Here are some pearls of his wisdom that strike me as having lasting relevance.
On being our best selves:
- In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
- A statesman gains little by the arbitrary exercise of ironclad authority upon all occasions that offer, for this wounds the just pride of his subordinates, and thus tends to undermine his strength. A little concession, now and then, where it can do no harm is the wiser policy.
- The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
- The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.
- Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
- Success is a journey, not a destination. It requires constant effort, vigilance and re-evaluation.
- The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.
- Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.
- Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.
- It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
- You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
- Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
- The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
- Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
- I am different from [George] Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won't.
- The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
- It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
- If you have nothing to say, say nothing.
- A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.
- If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
- If animals could speak the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow, but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.
- One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.