Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Quotes of the Year - Our List of Lists

The best list of Quotes of the Year is not a list of political quotes, sports quotes or business quotes. But more about that in a moment.

For the most notable quotes of the year, many sources cite Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro's annual list, published here at the Huffington Post for example. This year the tie for first place went to Christine O'Donnell ("I'm not a witch.") and Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP ("I'd like my life back."). I personally favor Hayward's as a more poignant reflection of our times. Neither of them is worthy of a place on your wall, however, and so you will not see these at any time soon. You're welcome.

The website publishes Quotes of the Week and the 2010 collection is posted here. This is a pretty entertaining and comprehensive list.

ESPN has a list of the top 100 sports quotes. See the top 20 here. I'm not a huge sports fan, so these lists tend to sound the same to me year after year.

At this tech blog, there's a unique list of IT related quotes of the year.

I suppose the quality of a quote list like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The best collection of 2010 top quotes for me is this list compiled by blogger Carolyn Robertson at the Momformation blog ( If you're a parent, you'll enjoy this glimpse at the mom and dad side of Matt Damon, P. Diddy, Halle Berry, Michael J. Fox and others.

Quotes are simply words spoken or written by others that hold special meaning to you. The most meaningful quote of the year for you may be something said by your child, your spouse or partner, your boss or your friend. Share them with us here.

The quote of the year for me came from a friend I'll call Robin who had been seeking to adopt a baby (as a single mother) for over a year. Finally, earlier this year, Robin was matched with a pregnant woman in a distant state. Robin followed the progress of the pregnancy closely, visited the woman several times, paid for doctor visits, lawyers and food. Then, two weeks before the baby was born, the expectant mother called Robin to say she had second thoughts and would not be going through with the adoption. Robin was crushed. She wanted so much to be a mom, but if her fate was otherwise, she'd accept it. The process had taken its toll, and she decided she would not try again if the adoption fell through. About 3 weeks later, I received an email on my blackberry on the way home. It was from Robin. The baby was born, and it was Robin's. Her message, and the best quote of 2010:

"I would like to introduce you to Evan Noel [Doe]. He was born on Friday October 8, 2010 at 2:20pm. He had some breathing issues but getting better by the day. I look forward to bringing him back to NY next week. Love Robin"

Wishing everyone a year of happy new quotes -

Gary @ Quote Palettes

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Graduation Quotes for Inspiration

This is an exciting month for millions of new graduates. Here are some of our favorite graduation quotes, words that might inspire an entire graduation speech ... and fill an entire graduation card!  (And of course you can choose a background design and color and have any or all of these printed for framing at!)  Enjoy our quote selection, and congratulations and best wishes to all graduates and their proud families!

Things may come to those who wait. But only the things left by those who hustle.  --Abraham Lincoln
God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow into them.   -- Anonymous
Never complain and never explain.    -- Benjamin Disraeli
Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What's a sun-dial in the shade?    --Benjamin Franklin
Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.   -- Buddha
It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.  --  Confucius
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one.    --Elbert Hubbard
First say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do.   -- Epictetus
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.    --George Bernard Shaw
You can stand tall without standing on someone.  You can be a victor without having victims.   -- Harriet Woods
Seek to do good, and you will find that happiness runs after you.   -- James Freeman Clarke
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.    --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Chance favors the prepared mind.  --  Louis Pasteur
The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.    --May Smith
Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.    --Robert Brault
Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.    --Rumi
Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them.  --  Russell H. Conwell

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Undercover Boss" made Monday mornings a little less dreadful

So ended this Sunday night the first season of "Undercover Boss," a success by any measure for CBS and most of the participating companies (7-Eleven, Waste Management, White Castle, 1-800-Flowers,... even Hooters came out on top). It was a truly inspired decision putting the show on Sunday night - just when millions are dreading the thought of going back to work on Monday. Turn on the tube, and ... Surprise! ... real-life stories about bosses who listen, about everyday people like us who are recognized for their efforts and ideas. Wow, maybe there's hope for us yet! (To sleep soundly Sundays we would turn the TV off at this point. The spell was broken completely, however, once we turned the dial to NBC and Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice.)

What motivates us to do our best work? Is it pride, ambition, money, passion for quality, love of the process, commitment to our team? Here are a few great quotes on what makes good work worth doing... Each one approaches the question from a different angle.  Can a few choice words cure the Monday morning blues? . . .

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it. - Buddha
Things may come to those who wait. But only the things left by those who hustle. - Abraham Lincoln
Wherever you go, go with all your heart. - Confucius
The world stands aside to let anyone pass who knows where he is going. - David Starr Jordan
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one. - Ellen Hubbard
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. - Hannah More
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. - Henry David Thoreau
Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. - Louis Pasteur
By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve. - Robert Frost
Do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are. - Theodore Roosevelt
A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job. - Thomas Edison
I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. - Thomas Jefferson

Gary @ Quote Palettes

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Orange you glad you didn't see what I saw

In the New York Times building in Manhattan today I shared the elevator with a middle-aged woman eating an orange. It would have been an uneventful trip to the 26th floor except that, as she peeled, a chunk of orange rind about the size of an iPod Nano fell to the elevator floor.

Now if that were you, what would you do? All she had in her hands was the orange. There’s no doubt she saw what happened, just as I couldn’t help notice. She kept peeling and eating, ignoring the floor, and me. So I figured, well perhaps she’s just being efficient. In case she drops any more, she’s just waiting until she arrives at her floor to bend over and pick it all up at once.

Then the elevator doors opened on 25, and she started walking out, leaving the peel there on the carpet of this otherwise pristine elevator. So naturally, I said, “Um, I think you forgot your peel.” I swear I said it. But now I’m not sure. Because there was no reaction whatsoever. She looked straight ahead and kept walking, leaving me with her garbage. When the elevator got to 26, I bent down to pick up the peel, feeling half suckered and fully repulsed.

This episode reminded me of the quote,

The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” - Fred Astaire

I thought of the kids of the woman in the elevator. I thought of the terrific example she must set for them every day. Leaving her tray of trash on the table for the fast food restaurant worker to clean up. Sticking her gum on the park bench. Cutting her whole family into the ticket-holders’ line (just ahead of my kids and me). What hope is there for civility when women like this are raising offspring?

Of course, I don’t even know if that woman has kids. But all the world knows of us is the sum of our actions. All the little things we choose to do, or not do, every day - like how to deal with a piece of orange peel on the floor - says, “This is who I am.”

We can’t be there all the time to tell our kids to pick up after themselves. We hope by setting the right examples that they learn and show the world each day that they are not rude, they are not pigs. I don’t remember any particular moment as a kid when my mother or father set an example of using good manners. It was just a natural part of living. I will, however, remember the woman in the New York Times building and her orange.

John Stuart Mill said, “In the long-run, the best proof of a good character is good actions.” Today’s small encounter was proof again that every action counts.

Gary @ Quote Palettes

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Defines You

Not far into Tiger Woods’ 13-minute apology press conference yesterday, the golfer recited a quote that goes,

It’s not what you achieve in life that matters, it’s what you overcome.

Good quote - says a lot about someone's character. I was curious where he got it and started searching.

Tiger may have picked up the phrase in Golf Magazine, back in May 1980, when he was reading about golfer Johnny Miller, who was quoted as saying, “I'm not much of a student, but during my slump I had taken to reading the Scriptures a good bit as well as a few pieces on philosophy and life. And I remember having read a statement that went something like this: ‘It's not what you accomplish in life, but what you overcome.’”

It’s possible Tiger kept that quote in mind since 1980, to help him through a few slumps along the way. And putting the quote in that context explains a lot. If Tiger thought character was about overcoming golf slumps, he was a disaster waiting to happen.

But perhaps Tiger remembered a more recent use of the phrase by Carlton Fisk, when the famous catcher was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On July 23, 2000, near the end of Fisk’s speech, he said this:

“Sometimes they say, ‘It's not what you achieve in life that defines you, it's what you overcome.’ And I feel that baseball offers a lot of those lessons, because there's so much to overcome. Failure is so closely connected with success. And there would be no success, if there were no failure. So you have to understand that we are Hall of Famers, but we are not perfect.”

Tiger would sure see the wisdom in that – “we are not perfect.” Also Fisk was talking about failure, not just golf slumps (are they the same thing to these guys?). Sounds more relevant to Tiger's situation. But the words, "that defines you" caught my eye. Tiger used the words, “that matters". I think if he knew the Fisk quote, he probably would have said, “that defines you.” It’s much stronger.

Fisk of course did not coin the saying either, since he said, “Sometimes they say…” Perhaps he was a golf magazine subscriber, or a student of “philosophy and life” like Mr. Miller. Anyway, I was unable to find out who “they” were.

The quote “it’s what you overcome” doesn’t show up online until Brainyquote attributed it to Mr. Fisk in early 2001. But the website appears to have misquoted him as saying, “It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.” Numerous other quote sites have republished it as such since then.  If you trust the transcript of the Hall of Fame speech Fisk delivered in July 2000 the original has a lot more punch.

I hope Brainyquote fixes the Fisk listing, gives separate attribution to Mr. Miller’s version, and leaves Tiger off the quote lists altogether. This lovely quote should not hereafter be associated with overcoming a public relations disaster resulting from inexcusably bad judgment. No, this saying serves a higher purpose: it inspires us to overcome those challenges life presents that are beyond our control.

For a wonderful example of this, look no further than this article about Eunice Kennedy Shriver from the Washington Post. Her friend, paying tribute to Mrs. Shriver’s devotion to the Special Olympics, writes, “She truly believed, and she instilled in those events, the idea that it's not what you achieve in life, it's what you overcome. A morally driven and politically astute woman, she sprung open doors globally for the mentally disabled and opened minds that had too long been closed to accepting people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.”

Now that is the kind of context this quote deserves.

If any of you can solve the mystery of the origin of the saying, please let us know. In the meantime, we will give Mr. Fisk – and certainly not Mr. Woods – the credit at

Gary @ Quote Palettes

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Motivation to start something new

Starting a new business is exciting, but overwhelming just the same. There’s a lot to manage and learn, and many expectations to fulfill. Feelings of excitement in a new endeavor are often shared with anxiety – and sometimes that can really slow you down. So how does one motivate to move forward and embrace something new?

There’s a ton of resources in the motivational, “self-help” category these days. Some of it is downright hokey and a lot of it is just a rehash of age old wisdom. There is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9-14. But I think the value in all this is in the reminding. And in many cases you can find very practical suggestions to action. The trick, I think, is in finding the words that move you.

My latest find in the motivational category is "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. I haven’t finished yet, but in general, I can say that Ms. Rubin’s book suits my style. Rubin, a writer, wife and mom in NYC, albeit with a pretty sweet life, was going about her daily routine when she was struck by the question - Am I Happy? So began a year long effort to apply various happiness strategies to her life systematically on a monthly basis.

So, why does this book speak to me?
• First off, I agree that those with a positive outlook are not easily thwarted by obstacles. Though it may sound trite, working on happiness sounds right. It may help the rest of life flow a little easier.
• Secondly, Rubin did a lot of homework here, from Plato to Thoreau, to the great religions, as well as scientific research and current trends in positive psychology. For me, if you’re going to argue something, please back it up.
• Finally, "The Happiness Project" is a readable memoir peppered with relevant quotes (and I like quotes!) that remind one how to turn a situation. One example relates to Rubin’s frustration when her husband doesn’t pitch in with the housework (well, at least not up to her standards). Sounds silly, right? But these are the things that actually lead to arguments! Here Rubin quotes the twentieth century English writer G.K. Chesterton, “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” Yes, thank you. I am reminded. Try to keep your focus on the great things about this special person in your life. And the not so great… well, nobody’s perfect. Great words to remember if you're fussing about your own shortcomings, too!

What’s really working for me right now is a phrase from Rubin’s chapter on parenthood - “The days are long, but the years are short.” I mentioned this one in my book club the other day and there was a collective “Ahhh”. From the viewpoint of a parent, of course, it really rings true. Remember to be patient; those kids will be off before we know it. I also hear in those words a gentle reminder to move forward. Don’t dwell on the “what ifs” – time is passing. And yes, some days are really overwhelming with a lot of loose ends flying around. But that’s just life and we need to get it going while we can.

So even though it is the middle of January and not an otherwise auspicious day, today I'm posting this blog, moving forward, crossing one thing off my list... How about you? Where do you find motivation to start something new?

Victoria @ Quote Palettes ™

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Using the Science of Happiness to Build a Great Company Culture

This week you will probably say "Happy New Year" to a hundred people or more. Wishing people happiness is something we do a lot, without thinking much about it. We write "Happy Holidays" and sing "Happy Birthday." "Happy New Year" implies a grander vision - a whole year of happiness. Wow, that would be something. But perhaps it's not very realistic. Maybe we really mean, "have a happy year, more or less."

Much has been written about happiness lately, partly because the "science of happiness" has gotten more legitimate traction.

One of the people talking a lot about that science is Tony Hsieh, CEO of Hsieh grew Zappos from nothing to a billion dollar company in 10 years by making company culture his number one priority (making culture #1 led naturally to better customer service, which led to off-the-charts customer loyalty, which led to a billion dollar buy-out by Amazon). Hsieh has developed a framework for long term happiness he is promoting as a model for growing a winning company. Hsieh's framework will no doubt be the focus of his book called "Delivering Happiness" to be published in March. His ideas are exciting and I hope they influence a lot of business leaders.

But Hsieh didn't start out trying to make his company a "happy" one, at least not in the scientific sense. He just felt strongly that culture matters, and the business formula applied by Jack Welch and others (set company values to achieve market dominance, recruit talent to execute, motivate employees with money, recognition and fear of termination) often leaves company culture to rot. So he put culture ahead of market dominance. He and his team developed a list of specific values for the company and agreed to live by them. They set hiring and promotion policies to ensure that every Zappos employee would be inspired to his or her core to achieve the mission and reinforce the values of the company. This sounds hokey, but it worked.

Then one day Hsieh picked up a book called "The Happiness Hypothesis" by Jonathan Haidt and things really started to click.

Hsieh realized that hiring only people whose personal values were directly aligned with the company's values (and reinforcing those values all the time) created an environment at Zappos in which people felt they could (a) grow, (b) control their destiny, (c) share their values and personality, and (d) achieve a higher purpose than making money. These turn out to be four key ingredients we need in our lives to experience long-term happiness.

This is a model on which we aspire to build our business someday. Making our company a place where organizational values align with personal values.

Tony Hsieh will give a lot of credit to Haidt, saying "The Happiness Hypothesis" was the most influential book Hsieh has read in the past 5 years. But Hsieh hasn't talked a lot about what prevents us from achieving - or, more importantly, from even seeking - the kind of long-term happiness the Zappos culture fosters. To learn more about that, read "The Happiness Hypothesis".

As for Professor Haidt, the author, I will say he has great taste in quotes. Below are two of the classics about happiness you'll find in "The Happiness Hypothesis", and at Haidt also offers this good advice to all of us who read and enjoy great quotes:

"Words of wisdom, the meaning of life ... all of these may wash over us every day, but they can do little for us unless we savor them, engage with them, question them, improve them, and connect them to our lives."

Have a Happy New Year.

Victoria @ Quote Palettes™

"The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it." - Marcus Aurelius

"Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy." - Buddha