Victor Kiam? Home Savings Bank? Painless Withers Dental Company? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Each opportunity in life has an expiration date. One must act quickly. The successful entrepreneur and investor Victor Kiam apparently employed the following vivid metaphor:
Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.
Would you please help find a citation?
Quote Investigator: Victor Kiam became famous when he starred in a series of memorable commercials for an electric razor by the Remington Company. He described his response after using the product: 1
I was delighted and impressed; so impressed I bought the company.
Kiam conducted the leveraged buyout in 1979, and he wrote a book about his experiences in life and business in 1986 titled “Going for It! How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur”. The Remington Company had lost millions of dollars during the 1970s, but Kiam was interested in purchasing the organization because he suspected that he could turn it around. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2
In Chapter 1, I mentioned that an entrepreneur must be decisive and must also be prepared to grasp opportunity. Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin. I wasted no time in finding out the particulars of Remington’s situation.
Kiam was not the first to use this sharp figurative language. Many years earlier, in 1916 a newspaper in Durham, North Carolina printed an advertisement for Home Savings Bank encouraging readers to open an account: 3
Procrastination is the assassin of opportunity and the destroyer of youthful ideals.
Don’t put it off—start that sayings account today. Add to it at regular intervals and you will soon be on the road to comfort and happiness.
QI believes that the expression was probably already in circulation in 1916. Yet, it was conceivable that the copywriter crafted the saying. The phrasing differed from the version Kiam later popularized.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1918 a newspaper in Salt Lake City, Utah printed an advertisement for Painless Withers Dental Company: 4
“DO IT NOW”
Procrastination Is Not Only the “Thief of Time,” but Also the Assassin of Opportunity.
In 1937 “The Salt Lake Tribune” of Utah printed a variant statement: 5
Just as “procrastination is the thief of time,” so may idleness be regarded as the assassin of opportunity. Once in a while some individual seems to succeed by sheer luck. Even though one may not be able to trace rearward a long and tortuous path of preparation for meeting the emergency in which the glory was achieved, such examples are not to be commended or followed. For every haphazard winner of a desirable goal, millions upon millions fail.
In 1986 Kiam wrote the expression in his book “Going for It!” as mentioned previously.
In 2001 the phrase was remembered and ascribed to him in the “Star Tribune” of Minneapolis, Minnesota: 6
“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”
—Victor Kiam, investor
In 2017 a columnist in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida newspaper offered the following advice: 7
The best way to fight procrastination is to create a plan, and then be self-disciplined about it and do what needs to be done today. I know this sounds a lot easier than it is, so look to start small. As you see the progress, it will motivate you and help to diminish the procrastination.
“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”
In conclusion, Victor Kiam did employ the expression in 1986, but it has a long history with an instance appearing in a 1916 advertisement in a North Carolina newspaper. Currently, QI suggests using an anonymous attribution or stating that Kiam popularized the saying.
(Great thanks to Mardy Grothe whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Mardy’s latest excellent book is “Metaphors Be With You: An A to Z Dictionary of History’s Greatest Metaphorical Quotations”.)
- YouTube video, Title: I liked the shaver so much I bought the company – Remington Ad 1979, Uploaded on Jul 17, 2015, Uploaded by: Peter Thomson, (Quotation starts at 14 seconds of 30 seconds) (Accessed on youtube.com on November 16, 2017) link ↩
- 1986, Going for It!: How To Succeed as an Entrepreneur by Victor Kiam, Chapter 7: Turnarounds: The Remington Story, Quote Page 182, William Morrow and Company, New York: (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1916 November 4, The Morning Herald (Durham Morning Herald), (Advertisement for Home Savings Bank), Quote Page 4, Column 6, Durham, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1918 November 3, The Salt Lake Herald, (Advertisement for Painless Withers Dental Company), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1937 February 7, The Salt Lake Tribune, ‘Uncommon Uses for Common Things’, Quote Page 4C, Column 1, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 2001 February 24, Star Tribune, Section E: Variety, Today’s Quote, Quote Page E1, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 2017 January 15, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Ready, Set, Goal! by Gordon Tredgold, Quote Page G1, Column 5, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Newspapers_com) ↩