Quotations about   risk

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Before you’ll change, something important must be at risk.

Richard Bach (b. 1936) American writer
Messiah’s Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul (2004)
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Added on 20-Apr-22 | Last updated 20-Apr-22
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I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Neil Gaiman’s Journal, “My New Year Wish” (31 Dec 2011)
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Added on 28-Dec-21 | Last updated 28-Dec-21
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I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) French author, existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist
All Said and Done (1974)
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Added on 26-Aug-21 | Last updated 26-Aug-21
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The instinct for self-deception in human beings makes them try to banish from their minds dangers of which at bottom they are perfectly aware by declaring them non-existent.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Beware of Pity (1939)
Added on 19-Aug-21 | Last updated 19-Aug-21
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I must learn to love the fool in me, the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity, but for my fool.

Theodore Isaac Rubin (1923-2019) American psychiatrist and author
Love Me, Love My Fool (1976)

Sometimes quoted in the second person.
Added on 10-May-21 | Last updated 10-May-21
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The entrepreneur, in the classic image, was supposed to have taken a risk, not only with his money but with his very career; but once the founder of a business has taken the big jump he does not usually take serious risks as he comes to enjoy the accumulation of advantages that lead him into great fortune. If there is any risk, someone else is usually taking it. Of late, that someone else […] has been the government of the United States. If a middle-class businessman is in debt for $50,000, he may well be in trouble. But if a man manages to get into debt for $2 million, his creditors, if they can, may well find it convenient to produce chances for his making money in order to repay them.

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) American sociologist, academic, author [Charles Wright Mills]
The Power Elite (1956)
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Added on 21-Apr-21 | Last updated 21-Apr-21
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Be warned against all “good” advice because “good” advice is necessarily “safe” advice, and though it will undoubtedly follow a sane pattern, it will very likely lead one into total sterility — one of the crushing problems of our time.

Jules Feiffer (b. 1929) American cartoonist, authork, satirist
Interview by Roy Newquist, Counterpoint (1964)
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Fame and wealth without understanding are not stable possessions.

[Δόξα καὶ πλοῦτος ἄνευ ξυνέσιος οὐκ ἀσφαλέα κτήματα.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 77 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
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Original Greek. Diels citation "77. (78 N.) DEMOKRATES. 42."; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium 3, 4, 82. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "Fame and wealth without wisdom are unsafe possessions." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "Fame and wealth without intelligence are dangerous possessions." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
  • "Reputation and wealth without intelligence are unsafe possessions." [tr. Taylor]
  • "Fame and wealth without understanding are not secure possessions." [Source]
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There is always someone ready to be lured to ruin by hope of gain.

[ἀλλ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἐλπίδων ἄνδρας τὸ κέρδος πολλάκις διώλεσεν.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 221ff [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Watling (1947)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "But backed by hope, lucre has ruined many." [tr. Donaldson (1848)]
  • "Yet hope of gain hath lured men to their ruin oftentimes." [tr. Storr (1859)]
  • "But hope of gain full oft ere now hath been the ruin of men." [tr. Campbell (1873)]
  • "Yet by just the hope of it, money has many times corrupted men." [tr. Jebb (1891)]
  • "Yet lucre hath oft ruined men through their hopes." [tr. Jebb (1917)]
  • "Yet money talks, and the wisest have sometimes been known to count a few coins too many." [tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]
  • "But often we have known men to be ruined by the hope of profit." [tr. Wyckoff (1954)]
  • "But love of gain has often lured a man to his destruction." [tr. Kitto (1962)]
  • "But all too often the mere hope of money has ruined many men." [tr. Fagles (1982)]
  • "But hope -- and bribery -- often have led men to destruction." [tr. Woodruff (2001)]
  • "But profit with its hopes often destroys men." [tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)] https://diotima-doctafemina.org/translations/greek/sophocles-antigone/#post-1273:~:text=But%20profit,with%20its%20hopes%20often%20destroys%20men.
  • "Yet there are men who the mere hope of winning has killed them." [tr. Theodoridis (2004)]
  • "And yet men have often been destroyed because they hoped to profit in some way." [tr. Johnston (2005)]
  • "But often profit has destroyed men through their hopes." [tr. Thomas (2005)]
  • "But the profit-motive has destroyed many people in their hope for gain." [tr. @sentantiq (2018)]
Added on 1-Apr-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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This is love, and the trouble with it: it can make you embarrassed. Love is really liking someone a whole lot and not wanting to screw that up. Everybody’s chewed over this. This unites us, this part of love.

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
Adverbs, “Collectively” (2006)
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“What have we got to lose?” I said.

Nightingale looked up and gave me a strange, sad smile. “Oh, everything, Peter,” he said. “But then, such is life.”

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
False Value, ch. 14 (2020)
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We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“The Tercentenary of the Areopagitica,” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
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Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried “Forward!”
And those before cried “Back!”

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Horatius,” st. 50, Lays of Ancient Rome (1842)
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If you explain the basics of any one of these ideas, they probably will sound as nutty as a cooking French rat or a silent film starring robots in a post-apocalyptic world. Each one of those films, when we were in preparation on them, the financial community said each one of them stunk and none of them had the ability to be a financial success. And then the film would come out and they’d go, “Well, they did it that time but the next one sounds like a piece of crap.”

Brad Bird (b. 1957) American director, animator and screenwriter [Phillip Bradley Bird]
Interview with Drew Tailor, IndieWire (20 Dec 2011)
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When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
Blood Meridian, ch. 5 (1985)
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But reassurance can be the cruellest antidote to anxiety. Our rosy predictions both leave the anxious unprepared for the worst, and unwittingly imply that it would be disastrous if the worst came to pass. Seneca more wisely asks us to consider that bad things probably will occur, but adds that they are unlikely ever to be as bad as we fear.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 3 “Consolation for Frustration” (2000)
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Added on 5-Sep-19 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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The essence of the Epistles of Paul is that Christians should rejoice at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believe. The projection of a social gospel, in my opinion, is the true witness of a Christian life. This is the meaning of the true ekklesia — the inner, spiritual church. The church once changed society. It was then a thermostat of society. But today I feel that too much of the church is merely a thermometer, which measures rather than molds popular opinion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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Added on 15-Oct-18 | Last updated 15-Oct-18
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Anxiety is the unwillingness to play even when you know the odds are for you. Courage is the willingness to play even when you know the odds are against you.

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012) Hungarian-American psychiatrist, educator
The Second Sin (1973)
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I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.

Seth Godin (b. 1960) American entrepreneur, author, public speaker
Poke the Box (2011)
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Added on 7-Mar-18 | Last updated 7-Mar-18
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To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner.

Anne Rice (b. 1941) American author [b. Howard Allen Frances O'Brien]
The Vampire Lestat, Part 5, ch. 3 (1992)
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It’s a funny thing, the less people have to live for, the less nerve they have to risk losing — nothing.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Moses, Man of the Mountain, ch. 2 (1939)
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And perhaps, after all, it is better that the lad should break his neck than that you should break his spirit.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
The Amateur Emigrant (1880)
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Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Clissold” (1927)
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A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Under the Dome (2009)
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He that is overcautious will accomplish nothing.

[Wer gar zu viel bedenkt, wird wenig leisten.]

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) German poet, playwright, critic [Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller]
Wilhelm Tell (1804)
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Danger is like wine, it goes to your head.

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 12, ch. 2 (1807)
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Like young men from the dawn of time, I decided to choose the risk of death over certain humiliation.

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Whispers Under Ground (2012)
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Altho insured
Remember, kiddo
They don’t pay you
They pay
Your widow
Burma-Shave

(Other Authors and Sources)
Burma-Shave sign
Added on 11-Nov-15 | Last updated 11-Nov-15
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He tried
To cross
As fast train neared
Death didn’t draft him
He volunteered
Burma-Shave

(Other Authors and Sources)
Burma-Shave sign
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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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See Churchill.
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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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No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
In “Looking ahead with Boss Ket,” Popular Mechanics (Feb 1935)
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If you aren’t having to apologize every now and then you aren’t being interesting enough.

Robert Scoble (b. 1965) American blogger, technical journalist, author
“My Apology to Tim Cook,” Google+ (6 Oct 2011)
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It is the business of the future to be dangerous.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English mathematician and philosopher
Science and the Modern World (1925)
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CLARENCE: A little fire is quickly trodden out,
Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Henry VI, Part III, Act 4, sc. 8, l. 7 (1590)
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WASH: Little River gets more colorful by the moment. What’ll she do next?

ZOE: Either blow us all up or rub soup in our hair. It’s a toss-up.

WASH: I hope she does the soup thing. It’s always a hoot and we don’t all die from it.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Firefly, 1×14 “Objects in Space” (13 Dec 2002)
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You have greatly ventured, but all must do so who would greatly win.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, Act 1, sc. 1 (1821)
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It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) Swedish diplomat, author, UN Secretary-General (1953-61)
Speech, 180th Anniversary of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Williamsburg (15 May 1956)
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Don’t think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Malayan proverb
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Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 11, #15 [tr. Staniforth (1964)]
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Alternate translations:

How many things may and do oftentimes follow upon such fits of anger and grief; far more grievous in themselves, than those very things which we are so grieved or angry for.
[tr. Casaubon (1634)]

Consider that our anger and impatience often proves much more mischievous than the provocation could possibly have done.
[tr. Collier (1701), #18]

Consider how much more pain is brought on us by the anger and vexation caused by such acts than by the acts themselves, at which we are angry and vexed.
[tr. Long (1862)]

Consider that our anger and impatience often prove much more mischievous than the things about which we are angry or impatient.
[tr. Zimmern (1887)]

How much more grievous are what fits of anger and the consequent sorrows bring than the actual things are which produce in us those angry fits and sorrows.
[tr. Farquharson (1944)]

Anger and the sorrow it produces are far more harmful than the things that make us angry.
[tr. Needleman/Piazza (2008)]

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We are more apt to persecute the unfortunates than the scoundrels; the scoundrels may retaliate.

Paul Eldridge (1888-1982) American educator, novelist, poet
Maxims for a Modern Man, #952 (1965)
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Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) American computer inventor, entrepreneur
Commencement Address, Stanford University (2005)
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Added on 29-Aug-11 | Last updated 14-Apr-21
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There are some remedies worse than the disease.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 301 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
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There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor” on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, “His Maculate Origin,” ch. 8 (1991 ed.)

See Jefferson.
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A timid man sees dangers that do not exist.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 688 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
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Mankind is naturally divided into three sorts; one third of them are animated at the first appearance of danger, and will press forward to meet and examine it; another third are alarmed by it, but will neither advance nor retreat, till they know the nature of it, but stand to meet it. The remaining third will run or fly upon the first thought of it.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
(Attributed)

In R. W. Emerson, Journal (Aug 1851).
Added on 26-Aug-09 | Last updated 10-Jul-16
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Only when man’s life comes to its end in prosperity can one call that man happy.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon, l. 928

Alt trans.:
  • "Call no man happy till he is dead."
  • "Hold him alone truly fortunate who has ended his life in happy well-being."
Compare to Sophocles.
Added on 18-Aug-09 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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The more men have to lose, the less willing they are to venture.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
Common Sense, “Of the Present Ability of America” (14 Feb 1776)
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Everything matters more than we think it does, and, at the same time, nothing matters so much as we think it does. The merest spark may set all Europe in a blaze, but though all Europe be set in a blaze twenty times over, the world will wag itself right again.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Sparks” (1912)
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To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“My Dungeon Shook,” The Fire Next Time (1963)
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When playing Russian roulette the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
Rogers Commission Report into the Challenger Crash, Appendix F “Personal Observations on Reliability of Shuttle” (Jun 1986)

Full report
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A man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong — acting the part of a good man or a bad.

Socrates (c.470-399 BC) Greek philosopher
In Plato, Apology, sec. 28b [tr. Jowett]
    (Source)

Alternate translations:

  • "Thou doest wrong to think that a man of any use at all is to weigh the risk of life or death, and not to consider one thing only, whether when he acts he does the right thing or the wrong, performs the deeds of a good man or a bad." ["No Evil Can Happen to a Good Man"]
  • "You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing any action -- that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one." [tr. Trendennick]
Added on 24-Jul-07 | Last updated 2-Jul-21
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Never contend with a man who has nothing to lose.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 172 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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He that will not sail till all Dangers are over, must never put out to Sea.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #2353 (1732)
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And, to conclude, he that leaveth nothing to Chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Caution and Suspicion,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
    (Source)

Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Edward Wood, Earl of Halifax (1881-1959).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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