Words Of Wisdom: Which Quotes Inspire You?

07/27/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." That's one of my favorites, and it comes from the thoughtful (not to mention hilarious) George Carlin.

For years, I've been collecting great quotes. They're words to live by. And they're invaluable to a speechwriter like me. As Mary Pettibone Poole put it, "The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote someone who is."

The lines we like reveal so much about us. What we value, and where our curiosity, loves, and work have taken us.

Here's one that's been with me forever. "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

And another that comes from my exploration of Buddhism. "With unfailing kindness, your life always presents what you need to learn." --Charlotte Joko Beck

This one has made me cry more than once. "Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." --Wendell Berry

And one that appears on my website because it describes what I do with my clients. "The best way to predict the future is to create it." --Peter Drucker

Now that I'm at midlife, I've grown partial to a new group of memorable lines. Billie Burke said, "Age doesn't matter unless you're a cheese." And Earth Kitt added, "I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma." Henry Miller really hit the nail on the head with this thought, "Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with splendid treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself."

Sometimes I make quotes up and include them in my email signature, just to see if people are paying attention. This one got lots of responses. "A day without a cookie is like a life without thought." --Camus

And, being an autodidact, this thought is especially pleasing. "If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?" --T.H. Huxley

Like the collections of rocks on window ledges around my home, I'm not always sure where a quote came from. I look at it, and treasure it, and enjoy it anew.

Like this one from my namesake.
Interviewer: To what do you attribute your longevity?
Chef Julia Child: Red meat and gin.

Some of them make me laugh knowingly.
"There cannot be a crisis this week. My schedule is already full." --Henry Kissinger

And others get overexposed - like this one from Margaret Mead - but I love them just the same. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

And then there's this one that I like to trot out with new clients (and wonder if they immediately begin second guessing the decision to hire me!). "It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous." --Robert Benchley

This one's not a quotation in the classic sense, but a great example of an advertising copywriter who really got into the mind of the Apple consumer. "Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

The Apple ad seems to me to describe New Radicals rather well. What's a New Radical? Someone who has discovered that how we earn our living can become the way we give back. That the skills we acquired in our careers can be put to work on the world's greatest challenges. (For more, please see archived articles.)

What about you? What words of wisdom have guided your life? What little snips of things are pinned up above your desk, or attached to your fridge door? Or what memorable phrases have been passed along to you by your parents? A mentor? What have you passed along to your children -- and what great lines have they come up with? Please share your favorites with us by commenting below. As always, feel free to email me directly at

Julia Moulden's new book is We Are The New Radicals: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World. Visit the New Radicals She also writes speeches for the world's most visionary leaders. Visit her website at At 53, she's madly in love with life. And you can quote her on that!