They say genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, which explains why geniuses aren’t always that pleasant to be around. Still it should give us all hope for our own futures as geniuses. We can all sweat—and some of us don’t even have to work that hard to do it.
Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds of maxims like this one. I like the idea that I can find wisdom in a mere sentence, rather than having to wade through entire volumes and live through painful life experiences to get it. The following are just a few of the aphorisms that have inspired me—though not necessarily motivated me to work up a sweat.
• Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute. I find this especially reassuring when I’m in the process of putting off until tomorrow what I could have been doing today.
• Do not follow where the path leads. Rather go where there is no path and leave a trail. Bring your GPS though.
•To err is human; to forgive divine, which is why I have so much trouble with it.
• Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Let the sounds of everyone snickering drive you on.
• If it is to be, it is to be up to me. Dang!
Many other sayings have comforted me, and none more so than the old adage that “most of what we worry about never happens.” Of course, a lot of what I haven’t even thought to worry about has happened. Still I find it comforting, as I do the words of Benjamin Spock: “You know more than you think you do.” I like to think I know more than other people think I do, too. And I’ve found a great deal of truth in, “When one door closes, another one opens.” No wonder it’s so hard to keep the flies out.
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that not all “truisms” are true. I’ve never found “the early bird gets the worm,” to be particularly motivating. And “live each day as though it were your last” is just plain foolishness. Who would ever have their teeth cleaned or their oil changed?”
A lot of people tell me to “stop and smell the roses,” but they never offer to do my chores. “A bird in the hand is better than one in the bush,” may have been wise advice once, but today it could lead to a pandemic. And age may be a matter of mind; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. But you’re still just as old.
Still, most aphorisms have some truth in them, and I’ve been guided in my daily life by many such as:
• Never go to sleep angry. I agree. Always keep your partner awake until he admits he’s wrong.
• The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence—though my neighbors can’t say the same.
• There’s safety in numbers, though you could never tell from my algebra grade.
• Too many cooks really do spoil the broth. If you have too many, would you send one to my house?
• Don’t cry over spilt milk—unless it was your last glass.
• Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. More importantly, don’t feed the mouth that bites you.
• And finally, pride goeth before a fall—and humiliation cometh shortly thereafter.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact email@example.com.)
Wisdom for Dummies; some geniuses not pleasant