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Difficulties are things that show what men are.

epictetus-difficulties-show-what-men-are-wist_info-quote

Epictetus (c.55-c.135) Greek (Phrygian) Stoic philosopher
The Discourses, Book 1, ch. 24
Added on 17-Jan-17 | Last updated 17-Jan-17
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Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
(Misattributed)

Misattributed to Kierkegaard by Cyril Connolly, Horizon, vol. 11 (1945). More properly attributed to Jacobus Johannes van der Leeuw (1893–1934), The Conquest of Illusion, ch. 1: "The mystery of life in not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced."
Added on 8-Dec-16 | Last updated 11-Dec-16
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Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.

Geisel - cares a whole awful lot - wist_info quote 2

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) American author, illustrator [pseud. of Theodor Geisel]
The Lorax (1971)
Added on 19-Apr-16 | Last updated 19-Apr-16
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A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.
Charles Ketting - problem well stated - wist_info

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)

Sometimes attributed to John Dewey.
Added on 16-Oct-15 | Last updated 16-Oct-15
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The only difference between a problem and a solution is that people understand the solution.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)

Quoted in Thomas Alvin Boyd, Charles F. Kettering: A Biography (1957)
Added on 14-Aug-15 | Last updated 14-Aug-15
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This problem, when solved, will be simple.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
Sign at the General Motors research laboratories
    (Source)

Quoted by Kettering in "Don't Be Afraid to Stumble," The Rotarian (Jan 1952)
Added on 7-Aug-15 | Last updated 7-Aug-15
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The facts are indispensable; they are not sufficient. To solve a problem it is necessary to think.

Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) American educator, educational philosopher, administrator
Great Books: The Foundation of a Liberal Education (1954)
Added on 15-Jun-15 | Last updated 15-Jun-15
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If this stone won’t budge at present and is wedged in, move some of the other stones around it first.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) Austrian-English philosopher
Culture and Value, 1940 (1977) [tr. Winch (1980)]
Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
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There are few situations in life that cannot be honourably settled, and without loss of time, either by suicide, a bag of gold, or by thrusting a despised antagonist over the edge of a precipice upon a dark night.

Ernest Bramah (1868-1942) English author [Ernest Brammah Smith]
“The Story of Hien and the Chief Examiner,” Kai Lung’s Golden Hours (1922)
Added on 22-Apr-15 | Last updated 22-Apr-15
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The older I get, the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first — a process which often reduces the most complex human problems to manageable proportions.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
“Let’s Be Honest with Ourselves,” Reader’s Digest (Dec 1963)
Added on 13-Apr-15 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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The only problems that have simple solutions are simple problems. The only managers that have simple problems have simple minds. Problems that arise in organisations are almost always the product of interactions of parts, never the action of a single part. Complex problems do not have simple solutions.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“Case Histories Five Years after,” Operations Research 8.2 (1960)
Added on 9-Apr-15 | Last updated 9-Apr-15
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If thy Business be perplexed, divide it, and look upon all its Parts and sides.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #583 (1731)
Added on 6-Apr-15 | Last updated 6-Apr-15
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At the bottom of every social problem we will find a social wrong.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
Social Problems, ch. 1 (1883)
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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When a mess, which is a system of problems, is taken apart, it loses its essential properties and so does each of its parts. The behavior of a mess depends more on how the treatment of its parts interact than how they act independently of each other. A partial solution to a whole system of problems is better than whole solutions of each of its parts taken separately.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“The future of operational research is past,” The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol 30 (1979)
Added on 26-Mar-15 | Last updated 26-Mar-15
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To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (1934) [tr. Hull (1959)]
Added on 23-Mar-15 | Last updated 23-Mar-15
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Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other. I call such situations messes. Problems are extracted from messes by analysis. Managers do not solve problems, they manage messes.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“The future of operational research is past,” The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol 30, pp.93-104. (1979)
Added on 19-Mar-15 | Last updated 19-Mar-15
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Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.

Henry J. Kaiser (1882-1967) American industrialist
(Attributed)
Added on 16-Mar-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-15
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In reactive problem solving we walk into the future facing the past — we move away from, rather than toward, something. This often results in unforeseen consequences that are more distasteful than the deficiencies removed.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
The Art of Problem Solving (1978)
Added on 12-Mar-15 | Last updated 12-Mar-15
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A problem never exists in isolation; it is surrounded by other problems in space and time. The more of the context of a problem that a scientist can comprehend, the greater are his chances of finding a truly adequate solution.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
“The development of operations research as a science,” Operations Research (Jun 1956)
Added on 22-Jan-15 | Last updated 22-Jan-15
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There is almost no marital problem that can’t be helped enormously by taking off your clothes.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
“The Old Scout,” The Writer’s Almanac (4 Oct 2005)
Added on 11-Dec-14 | Last updated 11-Dec-14
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Successful problem solving requires finding the right solution to the right problem. We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
Redesigning the Future (1974)
Added on 10-Dec-14 | Last updated 10-Dec-14
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Be sure of the fact before you lose time in searching for a cause.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
    (Source)
Added on 11-Sep-14 | Last updated 11-Sep-14
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CLAUDIUS: When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 4, sc. 5, l. 78 (1600)
Added on 15-Apr-14 | Last updated 15-Apr-14
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In political institutions, almost everything we call an abuse was once a remedy.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 29-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact, not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.

Shimon Peres (b. 1923) Polish-Israeli politician, statesman
(Attributed)

Widely attributed to Peres in different sources. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal (7 Feb 2001). Donald Rumsfeld says that Peres made the observation to him.
Added on 23-Feb-12 | Last updated 24-Nov-14
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Don’t make excuses — make good!

Hubbard - make good - wist_info quote

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
A Thousand and One Epigrams (1911)
Added on 10-Mar-10 | Last updated 11-Feb-16
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It is not always by plugging away at a difficulty and sticking at it that one overcomes it; but, rather, often by working on the one next to it. Certain people and certain things require to be approached on an angle.

André Gide (1869-1951) French author, Nobel laureate
Journal (26 Oct 1924) [tr. O’Brien (1951)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Dec-14
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Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem neat, plausible, and wrong.

Mencken - neat plausible and wrong - wist_info quote

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Divine Afflatus,” New York Evening Mail (16 Nov 1917)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920) and A Mencken Chrestomathy, ch. 25 (1949).

Variants:
  • "There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong."
  • "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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After all my time here, I’ve yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, didn’t become still more complicated.

Poul Anderson (1926-2001) American writer
Call Me Joe [Arne Viken] (1957)

Sometimes attributed to Arthur Koestler (who attributed the quote to Anderson). See here for more details (and a reference to WIST).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jun-15
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