The German novelist and poet Theodor Fontane once said: “A good aphorism contains the wisdom of an entire book in one sentence.” The quotes, aphorisms and succinct observations collected in these pages offer you the condensed insights and experiences of more than 2,500 years of collective wisdom.
The personalities whose insights are included in this book span the gamut from classical philosophers to contemporary authors, from successful entrepreneurs to theologians, scientists and artists. Here you will find quotes from the physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking alongside adages from artists such as Michelangelo, business leaders including Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Jack Ma, and words of wisdom from Confucius, Lao Tzu, Cicero, Schopenhauer and Goethe.
The words of advice are both timeless and highly topical, whether they are from philosophers or poets, entrepreneurs or 20th-century bestselling authors such as Napoleon Hill, Joseph Murphy or Dale Carnegie. My selection is based on the impact and relevance of each quotation rather than on the prominence of the quotes’ authors or the eloquence of their wording.
This book is intended to give you ideas and inspire you to think about yourself, your desires and goals. It should encourage you and give you the audacity and strength to cope with difficult and challenging situations. It should give you practical instructions and tips for your daily life – both at work and outside.
I have written comments to explain and provide additional context for each of the quotes, relating them more specifically to your daily challenges and opportunities, especially (but not exclusively) in your professional life. Of course, both the selection of the quotes and my comments on them are subjective – and should be. They reflect the insights and understanding I have gained throughout my uncommon life as a historian, sociologist, entrepreneur and investor. This may provide at least a partial explanation for the unconventional choice of individuals from whom the quotes come. Some people will probably turn their noses up at the thought of a book that equates the wisdom of the great philosopher Socrates with quotes from popular figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. But that just goes to show how one-dimensional and narrow their concept of education and their worldly wisdom are.
I suggest that you use this book as the foundation of a 20-week program: each week, take quotations on one of the book’s specific topics. You can do this on your own or with friends: Form small ‘success groups’ of people who motivate and inspire each other. Discuss the topics covered in the upcoming 20 chapters. At the end of each chapter, I’ll ask you a few questions and make suggestions for things you can do and approaches you can take in order to become more successful in every area of your life. I have also included some tips for other good books you could read if you are interested in deepening your understanding of specific topics.
As you progress through the book, you will notice that, from time to time, I invite you to write down your thoughts and ideas. This is especially important. You’ll find it much easier to think clearly when you put your thoughts down in writing. Warren Buffett is adamant that you will achieve far better results if you commit your thoughts to paper. As Hermann Simon, an extraordinarily successful scientist and entrepreneur, explains in his autobiography: “It seems important to me to write down ideas and goals. It’s something I’ve done since I was an assistant, and today I’m amazed at how many of the plans I documented have become a reality.” He continues: “Writing things down is absolutely imperative, because it stops your ideas from evaporating or remaining ephemeral.”
The advice I provide at the end of each chapter is not intended to be implemented by every single reader. Simply pick out what you think is most helpful for your own life. And be sure to supplement my ideas and questions with your own!
Above all, don’t just read, but act. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Dr. Rainer Zitelmann,
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