Monday, April 5, 2010

On Personal Strength - Wisdom from Classic Novelists

I've been collecting quotes for a long time. I started back in the early 1970s when I was pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Duke University. As a West Point cadet, I didn't major in English, so I had to read about five novels a week to catch up. From time to time an author would say something profound in an elegant way. It was like a little treasure, a gift, and I wanted to keep it. So I began capturing these gems. 

Years later, I discovered that by far most of the quotes were about personal strength. I had been attracted to life wisdom all along. Since then, I've been pretty selective about which quotes I add to the collection. It has to be about some aspect of personal strength, from a credible authority, and stated in a memorable way. Even so, after all these years I've accumulated about 3,000 favorite quotes in my database.

But as I said, I began by saving quotes from novelists. Since I've never featured their wisdom on my blog before, it is, as they say, about time. Here are ten of my favorites, in alphabetical order.... 

On PROACTIVITY - “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they lead.” - Louisa May Alcott, American author of Little Women

On OPEN-MINDEDNESS - "I happen to feel that the degree of a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting attitudes they can bring to bear on the same topic." - Lisa Alther, American author of Original Sins

On TOLERANCE - "Oppression involves a failure of the imagination: the failure to imagine the full humanity of other human beings." - Margaret Atwood, Canadian author of The Blind Assasin

On ACCEPTANCE - "People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction." - James Baldwin, American author of The Fire Next Time

On SELF-ESTEEM - "Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself." - Honoré de Balzac, French author of The Human Comedy

On INITIATIVE - "I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has to get down to work." - Pearl Buck, American author of The Good Earth

On ACCOUNTABILITY - “Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.” - Albert Camus, French author of The Stranger

On DECISIVENESS - "Worry and think before you make any decision, but once you make it, be on your way free from worries or thoughts; there will be a million other decisions still awaiting you." - Carlos Castaneda, American author of Tales of Power

On COURAGE - "He who loves wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he who loses his courage loses all." - Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish author of Don Quixote

On FOCUS - "The perplexity of life arises from there being too many interesting things in it for us to be interested properly in any of them." - G. K. Chesterton, British author of The Man Who Was Thursday

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (License to use photo obtained from


Kathleen Scott said...

Love this post, so much to think about. My favorite is the first quote. We all need a far focus to help us jump the nearby potholes.

Mandar Shinde said...

Good collection. The Don Quixote quote is my favorite one - "...he who loses his courage loses all." Thanks for sharing!

AthoubHM said...

Amaazing I actually liked the quotes! The best (y) thank you;)