This is an attempt to keep track of my favorite quotes from books. At the moment those are all over the place, in notebooks, to-self-emails, post-its and on the palm of my hand (which is a bad place to keep notes if you insist on good hygiene). This should grow slowly as I manage to locate more quotes.
striving for success is only part of the story, however. Knowing how to succeed, or win, is another part. The knack for winning can be acquired. Coaches teach it. So do major professors. So do leading scientists. Learn from them. Often, instruction is through example.
Being first is important in science.
Choose a problem that is trivial, and the result will be trivial. Choose a problem that is intractable, and the result may be years of frustration and little accomplishment. Choose a problem that everyone is working on, and the result may be no more distinguished than that of an ordinary voice in a community sing. A wise choice of problem is a critical matter in the career of a scientist.
Sophistication pursued for its own sake is a distraction and a waste. Sophistication is appropriate in science as a means to an end but only if the end is to enhance the fundamental knowledge of the science.
— Jack E. Oliver, The Incomplete Guide to the Art of Discovery.
Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem – On Keeping a Notebook.
Good innovators typically think very big and they think very small. New ideas are sometimes found in the most granular details of a problem where few others bother to look. And they are sometimes found when you are doing your most abstract and philosophical thinking, considering why the world is the way it is and whether there might be an alternative to the dominant paradigm. Rarely can they be found in the temperate latitudes between these two spaces, where we spend 99 percent of our lives. The categorizations and approximations we make in the normal course of our lives are usually good enough to get by, but sometimes we let information that might give us a competitive advantage slip through the cracks.
To articulate what you don’t know is a sign of progress.
― Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise
Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him.
“… a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” Tyrion tapped the leather cover of the book. “That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
…it was another year or two before I discovered that drat and draft were different words. During the same time period I remember believing that details were dentals and that a bitch was an extremely tall woman. A son of a bitch was apt to be a basketball player.
Holy Shit, I’m an alcoholic, I thought, and there was no dissenting opinion from inside my head…
Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless, when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.
– Stephen King, On Wrtiting
As all born teachers, he [Dienekes] was primarily a student.
Yet even this most primal of instincts, self-preservation, even this necessity of the blood shared by all beneath heaven, beasts as well as man, even this may be worn down by fatigue and excess of horror. A form of courage enters the heart which is not courage but despair and not despair but exaltation. On that second day, men passed beyond themselves. Feats of heart-stopping valor fell from the sky like rain, and those who performed them could not even recall, nor state with certainty, that the actors had been themselves.
– Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire
It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before.
– Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
Some men there are whose love only becomes true after long converse, much contemplation, and extended familiarity. Such a one is likely to persist and to be steadfast in his affection, untouched by the passage of time what enters with difficulty goes not out easily.
– Ibn Hazm, The Ring of the Dove
“Did you ever bring Mammy up here?” Laila asked.
“Oh, many times. Before the boys were born. After too. Your mother, she used to be adventurous then, and… so alive. She was just about the liveliest, happiest person I’d ever met.” He smiled at the memory. “She had this laugh. I swear it’s why I married her, Laila, for that laugh. It bulldozed you. You stood no chance against it.”
– Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns
The best kind of self-control is to avoid situations that require self-control.
Perfectionism is paralyzing.
Revising while you generate text is like drinking decaffeinated coffee in the early morning: noble idea, wrong time.
Finding time is a destructive way of thinking about writing. Never say this again. Instead of finding time to write, allot time to write.
– Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
– Psalm 23, King James Bible (Cambridge edition)
Soon, he explained, machines would be carrying people from town to town at the speed of a shot. Then you’d do the trip from Göttingen to Berlin in half an hour.
It was both odd and unjust, said Gauss, a real example of the pitiful arbitrariness of existence, that you were born into a particular time and held prisoner there whether you wanted it or not. It gave you an indecent advantage over the past and made you a clown vis-à-vis the future.
– Daniel Kehlmann, Measuring the World.