I’m a collector…a collector of books, ideas, and quotes. I have notebooks with random quotes scribbled on pages from books, articles, lectures and presentations, even some movies. Out of all the quotes, some seem to come to mind almost weekly. These are ones that haunt me.
“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
These are the alleged words spoken by Steve Jobs to John Scully, the words that convinced Scully to leave a top position at Pepsi Cola to join a 4-year startup called Apple. Each time I read, hear or remember this quote; I am drawn into a reflection about my own life’s work. Am I selling sugar water right now, or am I doing something that can change the world? The quote is a humbling and inspiring reminder to take seriously how we choose to spend our time and energy. The answer will vary from person to person depending upon talents, abilities, passions and interests, opportunities, life circumstances and the events around us.
“‘I wish it would not happen when I was alive’ said Frodo. ‘So do I’ Said Gandalf, ‘and so do all those who live in hard times. But they can’t choose what time they are born in. All we can choose is what to do with that time.“
From the Lord of the Rings, this short exchange between Gandalf and Frodo speaks to what we can’t change. We don’t choose the times or places in which we are born. We don’t choose many of the challenges, troubles or world events that will occur during our lives. All we can choose is how we will live in those times, how we will or will not respond to them.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?“
From the Book of Esther, this quote comes at a time when Queen Esther must decide whether she will stand by silent while her people are massacred, or whether she will speak to the king on their behalf, even at the risk of her life. This statement calls me to consider the opportunity and purpose behind the circumstances in my life. Regardless of the life circumstance, it drives me to ask ask, “Could it be that I am here for such a time as this?”
“Most revolutions end with the people still oppressed by the same or a different cruel master.”
This was a quote shared by Jim Shelton at the 2012 Education Innovation Summit, and it sticks with me. It was mentioned in the context of educational innovation, a reminder that we may seek to bring about an educational revolution with our work, but there is a very real risk that that our solutions to one problem/oppressor only create a new one problem/oppressor. And I am humbled by the fact that it is often difficult for us to foresee such things.
“Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”
Stated by William Inge, this quote is also a humbling reminder to not cling our lean into those things that are fleeting; but rather to seek after those things that matter across time and generations. I do not interpret this to mean that I ignore trends and innovations, but it does drive me to strive from a clear and compelling “why” behind each one. What is the larger goal, purpose or value?