08 November 2010

A small, but annoying problem

I write down quotations. Constantly. When I'm walking past someone who makes a ridiculous comment (like the teenager who said "I don't know what it is, but your shirt reminds me of some Asianness" to her friend in the obviously Chinese-inspired top). When I see a t-shirt I like ("Prague: Czech it out"). Or when I read the newspaper (yeah, I still do that). I have a couple notebooks and Word Docs started with my favorite quips. I find myself adding to them constantly.

Consequently, I think of them frequently. I could take just about any topic and remember something Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, or Nelson Mandela said in reference. Sometimes I fear my reliance on them to evaluate life is dangerous. Well, as dangerous as mental rabbit trails can be.

Still, I find myself drawn to them. Usually, I copy them with great (OCD-like) accuracy and include the proper attribution. Sometimes, however, I forget, or my writing is unclear, or I don't know who to give the credit to. A quick Google search will generally tell me who said it and why, so lately, I haven't cared much if I forgot to write down who said the particular piece of wisdom or wit I decided to transcribe.

I've included all that information because I found a post-it yesterday with an excellent quote:

(In case you are having trouble reading my writing it says "The problem with most people isn't that they set the bar too high and fail, but that they set the bar too low and succeed.")
I'm not sure when I wrote it (like I said, I do this frequently), although I can understand why it would have seemed important to do so. The words resonate with me. I get so caught up in meeting small, somewhat insignificant goals that I ignore the big ones. I'm good at the here and now. The long run seems insurmountable. I know I can substitute teach for a day, but I'm not sure I can get a job I really want/need. I find myself content with low standards. I like my petty triumphs too much.

But that's not what bothers me. Right now, at least, all I seem to care about is "Who said that?" I really need to know. Well, I don't need to know, but I really want to. An extensive search (via Google) has lead me nowhere. I tried to convince myself that something is true no matter who said it, but I have this unshakable desire for context.

Has anyone heard it before? I tend to think it was from a book, or a movie, or perhaps just a youtube video. Alas, I will have to be more cautious when writing these things in the future.


  1. Hmm...the closest quote I can get to this one is from Robert H. Schuller: "I had rather attempt something great and fail, than to attempt nothing at all and succeed." I like your quote a lot better, though--not so extreme :)

  2. Yep, that's close. I found a couple that were similar too, but like you said - they're a little too extreme, which I prefer this one. Hmm, I will continue to search.