We Cannot Go Back and Start Over, But We Can Begin Now, and Make a New Ending

Zig Ziglar? C. S. Lewis? Carl Bard? James R. Sherman? Philadelphia Eagles Football Team? Barrie M. Tritie? Dennis Reinhart? Maria Robinson? Jessie Jones? Michael York?

Dear Quote Investigator: Whenever I reach a dead-end or feel that I am stuck in a rut I can be re-energized by the following inspirational saying. Here are two versions:

Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.

This saying has been attributed to fantasy author C. S. Lewis, motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, and someone named Carl Bard. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence supporting the linkage to C. S. Lewis. He died in 1963, and he received credit by 2017.

Zig Ziglar did employ this saying, and he credited Carl Bard. However, the earliest citation located by QI was written by another individual. In 1982 the author James R. Sherman, Ph. D. published a book titled “Rejection” which included the following prefatory statement:

All of us have been rejected more than once. We’ve been turned down for jobs, had applications refused, and lost out in romance.

Sherman’s work was designed to help readers constructively overcome the psychological pain resulting from rejection. A chapter called “How to Survive Rejection” contained an instance of the saying under examination. Boldface has been added to excerpts:[ref] 1982, Rejection by James R. Sherman, Chapter: How to Survive Rejection, Quote Page 45, Published by Pathway Books, Golden Valley, Minnesota. (Verified with scans)[/ref]

First of all, you have to accept the fact that your rejection is over and done with. There’s nothing you can do now to change what has already happened. If you spend time worrying about it, you’ll lose sight of the present and stumble into a cloudy future. You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.

This was the first instance located by QI, but the saying can be phrased in many ways; hence, earlier instances may exist. This entry represents a snapshot of what QI has learned, and other researchers may build on this information in the future.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1991 the saying was printed in a sports article in the “Anderson Herald Bulletin” newspaper of Anderson, Indiana. A reporter noticed the uplifting words on a sign in the locker room of the Philadelphia Eagles team of the National Football League. No ascription was provided:[ref] 1991 November 6, Anderson Herald Bulletin, Bill Lyon (Continuation title: Lyon), Start Page D1, Quote Page D3, Column 4, Anderson, Indiana. (NewspaperArchive)[/ref]

As for the Eagles, it turns out there may be life after October after all. Their position may be best summed up by this placard that was lying on their locker room floor long past midnight:

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

The sign was memorable, and it was also referred to in “The Charlotte Observer” newspaper of Charlotte, North Carolina within a sports article which included a section called QUOTEBOOK:[ref] 1991 November 6, Charlotte Observer, Edition: One-Four, Section: Sports, Memphis Might Go Regional in Expansion, Author/Byline: Liz Clarke (Staff Writer), Quote Page 5B, Charlotte, North Carolina. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Placard in Philadelphia’s locker room.

In 1995 an article in the “Aberdeen Daily News” of Aberdeen, South Dakota reported on a meeting of an evangelical organization called Promise Keepers. A concise version of the saying was spoken by an unnamed preacher during a video-taped sermon:[ref] 1995 April 16, Aberdeen Daily News, Promise Keepers Stand by Their Word by Russ Keen (American News Writer), Quote Page B1, Column 2, Aberdeen, South Dakota. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

The Promise Keepers movement is not behind the times, he says, “it is part of the fullness of time.” And it’s ready to offer forgiveness, counsel and support.

“Anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending,” the minister tells the Boulder group.

In January 1997 a Methodist minister named Barrie M. Tritie wrote a message about the New Year that was published in a Burlington, Iowa newspaper. He included the saying, but he disclaimed authorship:[ref] 1997 January 4, The Hawk Eye (Burlington Hawk Eye), (Religious message from Rev. Dr. Barrie M. Tritie, Senior Pater, First United Methodist Church), Quote Page 8A, Column 3, Burlington, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)[/ref]

As we look back on the past, we often wish that we could go back and do something over or make up for something we did or said. Here are some words of wisdom that I found recently which speak to each of us as we face this new year “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

Also in 1997 a football coach named Dennis Reinhart selected the saying as a motto for his high school team in Montrose, Michigan:[ref] 1997 September 20, The Flint Journal, Edition: First, Section: Main, Montrose Football Coach Puts Loss in the Write Perspective, Author/Byline: Tom Gromak (Journal Staff Writer), Quote Page A1, Flint, Michigan. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

Reinhart said the assignment also focused his players even more on the team’s motto for the week: “You can’t go back and make a brand new start, but you can start now and make a brand new ending.”

In 1998 a book about dog training titled “Purely Positive Training: Companion to Competition” included the saying as a chapter epigraph and also presented an ascription:[ref] 2006 (Copyright 1998), Purely Positive Training: Companion to Competition by Sheila Booth, (Epigraph to “Chapter 17: The Sit”), Podium Publications, Free Union, Virginia. (Google Books Preview)[/ref]

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
— Maria Robinson

In 1999 a newspaper in Santa Ana, California described a meeting of a physical fitness group led by Jessie Jones who was the director of the Center for Successful Aging at California State University, Fullerton. Jones mentioned the regenerative adage:[ref] 1999 November 1, The Orange County Register, Edition: Morning, Section: Accent, Column: Our Time, Steps that lead to being more active, Author/Byline: Jane Glenn Haas, Quote Page E1, Santa Ana, California. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

Being physically active adds 10 to 15 active years to a senior’s age, Jones said. In other words, use it – or lose it and suffer the consequences. Here’s her message: “We cannot go back and make a new start, but we can start now to make a new ending.”

In 2000 the well-known motivational author Zig Ziglar mentioned the saying in his syndicated newspaper column, and he credited the words to someone named Carl Bard:[ref] 2000 June 26, Plainview Daily Herald, Zig Ziglar column: Forgive yourself and put the past “baggage’ behind you, Page Unnumbered, Plainview, Texas. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

Carl Bard puts this all in perspective when he says, “Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.” In many ways, this is the major benefit of character, which is the foundation stone upon which all long-term happy relationships are built.

Ziglar was impressed by the adage, and he included it in his 2003 collection “Zig Ziglar’s Life Lifters: Moments of Inspiration for Living life Better”:[ref] 2003, Zig Ziglar’s Life Lifters: Moments of Inspiration for Living life Better by Zig Ziglar, Quote Page 140, Published by Broadman & Holman, Nashville, Tennessee. (Amazon Look Inside)[/ref]

Carl Bard puts this all in perspective when he says, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

Also, in 2003 “Becoming Uncommon: Developing Your Success at the Speed of Life” by Michael York printed an instance with the phrase “change the ending”. No attribution was given:[ref] 2003, Becoming Uncommon: Developing Your Success at the Speed of Life by Michael York (Student and CEO), Chapter: The Power of Association, Quote Page 157, Brown Books Publishing Group, Dallas, Texas. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

While you can’t go back and change the beginning, you can absolutely begin today and change the ending! You have the power to change how it all works out for you in the end. To write the ending of your story the way you want it to work out.

In 2013 an article in the “Uintah Basin Standard” of Roosevelt, Utah presented the following concise instance while crediting Ziglar:[ref] 2013 January 29, Uintah Basin Standard, Section: Opinion, Editorial: Sharing the good in a community, Author/Byline: Deborah Tracy, Roosevelt, Utah. (NewsBank Access World News) [/ref]

As the great but recently departed Zig Ziglar said “We cannot start over, but we can begin now and make a new ending.”

In 2017 a newspaper in Bastrop, Texas attributed an instance to C. S. Lewis.[ref] 2017 November 2, The Bastrop Advertiser, Veterans Car Show on track to be largest ever by Debbie Moore (Moore About Bastrop), Quote Page A4, Column 5, Bastrop, Texas. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

Remember: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” — C. S. Lewis

In conclusion, based on current evidence QI would credit James R. Sherman with the version of the saying he published in 1982. QI conjectures that later instances were derived directly or indirectly from Sherman’s words. Yet, it is possible that earlier instances exist, and future research may provide additional insights. Zig Ziglar employed the saying, but he disclaimed credit. The attribution to C. S. Lewis is unsupported.

(Great thanks to Lee Pink Granite whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks to Dave Hill who operates the website “wist: wish i’d said that”. Hill told QI about a syntax error in the article. Hill also mentioned that a version of the saying had been misattributed to C. S. Lewis. In addition, thanks to William O’Flaherty who mentioned the misattribution to Lewis in his 2018 book “The Misquotable C.S. Lewis ”.)

Update History: On March 17, 2022 the linkage to C. S. Lewis was mentioned. Citations in 2003 and 2017 were added.

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