William Feather? John R. Gunn? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: When commencing a significant new endeavor in life it is tempting to wait until conditions are perfect, but that never occurs. Delays are often the result of indecisiveness, fear, or procrastination. Yet, one must move forward. The successful publisher and printer William Feather expressed the situation concisely:
Conditions are never just right.
Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: In 1928 “The Warren Tribune” newspaper of Pennsylvania published remarks from William Feather who described conversing with a man hoping to start a new enterprise. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
“But he really wanted to have his own company, and the reason why he hasn’t is because he waited for conditions to get just right.
“Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all factors are favorable are the kind who do nothing.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1930 Reverend John R. Gunn published “A Sermon for Today” which appeared in several newspapers including “The Evening Star” 2 of Washington D.C. and “The Kokomo Tribune” of Indiana. Gunn criticized people who were delaying action, and he made an argument that was similar to Feather’s: 3
Conditions are never just right for them. And while they are waiting for more favorable conditions, or a more suitable time, life slips by and most of the things they have intended are left undone.
We may sometimes very wisely wait for a better day, or for better circumstances. But the man who thinks he must wait until everything is just right, will never get anywhere.
In 1957 “The Book of Unusual Quotations” compiled by Rudolf Flesch included the following entry: 4
Conditions are never just right.
The observation continued to circulate in 1967 when it appeared in the pages of “The Newark Advocate” of Ohio: 5
Conditions are never just right.—William Feather.
In 1983 “Webster’s Treasury of Relevant Quotations” included the remark while pointing to a book that Feather published in 1949: 6
Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all factors are favorable are the kind who do nothing.
The Business of Life
In conclusion, William Feather deserves credit for the words he penned in 1928. The point he was making was not novel, but Feather’s punchy phrase was memorable enough to be transmitted to modern days.
- 1928 June 16, The Warren Tribune, Business Conditions (acknowledgment to “Imperial Type Metal Magazine”), Quote Page 4, Column 1 and 2, Warren, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1930 May 22, The Evening Star, A Sermon for Today by Reverend John R. Gunn, Quote Page C11, Column 6, Washington D.C. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1930 May 22, The Kokomo Tribune, A Sermon for Today by Reverend John R. Gunn, Quote Page 4, Column 6, Kokomo, Indiana. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1957, The Book of Unusual Quotations, Compiled by Rudolf Flesch, Topic: Conditions, Quote Page 46, Column 1, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1967 November 23, The Newark Advocate, Quips & Quotes, Quote Page E4, Column 3, Newark, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1983, Webster’s Treasury of Relevant Quotations, Compiled by Edward F. Murphy, Topic: Action, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Greenwich House, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩