Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A blinkered pursuit of success can lead an individual to ignore other aspects of life such as adventure, humor, spirituality, exploration, altruism, and curiosity. Albert Einstein apparently offered pertinent advice. Here are four versions:
- Try not to become a person of success but rather a person of value.
- Do not try to become a person of success but try to become a person of value.
- Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.
- Try to become not a man of success but try rather to become a man of value.
Would you please examine the provenance of this expression?
Quote Investigator: Some months before Albert Einstein’s death in April 1955 an editor of “LIFE” magazine named William Miller visited the famous scientist at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. The journalist was accompanied by his son Pat Miller and by Professor William Hermanns of San Jose State in California. Einstein responded to the son’s desire for guidance in life. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.
Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.
The text above appeared in the May 2, 1955 issue of “LIFE”. The initial statement used the word “man” to designate an individual of unspecified sex instead of “person” which often occurs in modern instances. Also, over time variant phrases have proliferated based on compression and word re-ordering.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.