Quotations about   focus

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Clarity and perseverance are difficult in American society because the basis of capitalism is greed and dissatisfaction.

Natalie Goldberg (b. 1948) American author, teacher, speaker
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, ch. 42 (1990)
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Added on 11-Sep-20 | Last updated 11-Sep-20
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Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius (121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 5, #16

Alt. trans.:
  • "Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."
  • "Whatever kind of impressions you receive most often, so too will be your mind, for the soul is dyed with the color of one's impressions." [tr. Needleman & Piazza (2008)]
  • "Your manners will depend very much upon the quality of what you frequently think on; for the soul is as it were tinged with the color and complexion of thought." [tr. Collier (1887)]

The last clause is also frequently attributed to William Ralph Inge, who likely used it in an essay.
Added on 31-Aug-20 | Last updated 31-Aug-20
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A man is what he does with his attention.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
(Attributed)

A personal maxim, it is mentioned in multiple contexts.
Added on 29-Jul-20 | Last updated 29-Jul-20
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I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose — a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) English novelist
Frankenstein, “Letter 1” (1818)
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Added on 8-Jun-20 | Last updated 8-Jun-20
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Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Simone Weil (1909-1943) French philosopher
Letter to Joë Bousquet (13 Apr 1942)

Quoted in Simone Pétrement, Simone Weil: A Life (1976) [tr. Rosenthal].
Added on 7-Apr-20 | Last updated 7-Apr-20
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The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself.

Henry Miller (1891-1980) American novelist
Plexus, ch. 2 (1953)
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Sometimes misquoted as "magnificent world".
Added on 31-Mar-20 | Last updated 31-Mar-20
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Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade, in short, in all management of human affairs.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The Conduct of Life, ch. 2 “Power” (1860)
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Added on 31-Mar-20 | Last updated 5-May-20
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Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.

[Pour qu’une chose soit intéressante, il suffit de la regarder longtemps.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Alfred Le Poittevin (16 Sep 1845)
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Alt. trans.: "To make something interesting, just look at it for a long time."
Added on 20-Feb-20 | Last updated 20-Feb-20
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What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you — what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind — you have to lean into that and figure out what to do, because complaining isn’t a strategy.

Jeff Bezos (b. 1964) American business magnate, entrepreneur, investor
Interview, ABC News (25 Sep 2013)
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Added on 16-Feb-18 | Last updated 16-Feb-18
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It’s amazing how much work you can get done in three days if you hold a blowtorch to each end of the candle.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Annihilation Score, ch. 7 (2015)
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Added on 13-Jun-17 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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KATE: One’s religion is whatever he is most interested in, and yours is — Success.

HARRY: Ambition — it is the last infirmity of noble minds.

James Barrie (1860-1937) Scottish novelist and dramatist
The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)
Added on 24-May-17 | Last updated 24-May-17
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Talents are best nurtured in solitude; character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Torquato Tasso, Act 1, sc. 2 (1790)
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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Take a book, the poorest one written, but read it with the passion that it is the only book you will read — ultimately you will read everything out of it, that is, as much as there was in yourself, and you could never get more out of reading, even if you read the best of books.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Stages on Life’s Way (1845)
Added on 25-Jan-17 | Last updated 25-Jan-17
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We are what we worry about, maybe that’s the lesson of the whole thing.

brust-we-are-what-we-worry-about-wist_info-quote

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Iorich (2010)
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-16
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Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
“Learning in War-Time,” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1965)
Added on 20-Sep-16 | Last updated 20-Sep-16
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On a recent Sunday evening, Theo came up with an aphorism: the bigger you think, the crappier it looks. Asked to explain he said, “When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in — you know, a girl I’ve just met, or this song we’re going to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto — think small.”

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
Saturday (2005)
Added on 5-Jul-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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I live my life in celebration and in praise of the life I’m living. What you focus on expands. The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. The more you complain, the more you find fault, the more misery and fault you will have to find.

Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954) American TV personality, actress
“Words of the Week,” Jet (27 Oct 1986)
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Added on 13-May-16 | Last updated 13-May-16
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Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.

Bell - brought to a focus - wist_info quote

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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Perseverance must have some practical end, or it does not avail the man possessing it. A person without a practical end in view becomes a crank or an idiot. Such persons fill our asylums.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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Added on 7-Apr-16 | Last updated 7-Apr-16
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Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
Bread for the Journey (1996)
Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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Another discovery which came out of my investigation was the fact that when a man gives his order to produce a definite result and stands by that order it seems to have the effect of giving him what might be termed a second sight which enables him to see right through ordinary problems. What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Feb-16 | Last updated 15-Feb-16
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We discovered at one point that the brick wall of the pillar would hold up a sock pretty well. This led to sorting socks by putting them on the wall, which in turn led to mosaics built entirely of socks. Mission drift is a hazard in all pursuits, including doing the laundry.

James Nicoll (b. 1961) Canadian reviewer, editor
“Another question about expectations,” rec.arts.sf.written, Usenet (22 May 2005)
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Added on 15-Feb-16 | Last updated 15-Feb-16
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Don’t go to great trouble to optimize something that never should be done at all. Aim to enhance total systems properties, such as creativity, stability, diversity, resilience, and sustainability — whether they are easily measured or not.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 27-Jan-14 | Last updated 27-Jan-14
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No sinner is ever saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Hannibal Courier-Post (6 Mar 1835)
Added on 29-May-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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To do two things at once is to do neither.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 7 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 9-Sep-09 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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To do a job effectively, one must set priorities. Too many people let their “in” basket set the priorities. On any given day, unimportant but interesting trivia pass through an office; one must not permit these to monopolize his time. The human tendency is to while away time with unimportant matters that do not require mental effort or energy. Since they can be easily resolved, they give a false sense of accomplishment. The manager must exert self-discipline to ensure that his energy is focused where it is truly needed.

Hyman Rickover (1900-1986) US Navy Admiral
(Attributed)

Quoted in T. Rockwell, The Rickover Effect (1992)

Added on 26-Aug-08 | Last updated 9-May-14
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Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love.

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
The Mill on the Floss (1860)
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Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 3-May-19
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We recognize that there are no trivial occurrences in life if we get the right focus on them.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (2010)
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Added on 16-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (19 Sep 1777)
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In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Jun-20
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Anyone can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy.

[οὕτω δὲ καὶ τὸ μὲν ὀργισθῆναι παντὸς καὶ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ τὸ δοῦναι ἀργύριον καὶ δαπανῆσαι· τὸ δ᾽ ᾧ καὶ ὅσον καὶ ὅτε καὶ οὗ ἕνεκα καὶ ὥς, οὐκέτι παντὸς οὐδὲ ῥᾴδιον]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nichomachean Ethics, Book 2 [II.1109a27] (c. 350 BC)

Alt trans.:
  • "Any one can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy."
  • "The man who gets angry at the right things and with the right people, and in the right way and at the right time, and for the right length of time, is commended."
  • "It is easy to fly into a passion -- anybody can do that -- but to be angry with the right person and to the right extent and at the right time and with the right object and in the right way -- that is not easy, and it is not everyone who can do it." [tr.  Thompson (1953); cited as "2.9"]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
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The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.

Other Authors and Sources
Richard Moss
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Apr-14
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