Quotations about   goal

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A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) French writer, aviator
(Spurious)

The earliest version of this quote is found as an anonymous proverb in Joan Horbiak, 50 Ways to Lose Ten Pounds (1995). The earliest association with Saint-Exupéry dates to around 2007. It's sometimes further pinned down to The Little Prince (1943); it does not appear there, but that's Saint-Exupéry's best-known book.
Added on 22-Oct-21 | Last updated 22-Oct-21
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All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.

James Thurber (1894-1961) American cartoonist and writer
“The Shore and the Sea,”, Moral, Further Fables for Our Time (1956)
Added on 15-Oct-21 | Last updated 15-Oct-21
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The life of making money is a life people are, as it were, forced into, and wealth is clearly not the good we are seeking, since it is merely useful, for getting something else.

[ὁ δὲ χρηματιστὴς βίαιός τις ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος δῆλον ὅτι οὐ τὸ ζητούμενον ἀγαθόν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 5 (1096a.5) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Crisp (2000)]
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Rackham notes the term βίαιος (translated under compulsion/constraint) is "literally ‘violent’; the adjective is applied to the strict diet and and laborious exercises of athletes, and to physical phenomena such as motion, in the sense of ‘constrained,’ ‘not natural.’"

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

As for the life of money-making, it is one of constraint, and wealth manifestly is not the good we are seeking, because it is for use, that is, for the sake of something further.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 3]

As for the money-getting life, it violates the natural fitness of things. Wealth is clearly not the absolute good of which we are in search, for it is a utility, and nonly desirable as a means.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

The life of money-making is in a sense a life of constraint, and it is clear that wealth is not the good of which we are in quest; for it is useful in part as a means to something else.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 3]

As for the money-making life, it is something quite contrary to nature; and wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

The Life of Money-making is a constrained kind of life, and clearly wealth is not the Good we are in search of, for it is only good as being useful, a means to something else.
[tr. Rackham (1934), 1.5.8]

The life of a moneymaker is in a way forced, and wealth is clearly not the good we are looking for, since it was useful and for the sake of something else.
[tr. Reeve (1948), ch. 5]

As for the life of a money-maker, it is one of tension; and clearly the good sought is not wealth, for wealth is instrumental and is sought for the sake of something else.
[tr. Apostle (1975), ch. 3]

As for the life of the businessman, it does not give him much freedom of action. Besides, wealth is obviously not the good that we are seeking, because it serves only as a means; i.e., for getting something else.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

The moneymaking life is characterized by a certain constraint, and it is clear that wealth is not the good being sought, for it is a useful thing and for the sake of something else.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

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To get home you had to end the war. To end the war was the reason you fought it. The only reason.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, ch. 11 (1989)
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Everyone loves the Revolution. We only disagree on whether it has occurred.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 8 (Spring 1999)
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It is never until one realizes that one means something to others that one feels there is any point or purpose in one’s own existence.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Beware of Pity (1939)
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I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing — to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics — Well, they can do whatever they wish.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Nemesis, “Author’s Note” (1989)
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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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Boredom therefore can arise from the cessation of habitual functions, even though these may be boring too. It is also the shriek of unused capacities, the doom of serving no great end or design, or contributing to no master force.

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) Canadian-American writer
The Adventures of Augie March (1953)
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But no moral philosopher, from Aristotle to Aquinas, to John Locke and Adam Smith, divorced economics from a set of moral ends or held the production of wealth to be an end in itself; rather it was seen as a means to the realization of virtue, a means of leading a civilized life.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976)
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By doing just a little every day, I can gradually let the task completely overwhelm me.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #1194
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Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. […] Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
On Writing (2000)
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If you believe you have a just cause, an important message, or a key contribution to make, you will be just as innovative as a college freshman desperate to see his girlfriend six hundred miles away. You will get there any way you can.

Laurie Beth Jones (b. 1952) American author, motivational speaker, leadership coach
Jesus, CEO, “He Was Willing to Do an End Run” (1995)
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CHARLIE ANDERSON: I wanna say somethin’. I’ve known since the train that we weren’t liable to find him. It was just a hair of a chance that we got Sam back. I knew that. Maybe I knew even before we left home, but somehow I just had to try! And if we don’t try, we don’t do. And if we don’t do, why are we here on this earth?

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
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Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

[Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Epistulae ad Familiares [Letters to Friends], Book 9, Letter 4 “To Varro” (46-45 BC)

In June 708 AUC. Sometimes rendered "nihil deerit."

Alt. trans.: "If you have a garden in your library, everything will be complete." [Source].

Original Latin in context.
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The history of the human race is a continual struggle from darkness towards light. It is, therefore, to no purpose to discuss the use of knowledge; man wants to know, and when he ceases to do so, he is no longer man.

Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian
“A New Route to the North Pole,” The Forum (Aug 1891)
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A system must be managed. It will not manage itself. Left to themselves in the Western world, components become selfish, competitive, independent profit centres, and thus destroy the system. The secret is cooperation between components toward the aim of the organization. We can not afford the destructive effect of competition.

W Edwards Deming
W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) American management consultant, educator
The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education, ch. 3 “Introduction to a System” (1993)
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He who tries to be holy in order to be happy will assuredly be neither.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
Christian Mysticism, Lecture 1 (1899)
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After all, the saddest thing that can happen to a man is to carry no burden. To be bent under too great a load is bad; to be crushed by it is lamentable, but even in that there are possibilities that are glorious. But to carry no load at all — there is nothing in that. No one seems to arrive at any goal really worth reaching in this world who does not come to it heavy laden.

Edward Sandford Martin (1856-1939) American writer and editor
In a New Century, ch. 21 “Deafness” (1903)

Quoted by Theodore Roosevelt, Speech, New York State Agricultural Association, Syracuse (7 Sep 1903).
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If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.

Muhammad Ali (b. 1942) American boxer [b. Cassius Clay]
(Attributed)
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What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) German-American psychologist, writer
Man’s Search for Meaning, Part 2 (1946)
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A virtuous, ordinary life, striving for wisdom but never far from folly, is achievement enough.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 4 “Consolation for Inadequacy” (2000)
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Summarizing Montaigne.
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There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.

Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) American clergyman and writer
“Salt,” Counsels by the Way (1921 ed.)
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Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Commencement Address, Knox College, Galesburg, IL (4 Jun 2005)
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Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to “jump at de sun.” We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Dust Tracks on a Road, ch. 2 “My Folks” (1942)
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The soul that has no fixed goal loses itself; for as they say, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.

[L’âme qui n’a point de but établi, elle se perd: car comme on dit, c;est n’ètre en aucun lieu que d’être partout.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 8 “Of Idleness” (1580-88) [tr. Frame (1943)]
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Alt. trans.: "The soul that has no established aim loses itself, for, as it is said, 'He who lives everywhere, lives nowhere.'" [tr. Cotton (1877)]

Alt. trans.: "When the soul is without a definite aim, she gets lost; for, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere." [tr. Screech (1987)]

The proverb referenced is Martial.
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An aim in life is the only fortune worth the finding; and it is not to be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
The Amateur Emigrant, ch. 4 “Steerage Types” (1895)
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The aims of life are the best defense against death.

Primo Levi (1919-1987) Italian Jewish chemist and writer
The Drowned and the Saved (1988)
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Now if of the things we do there is an end which we wish for its own sake […] then clearly this end would be good and the highest good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on our way of life, and would we not as a consequence be more likely to attain the desired end, like archers who have a mark to aim at? If so, then we should try to grasp, in outline at least, what that end is and to which of the sciences or faculties it belongs.

[εἰ δή τι τέλος ἐστὶ τῶν πρακτῶν ὃ δι᾽ αὑτὸ βουλόμεθα, τἆλλα δὲ διὰ τοῦτο, καὶ μὴ πάντα δι᾽ ἕτερον αἱρούμεθα (πρόεισι γὰρ οὕτω γ᾽ εἰς ἄπειρον, ὥστ᾽ εἶναι κενὴν καὶ ματαίαν τὴν ὄρεξιν), δῆλον ὡς τοῦτ᾽ ἂν εἴη τἀγαθὸν καὶ τὸ ἄριστον. ἆρ᾽ οὖν καὶ πρὸς τὸν βίον ἡ γνῶσις αὐτοῦ μεγάλην ἔχει ῥοπήν, καὶ καθάπερ τοξόται σκοπὸν ἔχοντες μᾶλλον ἂν τυγχάνοιμεν τοῦ δέοντος; εἰ δ᾽ οὕτω, πειρατέον τύπῳ γε περιλαβεῖν αὐτὸ τί ποτ᾽ ἐστὶ καὶ τίνος τῶν ἐπιστημῶν ἢ δυνάμεων.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 2 (1094a.18ff) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Apostle (1975)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Since then of all things which may be done there is some one End which we desire for its own sake, [...] this plainly must be the Chief Good, i.e. the best thing of all. Surely then, even with reference to actual life and conduct, the knowledge of it must have great weight; and like archers, with a mark in view, we shall be more likely to hit upon what is right: and if so, we ought to try to describe, in outline at least, what it is and of which of the sciences and faculties it is the End.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

If then there be some one end of all that we do, for which we wish for its own sake [...] it is evident that this end will be the chief and supreme good. Surely then a scientific knowledge of it will have a critical influence upon our lives, and will make us, like bowmen who have a mark at which to aim, all the more likely to hit upon that which is good. And if this be so, we must endeavour to describe it at least in outline, and to say of what science or of what art it is the province.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

If it is true that in the sphere of action there is an end which we wish for its own sake [...] it is clear this will be the good or the supreme good. Does it not follow then that the knowledge of this supreme good is of great importance for the conduct of life, and that, if we know it, we shall be like archers who have a mark at which to aim, we shall have a better chance of attaining what we want? But, if this is the case, we must endeavor to comprehend, at least in outline, its nature, and the science or faculty to which it belongs.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 1]

If then in what we do there be some end which we wish for on its own account, [...] this evidently will be the good or the best of all things. And surely from a practical point of view it much concerns us to know this good; for then, like archers shooting at a definite mark, we shall be more likely to attain what we want. If this be so, we must try to indicate roughly what it is, and first of all to which of the arts or sciences it belongs.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake [...] clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is, and of which of the sciences or capacities it is the object.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

If therefore among the ends at which our actions aim there be one which we will for its own sake [...] it is clear that this one ultimate End must be the Good, and indeed the Supreme Good. Will not then a knowledge of this Supreme Good be also of great practical importance for the conduct of life? Will it not better enable us to attain our proper object, like archers having a target to aim at? If this be so, we ought to make an attempt to determine at all events in outline what exactly this Supreme Good is, and of which of the sciences or faculties it is the object.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

If, then, there is some end of things doable in action that we wish for because of itself, [...] it is clear that this will be the good -- that is, the best good. Hence regarding our life as well, won't knowing the good have great influence and -- like archers with a target -- won't we be better able to hit what we should? If so, we should try to grasp in outline, at least, what the good is and to which of the sciences or capacities it properly belongs.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

So if what is done has some end that we want for its own sake [...] then clearly this will be the good, indeed the chief good. surely, then, knowledge of the good must be very important for our lives? And if, like archers, we have a target, are we not more likely to hit the right mark? If so, we must try at least roughly to comprehend what it is and which science of faculty is concerned with it.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

If, therefore, there is some end of our actions that we wish for on account of itself, [...] clearly this would be the good, that is, the best. And with a view to our life, then, is not the knowledge of this good of greater weight, and would we not, like archers in possession of a target, better hit on what is needed? If this is so, then one must try to grasp, in outline at least, whatever it is and to which of the sciences or capacities it belongs.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

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A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man by one which is lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other, ambition. Ambition is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts (1858)
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Sometimes misattributed to Marcus Aurelius.
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Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.

kierkegaard-most-men-pursue-pleasure-hurry-past-wist_info-quote

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Either/Or, Vol. 1 “Diapsalmata” (1843) [tr. Swenson (1959)]
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What you get by reaching your goals is not nearly so important as what you become by reaching them.

ziglar-what-you-become-by-reaching-them-wist_info-quote

Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar (1926-2012) American author, salesperson, motivational speaker
Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles (1974)

Ziglar used multiple variations of this phrase. Also attributed to Goethe and Thoreau. For more discussion see here.
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What refuge is there for the victim who is oppressed with the feeling that there are a thousand new books he ought to read, while life is only long enough for him to attempt to read a hundred?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Over the Teacups, ch. 7 (1891)
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Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.

Lombardi - we can catch excellence - wist_info quote

Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) American football coach
(Attributed)
Added on 2-Sep-16 | Last updated 2-Sep-16
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An occasional glance at the obituary column of The Times has suggested to me that the sixties are very unhealthy; I have long thought that it would exasperate me to die before I had written this book, and so it seemed to me that I had better set about it at once. When I have finished it I can face the future with serenity, for I shall have rounded off my life’s work.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 3 (1938)
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You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

Yogi Berra (1925-2015) American baseball player, coach, manager [b. Lawrence Peter Berra]
(Attributed)

Variants:
  • "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there."
  • "If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else."
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We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Diary [Grace] (2003)
Added on 24-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jul-15
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Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
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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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The companion before the road, and the road before the destination. But without the destination there is no road, and without the road there is no companion.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” # 7
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The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose; all other things, to reign, to lay up treasure, to build, are, at most, but little appendices and props.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“Of Experience,” Essays, Vol 3, ch. 13 [ed. Hazlitt, tr. Cotton]
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Man seeks objectives that enable him to convert the attainment of every goal into a means for the attainment of a new and more desirable goal. The ultimate objective in such a sequence cannot be obtainable; otherwise its attainment would put an end to the process. An end that satisfies these conditions is an ideal …. Thus the formulation and pursuit of ideals is a means by which to put meaning and significance into his life and into the history of which he is part.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
On Purposeful Systems, Vol. 6 (1972) [with R Lincoln and F Emery]
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He who is outside the door has already a good part of his journey behind him.

Other Authors and Sources
Dutch proverb
Added on 12-Jan-15 | Last updated 12-Jan-15
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One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“‘Tis the Set of the Sail” (1916)
Added on 12-Nov-14 | Last updated 12-Nov-14
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“What,” asked Mr. Croup, “do you want?”
“What,” asked the marquis de Carabas, a little more rhetorically, “does anyone want?”
“Dead things,” suggested Mr. Vandemar. “Extra teeth.”

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Neverwhere (1996)
Added on 24-Jul-14 | Last updated 24-Jul-14
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Doubtless he had an ideal, but it was the ideal of a practical statesman, — to aim at the best, and to take the next best, if he is lucky enough to get even that.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
“Abraham Lincoln, 1864-1865” (1869)
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Printed in The North American Review, #222 (Jan 1869) under the title "Before and After." Sometimes given as "The idea of a practical statesman is to aim ...."
Added on 2-Jul-14 | Last updated 2-Jul-14
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What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Speech, Dundee (10 Oct 1908)
Added on 26-May-14 | Last updated 25-Apr-17
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Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realisation the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“Nationality,” Home and Foreign Review (Jul 1862)
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Added on 7-Jan-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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Make it thy chief Design and thy great Business, not to be Rich and Great: but so to live in this World that thou mayest reasonably believe thou has God for thy Friend.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, # 939 (1731 ed.)
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Added on 21-Nov-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Memoirs of William Miller, quoted in Life (2 May 1955)
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Added on 22-Jul-11 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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The ultimate end of human acts is eudaimonia, happiness in the sense of “living well,” which all men desire; all acts are but different means chosen to arrive at it.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Life of the Mind, Vol. 2 “Willing,” Part 2, ch. 7 (1977)
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Discussing Aristotle, noting he never addressed the moral issue of ends and means.
Added on 25-Mar-10 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Elegiac Verse,” In the Harbor (1882)

See Emerson.
Added on 15-Dec-08 | Last updated 30-Jun-17
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Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [tr. Collins (1928)]

Alt. trans.: "The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress." [tr. Paul Auster (1983)]
Added on 9-Dec-08 | Last updated 24-Jan-17
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Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.

Horace Mann (1796-1859) American educator
Baccalaureate address, Antioch College, Ohio (1859)

Final public address.
Added on 13-Feb-08 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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You might have been enough the man you are
With striving less to be so.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Coriolanus, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 19 (1609)
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 26-May-16
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