Favorite Quotations

A Small, Focused, Thematic Collection of Various Thinkers’ Useful and Perhaps Enlightening Quotations, These Being of Particular Interest to Philosophers, Social Scientists, Management Analysts, Operations Researchers, or Transformation Change Agents—or All of the Above

Applied Mathematics and Technology

“A problem well-stated is half solved.”—Charles Kettering.

“A universe definable in two sentences is something for which the professorial intellect has no use.” –William James, American Philosopher, Pragmatism, 1907.

“Unify.” –Paul Weiss, American Philosopher, 1901 until the present.

“Simplify.” –Henry David Thoreau.

“An ounce of information is worth a pound of data,
An ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information,
An ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge, and
An ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of understanding.”
–Russell Ackoff, Recreating the Corporation, 1999, p. 159.
Data is cheap, wisdom is precious.

“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” –George E.P. Box

Leadership and Organizational Change

“All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”—George Bernard Shaw, who noted that reasonable people adapt to the world, while unreasonable people persistently seek to adapt the world to them.

“And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of change.  For he who innovates will have as his enemies all who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.  This lukewarm temper arises partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proven by the event.”—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter VI. 

“You see things the way they are and ask: why? But I dream things that never were and ask: why not?”—George Bernard Shaw

“Change is constant, flexibility is a strategy.” – Dr John Winkler, OSD-RA, May 2003

“If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even more.” --LTG James R. Helmly, Chief, USAR May 2003.

“An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”  --Orlando A. Battista

Geo-political and Military Power

“In war, truth is the first casualty.”—Aeschylus.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”—Plato.

“There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.” –Douglas MacArthur.

"The nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking by cowards."   --Sir William Francis Butler 

"The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men." - Henry David Thoreau

"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all." - Henry David Thoreau

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things.  The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."  ~John Stewart Mill

Social Sciences, including Economics

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need.”—Karl Marx

“Give a man a fish, and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.” - Proverb

"Give me just one generation of youth, and I'll transform the whole world." - Lenin

"Give me control of a nation's money, and I care not who makes its laws." - Mayer Rothschild

"There's nothing as permanent as a temporary government program." - Milton Friedman

"No Man is more hopelessly enslaved than one who mistakenly believes himself to be free."  - Goethe

"I'm a liberal.  I don't know where I'm going, but I know I'm on my way."  - Proverb

“Our life is frittered away with detail.  Simplify, simplify.” - Henry David Thoreau

“Give me the poverty that knows true wealth.” - Henry David Thoreau

“I am an atheist, and I thank God for it." –George Bernard Shaw

"Be true to your work, your word, and your friend." - Henry David Thoreau

"... the marriage of the soul with Nature, that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination." - Henry David Thoreau

Last words, when asked whether he'd made his peace with God: "I wasn't aware that we had quarreled." - Henry David Thoreau

"Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who has gained the respect of children, who leaves the world better than they found it, who has never lacked appreciation for the earth's beauty, who never fails to look for the best in others or give the best of themselves." – Bessie Anderson Stanley (various versions exist, some attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson).

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” –George Bernard Shaw

I was looking around my computer folders and found one dating from about the time, or slightly before I arrived here in late August 2001. Here is a comment from one of my predecessors, Jack Hiller. 

"Specifically, the MANPRINT program was formed because it had been conclusively demonstrated that members of the acquisition community did not have in-depth knowledge and/or motivation to attach any significant importance to the human [and] soldier dimension, but focused exclusively on the materiel dimension." -- Jack Hiller
Good words and a succinct way of phrasing a delicate issue.  Good to keep in mind. --Mike Drillings, June 9, 2011

"The more I learn, the less I know!" --quip adapted from a similar quote by Albert Einstein

Transformation, Re-engineering, and Continuous Process Improvement

"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there." R.M. Pirsig

"The aim of education is tolerance." --Helen Keller

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny." — Unknown

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."  Albert Einstein, from a sign he kept in his office 

“What gets measured, gets done." Peter Drucker

“What gets measured, gets done. What gets rewarded, gets done well.”  - Unknown

"Nothing endures but change." - Heracleitus the Riddler (5th century, B.C.) Sometimes interpreted as "Everything flows."

“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” - Marcus Aurelius (121-180)

“Knowledge is power.” - Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

“Time is money.” - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

“Life is stochastic.” - Anonymous Army Transformation Campaign Plan Change Agent, 2002

"For a flow system to persist in time (to survive) it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier and easier access to the currents that flow through it." --scientist and inventor of the Constructal Theory, Adrian Bejan (1948- ), published in 1996

Themes (5):

1.       Applied Mathematics and Technology
2.       Leadership and Organizational Alignment
3.       Geo-political and Military Power
4.       Social Science, including Philosophy, Theology, Psychology, and Economics
5.       Transformation, Re-engineering, and Continuous Process Improvement

Thinkers (35, so far):

  1. Ackoff, Russell
  2. Aeschylus 
  3. Anonymous
  4. Bacon, Francis 
  5. Bejan, Adrian
  6. Battista, Orlando A. 
  7. Box, George E.P., statistician 
  8. Butler, Sir William Francis 
  9. Drucker, Peter
  10. Einstein, Albert 
  11. Franklin, Benjamin 
  12. Friedman, Milton 
  13. Goethe 
  14. Helmly, James R.
  15. Heracleitus 
  16. Hiller, Jack, former Director, MANPRINT (as recalled by Mike Drillings, current Director)
  17. James, William 
  18. Keller, Helen
  19. Kettering, Charles
  20. Lenin 
  21. MacArthur, Douglas 
  22. Machiavelli, Niccolo 
  23. Marcus Aurelius 
  24. Marx, Karl 
  25. Mill, John Stuart 
  26. Pirsig, Robert M.
  27. Plato 
  28. Rothschild, Mayer 
  29. Schein, Edgar
  30. Shaw, George Bernard (1856-1950) Irish Playwright
  31. Stanley, Bessie Anderson
  32. Thoreau, Henry David, the intellectual and philosophical father of Walden University
  33. Unknown 
  34. Weiss, Paul
  35. Winkler, John

last updated April 24, 2014