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Twelve Things to Remember

February 22, 2010

The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations.
• Benjamin Disraeli

I love books of quotations. I know that it’s possible to Google® quotations about just about anything, but the problem with such searches is that they limit the serendipity of discovery. I like hunting through quotation books for the same reason I enjoy searching the shelves in bookstores and libraries. I never know what I’ll find.

If you’re looking for something specific, the internet and Google® searches are extremely helpful, but if you’re just on the prowl for general inspiration and ideas—something to prime the pump of thought—books of quotations on a broad range of topics can be extremely helpful.

They also help me feel less alone. They help me realize the commonality—and differences—of human experience. They encourage me to formulate my own thoughts about things that matter. This weekend I bought The All-American Quote Book by Michael Reagan and Bob Phillips (1995) at a thrift store. This paperback promises on its cover to provide “a wealth of wit and wisdom” (and it only cost fifty cents). As I paged through it this morning, I found Marshall Field’s* “Twelve Things to Remember” (p. 65):

1. The value of time.
2. The success of perseverance.
3. The pleasure of working.
4. The dignity of simplicity
5. The worth of character.
6. The power of kindness.
7. The influence of example
8. The obligation of duty.
9. The wisdom of economy
10. The virtue of patience.
11. The improvement of talent.
12. The joy of origination.

As I read Field’s twelve things, I began to try to formulate my own. This is not as easy as it might seem and it’s a useful braindance. At first, I stymied myself as I tried to come up with a dozen most important things, but then I realized that things to remember could be an endless list. Here’s the start of mine:

1. That people are different.
2. That creativity is evidenced in many different ways.
3. That people need your smile.
4. That little things matter.
5. That you should sometimes speak up.
6. That you should sometimes stay silent.
7. That life happens whether you’re an optimist or pessimist.
8. That optimism is more fun.
9. That people need to have fun, laugh, and be playful.
10. That kindness is a deliberate choice—patience too.
11. That money helps, but it is only a tool.
12. That quality is a choice.

I could go on. I could change my mind. I could. But I won’t. I’ll post this list and revisit it sometime to see what I’d add or delete. Meanwhile, it’s back to the book and the hunt for inspiration so I can write my way into another day.

What twelve things would begin your list of things to remember? (This is also a great dinner table or study group conversation starter.)

There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man [women too] that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.
• William Makepeace Thackeray

* Field (1834-1906) was the founder of Marshall Field and Company, a Chicago-based department store eventually acquired by Macy’s. I remember shopping at Marshall Field’s in Chicago with my mother. Even a person’s name can evoke many memories.

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