There Is Really No Insurmountable Barrier, Save Your Own Inherent Weakness of Purpose

Elbert Hubbard? Kin Hubbard? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Robert Burns Wilson? Henry Austin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Success is often achieved via persistence. Here is a popular elaboration of this notion:

There is no defeat except from within. There is really no insurmountable barrier, save your own inherent weakness of purpose.

This remark has been attributed to essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, publisher and aphorist Elbert Hubbard, painter and poet Robert Burns Wilson, cartoonist and humorist Kin Hubbard and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the New York journal “The Critic” in 1887 within a five paragraph piece titled “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson. Here is an excerpt with boldface added by QI:[1]1887 October 8, The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts, “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson, Start Page 173, Quote Page 173, The Critic Company, New York. (Google … Continue reading

There is no defeat except from within. There is really no insurmountable barrier, save your own inherent weakness of purpose. There is no power either in heaven or earth that can successfully oppose the onward course of the perfectly determined soul.

Success as the world names it is but a word, which with the next breath may signify defeat. But success as the soul knows it, is to have within the sustaining sense of right and an unselfish purpose. There is no failure except in no longer trying.

Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882 before the text above appeared. The first attribution to Emerson known to QI occurred in 1905. This citation was not substantive. Other linkages to prominent individuals were also quite weak.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is Really No Insurmountable Barrier, Save Your Own Inherent Weakness of Purpose

References

References
1 1887 October 8, The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts, “And So—I Gave Up Trying!” by Robert Burns Wilson, Start Page 173, Quote Page 173, The Critic Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

One-Half the Money I Spend for Advertising Is Wasted, But I Have Never Been Able To Decide Which Half

John Wanamaker? William Hesketh Lever? William Hulme Lever? Lord Leverhulme? William Wrigley Jr.? John T. Dorrance? Robert C. Ogden? George Washington Hill? Roy L. Smith? David Ogilvy? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Readers often ignore advertisements, but sometimes ads decisively influence purchasing decisions. A business mogul once humorously commented on this hit-or-miss quality. Here are two versions:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half.

Fifty cents out of every dollar I spent for advertising was wasted, but I could never be sure which fifty cents it was.

This saying has been attributed to U.S. department story magnate John Wanamaker and to English industrialist William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme). Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred within a 1919 speech delivered at a bible conference held in Indiana. Reverend Roy L. Smith spoke about “The Salesmanship of Preaching”, and he ascribed the saying to Wanamaker. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1919, Winona Echoes: Addresses Delivered at the Winona Bible Conference, Held in Winona Lake, Indiana in August 1919, The Salesmanship of Preaching by Reverend Roy L. Smith, Start Page 333, Quote … Continue reading

John Wanamaker once said, “I am convinced that about one-half the money I spend for advertising is wasted, but I have never been able to decide which half.”

Wanamaker died in 1922 when he was 84 years old. QI has been unable to find a direct citation to a written or spoken instance from Wannamaker; hence, this ascription remains uncertain. Nevertheless, Wannamaker is currently the leading candidate.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading One-Half the Money I Spend for Advertising Is Wasted, But I Have Never Been Able To Decide Which Half

References

References
1 1919, Winona Echoes: Addresses Delivered at the Winona Bible Conference, Held in Winona Lake, Indiana in August 1919, The Salesmanship of Preaching by Reverend Roy L. Smith, Start Page 333, Quote Page 333, Published by Authority of Winona Publishing Society. (Google Books Full View) link

Optimist: The Glass Is Half Full. Pessimist: The Glass Is Half Empty. Comedian: The Glass Is the Wrong Size

Steve Martin? George Carlin? Terry Pratchett? O. J. Anderson? Davis Merritt Jr.? Tom Page? Allen Klein? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Different attitudes towards life are vividly illustrated by divergent reactions to a partially filled glass:

Optimist: The glass half full
Pessimist: The glass is half empty

A third humorous category is sometimes added to the two categories above. Here are some examples:

Realist: The glass is too big
Comedian: The glass is simply the wrong size
Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

Would you please explore the history of this extended joke?

Quote Investigator: If readers wish to learn about the original simple bipartite split then they should follow this link to a separate QI article on the topic.

The family of sayings which presents a comical tripartite split is difficult to trace because the family is highly variable.

The first match located by QI appeared in the “Fort Lauderdale News” of Florida in 1977. An unnamed sports writer used an instance while describing a college football player named O.J. Anderson who emphasized the positive. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1977 November 8, Fort Lauderdale News, College Scene: Hurricanes: Anderson Believes Miami Can Win Remaining Three, Quote Page 4E, Column 1, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Newspapers_com)

Optimists say the water glass is half full. Pessimists claim that it is half empty. O.J. Anderson would probably say the water is really overflowing except you can’t tell because the glass is too big. That’s how much of a positive thinker Anderson is.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Optimist: The Glass Is Half Full. Pessimist: The Glass Is Half Empty. Comedian: The Glass Is the Wrong Size

References

References
1 1977 November 8, Fort Lauderdale News, College Scene: Hurricanes: Anderson Believes Miami Can Win Remaining Three, Quote Page 4E, Column 1, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Newspapers_com)

Optimist: The Glass Is Half Full. Pessimist: The Glass Is Half Empty

Josiah Stamp? Vivian F. Rausch? David Dodge? Hugh Overman? Ted Healy? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Life impressions differ dramatically between people with sunny dispositions versus morose temperaments. This point is cleverly illustrated via the disparate reactions elicited by a container partially filled with liquid:

The optimist says the container is half full.
The pessimist says the container is half empty.

Variants of this saying refer to different containers, e.g., a bottle, a glass, and a gas tank. Josiah Stamp who was the director of the Bank of England has received credit for this expression, but I have not seen a solid citation. Would you please explore the provenance of this proverbial saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match found by QI appeared in “The Evening Sun” of Baltimore, Maryland in April 1929. The statement occurred in a filler item without attribution. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1929 April 9, The Evening Sun, (Filler item), Quote Page 1, Column 2, Baltimore, Maryland. (Newspapers_com)

If he says his gas tank is half-full he’s an optimist. If he says it’s half-empty he’s a pessimist.

Based on current evidence the originator remains anonymous.

Josiah Stamp helped to popularize this witty comparison by using it during a speech he gave in 1935, but the saying was already in circulation.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Optimist: The Glass Is Half Full. Pessimist: The Glass Is Half Empty

References

References
1 1929 April 9, The Evening Sun, (Filler item), Quote Page 1, Column 2, Baltimore, Maryland. (Newspapers_com)

For Reasons I Have Never Understood, People Like To Hear That the World Is Going To Hell

Deirdre N. McCloskey? Eduardo Porter? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Their are always powerful reasons to be pessimistic. News headlines about brutal warfare, callous crime, and environmental degradation predominate on a continuous electronic scroll of doom.

Yet, there are also reasons to be optimistic. The global rate of extreme poverty has declined and longevity has increased. Medical advances occur every day. A prominent Professor of Economics remarked that many people inexplicably prefer to “hear that the world is going to hell”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 2014 economist Deirdre N. McCloskey of the University of Illinois at Chicago published a book review in “Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics” containing the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2014 Autumn, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, Volume 7, Issue 2, Article: Measured, unmeasured, mismeasured, and unjustified pessimism: A review essay of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in … Continue reading

During the pretty good history of 1800 to the present the economic pessimists on the left have nonetheless been subject to nightmares of terrible, terrible failures.

Admittedly, such pessimism sells. For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell, and become huffy and scornful when some idiotic optimist intrudes on their pleasure. Yet pessimism has consistently been a poor guide to the modern economic world. We are gigantically richer in body and spirit than we were two centuries ago.

Below are two more citations and a conclusion.

Continue reading For Reasons I Have Never Understood, People Like To Hear That the World Is Going To Hell

References

References
1 2014 Autumn, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, Volume 7, Issue 2, Article: Measured, unmeasured, mismeasured, and unjustified pessimism: A review essay of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the twenty-first century by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey (University of Illinois at Chicago), Start Page 73, Quote Page 81, Supported by Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics, Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (Accessed ejpe.org on January 2, 2021; also available via ProQuest) link

Everything Is Connected To Everything Else

Barry Commoner? Gotthold Ephraim Lessing? Leonardo da Vinci? Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.? John Muir? Jean Piaget? Daniel Patrick Moynihan? Solomon Short? David Gerrold? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The universe reflects a pervasive interconnectedness. Here are two versions of a pertinent adage:

Everything is connected to everything else.
Everything connects to everything else.

Ecological thinkers have used this as a guiding principle. Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI believes that this notion probably occurred in the mind of a primordial philosopher, but this article will center on written expressions from prominent figures.

This adage has often been attributed to the Italian Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci who died in 1519, but QI has only found citations for this linkage in recent decades, and this evidence is not substantive.

In 1769 German dramatist and philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing published “Hamburgische Dramaturgie” (“The Hamburg Dramaturgy”) which contained a match. Below is an English translation[1]1889, Selected Prose Works of G. E. Lessing, New Revised Edition, Translated from the German by E. C. Beasley and Helen Zimmern, Edited by Edward Bell, Section: Dramatic Notes, Sub-Section: Number … Continue reading followed by the original text in German. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2] 1769, Hamburgische Dramaturgie by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Zweyter Theil (Volume 2), Quote Page 140 and 141, J. Dodsley und Compagnie. (Google Books Full View) link

In nature everything is connected, everything is interwoven, everything changes with everything, everything merges from one into another. But according to this endless variety it is only a play for an infinite spirit. In order that finite spirits may have their share of this enjoyment, they must have the power to set up arbitrary limits, they must have the power to eliminate and to guide their attention at will.

In der Natur ist alles mit allem verbunden; alles durchkreuzt sich, alles wechselt mit allem, alles verändert sich eines in das andere. Aber nach dieser unendlichen Mannigfaltigkeit ist sie nur ein Schauspiel für einen unendlichen Geist. Um endliche Geister an dem Genusse desselben Anteil nehmen zu lassen, mußten diese das Vermögen erhalten, ihr Schranken zu geben, die sie nicht hat; das Vermögen abzusondern und ihre Aufmerksamkeit nach Gutdünken lenken zu können.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Everything Is Connected To Everything Else

References

References
1 1889, Selected Prose Works of G. E. Lessing, New Revised Edition, Translated from the German by E. C. Beasley and Helen Zimmern, Edited by Edward Bell, Section: Dramatic Notes, Sub-Section: Number 70, Quote Page 399, George Bell and Sons, London. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1769, Hamburgische Dramaturgie by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Zweyter Theil (Volume 2), Quote Page 140 and 141, J. Dodsley und Compagnie. (Google Books Full View) link

If My Mind Can Conceive It and My Heart Can Believe It, Then I Know I Can Achieve It

Jesse Jackson? Napoleon Hill? Muhammad Ali? Armand J. Gariepy? Ralph L. Berry? Tennyson Guyer? Orlando K. Fitzsimmons? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular collection of affirmations have been constructed with these three rhyming words: conceive, believe, and achieve. Here are three examples:

(1) Achieve anything you can conceive and believe.
(2) Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.
(3) If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I know I can achieve it.

The first two statements have been attributed to self-help author Napoleon Hill, and the third has been credited to political activist Jesse Jackson. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This family of expressions has been evolving for more than one-hundred years. The earliest instances used just two of the three words.

Statements 1 and 2 above were used by Napoleon Hill’s self-help organization in 1952 and 1954, respectively. Statement 3 was employed by Jesse Jackson in 1978.

The following items with dates present an outline of the evolution:

1906: What man can conceive, man can achieve (Anonymous)
1928: Those who believe they can achieve the object of their definite chief aim do not recognize the word impossible (Napoleon Hill)
1937: The mind could produce anything the mind could conceive and believe (Napoleon Hill)
1952: Learn how to achieve anything you can conceive and believe (Napoleon Hill Advertisement)
1954: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve (Napoleon Hill Associate)
1955 Jan: You can achieve anything that your mind can conceive providing you believe it (Armand J. Gariepy)
1955 Oct: Whatever you can believe you can conceive and achieve (Attributed to Napoleon Hill)
1956: Anything you can conceive or believe, you can achieve (Ralph L. Berry)
1958: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve (Napoleon Hill)
1959: Three little words: conceive, believe, achieve (Tennyson Guyer)
1978: If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I know I can achieve it (Jesse Jackson)
2001: If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it (Attributed to Muhammad Ali)

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If My Mind Can Conceive It and My Heart Can Believe It, Then I Know I Can Achieve It

What Man Can Conceive, Man Can Achieve

Robert Owen? Elbert Hubbard? Orlando K. Fitzsimmons? Sidney Abram Weltmer? O. A. Hawkins? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An optimistic rhyming maxim highlights the enormous potential for positive accomplishments. Here are three versions:

(1) What humanity can conceive, humanity can achieve.
(2) What man can conceive, man can achieve
(3) Man can achieve what man can conceive

Would you please explore this adage?

Quote Investigator: This saying is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in several different ways. The prominent social reformer and socialist Robert Owen employed an instance in the 1845 edition of his treatise “The Book of the New Moral World Containing the Rational System of Society”. Owen emphasized the need for charity, wisdom, and kindness. His book contained a partial match. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1845, The Book of the New Moral World Containing the Rational System of Society by Robert Owen, First American Edition, Part 4: The Principles and Practice of the Rational Religion, Chapter 7, Quote … Continue reading

It is this spirit and language of truth which must pervade the whole mass and the entire of society, before man can conceive what man can achieve, or society united can accomplish.

Owen used a conditional phrasing. He believed that the principles he extolled would produce a society in which mankind’s positive conceptions would be achieved.

In 1906 a full match for the saying appeared in “Metamorphose: Involving Regeneration of Individual and Race, and Also the Solution of the Great Problem of Poverty” by Orlando K. Fitzsimmons:[2]1906, Metamorphose: Involving Regeneration of Individual and Race, and Also the Solution of the Great Problem of Poverty by Orlando K. Fitzsimmons, Chapter 12: The Rationale of the New, Quote Page … Continue reading

If the conditions existing in the fabled Golden Age can be conceived in the mind of man as a definite Idea, he can attain unto those conditions!

The motto of the new Order is: WHAT MAN CAN CONCEIVE, MAN CAN ACHIEVE.
The Change is at hand!

No attribution is specified for the saying above, and QI believes that currently the originator remains anonymous.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What Man Can Conceive, Man Can Achieve

References

References
1 1845, The Book of the New Moral World Containing the Rational System of Society by Robert Owen, First American Edition, Part 4: The Principles and Practice of the Rational Religion, Chapter 7, Quote Page 134, G. Vale, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1906, Metamorphose: Involving Regeneration of Individual and Race, and Also the Solution of the Great Problem of Poverty by Orlando K. Fitzsimmons, Chapter 12: The Rationale of the New, Quote Page 212, Progress Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

You Have Enemies? Good. That Means You’ve Stood Up For Something, Sometime In Your Life

Winston Churchill? Victor Hugo? Thomas Jefferson? Jules Sandeau? Charles Mackay? Elminster of Shadowdale? Ed Greenwood? William J. Robinson? Jim Bunning? Eminem? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: If you become prominent and influential then you will inevitably face detractors. If you take tough stances on major issues then you will encounter adversaries. The British statesman Winston Churchill has received credit for the following expression:

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

I am skeptical of this attribution because I have been unable to find a solid citation. This notion has also been credited to U.S. President Thomas Jefferson and French novelist Victor Hugo. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Winston Churchill made this remark. He died in 1965, and he received credit many years later in 2002. Churchill quotation expert Richard M. Langworth was unable to find a citation. He placed this saying into an appendix titled “Red Herrings” of his indispensable compilation “Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words”.[1] 2013 (Kindle Edition), Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings, RosettaBooks. (Kindle Location 19660)

Thematic matches did appear in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and Victor Hugo, but these quotations were not close matches. The earliest close match found by QI appeared in an “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” fantasy book in 1993. See further below for details.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Have Enemies? Good. That Means You’ve Stood Up For Something, Sometime In Your Life

References

References
1 2013 (Kindle Edition), Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings, RosettaBooks. (Kindle Location 19660)

Never Blame the Booster for What the Sucker Does

Damon Runyon? W. C. Fields? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous Broadway show “Guys and Dolls” was based on stories and characters from the pen of journalist Damon Runyon. Apparently, he was once asked about his favorite motto, and he presented the following:

Never blame the booster for what the sucker does.

Would you please help me to find a citation? Also, would you clarify the meaning of this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1939 Damon Runyon published a syndicated newspaper column under the title “The Brighter Side”.[1] 1939 May 15, The San Francisco Examiner, The Brighter Side by Damon Runyon, Quote Page 10, Column 2, San Francisco, California. (Newspapers_com) He credited the motto to a fictional character, “our old man”, in a piece he wrote on May 15th. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2] 1939 May 15, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Damon Runyon Says: Never Blame the Booster, Quote Page 14, Column 2, Rochester, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Our old man used to have a motto that he had printed out himself in big letters pasted on the wall of his bedroom. It read: NEVER BLAME THE BOOSTER FOR WHAT THE SUCKER DOES. It was one of his favorite sayings, too.

He said it meant that you should never hold a fellow responsible for the consequences of an effort to do you a nice turn. He said many of his own troubles in life had come from getting the blame from friends he was only trying to help …

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Never Blame the Booster for What the Sucker Does

References

References
1 1939 May 15, The San Francisco Examiner, The Brighter Side by Damon Runyon, Quote Page 10, Column 2, San Francisco, California. (Newspapers_com)
2 1939 May 15, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Damon Runyon Says: Never Blame the Booster, Quote Page 14, Column 2, Rochester, New York. (Newspapers_com)