Quotations about   work

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The crucial disadvantage of aggression, competitiveness, and skepticism as national characteristics is that these qualities cannot be turned off at five o’clock.

Margaret Halsey
Margaret Halsey (1910-1997) American writer
The Folks at Home, “The Five O’Clock Shadow over the United States” (1952)
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Happiness is thought to imply leisure; for we toil in order that we may have leisure, as we make war in order that we may enjoy peace.

[δοκεῖ τε ἡ εὐδαιμονία ἐν τῇ σχολῇ εἶναι, ἀσχολούμεθα γὰρ ἵνα σχολάζωμεν καὶ πολεμοῦμεν ἵν᾽ εἰρήνην ἄγωμεν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 10, ch. 7 (10.7) / 1177b.4 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Peters (1893), 10.7.6]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Happiness is thought to stand in perfect rest; for we toil that we may rest, and war that we may be at peace.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 6]

It would seem that happiness is the very antithesis of a busy life, in that it is compatible with perfect leisures. And it is with such leisure in view that a busy life is always led, exactly as war is only waged for the sake of ultimate peace.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

The end of labor is to gain leisure.
[in Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1872)]

Happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

Happiness is thought to involve leisure; for we do business in order that we may have leisure, and carry on war in order that we may have peace.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Happiness seems to reside in leisure, since we do unleisured things in order to be at leisure, and wage war in order to live in peace.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

Happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we toil for the sake of leisurely activity, and we are at war for the sake of peaceful activity.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Happiness seems to depend on leisure, because we work to have leisure, and wage war to live in peace.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

[Because], happiness seems to reside in leisure, we labor [sacrifice leisure] so that we may have leisure.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

Added on 8-Mar-22 | Last updated 8-Mar-22
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One day you are an apprentice and everybody’s pet; the next you are coldly expected to deliver. There is never sufficient warning that the second day is coming.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983) American journalist and author
The Neurotic’s Notebook, ch. 10 (1963)
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Consequently, happiness is not found in amusement, for it would be also absurd to maintain that the end of man is amusement and that men work and suffer all their life for the sake of amusement. For, in short, we choose everything for the sake of something else, except happiness, since happiness is the end of a man. So to be serious and work hard for the sake of amusement appears foolish and very childish, but to amuse oneself for the sake of serious work seems, as Anacharsis put it, to be right; for amusement is like relaxation, and we need relaxation since we cannot keep on working hard continuously. Thus amusement is not the end, for it is chosen for the sake of serious activity.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 10, ch. 6, sec. 6 (10.6.6) / 1176b.28ff (c. 325 BC) [tr. Apostle (1975)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Happiness then stands not in amusement; in fact the very notion is absurd of the End being amusement, and of one’s toiling and enduring hardness all one’s life long with a view to amusement: for everything in the world, so to speak, we choose with some further End in view, except Happiness, for that is the End comprehending all others. Now to take pains and to labour with a view to amusement is plainly foolish and very childish: but to amuse one’s self with a view to steady employment afterwards, as Anacharsis says, is thought to be right: for amusement is like rest, and men want rest because unable to labour continuously. Rest, therefore, is not an End, because it is adopted with a view to Working afterwards.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 5]

And, hence it follows, that happiness does not consist in mere amusement. For, it is inconceivable that amusement should be the end and consummation of everything, and that a man should endure a lifetime of labour and suffering, with nothing higher than amusement in view. And this would be the case, were happiness identical with mere amusement. For there is, indeed, nothing whatever upon earth which we do not choose for the sake of something else beyond itself, with the one exception of happiness -- happiness being the one end of all things els. Now, that all earnestness and toil should tend to no higher end than mere amusement, is a view of life which is worse than childish, and fit only for a fool. But the saying of Anacharsis, "play makes us fit for work," would seem to be well spoken; for it would seem that amusement is a species of rest, and that men stand in need of rest, inasmuch as continuous exertion is not possible. And, hence, rest cannot be an end in itself, inasmuch as it is only sought with view to subsequent action.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

Happiness then does not consist in amusement. It would be paradoxical to hold that the end of human life is amusement, and that we should toil and suffer all our life for the sake of amusing ourselves. For we may be said to desire all things as means to something else except indeed happiness, as happiness is the end or perfect state. It appears to be foolish and utterly childish to take serious trouble and pains for the sake of amusement. But to amuse oneself with a view to being serious seems to be right, as Anacharsis says; for amusement is a kind of relaxation, and it is because we cannot work for ever that we need relaxation. Relaxation then is not an end. We enjoy it as a means to activity.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

Happiness, therefore, does not consist in amusement; and indeed it is absurd to suppose that the end is amusement, and that we toil and moil all our life long for the sake of amusing ourselves. We may say that we choose everything for the sake of something else, excepting only happiness; for it is the end. But to be serious and to labour for the sake of amusement seems silly and utterly childish; while to amuse ourselves in order that we may be serious, as Anacharsis says, seems to be right; for amusement is a sort of recreation, and we need recreation because we are unable to work continuously. Recreation, then, cannot be the end; for it is taken as a means to the exercise of our faculties.
[tr. Peters (1893), 10.6.6]

Happiness, therefore, does not lie in amusement; it would, indeed, be strange if the end were amusement, and one were to take trouble and suffer hardship all one's life in order to amuse oneself. For, in a word, everything that we choose we choose for the sake of something else -- except happiness, which is an end. Now to exert oneself and work for the sake of amusement seems silly and utterly childish. But to amuse oneself in order that one may exert oneself, as Anacharsis puts it, seems right; for amusement is a sort of relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation, then, is not an end; for it is taken for the sake of activity.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

It follows therefore that happiness is not to be found in amusements. Indeed it would be strange that amusement should be our End -- that we should toil and moil all our life long in order that we may amuse ourselves. For virtually every object we adopt is pursued as a means to something else, excepting happiness, which is an end in itself; to make amusement the object of our serious pursuits and our work seems foolish and childish to excess: Anacharsis' motto, Play in order that you may work, is felt to be the right rule. For amusement is a form of rest; but we need rest because we are not able to go on working without a break, and therefore it is not an end, since we take it as a means to further activity.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Hence happiness does not lie in amusement, since it would indeed be strange if the end were amusement and we did all the work we do and suffered evil all our live for the sake of amusing ourselves. For, in a word, we choose everything -- except happiness, since end it is -- for the sake of something else. But to engage in serious matters and to labor for the sake of amusement would evidently be silly and utterly childish. On the contrary, "amusing ourselves so as to engage in serious matters," as Anacharsis puts it, seems to be correct. For amusement is like relaxation, and it is because people cannot labor continuously that they need relaxation. End, then, relaxation is not, since it occurs for the sake of activity.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

It follows that happiness does not consist in amusement. Indeed, it would be paradoxical if the end were amusement; if we toiled and suffered all our lives long to amuse ourselves. For we choose practically everything for the sake of something else, except happiness, because it is the end. To spend effort and toil for the sake of amusement seems silly and unduly childish; but on the other hand the maxim of Anacharsis, "Play to work harder," seems to be on the right lines, because amusement is a form of relaxation, and people need relaxation because they cannot exert themselves continuously. Therefore relaxation is not an end, because it is taken for the sake of activity.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

Happiness, then, is not found in amusement, for it would be absurd if the end were amusement, and our lifelong efforts and sufferings aimed at amusing ourselves. For we choose practically everything for some other end -- except for happiness, since it is the end; but serious work and toil amed only at amusement appears stupid and excessively childish. Rather, it seems correct to amuse ourselves so that we can do something serous, as Anacharsis says; for amusement would seem to be relaxation, and it is because we cannot toil continuously that we require relaxation. Relaxation, then, is not the end, since we pursue it to prepare for activity.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

Happiness, then, does not consist in amusement, because it would be absurd if our end were amusement, and we laboured and suffered all of our lives for the sake of amusing ourselves. For we choose virtually everything for the sake of something else, except happiness, since it is the end; but serious work and exertion for the sake of amusement is manifestly foolish and extremely childish. Rather, as Anacharsis puts it, what seems correct is amusing ourselves so that we can engage in some serious work, since amusement is like relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot continuously exert ourselves. Relaxation, then, is not an end, since it occurs for the sake of activity.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

Added on 9-Feb-22 | Last updated 9-Feb-22
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Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) American educator, writer
Speech, Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta (18 Nov 1895)
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Reprinted in his autobiography, Up from Slavery, ch. 14 "The Atlanta Exposition Address" (1907).
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A transition from an author’s book to his conversation is too often like an entrance into a large city after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendor, grandeur, and magnificence; but when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler #14 (5 May 1784)
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It is good for a professional to be reminded that his professionalism is only a husk, that the real person must remain an amateur, a lover of the work.

May Sarton
May Sarton (1912-1995) Belgian-American poet, novelist, memoirist [pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton]
Journal of a Solitude, ch. 11 (1973)
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It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Factotum, ch. 55 (1975)
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The encyclopedia is the only place in the world where World Domination comes before Work!

— The last words of Joaquin the Illiterate, just before he hit that big red button labeled Do Not Touch

Phil Foglio (b. 1956) American writer, cartoonist
Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg (2020), ch. 3, Epigraph [with Kaja Foglio]
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At least there are more forms of escapism than those who bandy that word about are always aware of. An artist, for instance, may escape from the problems of his art — which are hard to solve — into a consideration of the problems of society which he sometimes seems to think require of him only that he complain about them. Even the ordinary citizen is not always guiltless of similar techniques and it is, for example, sometimes easier to head an institute for the study of child guidance than it is to turn one brat into a decent human being.

Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970) American educator, writer, critic, naturalist
“Whom Do We Picket Tonight?” Harper’s (Mar 1950)
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Reprinted in If You Don't Mind My Saying (1964).
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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.
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I sell my time to get enough money to buy it back.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001) #151
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My definition of art is anything you do after the chores are done, and in that definition of art, Ron Jeremy, Picasso, and the mall Santa all have the exact same job.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
Interview by Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason (Jan 2017)
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The man is nothing, the work all!

[L’homme n’est rien, l’oeuvre tout!]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to George Sand (Dec 1875)

Original French. Arthur Conan Doyle misquoted this in "The Red-Headed League" as "L'homme c'est rien -- l'oeuvre c'est tout."
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You are astonished to find yourself the butt of so much calumny, opposition, indifference and ill-will. You will be more so and have more of it; it is the reward of the good and the beautiful: one may calculate the value of a man from the number of his critics and the importance of a work by the evil said of it.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (14 Jun 1853) [tr. Hannigan (1896)]
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Alternate translation: "You can calculate the worth of a man by the number of his enemies, and the importance of a work of art by the harm that is spoken of it." [Source]
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Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.

Theodore Isaac Rubin (1923-2019) American psychiatrist and author
Love Me, Love My Fool: Thoughts from a Psychoanalyst’s Notebook (1976)
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It was the fixation of businessmen that the W.P.A. did nothing but lean on shovels. I had an uncle who was particularly irritated at shovel-leaning. When he pooh-poohed my contention that shovel leaning was necessary, I bet him five dollars, which I didn’t have, that he couldn’t shovel sand for fifteen timed minutes without stopping. He said a man should give a good day’s work and grabbed a shovel. At the end of three minutes his face was red, at six he was staggering and before eight minutes were up his wife stopped him to save him from apoplexy. And he never mentioned shovel-leaning again. I’ve always been amused at the contention that brain work is harder than manual labor. I never knew a man to leave a desk for a muck-stick if he could avoid it.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
“A Primer on the 30s” Esquire (1 Jun 1960)
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Later reprinted.
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No matter how many times I do my work, it never stays done for long.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #2847
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The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life or of the work.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
“The Choice” (1933)
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One strain in Protestant thinking has always looked to economic life not just for its efficacy in producing goods and services but as a vast apparatus of moral discipline, of rewards for virtue and industry and punishments for vice and indolence.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited — 1965,” sec. 3 (1965)
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I’m not getting paid much for staying alive but it’s good experience.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #0033
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On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

[At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus, qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti, quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint, obcaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa, qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio, cumque nihil impedit, quo minus id, quod maxime placeat, facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus. temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet, ut et voluptates repudiandae sint et molestiae non recusandae. itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum [On the Ends of Good and Evil], Book 1, sec. 33 (ch. 10) (44 BC) [tr. Rackham (1914)]
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Alt. trans.:

  • "Then again we criticize and consider wholly deserving of our odium those who are so seduced and corrupted by the blandishments of immediate pleasure that they fail to foresee in their blind passion the pain and harm to come. Equally blameworthy are those who abandon their duties through mental weakness -- that is, through the avoidance of effort and pain. It is quite simple and straightforward to distinguish such cases. In our free time, when our choice is unconstrained and there is nothing to prevent us doing what most pleases us, every pleasure is to be tasted, every pain shunned. But in certain circumstances it will often happen that either the call of duty or some sort of crisis dictates that pleasures are to be repudiated and inconveniences accepted. And so the wise person will uphold the following method of selecting pleasures and pains: pleasures are rejected when this results in other greater pleasures; pains are selected when this avoids worse pains." [On Moral Ends, tr. Woolf (2001)]

  • "But in truth we do blame and deem most deserving of righteous hatred the men who, enervated and depraved by the fascination of momentary pleasures, do not foresee the pains and troubles which are sure to befall them, because they are blinded by desire, and in the same error are involved those who prove traitors to their duties through effeminacy of spirit, I mean because they shun exertions and trouble. Now it is easy and and simple to mark the difference between these cases. For at our seasons of ease, when we have untrammelled freedom of choice, and when nothing debars us from the power of following the course that pleases us best, then pleasure is wholly a matter for our selection and pain for our rejection. On certain occasions however either through the inevitable call of duty or through stress of circumstances, it will often come to pass that we must put pleasures from us and must make no protest against annoyance. So in such cases the principle of selection adopted by the wise man is that he should either by refusing cerftain pleasures attain to other and greater pleasures or by enduring pains should ward off pains still more severe." [tr. Reid (1883)]

  • "But we do accuse those men, and think them entirely worthy of the greatest hatred, who, being made effeminate and corrupted by the allurements of present pleasure, are so blinded by passion that they do not foresee what pains and annoyances they will hereafter be subject to; and who are equally guilty with those who, through weakness of mind, that is to say, from eagerness to avoid labour and pain, desert their duty. And the distinction between these things is quick and easy. For at a time when we are free, when the option of choice is in our own power, and when there is nothing to prevent our being able to do whatsoever we choose, then every pleasure may be enjoyed, and every pain repelled. But on particular occasions it will often happen, owing whether to the obligations of duty or the necessities of business, that pleasures must be declined and annoyances must not be shirked. Therefore the wise man holds to this principle of choice in those matters, that he rejects some pleasures, so as, by the rejection to obtain others which are greater, and encounters some pains, so as by that means to escape others which are more formidable." [On the Chief Good and Evil, tr. Yongue (1853)]
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The worst days of darkness through which I have ever passed have been greatly alleviated by throwing myself with all my energy into some work relating to others.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Letter to B. A. Hinsdale (30 Apr 1874)
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Work is the greatest thing in the world — so we should save some of it for to-morrow.

Don Herold (1889-1966) American humorist, cartoonist, author
So Human, Epigraph (1924)
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A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
(Attributed)

Generally attributed to Kempton (though sometimes as being about editorial writers rather than critics) without specific citation. More on this quote here.
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If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,
Then on the world I may blazon my mark;
And what if I don’t, and what if I do?

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Philosophy,” Enough Rope (1926)
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business business business
grind grind grind
what a life for a man
that might have been a poet

Don Marquis (1878-1937) American journalist and humorist
“pete the parrot and shakespeare,” archy and mehtabel (1927)
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I couldn’t get myself to read the want ads. The thought of sitting in front of a man behind a desk and telling him that I wanted a job, that I was qualified for a job, was too much for me. Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Factotum, ch. 31 (1975)
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Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.

William Morris (1834-1896) British textile designer, writer, socialist activist
Art and Socialism (1884)
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Oh, high is the price of parenthood,
And daughters may cost you double.
You dare not forget, as you thought you could,
That youth is a plague and a trouble.

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) American author, poet
“Homework for Annabelle,” New Yorker (15 Mar 1952)
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Reprinted in Love Letters (1954). Full poem.
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A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual, Part 4 (1988)
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To do the work that you are capable of doing is the mark of maturity.

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) American writer, feminist, activist
The Feminine Mystique (1963)
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Added on 3-Feb-20 | Last updated 3-Feb-20
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I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me,
Can’t refuse it,
Didn’t seek it,
Didn’t choose it
But it’s up to me to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it
Give account if I abuse it
Just a tiny little minute
but eternity is in it.

(Other Authors and Sources)
“God’s Minute”

This poem, and variants of it, have a wide trail of misattribution. It was used frequently by Elijah Cummings, US Representative, including during his first floor speech, and is often connected with him. Cummings in turn said it was a favorite of Parren Mitchell, US Representative. It is most correctly attributed in turn to civil right leader Benjamin May, but May claimed it was from an anonymous source. It has also been attributed to Welcome McCullough, history teacher Saugus High School, MA, in the 1940s, though without primary citation that I can find.

The variant used by Cummings:
I only have a minute,
Sixty seconds in it,
Forced upon me,
I did not choose it,
But I know that I must use it,
Give account if I abuse it,
Suffer if I lose it.
Only a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.
Added on 22-Jan-20 | Last updated 22-Jan-20
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BOB: No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know?! For a little bit. I feel like the maid: “I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for, for 10 minutes?! Please?!”

Brad Bird (b. 1957) American director, animator and screenwriter [Phillip Bradley Bird]
The Incredibles (2004)
Added on 17-Jan-20 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
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If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Oct-19 | Last updated 14-Oct-19
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I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
(Attributed)
Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-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 (4.82)
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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 14-Jan-22
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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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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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There are millions of ways to not be writing.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 22-May-17
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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)]
Added on 4-Jan-17 | Last updated 9-Jan-20
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A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 7 (1847) [Nelly]
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Added on 15-Dec-16 | Last updated 15-Dec-16
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It is not yours to finish the task, but neither are you free to set it aside.

tarfon-finish-the-task-wist_info-quote

No picture available
Tarfon (fl. 1st-2nd C AD) Jewish rabbi, sage
Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 2:15-16

Alt. trans.:
  • It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.
  • It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.
  • We need not finish the task but neither can we desist from it.
  • Although I am not free to avoid doing the work, it is not always necessary that I finish the task.
  • You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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Laborare est orare. By the Puritan moralist the ancient maxim is repeated with a new and intenser significance. The labor which he idealizes is not simply a requirement imposed by nature, or a punishment for the sin of Adam. It is itself a kind of ascetic discipline, more rigorous than that demanded of any order of mendicants — a discipline imposed by the will of God, and to be undergone, not in solitude, but in the punctual discharge of secular duties. It is not merely an economic means, to be laid aside when physical needs have been satisfied. It is a spiritual end, for in it alone can the soul find health, and it must be continued as an ethical duty long after it has ceased to be a material necessity.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4 (1926)
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The Latin means, "To work is to pray."
Added on 28-Sep-16 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.

Brown - reflect the kind of care they get - wist_info quote

H. Jackson "Jack" Brown, Jr. (b. 1940) American writer
Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success, and Happiness (2001)
Added on 30-Aug-16 | Last updated 30-Aug-16
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There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.

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

Actually American writer and historian James Truslow Adams (1878-1949). Variants:
  • "There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live."
  • "There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
Added on 17-Aug-16 | Last updated 17-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 [Johann Paul Friedrich Richter; 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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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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[T]he behaviour of the cat was somewhat peculiar. It was soon noticed that when there was work to be done the cat could never be found. She would vanish for hours on end, and then reappear at meal-times, or in the evening after work was over, as though nothing had happened. But she always made such excellent excuses, and purred so affectionately, that it was impossible not to believe in her good intentions.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, ch. 3 (1945)
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Added on 26-Apr-16 | Last updated 26-Apr-16
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Life is too short to do mediocre work and it is definitely too short to build shitty things.

Stewart Butterfield (b. 1973) Canadian tech entrepreneur and businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Apr-16 | Last updated 15-Apr-16
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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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You don’t become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.

Munroe - become great - wist_info quote

Randall Munroe (b. 1984) American webcomic writer, roboticist, programmer
XKCD, # 896 “Marie Curie” (9 May 2011)
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Added on 20-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1963) German poet
Letter to Clara Rilke (1 Jan 1907)
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Usually paraphrased: "And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been."
Added on 31-Dec-15 | Last updated 31-Dec-15
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Let the Care of one’s business be committed but to one Person; for otherwise, besides Disagreement which may arise when Account is taken, everyone’s Answer is, That he thought others had done it.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Introductio ad Prudentiam, #1073 (1725)
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Added on 21-Dec-15 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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