For as long as I can remember my dad has had the same three quotes printed on simple white paper and framed in his offices. Pictures and awards and art from his kids have come and gone, but those same three quotes remained and followed him from job to job. When I’d visit his office I’d see them every time. At first I’d had to re-read them, eventually I knew them by heart.
When I got my first office I printed them off and hung them on my walls. No frills, same helvetica text on three separate white sheets of paper, same simple black frames. If it was good enough for my old man it was good enough for me.
Here they are:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Somewhere else in Africa a lion wakes up and knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
Morale: It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.
I can’t run and probably wouldn’t even if I could, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t referring to a five k.
I am growing very weary of being shown the light by people who can’t do what I do, but know I’m not doing it right.
~ Dick Johnson, author
Easily the most ballsy thing you can hang on your walls, but probably the most apt for any professional. Weary is putting it likely, in my opinion.
The things you learn in maturity aren’t simple things such as acquiring information and skills. You learn not to engage in self-destructive behavior. You learn not to burn up energy in anxiety. You learn how to manage your tensions, if you have any, which you do.
You learn that self-pity and resentment are among the most toxic of drugs. You find that the world loves talent but pays off on character.
You come to understand that most people are neither for you nor against you; they are thinking about themselves. You learn no matter how hard you try to please, some people are not going to love you — a lesson that is at first quite troubling and then really quite relaxing.
~ John Gardner
This has always been my favorite and while I don’t live by any set of words on a page, I find myself falling back on this more than I’d like. I struggle with it, on multiple fronts. I’m thirty years old and often do more harm to myself than I wish I would. I still have those sleepless nights when I’m worrying about something I could have handled days ago. I should probably be on medication because of how little I sleep. Better living through science, y’all.
But there are two passages that have always stuck more than any other, and I can’t even begin to describe how much they will help you in your life.
The first bolded sentence is something I’ve built my entire life around. Maybe not as a result of seeing this after walking to my dad’s office in elementary school, but by being raised to be a good, thoughtful person. I believe in being good to others. Being tolerant and mindful of people’s feelings. Treating those you meet the way you would like to be treated. Just being fucking honest.
I don’t believe in karma. I don’t believe things happen for a reason in the sense that everything is inexorable. But I think by just being a good person with high character will only make your life better. I’ve seen it paid off time and time again.
The second bolded quote, however, is probably the important one. You can be a good person. You can be open and tolerant and mindful and reasonable and kind. But there are those out there who aren’t. They’re racist. Two-faced. Intolerant. Judgmental.
Oh, fuck it: they’re just really shitty, miserable human beings.
It’s one thing to try and please others. To be kind to everyone and mindful of people you meet. But you have to know that there are really crappy people out there. They’re the ones beyond reproach. Do not burn up anxiety over these people. Do not worry about someone awful. Do not go home from work stressing over the co-worker who probably kills their pets or knows they aren’t loved by their own spouse. You can maybe feel pity for these awful people, but above all else, just feel good that you are not them.
Then just fucking smile and forget about it.