Wise Words

10 Quotes to Live by in 2014 From John Wayne, Kierkegaard, and More

Amid the evanescent tweets and bleats of daily life, it’s easy to forget what matters. Here’s more durable wisdom for the new year from people as disparate as John Wayne and Maya Angelou, Joni Mitchell, and George Bernard Shaw.

12.29.13 10:45 AM ET

Thank God that there’s more wisdom in the world than Kanye’s latest profundity or deep thoughts from Rob Ford.  Before we head into 2014, let’s take it back, and learn what some giants of yesterday--and a few from today--have to say about the way we should live our lives tomorrow.


“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”

–John Wayne, reminding us that 2014 should be a year of way less speaking, and far more listening.

 “Life can be understood backwards–but it must be lived forwards.”

–Søren Kierkegaard, imploring us to leave the last year behind us, and be very wary of looking back.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Maya Angelou, on being careful with the impression felt by those around us in 2014; it’s far more important than whatever we say and do.  

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings … If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

–Henry David Thoreau, telling us to pursue our dreams this year–to build “castles in the air”–as long as we put a foundation under them.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

–James Baldwin, on how 2014 can be a year of forgiveness–and finally dealing with pain.

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“There are things to confess that enrich the world, and things that need not be said. ”

–Joni Mitchell, saying even with social media all around us, perhaps 2014 is a year when we learn to not over-share.

“I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

–Oliver Wendell Holmes encouraging us to get off our butts this year; whether with the wind or against it, either way we have to move.

“The better part of one's life consists of his friendships.”

–Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to a friend, reminding us that friendships matter in 2014 (and to write actual letters to friends).

“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens—that letting go—you let go because you can.”

–Toni Morrison, on how we can recognize the profound beauty around us all year in 2014–and let that beauty be enough.

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

–George Bernard Shaw, on why we should give 2014 every ounce that we’ve got.