Inspiring quotations

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence, Thomas Szasz

We quote others because their words resonate and reveal, often capturing a liberating truth or ‘bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester’ (Sydney Harris). At times quotations shock or provoke us, causing us to stop and think. I am often inspired by quotations and I appreciate the regular supply I receive in my A.Word.A.Day newsletters (subscribe at

So here are some of my favourites—via AWAD and other sources. I’ll kick off with ten and will update when inspired. For now, the quotations are ordered merely by surname. I hope they inspire you.


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
—Leonardo da Vinci, painter, engineer, musician, and scientist (1452—1519)

When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803—1882)

Nothing is more full of grace in the human condition than the presence of a most excellent friend.
—Marsilio Ficino, philosopher (1433—1499)

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
—Anatole France, novelist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1844—1924)

He who listens to truth is not less than he who utters truth.
—Kahlil Gibran, poet and artist (1883—1931)

Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.
—Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917—1986)

Communication skills are one of the most important competencies needed in the 21st-century workforce. If one is to succeed, he or she will need a mastery of English because it is the language of business, science, diplomacy and academia. [6 September 2011]
Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore (1923—)

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
—Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934—1996)

Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.
—Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (1920—)

How far should one accept the rules of the society in which one lives? To put it another way: at what point does conformity become corruption? Only by answering such questions does the conscience truly define itself.
—Kenneth Tynan, critic and writer (1927—1980)

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