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“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Years ago I came across a quote by Soren Kierkegaard. He said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” It’s true for me, so chances are it’s true for you. There’s value in scanning the past for life lessons not only individually, but through others as well. Over time, we’ve had countless role models who seemingly achieved self-mastery and led productive lives. So we’ll relive the words from 7 of history’s finest to help productivity in our lives.

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

Sure there’s value in articulating your ideas or actions, but when articulation is the entire story, you’ve gained nothing in the grand scheme. Chances are when you’re talking a great game, your hesitation for acting is predicated upon fear. Therefore, ask yourself what scares you about taking your first step. Get to the root of the fear and turn your talk into action. In any case, you should be more fearful of inaction than action.

Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”

Anything that debunks the myth of an “overnight success” is a personal favorite. We believe in fairytales of people who traveled from rags to riches overnight. Why is that? Why do we believe the 20 something tech millionaire didn’t begin coding while in single digits? I urge you to believe true mastery takes time. Success takes time. It’s one day after another of failures and successes strung together. All you need to do it take it day-by-day and embrace the journey.

Epictetus said, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”

Your surroundings can lead to productive or destructive behavior. This is not merely conceptual, but rather factual. The broken windows theory proved environments can alter behavior. It’s applicable for the company you keep around as well. As such, choose to surround yourself with individuals who challenge you. The one’s who inspire you to greatness. Then leave the rest behind.

R D Laing said, “Learn to unlearn.”

It may be extremely difficult to unlearn something but worth the effort. Every once in a while take inventory of your beliefs and evaluate which should stay, go, or be altered. Some may have become extinct and are holding you back. Others may need to change with the times. And guess what, you’re a creature who is constantly evolving, so you have permission to change. In this metamorphosis, you begin to give rise to your most productive self.

Albert Schweitzer said, “We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

In my experience, there are two types of individuals who rekindle our inner spirit. Those who inspire and those who anger. For those who inspire, we are forever grateful. We look at them as role models and feed on the examples they lay before us. For those who anger, we are forever spiteful. They leave us seething from their words or actions. However, we need both.

At times, those who inspire don’t strike a chord for us to act. However, those who anger, touch that chord twice over. So embrace both the role model and the villain in your life. Use them in different ways to catapult your action. Besides, every superhero needs a villain. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be a superhero at all, just a funny looking person in a costume.

Coleman Young said, “There is no brilliant single stroke that is going to transform the water into wine or straw into gold.”

Coleman encapsulates a battle we deal with in society today – patience. We are an instant gratification society. Heck, I’m still perplexed on how we survived dial-up internet. But in truth, it takes time and hard work to accomplish something. Therefore, don’t hesitate for the single stroke or brilliance you fantasize about, get started today and continue through tomorrow.

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Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Have you ever read about regrets from people on their deathbeds? It’s powerful to hear what people say as they’re near death. And I tell you what, if it doesn’t light a fire under your bum, I’m not sure what will. Truly, when the end is near, you will be more disappointed by your inaction than action. Use the wisdom of the crowd to begin taking action today. Because when your time comes, I’m sure we both pray you never murmur the words, “I wish I would have done…”


As always, thanks for taking the time to read and I’d love to hear your thoughts below!