I recently posted one of my favorite quotes on Twitter (@BestAdviceSoFar):
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stick with
problems longer.” ~Albert Einstein
Only this time, in reflecting on the quote, something occurred to me for the first time — or at least in a new way: the people whose quotes stand the test of time, serving as perpetual sources of inspiration, by and large did not set about to be quoted.
I have trouble picturing Ghandi sitting around with his legs crossed, silently thinking, “Hmmm, let’s see now … what wise and pithy gem can I drop on them today?”
Mother Teresa, as far as I know, did not have a PR team or a speech writer.
And I doubt that Einstein, in between figuring out the theory of relativity, was scribbling out side notes of things he might say to visitors that day in hopes that they’d spread the word about how clever he was.
As far as I can see, most people who get quoted have certain basic things in common:
- They live inspiring lives, do inspiring things.
- They engage with people and, in doing so, inevitably wind up talking about their everyday lives and passions.
- What they say matches what they do.
Let’s look again at Einstein’s quote above.
Einstein did some pretty smart stuff and therefore, people talked about it within his earshot. (Re-imagine the quote in light of an alternate-universe Einstein who wasn’t actually very bright; just doesn’t work, does it?)
He did stick with solving problems and was, therefore, successful at finding cool solutions to some of them. (Again, consider the quote in light of a “quitter-Einstein”; nope, doesn’t fly.)
And so, in short, Einstein had what is called integrity. What’s more, he had some humility and a sense of humor (think about the famous poster with his tongue out). That is, he did not take himself too seriously.
I think too many times, those in positions of leadership or prominence “set about” in earnest to leave a legacy or to be respected. But today’s thoughts have me wondering if, rather than trying to be quotable, the best way to leave a lasting and positive impression might simply be to live an inspiring life, do some cool stuff that we’re passionate about, and then share it naturally while engaging in real ways with the people around us.