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84 Quotes from the Four Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is a book about entrepreneurship and productivity. Ferriss invites you to re-prioritize your life so you can earn money ultra-efficiently. The book is full of inspirational tips, but also many great quotes. I went through the book and grabbed all the quotes in the order they appear. These are not quotes of the author, but the quotes from other accomplished people that the author cites. I wanted to do this so I could print out a few for my wall, and turn some into tweets for Twitter (if you haven’t heard, good quotes are supposedly one of the best ways to get re-tweeted). Enjoy, and please leave a comment to tell me which is your favorite!

  1. Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. – Mark Twain
  2. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. – Oscar Wilde
  3. An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. – Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and Nobel prize winner
  4. Ordinarily he was insane but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. – Heinrich Heine, German critic and poet.
  5. Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. – Albert Einstein
  6. These individuals have riches just as we say that we “have a fever,” when really the fever has us. – Seneca (4 B.C – 65 A.D.)
  7. I also have in mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters. – Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
  8. I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. – Herbert Bayard Swope, American editor and journalist; first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize
  9. Everything popular is wrong. – Oscar Wilde, the importance of being Earnest
  10. Many a false step was made by standing still. – Fortune cookie
  11. Named must your fear be before banish it you can. – Yoda, from Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back
  12. Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. – Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister
  13. Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” – Seneca
  14. There is no difference between a pessimist who says, “oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens. – Yvon Choinard, founder of Patagonia
  15. I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. – Mark Twain
  16. “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat. “I don’t much care where…” Said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat. – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
  17. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. – George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists
  18. The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in the state of boredom. – Victor Frankl Auschwitz survivor and founder of Logotherapy, Man’s Search for Meaning
  19. One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. – Bruce Lee
  20. Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, where international postal flight and author of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)
  21. It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. – William of Occam, (1300-1350), originator of “Occam’s Razor”
  22. What gets measured gets managed. – Peter Drucker, management theorist, author of 31 books, recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom
  23. I saw a bank that said “24 hour banking,” but I don’t have that much time. – Steven Wright, comedian
  24. Love of bustle is not industry. – Seneca
  25. We create stress for ourselves because you feel like you have to do it. You have to. I don’t feel that anymore. – Oprah Winfrey
  26. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and the need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. – Herbert Simon, recipient of the Nobel Memorial prize in economics and the A.M. Turing award, “Nobel Prize of computer science”
  27. Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. – Albert Einstein
  28. There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  29. Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. – Robert J. Sawyer, Calculating God
  30. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece. – Ralph Charell
  31. Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate. – Dave Barry, Pulitzer prize-winning American humorist
  32. The best defense is a good offense. – Dan Gable, Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and the most successful coach in history; personal record 299-6-3, with 182 pins
  33. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. – Annie Dillard, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, 1975
  34. People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don’t realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world. – Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes
  35. Scotty: she’s all yours, sir. All systems automated and ready. A chimpanzee and two trainees could run her! Captain Kirk: thank you, Mr. Scott. I’ll try not to take that personally. – Star Trek
  36. A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. – Henry David Thoreau, naturalist
  37. The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet. – William Gibson, author of Neuromancer; termed “cyberspace” in 1984
  38. Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. – Malcolm X., Malcolm X. Speaks
  39. The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applies to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. – Bill Gates
  40. I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself a master. I want the full menu of rights. – Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African cleric and activist
  41. Just set it and forget it! – Ron Popeil, founder of Ronco; responsible for more than $1 billion in sales of rotisserie chicken roasters.
  42. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  43. When I was younger… I [didn’t] want to be pigeonholed. Basically, now you want to be pigeonholed. It’s your niche. – Joan Chen, actress; appeared in The last Emperor and Twin Peaks
  44. Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment. – Danny Black (4’2″) part owner of shortdwarf.com
  45. Genius is only a superior power of seeing. – John Ruskin, famed art and social critic
  46. I not only use all the dreams that I have, but all that I can borrow. – Woodrow Wilson
  47. Creation is a better means of self-expression and possession; it is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed. – Vida D. Scudder, The Life of the Spirit in the Modern English Poets
  48. Many of these theories have been killed off only when some decisive experience exposed their incorrectness… Thus the yeoman work in any science… Is done by the experimentalist, who must keep the theoreticians honest. – Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and cocreator of String Field Theory, Hyperspace
  49. The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment. – Warren G. Bennis, University of Southern California professor of business administration; adviser to Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy
  50. The power of hiding ourselves from one another is mercifully given, more men are wild beasts and would never devour one another but for this protection. – Henry Ward Beecher, US abolitionist and clergyman “Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit”
  51. A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear…. If the employees come first, then they’re happy. – Herb Kelleher, cofounder of Southwest airlines
  52. Look, kiddie. I built this business by being a bastard. I run it be by being a bastard. I’ll always be a bastard, and don’t you ever try to change me. – Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, to a senior executive within his company
  53. Orders are nobody can see the great Oz! Not nobody, not nohow! – Guardian of the emerald city gates, the Wizard of Oz
  54. The system is the solution. – AT&T
  55. Companies go out of business when they make the wrong decisions or, just as important, make too many decisions. The latter creates complexity.- Mike Maples, cofounder of Motive Communications (IPO to $260 million market cap), founding executive of Tivoli (sold to IBM for $750 million), and investor in companies such as Digg.com
  56. By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work 12 hours a day. – Robert Frost, American poet and winner of four Pulitzer prizes
  57. On this path, it is only the first step that counts. – St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, Catholic saint, “Cure d’Ars”
  58. I was asked if I was going to fire an employee w forho made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. Now, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. – Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
  59. Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. – George Bernard Shaw
  60. All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer . – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
  61. If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time. – Chinese proverb
  62. The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain. – Colin Wilson, British author of the Outsider; New Existentialist
  63. Only those who are asleep make no mistakes.- Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, worlds largest furniture brand
  64. Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment.- Paul Fussel, Abroad
  65. The simple willingness to improvise is more vital, in the long run, then research.- Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
  66. There is more to life than increasing its speed.- Mohandas Gandhi
  67. Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. – Charles Kuralt, CBS news reporter
  68. This is the very perfection of a man to find out his own imperfection. – St. Augustine (354 AD – 430 AD)
  69. Traveling is the ruler of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy. – Fanny Burney (1752-1840), English novelist
  70. It is fatal to know too much at the outcome: boredom comes as quickly to the traveler who knows his route as the novelist who is over certain of his plot. – Paul Thoreau, To the Ends of the Earth
  71. To being grossed by something outside ourselves as a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass. – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  72. There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do. – Bill Watterson, creator of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip
  73. Man I was so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another. – Anatole France, author of The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard
  74. People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
  75. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. – Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor; author of Man’s Search for Meaning
  76. Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many people still speak in foreign languages. – Dave Barry
  77. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike. – Oscar Wilde
  78. Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they are looking for ideas. – Paula Poundstone
  79. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive. – Thich Nhat Hanh
  80. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake. – Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Prize winner in physics
  81. Ho imparato che niente e impossibile, e anche che quasi niente e facile…(I’ve learned that nothing is impossible, and that almost nothing is easy…) – Articolo 31 (Italian rap group), “Un Urlo”
  82. There is nothing that the busy man is less busy with then living; there is nothing harder to learn. – Seneca
  83. For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and ask myself: “if today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. – Steve Jobs, college dropout and CEO of Apple Computer, Stanford University commencement, 2005
  84. The hypocrite is a person who–but who isn’t? – Don Marquis

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73 Comments

  1. It is all about the reality. I love this quote The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive. – Thich Nhat Hanh soom

  2. Yes! Beautiful quotes! I’m always in the minority. Nice post. Too bad you couldn’t “borrow” these and create your own coffee table book

  3. hey a coffee table book full of these quotes is a great idea, probably already exists somewhere though… I love quotes like these, really inspirational. Just wish I could remember them on a day to day basis and maybe I’d be a better person!

  4. I find this quote funny “There is nothing that the busy man is less busy with then living; there is nothing harder to learn.”

  5. Such a great blog, im always on the lookout for interesting quotes for status updates on my facebook these will be great, thanks adam.

  6. Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. – Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister

    is my favorite

  7. “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and ask myself: “if today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something… Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs, college dropout and CEO of Apple Computer, Stanford University commencement, 2005