I'm wearing dog tags, but I'm not some dog on the internet...
June 18, 2009 4:28 AM   Subscribe

What quotations / sayings have you found to be helpful to you in getting through daily life?

So I'm getting a couple of dog tags engraved for myself, with a few quotations I find to be personally meaningful.

Two such quotations are:
"This too shall pass" (on coping with difficult situations)
"I shall step into this river but once" (on doing the best I can for everything because I will only do this once)

What other quotations / sayings have you personally found meaningful? I'm leaning towards quotations dealing with regret, living a fulfilling life and inspirational quotes.

/Caveat: As far as possible I'd like to refrain from profanities, and being engraved on dog tags, they'll have to be short.

posted by titantoppler to Grab Bag (86 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
A+ grades =! A+ life.
posted by bigmusic at 4:37 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: The funny thing about regret is that it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done.
posted by box at 4:38 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Keep Calm and Carry On.
posted by spockette at 4:42 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

"you cannot simultaneously prepare for war and plan for peace" maybe Einstein, maybe not. I saw it on a bumpersticker about 10 years ago and it made me rethink how I was parenting. I apply it to everything now. If you really want to move forward it doesn't help to use half of your energy hedging your bets.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:42 AM on June 18, 2009

"Let them tell you no." My father's eternal saying. In other words, don't decide for yourself in advance that you can't do something, aren't allowed to do something, etc. Ask. If the answer is going to be "no," don't tell yourself no, let them tell you no.

This doesn't mean, btw, "be a pushy jerk and don't accept 'no' for an answer." It just means, don't undermine yourself and be aggressive about making sure you hear "no" from the right party.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:45 AM on June 18, 2009 [11 favorites]

For your sake I hope heaven and hell are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 4:52 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Love and let yourself be loved.

I like this because it reminds me that loving and being loved are for me THE most important things I can do while on the planet. Makes the small stuff seem less important. Its a line from a song on the new Eels album and the song called My Timing Is Off

In Context:
Believe it or not
We Don't have a choice in matters of the heart
Just gotta be brave enough
To love and let yourself be loved

Read about it here
posted by therubettes at 4:58 AM on June 18, 2009

Assuredly oddball, but here goes...
He took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots.
and, from the great Illuminatus!,
I bless Ra, the fierce sun burning bright
I bless Isis-Luna in the night
I bless the air, the Horus-hawk
I bless the earth on which I walk.
This comes with an explanation that your choice of mantra is rather irrelevant, as long as it feels good.
posted by themel at 5:12 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't Panic
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:13 AM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
posted by jbickers at 5:26 AM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

Noel Coward would say:
"I shall endeavour to rrrrrise above it."
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:30 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: Press on regardless.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:36 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have two, but one of them is probably too long for your purposes:

1. If you want peace, work for justice. (Paul VI)

2.One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. (John Locke)
posted by rhartong at 5:36 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

"It is easier to get forgiveness than permission,"which my mother told me at 18, after I'd left her house.
posted by mearls at 5:37 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

When it comes to people acting strange and fickle, "Everybody has their own agenda. 90% of the way people treat you has nothing to do with you."

Also, when it comes to making decisions, I tend to second-guess myself midway into what I decide to do. So, "Have a plan. Work the plan." has become another frequent motto.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:37 AM on June 18, 2009

Shakespeare's "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." I say this to myself like ten times a day.
posted by fiery.hogue at 5:43 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Just three little words:

Let It Be
posted by marsha56 at 5:53 AM on June 18, 2009

always focus on the positive.

life is *short*.

youth is wasted on the young.
posted by gcat at 5:57 AM on June 18, 2009

If it wasn't a fun time for you, at least it makes a good story for someone else.

or alternatively

Life is about accumulating stories.

Seriously, I have gotten through a lot of bad stuff by thinking about how someone else will probably enjoy hearing the story about this. If you can't make a good/interesting/funny story out of the crap that happens in your life then you're doing it wrong. It also reflects your frame of mind. Sometimes in the middle of crap situations I will think about how to frame this in terms of when I tell people about it. It helps distance me from the badness, as well as forces me to see the humour in the situation. AND it has the added benefit of reframing it my mind so that when I think back on it I usually remember it less horribly than it actually was.
posted by gwenlister at 6:01 AM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

Best answer: So? [My first boss after graduate school had this framed and sitting on his desk. It serves as a constant reminder that burdens and hardships matter far less than what you are going to do about them.]

Screw 'em if they can't take a joke. [That is, how people react to what you do is more a reflection of them than it is of you.]

It is what it is. [So don't waste time worrying or complaining about the way things are. Just accept it and move on.]
posted by DrGail at 6:17 AM on June 18, 2009

There's no way to it but through it.
posted by kimdog at 6:22 AM on June 18, 2009

If can, can. If no can, no can.
posted by clockwork at 6:24 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
(S. Beckett)
posted by sively at 6:26 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Don't seek happiness. If you seek it, you won't find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness."

Saw this on the internet, scribbled it down and hung it in my cube. Not sure who it is attributed to.
posted by bristolcat at 6:32 AM on June 18, 2009

That's why they call it work.

Difficult things are often the hardest to do.

If you don't ask, the answer is always 'No'.

Why buy water when you can just buy hydorgen and oxygen and mix your own.

(Okay, maybe not the last one.)
posted by lpsguy at 6:33 AM on June 18, 2009

I incant the spirit of X! [where X is the name of individual who has touched me in the past by demonstrating a great quality, someone whom I need to emulate at the moment. X changes each times, depending on what's going on]
posted by gmarceau at 6:33 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Winning and Losing is not the only game in town.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:42 AM on June 18, 2009

Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.

-Alan Watts
posted by Danf at 6:49 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fall down 6 times.
Get up 7 times.

-greeting card at Trader Joes
posted by Danf at 6:51 AM on June 18, 2009

I'm not in recovery or even a believer in god but the Serenity Prayer has always been a useful heuristic rule for me in life:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

There are so many things to get angry or upset about in life that it's useful to try to focus your efforts on the things that you can do something about.
posted by octothorpe at 6:54 AM on June 18, 2009

If you're going through hell, keep going. - Churchill, I think

The best way out is always through. - Robert Frost
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:05 AM on June 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

Mine seem depressing, but they are good consolations on tough days:

Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. Job 5:7

Sufficient unto the day is the evil therof. Matthew 6:34

Onward and upward.

You gwyne to have considable trouble in yo' life, en considable joy. - Jim, from Huckleberry Finn
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.

If you can't change your situation, change your attitude.
posted by kitkatcathy at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

- Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke
- No good deed goes unpunished (my father's motto in life, which he says is the Marine Corps motto)
- Don't let the best be the enemy of good enough
- It is easier to apologize than ask permission (I first heard this from Grace Hopper)
posted by adamrice at 7:21 AM on June 18, 2009

Leap and the net will appear.
posted by philotes at 7:27 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on.
-Robert Frost

Maybe just "it goes on" for the dog tag.
posted by sickinthehead at 7:33 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I’m lifting here from the two phrases a good friend had proposed as possible tattoos, but ever since he mentioned them to me they have always stuck with me as good sayings to keep to heart:

1. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt – Kurt Vonnegut
2. But first they must catch you – truncated from the Watership Down quote “El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed”
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 7:38 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:40 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: Do, or do not. There is no "try."

Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
You've got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight
--Bruce Cockburn
posted by dnash at 7:44 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I just work here."
posted by sciencegeek at 7:45 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Life shrinks or expands, according to one's courage." Anais Nin
posted by faineant at 7:48 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

"A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for."
-Grace Hopper
posted by explosion at 7:56 AM on June 18, 2009 [9 favorites]

"So it goes..."
posted by orme at 8:00 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second Metroid Baby's Churchill quote. Awesome.
posted by heather-b at 8:01 AM on June 18, 2009

1. If it were easy, everybody'd be doing it.
2. Nothing worth having is easy.
3. Please help me be the person my dog thinks I am.
posted by workerant at 8:05 AM on June 18, 2009

The powerful do and say. The happy are idle and silent.
posted by foooooogasm at 8:26 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whatever happens will be okay.
posted by bink at 8:29 AM on June 18, 2009

posted by aquafortis at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2009

Won't fit on a dog tag, but your question reminded me of Robert Pirsig's quote:

No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

For dog tag, maybe:

"Belief = Doubt"

"He who talks loudest holds the least truth."

Or my personal favorite (pace Pirsig):

"Bigger the truck, smaller the penis."
posted by foooooogasm at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

"There are two types of people: those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk. People who walk the walk sometimes talk the talk but most times they don't talk at all, 'cause they walkin'."
posted by jasondigitized at 8:42 AM on June 18, 2009

"Ask for your 100%." (My family's variation on Conrad Cornelius' "Let them tell you no.")

I prefer this mangling of the Yoda quote: "There is no try, there is only do."

2nding "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
posted by SomePerlGeek at 8:52 AM on June 18, 2009

"sometimes all it takes is a wink or a nod from some unexpected place to vary the tedium of a baffling existence." - Bob Dylan
-- keeps me looking for those winks and nods

"fall down seven times, stand up eight." - Japanese Proverb
-- similar to Beckett's "fail again. fail better." i have eight tally marks tattooed on my wrist as a reminder to pick myself up and try again, every time.
posted by gursky at 8:52 AM on June 18, 2009

I think I may be spelling this wrong, but;

"En la boca cerrada, no entan moscas." (Spanish)


"No flies enter a closed mouth."

...which I always took to mean 'think before you speak', but I gather means something a bit more non-committal.

There's also the Japanese classic;

"Fall down seven times, get up eight." (don't know the Nihon-go for that one, I'm afraid).
posted by Pecinpah at 8:55 AM on June 18, 2009

Everything will be okay in the end. Is everything okay? No? Then it's not the end yet.

Today, I will be happier than a bird with a french fry.
posted by sephira at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Other people's behavior is never about you. It is always their choice. Your behavior is never about other people. It is always your choice."
posted by hworth at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Life is good.
posted by carmicha at 9:39 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Do not hurry; do not rest."
- Goethe
posted by kitcat at 10:14 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Holding on to the past is my only regret.- M.Shocked
posted by pointilist at 10:30 AM on June 18, 2009

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

"If you're not having fun, it's your fault."
posted by leigh1 at 10:56 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't believe nobody has mentioned my all time favorite quote yet:

Be the change you want to see in the world. (Gandhi)
posted by widdershins at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's a few more:

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. -- Lao Tzu

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think you were put here for something less? -- Chief Arvol Looking Horse - a bit long, but maybe just the last sentence?

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle. -- John Watson

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome. -- Samuel Johnson

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. -- Henry Ford

It is never too late to be what you might have been. -- George Eliot

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. -- Mother Teresa

The saints are the sinners who keep on going. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

You see things; and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were; and I say "Why not?" -- George Bernard Shaw - again, long, but maybe shorten it to just 'Why not?'
posted by widdershins at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Latin - Veritas vos liberabit.
English - The truth will set you free!

I like it, even though some radical Christians butchered it somewhat with their usage.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:21 AM on June 18, 2009

"It's never too late to have a happy childhood"

"Sometimes no decision is the best decision"

"God (or whom/what ever) please put your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth"
posted by jara1953 at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
posted by bicyclefish at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2009

Failures are the fertilizer for achievement.
-Patricia Wright

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.
-Norman Cousins

Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.
-Jean Kerr

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.

Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

You must look into people, as well as at them.
- Lord Chesterfield

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
- Ernest Hemingway
posted by velvet winter at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Great question! I love this! Here's what I have posted right next to my monitor:

"If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it." Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
posted by ohyouknow at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: For me, excerpts from the 'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam', translated by Edward Fitzgerald, always move me and ring true. All along the lines of 'carpe diem' I like:-

"And the rest is lies"


Oh, come with old Khayyam and leave the Wise
To Talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.

"The moving finger writes.."

"Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it"

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

"Come, fill the Cup"

"The bird is on the wing"

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

Others I like:

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions"

"Ignorance is bliss" (so very true)

"In vino veritas" (Latin: In wine, truth)

"To thine own self be true"
(Shakespeare: This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.)

"Happiness is the feeling that power increases"
(Nietzsche, from his idea of the Will to power. Whenever Im happy I ask myself in what way has 'my power increased', Ive met a new woman, Ive got a new job etc etc, always I find happiness linked to this increase in personal power and therefore self-esteem.
posted by stumpyolegmcnoleg at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2009

Alea iacta est is pretty pithy, if you like the sentiment.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2009

One thing at a time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2009

Boredom is way underrated.
posted by Bruce H. at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by joquarky at 4:33 PM on June 18, 2009

Remember to do nothing when you don't know what to do. (Devo)
posted by wittgenstein at 4:36 PM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: coming in a little late but my favorite is:

"This is water"

from a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace that used to be online but is now available as a book and was therefore removed.

found it! thanks archive.org.
posted by PugAchev at 4:50 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

My personal reminder:

"Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge”

John Wesley.
posted by smoke at 5:24 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

"What goes around, comes around" - the concept of Karma.

"Life is what happens when you're busy planning something else." - Variously attributed to John Lennon, or one of the Liverpool poets.
posted by Susurration at 6:33 PM on June 18, 2009

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.- Albert Enstein

First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to.
- Epicetus

Don't bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals.- David Ogilvy

Goals are dreams with deadlines.
- Diana Sharf Hunt
posted by qsysopr at 6:12 AM on June 19, 2009

Not likely inspirational, but a personal favorite when feeling the futility of all things: "Что делать?" which was the title of a book of Russian radicalism in the 1860s. It's translated as "What's to be done?" Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" was written in response. In Russia, I found people often said it when confronted with some ridiculous rule or with something particularly aggravating about which nothing could be done. Basically it's use boiled down to the following: since nothing can be changed, nothing should be done; why waste time thinking about what can't be changed and move on to something more important. It's a bit defeatist when applied to things about which something can be done, though....
posted by msbrauer at 6:32 AM on June 19, 2009

"Safety first, then teamwork," pineapple express
posted by Jeff_Larson at 9:44 PM on June 19, 2009

every day above ground is a good day

power doesn't corrupt. it is magnetic to the corruptable

the goal is to BE high, not GET high
posted by Redhush at 10:20 PM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: All-round good answers. Thanks people! For easy reference, I've best-answered the quotations that I'm most likely to put in the tags.
posted by titantoppler at 3:26 AM on June 20, 2009

PugAchev—I wonder if that's a reference to John Keats' epitaph, "Here lies one whose name is writ in water."
posted by adamrice at 10:13 AM on June 20, 2009

Whenever I was feeling stressed about a facing a new, difficult task, my mother would often note how many other people before me had been able to pull it off. Then she'd say "they're not all geniuses, and you're not an idiot."

I think that's such an important thing to remind yourself in life.
posted by filibuster at 7:58 AM on June 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nil sine magno labore.

Etched into some stone buildings at my alma mater, and mostly more memorable than contents of said buildings.
posted by swift at 10:28 PM on June 22, 2009

I have three, all from the book The Art of Possibility:

"When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."

"I am here today to cross the swamp, not to fight all the alligators."

"Don't take yourself so goddamn seriously." (love this one, really great for putting things into perspective and actually calming me down when I'm feeling anxious)
posted by kookaburra at 10:27 PM on June 26, 2009

"The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide"- Longfellow

"The hammer shatters glass but forges steel"

Invictus- Henley
posted by xm at 2:46 PM on June 27, 2009

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
--Mohandas Gandhi

Live-and-let-live over stand-or-die, high spirits over low, ... love over charity, irreplaceable over interchangeable, divergence over concurrence, principle over interest, people over principle.
--Marvin Mudrick
posted by vipassana at 11:25 AM on June 28, 2009

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