My favorite aphorisms, clichés,
and "sage advice"
(mostly to students, and/or
Posted: 27 March 2005
Believe it or not, someone actually
asked me to post this, so blame them. This
is a collection of notions that I use more or less frequently, some
of these are my originals - many of them I have stolen shamelessly.
I've tried to live my life according to the principles these sayings
encapsulate. It's a looooonnnnggg list, and probably will get longer.
If you wish to discuss any of these, contact me at
For more extensive information about my advice to students, see
- If you didn't get anything out of this experience, did
you bring anything to put it in?
- Learning is never passive - it requires active participation
on your part.
- Having to choose between good alternatives is far
better than having to choose the least bad among a set of
- The filter that makes life choices easy is to ask yourself: Is
this choice taking me closer to my long-term goal or not?
- If your education depends on an unbroken string of good
teachers, give it up now. ItÕs not going to happen that way.
- Dream big, always. If you aim high and fall a bit
short, itÕs a better result then aiming low and coming up short
even of that limited goal.
- I didnÕt make the rules. IÕm just letting you know what
- You should be prepared to learn from the negative examples
life gives you, as well as the positive ones. If you vow never to
emulate negative role models, they'll have helped you in spite of
- If your concept of bad things that happen to you is that they
always result entirely from someone else, you've become a
professional victim. The first place to look for an
explanation of your problems is in the mirror.
- If your concept of success is getting by with the bare minimum
of effort, be prepared for a life of mediocrity. If
mediocrity is good enough for you, you don't belong in graduate
- If you think today's weather will be just exactly like
yesterday's, you're already wrong.
- You're being paid well as a forecaster to make the right
decision when it really counts. When you don't accomplish that,
for whatever reason, you not only have to accept the blame, you
have to accept the responsibility for the consequences.
- Anticipating possibilities is the key to doing proper weather
- If you have to look up key, basic concepts in a book, you're
not prepared to do a proper diagnosis.
- There may be only one or two
moments in your forecasting career. Are you prepared to
recognize those moments when (if ever) they arrive?
- What you do speaks so loudly, I can't hear what youÕre
- Credibility is only worth something if you do
something with it.
- Choose your battles carefully. You can only threaten to "fall
on your sword" a few times in your life.
- Give me the strength to change the things I need to
change, the ability to accept the things I can't change,
and especially the wisdom to be able to tell the
- If you don't like what's going on, but are unwilling to
do anything to change it, or even to investigate the
possibility for change, then you forfeit the right to
complain about it.
- Accepting responsibility for your own life is the first
and most important step toward achieving anything.
- Your life can be thought of as a game in which only you can
keep score. Letting others keep score for you is a direct path to
failure and frustration.
- Failure and success are two sides of the same coin. In either
case, you have to move on.
- Failure at some venture defeats you only with your consent.
- You can choose your reaction to what circumstances
throw at you. The way you react to circumstances is the main
determining factor in your personal achievements and happiness.
- If you can't please everyone, at least please yourself.
- If nothing else, negative experiences always have the positive
outcome that you have learned not to repeat them - if you
can in fact avoid repeating your mistakes.
- The main difference between a successful professional and a
young person is that any successful person has failed many more
- Never be afraid to be wrong. Only people who say nothing are never wrong.
- Contrary to popular opinion, there are many stupid
questions. What is worse than asking a stupid question,
however, is to choose to remain ignorant.
- Ignorance is curable, stupidity is not. Those who
choose to remain ignorant, given the choice, are
- Those of us who have worked hard to learn how much we
don't understand have a tendency to resent those who come
by their ignorance the easy way.
- Luck is the combination of preparedness with opporunity.
- The only security in life is that for which you've actively
prepared. Security is not a natural birthright.
- If you accomplish anything in life, you're
guaranteed to make enemies. Only those who have done
nothing are without enemies.
- Your severest critic can be your best friend. Just donÕt take
their criticism personally. Even when their criticism is
intended to be personal, you only lower yourself to the same level
if you respond in kind.
- If you surrender to cynicism, you become precisely what
- A cynic is a disillusioned idealist. Give the cynic a reason
to hope and perhaps the idealist can re-emerge.
- Giving up your principles becomes easier, the more often you
- Compromise of your principles to achieve success is a road
that inevitably leads to the destruction of everything you stand
- What you do defines who you are. Your words are
meaningless and without credibility on their own.
- The respect of your peers is worth far more than formal
- Never miss an opportunity to thank those who have helped you
achieve things. One day, the chance will be irretrievably lost.
- Respect for those upon whom you depend for your success is in
your self interest, if nothing else.
- Trust can be lost with a single careless act, and usually can
never be regained. Never betray a trust.
- You can choose your friends, but your family is forever.
- In personal relationships, it invariably takes two to make it
work. Even the best of one-sided intentions cannot make a
- Commitment always is a two-way street,
- The memories of an old person are the deeds of that
person in his/her prime. What will yours be?
- Famous people are not necessarily important and important
people are not always famous.
- Never let imaginary fears dominate your
decision-making. Imaginary fears are associated with things that
have never actually happened but which fear-dominated
people imagine might happen.
- In general, people value most the things they've
earned, and recognize the low value associated with things
that are simply given to them (unless they have high
respect for the giver).
- No one who has achieved anything of substance has
not experienced failure and setbacks along the way. If
setbacks and failure defeat you, you'll never achieve anything of
- Don't be afraid to take risks. Achievements without risk mean
less than achievements attained when failure was a real
- Never trust anyone who's unwilling to challenge you. Value
those who do challenge you, especially those who are
willing to accept that they also might be wrong.
- Never trust anyone who tells you to trust them on faith
- Listen carefully to the advice of those who have gone down a
path you intend to follow, but don't take that advice without
first convincing yourself that it's good advice.
- Real-life issues are rarely black-and-white. Anyone who
presents them in such terms is often mistaken, perhaps
- Real-life issues often involve complexities leading to
unintended consequences. Making choices about actions is never so
simple as we like to think.
- Lies inevitably lead to more lies. Telling the truth is
always easier, because you don't have to remember carefully
everything you said.
- Don't feel obligated to defend everything you ever said
or did. If you've learned new things since then, your beliefs
can change. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin
of little minds.
- Learning is a lifelong task. If it ends on graduation day, the
education process failed completely.
- Being a parent is a life sentence - you never lose your
concerns about your children, even when they become functioning
adults. You should consider this before becoming a parent.
- Children are not your property. They'll become independent
adults someday, hopefully, so it's never too early to start
treating them as real people, which includes making them accept
the responsibility for their own lives.
- Lying to yourself is a bad habit. You can tell you're lying to
yourself when there's a disconnect between your actions and
your "internal conversation".
- Most people have never really tested their limits, usually
because of fear of failure, so if you haven't done so, you
have no real idea of your own capabilities.
- Avoid contact with negative people as much as possible.
They're constantly seeking confirmation of their negative views by
trying to create converts and will do their best to convince you
of your inability to achieve things. Their path to
self-esteem includes tearing you down.
- You can change any aspect of your own character,
if you really want to do so. We're not
pre-programmed to be a particular sort of person. You only have to
want to change to have the ability to do so - this does not
necessarily make it easy, but it is made possible
only if you truly wish it.
- Your attitude is the dominant factor in how you deal
with the circumstances in your life. And your attitude is under
- Having long-term goals is a prerequisite for making career
(and life) decisions. Writing them down and reviewing them for
updates every few years is inevitably a worthwhile exercise.
- Last-minute cramming for a test is cheating. And the
person you're cheating is yourself.
- The object of attending a lecture is to understand the
content, not to get a detailed set of notes. A stenographer or
tape recorder can do the latter.
- If you're given an opportunity, even for reasons that have
nothing to do with your ability, your goal should be to show them
that they made the right choice, anyway.
- Wish in one hand, sh*t in the other. Guess which one fills up