Below are my top ten absolute favorite quotes that have each had a massive impact on my life. Quotes can be a great way to start your day, get a quick burst of inspiration, or even become a regular mantra that helps you break through and achieve new goals. I’ll even print them out and hang them in my apartment as reminders!
These 10 quotes have propelled me forward with career growth, self-improvement, and overall happiness. Enjoy!
Collect experiences, not things
I grew up as an “acquirer.” From electronics to sports autographs to model cars, purchasing these arbitrary items would keep me happy and fulfilled…for a few days. Then, inevitably, a new model would come out or I would discover a new version of what I had just purchased, and then I would just need to buy that one to be happy and fulfilled again.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was unfulfilled in my life and I was using the acquisition of material goods as a way to feel better about myself. The problem was that each purchase would only keep me satisfied for a short period of time, and the cycle would repeat. There’s a saying that “you can’t get enough of what won’t satisfy you.”
Here’s the solution: figure out what truly satisfies you. Beginning in 2014, and on the advice of Jack Canfield from his Breakthrough to Success course, I made a list on my iPhone called “Things I Love.” Every time I did something that lit a fire inside of me or got me really pumped up and excited about life I would add it to the list.
Over the next few weeks, I learned that I loved photography, traveling, watching documentaries, learning new languages, biking and more. I looked at this list in amazement as I began to discover who I really was. And then I came across the quote: “Collect experiences, not things.” And I began to apply my time, money and energy to these life experiences rather than physical possessions.
Make your own “Things I Love” list on your phone or in a journal and see what comes up. Then you can start trading in those expensive possessions you don’t really want or need for richer experiences.
Hanging out in Visakhapatnam, India during my first trip to India in 2011:
Me hanging out with Latif Saleh, Professional Cricket player in Andhra Pradesh, India:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with
I initially heard this quote from Tim Ferriss, who has been one of my biggest mentors. Ever since reading The 4-Hour Work Week I have pretty much bought or listened to anything that he has written, posted or podcasted about (check out his awesome Podcast here!). And when I first heard him recite this quote, it immediately resonated with me.
Who you surround yourself with is one of the absolute most important decisions that you will ever make. While it sounds easier said than done, it requires some very serious contemplation about which of your friends, coworkers or even family members you need to perhaps spend less time with. Surrounding yourself with successful, positive people who see the value in your personal and professional growth is one of the best decisions you will ever make.
I had to face the reality that I was raised in an abusive environment, and that as I grew up, I subconsciously surrounded myself with similarly destructive people; at work, in relationships with women, and with friends.
On the flip side, I also began to recognize who was treating me really well and accepting me unconditionally, and I started spending more time with them. When I first started this process, I was invited over to watch some football with a friend from college. During that afternoon he was asking me all of these questions about me. How was I doing? What’s going on at work? And then he started offering me incredible, supportive advice. I whipped out my iPhone when he wasn’t looking, and I made a note to myself: Hang out with Jim more often!!!
. . .
Below is another similar quote that is spot on. When I made the decision that I wanted a new, more meaningful life, I began to surround myself with the people who were already where I wanted to be. Their success is contagious and you will start to notice the impact it will have on you:
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”
-Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn
Check out this video on surrounding yourself with the right people:
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self
Have you ever compared yourself to someone else? I know I have. Now let me ask you another question: after comparing yourself to that person, did you ever come out exactly equal? Of course not!
One of two things happened: 1) you came out ahead, in which case you felt like you were better than that person, or 2) you came out behind, in which case you felt like you were worse than that person. Both scenarios result in unhealthy feelings – either superiority or inferiority and shame.
As Hemmingway states, the true goal is to become the best version of yourself. Spend each day growing and becoming better than your former self. I always used to compare myself to others, often feeling insecure about who I was as a person. I then wound up working in finance and spending lots of money as unhealthy ways to cope with those insecurities.
I no longer waste time comparing. Instead, I journal, track my progress, and compare who I am today to who I was a week ago, a month ago and even a year ago. Becoming the best me is the true goal.
Check out this video on being the best version of you:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. Don’t settle.
-Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc.
Steve Jobs delivered these words in his famous 2005 Commencement speech to the graduates of Stanford University. He told the story of how he was unwilling to accept what other people told him he was “supposed” to do with his career and how he instead aggressively pursued what he loved.
Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003 and just two years later was standing in front of the graduating class at Stanford. He was well-suited to share his perspective about how we only live once, and he used his time in front of the imminent graduates to convey that choosing a career doing work that you love is key for fulfillment in life.
I have since come across many similar quotes and personal development messages along these lines. After working in finance for only a short time, I knew that it wasn’t my true passion. Starting AdventureDaze and leaving my steady paycheck required a lot of courage, and I can now honestly say that I am doing what I love. So what is it that you love to do? Start to think about what an ideal job or career would look like for you. You don’t need to quit your job tomorrow and start a blog! You can start by seeing if your current job offers some projects or tasks in areas that you would be more interested in, and over time think about shifting gears to what you truly love.
Being a professional ice cream taster fulfills me more than working in Excel spreadsheets all day!
But seriously, I love travel and personal growth and have shifted to AdventureDaze to pursue those passions.
Check out the Commencement Speech:
Check out this video on doing what you love:
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you really are.
One day after work, I came home extremely stressed out. I knew that I would either have to go back to the office or log in and work remotely until at least 3:00 a.m. I also knew that I wouldn’t have time to pick up my suit from the dry cleaner, and I hadn’t even begun to think about when I would be eating dinner. That next morning, after getting 1 hour of sleep, I was standing outside my building with my shirt untucked as my friend Tom said, “Brendan?!” He wisely told me, “It’s time to start being a human being and not a human doing.”
We have this notion that we need to constantly be “doing.” In other words, furiously checking off boxes on our societal to do list. Sometimes doing nothing and relaxing is what’s most important. Take a minute to take a couple deep breaths and come into this moment right now. As you get out of your head and let go of any stress that may arise, just relax and realize that this peace is who you really are.
Check out my video on this proverb:
Take more work breaks like this one in Central Park in New York City!
When you look at people that you have tremendous respect, passion or appreciation for, it’s because you see in them something that’s actually in you. But you’ve disidentified with it because the source of love in your life that you were trying to please, or prove to, did not reinforce that form of yourself.
I was riding the subway in New York City, heading downtown for a workout listening to an interview with Tony Robbins and I heard this line. I started smiling and jumping up and down as the subway passengers looked on with confused glances. I had to pause to interview, go back, listen to it again 4 or 5 more times, and write it down on my iPhone!
Many times in life when we come across people that we are so impressed or inspired by, it’s because we are so passionate about whatever they are teaching or accomplishing. Many of us were taught at a young age to play a role that wasn’t who we really were in order to get approval or the love of one or both of our parents.
I encourage you to take some time to ask yourself: who are the people that you respect, follow or look up to the most? Then start listing out their best qualities and become aware that you have those same qualities deep down within yourself. Finally, start to become more aware that these qualities are who you really are, and start to bring them out and living them in your daily life.
Me soaking in Tony Robbins’ wisdom at his Unleash the Power Within event in San Jose, California in November
Click below to play the podcast episode (Tim Ferriss Show, Episode 178) where I heard the quote. It’s located at 26:50, but the entire episode is great:
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
This quote is so important because many of us like to stay in our comfort zones. We often live our lives in a “safe” space where we don’t make mistakes because we’re afraid to “mess up.” While we think making a mistake or not getting something right on the first attempt will result in some kind of pain, letting our fears control us keep us stuck exactly where things are.
To accomplish something new or make a positive change in your life, you must step outside of your comfort zone and confront your fears head on. While it won’t be easy, it will certainly pay off. And then you’ll have achieved that goal you’ve always wanted.
Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it
Contrary to popular belief, our past circumstances do not serve as a limitation for our future. In fact, it is common for those with the most troubled pasts to possess the motivation to create a totally different and incredible life. At the Tony Robbins event I attended in California, he stated:
“If she had been the mother I wanted, I would not be the man I am proud to be”
My past is a huge gift. If I had a “normal” upbringing, I never would have experienced the pain that gave me the drive and strength to embrace self-improvement work. It made me build huge emotional muscle at a young age and it gave me a crystal clear view of exactly what I did not want in life. It gave me the huge motivation to go after something totally different.
So remember, if you ever start blaming externalities like your past for something today, catch yourself and change gears. Chances are you are exactly on the right path because of your past, not in spite of it.
Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain
During my first few years working in finance in New York City, I used a lot of externalities to avoid my pain. Expensive restaurants, excessive alcohol consumption, international travel and shopping were all ways for me to avoid my true emotions and pain. I very fortunately picked up a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s masterpiece, The Power of Now, which is one of the most influential and life changing books that I have ever read.
In Tolle’s guide to true enlightenment, he discusses how addiction doesn’t actually have anything to do with the substance, product or distraction that is weighing you down. He writes:
“Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.”
Many of us are taught from an early age that feeling or expressing your emotions makes you weak. Women are “allowed” to feel sadness, and men anger, but what about shame, fear, guilt, insecurity, loneliness, and pain?
To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain, rather than stay distracted and use substances or possessions to cope. Some good first steps are to journal regularly and begin meditation, both great ways to face and move through your pain directly, rather than soothe the pain in unhealthy ways such as addiction.
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it
This is one of the most powerful quotes I have ever come across. It helps explain why so many of the world’s celebrities, millionaires and even billionaires are known to have some of the highest rates of depression and addiction.
Unhappiness rarely stems from your current life situation. Instead, it is much more likely to be determined by your thoughts about that situation. Reframing our thoughts, learning to disconnect from unrealistic expectations, and practicing gratitude all combine to help set yourself up for the right thoughts about any situation.
Take one day from last summer for example. Using the same situation, I could have two different sets of thoughts:
Old Brendan, before taking in the quote:
-It is so hot outside, this weather is gross and it is way too humid and uncomfortable -I feel so afraid about starting AdventureDaze, there’s no way I can grow it. I should just go be normal and stay in finance -I have to go back to my day job tomorrow, I hate this job
New Brendan’s thoughts, after deeply taking in the quote:
-Wow, it’s toasty out there! Hey, at least it’s not freezing. I actually really prefer warm weather to the cold. And now maybe I’ll do some research on a fun vacation to somewhere like Iceland or Scandinavia where I can cool off -Building out this website is so much fun! I get to share my favorite quotes and travels to help me and others achieve new levels of happiness -I am so grateful to have this day job to provide me with the time and capital to build out this website and create a new life for myself
As you can see, I just took the same situation and shifted my thoughts to create a new level of gratitude and happiness.
Your turn: how can you start looking at today differently?
“People are rewarded in public for what they practice for years in private”
“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
“You can lie down for people to walk on you and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough. Live your life.”
“By far the most important lesson travel teaches you is that your time is all you really own in life. And the more you travel, the more you realize that your most extravagant possessions can’t match the satisfaction you get from finding new experiences, meeting new people, and learning new things about yourself.”
“For life to be really fun, what you fear should line up with what you desire”
-Nicolas Nasim Taleb
“I used to walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me. Now I walk into the room and wonder if I like them”
“You’re the main character of your own movie, so stop waiting for minor characters to fix your problems”