram (1634)
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Often given, "I see no virtue where I smell no sweat."
Added on 1-Feb-16 | Last updated 8-Jun-16
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A religious life is a struggle and not a hymn.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Corinne, Book 10, ch. 5 (1807)
Added on 19-Jan-16 | Last updated 19-Jan-16
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Only evil grows of itself, while for goodness we want effort and courage.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (16 Nov 1864) [tr. Ward (1887)]
Added on 12-Jan-16 | Last updated 12-Jan-16
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Everyone thinks his sack heaviest.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Outlandish Proverbs, #748 (1640)
Added on 3-Dec-15 | Last updated 3-Dec-15
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The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears, and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Art of Donald McGill” (Sep 1941)
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Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) American motivational speaker, writer, radio personality
(Attributed)
Added on 26-Aug-15 | Last updated 26-Aug-15
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Many strokes fell tall Oaks.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine (1639)
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Rome was not built in a day.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine (1639)
Added on 5-Aug-15 | Last updated 5-Aug-15
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I am very sure that any man of common understanding may, by proper culture, care, attention and labor, make himself whatever he pleases, except a great poet.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (9 Oct 1746)
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We are challenged on every hand to work untiringly to achieve excellence in our lifework. Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer rise to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields and streets. But no work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. If a man is called to be a street sweeper he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Sermon, New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago (9 Apr 1967)
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There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time. I owe him my best.

Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) American baseball player [b. Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, nicknamed "Joltin' Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper"]
The Sporting News (4 Apr 1951)

When asked why he hustled on even a play that wouldn't affect the outcome of the game or his team's standing.
Added on 17-Feb-15 | Last updated 17-Feb-15
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I had applied for the nuclear submarine program, and Admiral Rickover was interviewing me for the job. It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss. Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time, current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty. In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen.

He always looked right into my eyes, and he never smiled. I was saturated with cold sweat.

Finally, he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself. He said, “How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?” Since I had completed my sophomore year at Georgia Tech before entering Annapolis as a plebe, I had done very well, and I swelled my chest with pride and answered, “Sir, I stood fifty-ninth in a class of 820!”

I sat back to wait for the congratulations, which never came. Instead, the question: “Did you do your best?” I started to say, “Yes, sir,” but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy, and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, “No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.”

He looked at me for a long time, and then turned his chair around to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget or to answer. He said, “Why not?”

I sat there for a while, shaken, and then slowly left the room.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
Why Not The Best? (1975)
Added on 3-Feb-15 | Last updated 3-Feb-15
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Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs.

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) English parodist, caricaturist, wit, writer [Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm]
Obituary of Dan Leno, Saturday Review (5 Nov 1904)
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Added on 27-Jan-15 | Last updated 27-Jan-15
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When we watch a child trying to walk, we see its countless failures; its success are but few. If we had to limit our observation within a narrow space of time, the sight would be cruel. But we find that in spite of its repeated failures, there is an impetus of joy in the child which sustains it in its seemingly impossible task. We see it does not think of its falls so much as of its power to keep its balance though for only a moment.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian Bengali poet, philosopher [a.k.a. Rabi Thakur, Kabiguru]
Sadhana: The Realization of Life, ch. 3 (1913)
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Added on 20-Jan-15 | Last updated 20-Jan-15
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The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that costs.

Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand (1697-1780) French hostess and patron of the arts [Madame du Deffand].
Letter to Horace Walpole (6 Jun 1767)
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There are but two ways of rising in the world: either by your own industry or by the folly of others.

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
“Of the Gifts of Fortune” (52). The Characters [Les Caractères] (1688) [tr van Laun (1929)]
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The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.

Emile Zola (1840-1902) French author, journalist
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Jul-14 | Last updated 8-Jul-14
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You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) American industrialist and philanthropist
(Attributed)

Most common form of an adage Carnegie frequently used regarding charity. Variants:
Added on 10-Jun-14 | Last updated 10-Jun-14
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I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true — hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) American writer, futurist, fabulist
(Attributed)
Added on 31-Mar-14 | Last updated 31-Mar-14
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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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Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.

[Nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus.]

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Satires, Book 1, Satire 9, l. 59 (c. 35 BC)
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I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American clergyman and author
“I Am Only One”
Added on 24-Oct-08 | Last updated 10-Mar-15
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We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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Added on 28-Jan-08 | Last updated 19-Jan-15
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Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran a very long time as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Through the Looking-Glass, ch. 2 (1871)
Added on 23-Jan-08 | Last updated 1-May-14
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Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Inaugural address (20 Jan 1961)
    (Source)

A portion of this is one of the seven quotations by JFK at his grave site in Arlington National Ceremony.
Added on 23-Jul-07 | Last updated 2-Jan-14
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I have tried my best to give the nation everything I had in me. There are probably a million people who could have done the job better than I did it, but I had the job and I had to do it, and I always quote an epitaph on a tombstone in Tombstone, Ariz.: “Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.”

Harry S Truman (1884-1972) US President (1945-1953)
Time, “The Presidency: The Answer Man” (28 Apr. 1952)

Speaking in Winslow, AZ (15 Jun 1948), Truman said, "You know, the greatest epitaph in the country is here in Arizona. It’s in Tombstone, Ariz., and this epitaph says, 'Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damndest.' I think that is the greatest epitaph a man could have."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jun-16
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The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Spurious)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.

Mildred W. Struven American Christian Scientist, housewife
(Attributed)

Quoted by her daughter Jean Harris, Stranger in Two Worlds (1986)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-May-14
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