Why do we love life quotes so much?
I think I have the answer. Life quotes have a way of piercing through the b.s. and noise surrounding us. Life quotes are the Gordian knots that cut through that noise and reveal the essence of life we know deep down but tend to forget.
I’m a writer, which means I love quotes. But I also understand how simultaneously insightful and useless they can be. You can do one of two things with a quote — use it as inspirational fluff to post on Instagram or use the insight to change your life. The wisdom of quotes is extremely powerful when applied.
I’ve collected quotes I come back to time and time again when my life isn’t aligned, I need a reminder, or simply want to reflect on the beauty of life itself.
I could easily look up some quotes and slap them into a blog post. Instead, I’m only going to use quotes I can recall from memory, talk about how I’ve used them in my life, and provide ways for you to do the same.
The Triviality Trap
“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” — Charles Buskowski
Big challenges don’t trip us up. Little petty annoyances cumulatively throw our lives off-balance. Office politics at work, your commute, errands, meaningless news, gossip, tiny bouts of envy, social media, so it goes. Think of how much time you spend on meaningful activities vs. the amount of time you spent letting life’s trivialities swallow you whole.
You know what I love most about writing? I get to escape the noise. When I enter that flow state, I get to retreat from the chaos of life and do something that (to me at least) means something. I build my life around the ethos of increasing my meaningful time and decreasing the trivialities I have to deal with.
Life isn’t always overtly tragic. Sometimes it’s tragic simply because you waste it and don’t realize that until it’s way too late.
Which reminds me…
Reverse This Equation
“You are mortal in everything you fear and immortal in everything you desire” — Seneca
You think you have time. You don’t. You’re afraid of death, yet you act like you have unlimited time to live. Humans are weird. We tend to reverse the useful truth to suit our egos. The useful truth I live by is the reverse of Seneca’s quote.
I often find myself working like I’ll die tomorrow. This actually causes me to fear death less. I’m guessing that within a few years I’ll reach the point where I’d be okay if I died. Give me a few more books, milestones, moments of meaning, and memories with people I love. I’ll be good.
Granted, I don’t want to die. But you fear death less the more fully you live in the present. Seneca also says “Life is long if you know how to use it.” I do what I love almost every day. Time feels like “house money” after I’ve done that.
In your case, why not reverse the mortality equation? Why not live like you’ll die tomorrow? Because you’re afraid.
It’s useless to be afraid of death because you can’t control when it happens. But you can control how you use your time right now.
Don’t Sit on the Sidelines, Do This Instead
“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” Nassim Taleb
I spent a great deal of time talking about all the b.s. society feeds us. You’ve been conditioned and trained to feel helpless. Societies emerge to stifle the mobility of individuals out of necessity and people fall for it every day.
They believe the news, which is about 99 percent propaganda. They blindly follow the status quo. We collectively allow these institutions to arbitrarily divide us even though we all more or less want the same things from life — love, family, joy, meaningful work, simple.
More and more, I’m trying to remove the fluff from my writing and talk straight. My new book and my recent writing have been centered around the idea that most of the beliefs you’re fed are absolute nonsense and that individual responsibility isn’t an ideal to live up to, but your only choice, because the people you’re hoping will save you are fraudulent. 100 percent of them.
Speaking of fraudulent societal notions…
Never, Ever, Ever Let This Happen To You
“Remember this. The world wants to assign you a role. And once you accept that role, you’re doomed” Robert Greene
Have you accepted the role society gave you? Are you free? Do you knowhow to think for yourself and make your own decisions? Be honest. No one else is around.
I love the show Weeds. And the theme song for the show perfectly encapsulates the mentality we fall prey to:
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
Is this really the American dream? A little box on the hillside? Is this what you’re working so hard for? Consider trading your life purpose to keep up with the Jones’s, watch Netflix at night, have two days a week to f*** off, and a few weeks of vacation to cope with it all.
I know my route isn’t for everybody. And I’m also certain some people are happy living in little boxes. A lot of people aren’t, though. They want to break out but they don’t know how. Are you one of these people? I’ve written multiple books about the process, but the short answer is to realize that you’ve basically been conditioned to have these beliefs and the effort to unlearn them can be just as rigorous as the conditioning itself.
Get to work.
Seriously…You Really Do This?
“You want the praise of people who kick themselves every 15 minutes. The praise of people who despise themselves?” — Marcus Aurelius
I love thinking this one through because when you do, it makes you realize how absurd it is to care what other people think.
Think about how preoccupied with yourself you are. Extremely.
You put yourself at the center of the universe constantly. You wrestle with your inner critic and doubt yourself, constantly. Not a day (maybe not even an hour) goes by where something doesn’t remind you of your inadequacy. Sometimes you can be straight up neurotic.
Everybody is like this, yet somehow we imagine everyone else to be secure and confident people judging us from their ivory towers.
Nobody knows what the hell we’re doing. As the infamous Kanye West said, “We’re all self-conscious I’m just the first to admit it.”
When I get a negative comment on one of my blog posts I remember the person leaving that comment as an insecure human being. Not insecure because they’re leaving the comment, but insecure as a default state of being.
Essentially, I constantly remind myself of the inner workings of other people’s minds to mitigate the fear of embarrassment, criticism, rejection and so on. Part of playing the game of life is realizing that it is a game. I work hard, but I don’t take myself that seriously because…no one else does.Neither should you.
The Recipe for Success in 2019 and Beyond
“Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is better than following whatever makes money.”
“The internet has massively broadened the space of possible careers. Most people don’t understand this.” — Naval Ravikant
I get paid a full time living to talk about things I’m interested in. It’s wild. Not only is it wild, but it would’ve been ten times harder for me to do so just a decade ago.
This ties into the quotes above about society trying to teach you to be helpless. It’s really hard to have an excuse for your career failings in 2019. It just is.
You can publish a book on Amazon, take classes from Yale and Harvard for free, start a Youtube channel and become a millionaire before you hit puberty, learn to code for no upfront fee at places like Lambda School,create an e-commerce business for basically zero money, freelance, I really could go on and on.
The internet is desperately begging you to level up, but you won’t. Why? Because you’re stuck in a mental prison built on the industrial and corporatist mental model. Those institutions are dead, totally. They just don’t know it yet.
Are you going to be on the right side of history? It depends…
Are You Ready to Understand the World?
“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” — Morpheus
Not only do people not desperately want to escape the status quo, but they’ll also fight to the death to prop it up. I used to try to convert these people until I realized some people can’t be saved.
I don’t have arguments with these people. Instead, I just live my life in the hopes of setting an example for others and talk to the people who are ready to hear what I have to say.
The devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Again, tying into the above quote about trivialities tripping people up. Most people don’t suffer dramatic setbacks from facing tough challenges. No, they slowly fall into complacency until it’s cemented into their personality.
As much as some people don’t enjoy their circumstances, they’re not dissatisfied enough to change.
I’ve told the story many times about the exact day I decided to change my life. In the room of my shoddy apartment, during a time where I was hopeless, broke, and completely stuck, I stood up and screamed at the top of my lungs, “I’m not fucking living like this anymore!!!”
I was genuinely fed up. I realized that if I was going to live the type of life I wanted to live, it would have to be on my own terms. It’s that simple.
Does your worldview suit you? Is it working out for you? How does your model of reality affect your daily life? Are you content to live in the matrix or do you want to take the red pill?
It won’t be comfortable. Neo went from his cubicle and apartment to being cold, naked, and afraid aboard a ship traversing an apocalyptic plane. But he also became the hero.
You can, too.
Turn This Into Fuel
“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” — Tyler Durden
You fell for the fairy tale hook, line, and sinker. I think back to when I was in college. Everyone was super excited about the future. Society paved the road they’d glide on with grace.
The ages of 22–25 are where you see the last vestiges of hope and excitement for about 90 percent of people. The fork in the road splits. Many choose a route that begins to slowly piss them off. A few take the road less traveled. Which one have you taken?
Look, the point of this isn’t to attack anyone. I’m just asking you, personally, honestly, bluntly, if you’re pissed off about the way your life has turned out. Do you feel lied to, duped, hoodwinked? If you do feel that way, good.
Use it. Positive emotions are overrated. The bulk of my motivation came from discontent
Maybe you won’t be a movie god or a rockstar, but I bet you can do a hell of a lot more than what you’re doing right now. I also bet you believe the same.
Don’t Be Insane
“Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, states, and societies, it’s the norm” — Friedrich Neitzche
I feel a little bit bad for people who are caught up in this mass hysteria based on a war between two arbitrarily divided and eerily similar political parties (check out this article about people who pretend to hate each other on T.V. all partying in the Hamptons together), but it’s interesting to watch.
Human beings are tribal animals. We’ve evolved group cohesion strategies to survive. Social media companies, the news, and the shrewd culture war generals know this and use it to cause groupthink on steroids.
Let me ask you, why do you care about “your team” so much? What does your team do for you exactly? No, really, I’d like to know.
This thinking ties in with this quote from Abraham Lincoln (who knows if he really said it, not the point):
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Do you think for yourself or have you been indoctrinated to think a certain way?
Here’s an easy tell. If you tell me your stance on a hot-button issue, say, gun control, and I can correctly guess every single one of your opinions on all the other hot-button issues, you’re not a critical thinker. You’re a mascot.
Thinking for yourself is difficult and uncomfortable because you subject yourself to alienation. But which would you rather be? Alone and free? Or singing kumbaya with the fellow members of your insane ideological cult?
The choice is yours.
Run Your Own Race
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will think it’s stupid.” Albert Einstein
Let me lighten up the tone here a little bit. Without knowing you, I genuinely think you’re capable of doing something great with your life. What that something is? I don’t know. Many factors come into play — your strengths, your circumstances, your current career, your belief systems, so it goes.
You could say that some people are genuinely dealt a shit hand. And you’d be right. I honestly don’t know what to do for those people and can admit that. But for most of us — the working to middle-class folks who maybe just made the wrong decisions — it’s possible to construct a life that aligns with who you really are. Not the “you” society wants you to be. Not the “you” that does things you hate in exchange for, well, nothing truly valuable.
You can align your life with the “you” that you once knew. The one that was excited and curious about life. The one that loved to write, paint, crack jokes, make paper airplanes, do math problems for fun (yes, these people exist), pretend to be a broadcaster on Sunday afternoons, whatever.
You have a skill, a talent, a perfectly suited spot for you in this universe. Finding it and doubling down on it for the rest of your life is pretty much the only success tip you need.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.