Abraham Lincoln delivered some of the most memorable quotes of any U.S. president, filled to the burst with wisdom that’s been passed down for the last hundred-plus years. Here are some especially poignant quotes from Honest Abe that are as relevant today as they’ve ever been.
1. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Abraham Lincoln was wise enough to know when to stay quiet. You should also be aware of the times when the best thing to say is nothing at all. Some political discussions on Facebook might be best to avoid, for example.
2. “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
It wouldn’t be a proper list of Abraham Lincoln quotes without something expressing his views on slavery. With this quote, Abe demonstrates his understanding that our roles should not be simplified to being owned or being an owner. That still applies today, even if actual slavery is a thing of the past in the United States. Too often (like in the workplace) people will feel in servitude to someone else, when equality is the best option.
3. “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
Patience is good, but an eagerness to make your mark is often better. To get the things you want you need to be actively, fervently pursuing them. An author who waits for someone to discover his novel on Amazon is less likely to succeed than an author actively marketing himself.
4. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Preparation is the key to productivity. Abraham Lincoln suggested here that his rule of thumb was to spend two-thirds of your time preparing, and one-third actually doing. Employ a similar mindset to achieve comparable results. Writing this article, for example, was a lot easier because I collected the quotes ahead of time instead of one at a time.
5. “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”
This can be a tough quote to get your head around. Wouldn’t those without sin be the most holy? Not according to Abraham Lincoln, who believes that a willingness to do bad is a necessary component of being good. Someone who is willing to break the law for a good reason, for example, is often superior to someone too afraid to.
6. “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
Abraham Lincoln recognized that, though we should prepare for the future, we shouldn’t live in fear of it. As long as we’re aware of what’s coming, it can’t sneak up on us. Think about this especially when saving for retirement.
7. “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
Failure is inevitable. Necessary, even, on the path to greatness. Abraham Lincoln knew that the important thing is that you care enough to try again. Most of the most successful businessmen had at least one failed startup before they became millionaires and billionaires. They stuck through the hard times, and you should, too.
8. “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Happiness is a pretty abstract thing, but Abraham Lincoln simplifies it somewhat with this quote by explaining that a lot of our well-being comes from our attitudes. In a lot of ways, happiness is within our own power. Don’t get too hung up on being passed over for a promotion, for example, and be grateful for what you have, instead.
9. “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes. Follow his advice by looking for the good in the bad instead of searching for the bad in the good. You can find faults in everyone, even the people you most love. But it’s better to notice the things that are great about them if you want happy relationships.
10. “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
The life of Abraham Lincoln was cut short when he was assassinated at the age of 56. It’s a very good thing that he understood that he lived a full and meaningful life, even if it wasn’t as long as it should have been. Don’t waste your time with trivial matters. Do things that make a difference so that, even if you die tomorrow, you’ll have lived a fulfilling life.
Featured photo credit: William Hartz via flickr.com