Slogans, Quotes or Mottos Lauding Action Over Overthought/Overplanning?
April 3, 2009 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for mottos, slogans, or quotes that are short enough to be easily remembered, that are meant to spur someone to take action towards their goals, and/or that warn against overthinking and overplanning and staying in your head – in other words, that laud the merits of action over thought. I've already thought of "just do it" (which is the precise sentiment I'm looking for), but it is so overplayed that it doesn't have much meaning any longer. Any sentiment of any length is appreciated, but ideally it would be something that easily sticks in your mind.
posted by WCityMike to Writing & Language (81 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
"A pretty good solution now is better than a perfect solution that will never come."
posted by Science! at 3:26 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Don't sweat the petty things; pet the sweaty things."
posted by Brak at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Our health care package doesn't cover paralysis by analysis."
posted by cairnish at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Perfect is not the same as excellent and sometimes good is good enough.
posted by annaramma at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett
posted by Joe Beese at 3:30 PM on April 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

Carpe diem
posted by applemeat at 3:32 PM on April 3, 2009

• "Ready...Fire...Aim" - attributed to Ross Perot
• "You only find oil if you drill wells" - unknown
• "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzsky
• "Plan a little, implement a lot" - Etienne Wenger
• "Do-think, not think-do" - unknown
• "You cannot think your way to success, you have to 'do' your way to success" - related by Tom Peters at the AIM Convention
(source... I was originally looking for a Yoda quote which I can't remember, but something like "Think not, do.")
posted by not_on_display at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Ready, fire, aim"
"The best is the enemy of the good"
"Motivation follows action"
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2009

The perfect is the enemy of the good (alternately: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good)
posted by jessamyn at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

"If you build it, they will come."
posted by Smarson at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2009

"Ships in harbor are safe, but that's not what ships are built for" -- John Shedd
posted by Bokononist at 3:35 PM on April 3, 2009

It's a golfing phrase, but I like it for general purposes:

Never up, never in.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2009

One I read recently that I love: "Action kills fear."
posted by willmize at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

If you fail to steer your own ship, don't complain about the port you wind up in.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:46 PM on April 3, 2009

not_on_display may be thinking of the yoda quote

"Do, or do not, there is no try"
posted by toni_jean at 3:46 PM on April 3, 2009

Act as if.
posted by chicainthecity at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2009

It is far better to regret what you have done than what you haven't done.
It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
posted by signal at 4:02 PM on April 3, 2009

"Progress, not perfection"
posted by burntflowers at 4:03 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

"Get Action." - Theodore Roosevelt (TR's father)
posted by jgirl at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2009

Nothing to it but to do it.
posted by procrastination at 4:07 PM on April 3, 2009

You are not what you think, you are what you do. -- forgotten the attribution on this one, sorry.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:11 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

We don't think our way to right action. We act our way to right thinking.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:13 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't be afraid of success.
posted by Brian B. at 4:15 PM on April 3, 2009

"The perfect is the enemy of the good."
posted by dersins at 4:19 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's two: "Emotion follows action."

A longer one: "The secret to becoming an Olympic champion is easy. Just do two things. Work out when you feel like it, and work out when you don't feel like it."
posted by davidamann at 4:21 PM on April 3, 2009

"he who hesitates is lost"
posted by Taurid at 4:22 PM on April 3, 2009

Fake it 'til you make it
posted by IndigoJones at 4:32 PM on April 3, 2009

The unavoidable Churchill quote; "If you are going through hell, keep going."
posted by BadMiker at 4:32 PM on April 3, 2009

I have this one over my desk on a notecard. It has lots of intellectual snob appeal.
"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!"
- Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
posted by genmonster at 4:35 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Never tell me the odds!" - Han Solo
posted by andreap at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2009

My geography teacher used to tell us: "Practice like you play and you'll play like you practice." Good for motivating disciplined action, anyway...
posted by roombythelake at 4:44 PM on April 3, 2009

My brother was in the military for a while and told me about "flinching", which is roughly equivalent to "second guessing". It means that if you have done your homework and decided on a course of action, when the time goes to do it, don't hesitate, don't flinch, just do it - trust yourself that you made the right decision; now just execute it. When you hesitate, they yell at you: "flinch! flinch!"

We had this chat right before I took off on a solo backpacking trip through Europe and it somehow stayed with me. Every time I showed up an hour in advance of a train when I knew I only needed ten minutes - flinch! Every time I double (or triple) checked my alarm clock even though I had just set it five minutes ago - flinch! Every time stopped and dug out a guidebook or map to confirm what I already knew - flinch!

Therefore, to answer your question: "don't flinch".
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:47 PM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'll not be juggled with!
To hell, allegiance!
vows, to the blackest devil
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation.
To this point I stand,
That both the world, I give to negligence,
Let come what comes;
only I'll be reveng'd
Most throughly for my father.

Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 PM on April 3, 2009

One that's popular where I do science is "Do the fucking experiment", sometimes shortened to DTFE. Meaning, stop thinking about it and just do it.
posted by pombe at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

A good southern colloquialism: Shit or get off the pot.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 5:00 PM on April 3, 2009

Refusing to make a decision is a decision.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:14 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Shit or get off the pot
posted by Redmond Cooper at 5:21 PM on April 3, 2009

crap Quizicalcoatl beat me to it... Though I'd never heard it from a Southerner.

No time like the Present

Get'R Done!
posted by Redmond Cooper at 5:27 PM on April 3, 2009

Quizicalcoatl, we say that in the rural Northeast.
posted by jgirl at 5:27 PM on April 3, 2009

Quite obscure:
"A life lived in fear is a life half-lived."

From the movie "Strictly Ballroom," I believe.
posted by SaharaRose at 6:05 PM on April 3, 2009

"Or else"
posted by strangelove at 6:17 PM on April 3, 2009

"Real artists ship" -- Steve Jobs (attributed, at least)
"If you don't do it, you're just going to have to do it."
"If you have to eat a frog, don’t look at it for too long." -- Twain (I think)
"If you have to eat three frogs, eat the biggest one first."
posted by wheat at 6:18 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

"Gotta be in it to win it."
posted by dirm at 6:20 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Admiral Grace Hopper: It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2009

I post this answer about once a week

Action Precedes Motivation

posted by lalochezia at 6:41 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right." - Henry Ford

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own.
And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.” - Dr. Seuss
posted by wiskunde at 7:02 PM on April 3, 2009

"Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment." --my mom
(Although she usually adds the corollary "but it doesn't have to be your own bad judgment," which makes it less like what you're looking for and more like something someone's mom would say.)
posted by doift at 7:17 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fortune favors the bold.
posted by crinklebat at 7:24 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yes we can.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:26 PM on April 3, 2009

Ze Frank had a similar question on his blog last year titled "rational triggers for the emotoself". He had a ton of really good answers. He also had a follow-up post asking what to do with them but I don't know if anything came of it.

"There is no time like the pleasant." -- Fortune cookie taped to my door.
posted by funkiwan at 7:36 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

A family favorite: When in doubt, proceed with authority.
posted by TDIpod at 8:21 PM on April 3, 2009

Measure twice, cut once. Ja Love.

(phoenetic from Cantonese) "Sai jau sai"
(literal translation) "If I die I die"
posted by porpoise at 8:41 PM on April 3, 2009

“ ...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [At this point, the friar is urged by Brother Maynard to "skip a bit, brother"]... And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." Amen.[1] ”

Arthur then holds up the Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch and cries out "ONE! TWO! FIVE!" Sir Galahad corrects him, shouting "Three, Sire!" .[2]Arthur then yells "THREE!" and hurls the grenade at the killer rabbit.

Hopefully whoever you're trying to motivate will go ahead and get along with what they're supposed to do before you finish reciting this gag from Monty Python.
posted by porpoise at 8:53 PM on April 3, 2009

I don't remember where I got this but the scenario was a tough decision on either A or B, and waiting for more info wasn't going to significantly help. The suggestion was to just flip a coin - but not just flip a coin, but to flip a coin and pay attention to how you felt about the outcome.

If it came up heads, and you felt yourself go "ah, shit." then you were secretly leaning towards tails, so you choose the "tails" action.

So sometimes when I'm choice-paralyzed, I just tell myself to "flip for it."

Also, once a guy who worked for me told me "I could do it once wrong, then do it over again right, while you're still deciding which way would be better."
posted by ctmf at 9:04 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's better to be wrong than confused.
-- an old architecture workshop teacher of mine.
posted by signal at 9:04 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

This thing isn't going to do itself. (E.g., this cabin isn't going to build itself, this paper isn't going to write itself, these 20 dozen cookies aren't going to bake themselves...)
posted by lakeroon at 9:37 PM on April 3, 2009

The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

How bad do you want to be good? Do you want to be good real bad?

What we had we gave, what we kept is lost forever.

If I'm not failing, I'm not trying.

Actions speak louder than words

Never mistake activity for achievement

If you don't have time to do it right in the first place, when will you have time to do it over?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:57 PM on April 3, 2009

"We're not buildin' a fuckin' Stradivarius!"
posted by Roach at 10:05 PM on April 3, 2009

"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory." -Engels
posted by milquetoast at 10:28 PM on April 3, 2009

Live like you mean it.
posted by pixxie at 10:58 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cease not till death

posted by Kronoss at 11:07 PM on April 3, 2009

Vision without action is hallucination.
posted by ambient2 at 11:12 PM on April 3, 2009

Go. For. It.
posted by davoid at 12:24 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Texas slogan for not littering... "Don't mess with Texas"
posted by nimsey lou at 6:06 AM on April 4, 2009

Unsuccessful people are motivated by a desire for pleasing experiences. Successful people are motivated by a desire for pleasing results.
posted by qsysopr at 6:55 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

"A pithy saying quiets the simple mind."
posted by Area Control at 7:19 AM on April 4, 2009

Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. - Ayn Rand

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life that you have imagined. -Thoreau

Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. - Harper Lee
posted by sickinthehead at 7:40 AM on April 4, 2009

We rest here while we can, but we hear the ocean calling in our dreams,
And we know by the morning, the wind will fill our sails to test the seams
The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore
For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for

-- Tom Kimmel & Michael Lille
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:24 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

"The future starts today, not tomorrow."

-Pope John Paul II
posted by Rinku at 11:11 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.

- Anne Dillard
posted by qsysopr at 11:31 AM on April 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

The one I've been using lately is "Start as you mean to go on". If your plan is to do 10 pushups every night, start tonight, not next week. The beginning is usually the hardest part.
posted by lorimt at 1:21 PM on April 4, 2009


Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No -- not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you're hoping.

-- Piet Hein
posted by ZeroDivides at 3:14 PM on April 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in this AskMe I posted about six months ago.
posted by Cobalt at 9:46 PM on April 4, 2009

The answer is always "no" until you ask.
posted by pollex at 10:30 PM on April 4, 2009

From a fortune cookie: "Delay is the deadliest form of denial."
posted by of strange foe at 1:35 PM on April 5, 2009

cowboy up
posted by phritosan at 3:59 PM on April 6, 2009

my most recent favourite from a Laura Veirs song (I believe it's "Don't Lose Yourself"):

"Necessity Conquers Fear"
posted by fantine at 11:42 AM on April 8, 2009

Thanks to everybody. I favorited which ones resounded with me, but it's a matter of taste — all but one of them were quite good. ("Don't mess with Texas" is supposed to be a quote lauding action over overthinking, Nimsey Lou?)
posted by WCityMike at 9:09 PM on April 13, 2009

Just because I'm sure I'll come back to this thread as a reference source, I'll toss this quote I found in here. It's been misattributed to Mark Twain.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.
posted by WCityMike at 2:10 PM on May 23, 2009

"off your ass, onto your feet, out of the shade, and into the heat!"
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:15 PM on December 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

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