Tag Archives: Dolly Parton

We Cannot Direct the Wind, But We Can Adjust the Sails

Cora L. V. Hatch? Thomas Sheridan? George Whyte-Melville? A. B. Kendig? Ella Wheeler Wilcox? Bertha Calloway? Jimmy Dean? Dolly Parton? Thomas S. Monson?

Dear Quote Investigator: We are buffeted by events that are beyond our control, but we can still react constructively. A popular adage highlights this flexibility:

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

This saying has been credited to Dolly Parton, Thomas S, Monson, Bertha Calloway, Jimmy Dean, and several others. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In 1859 the well-known spiritualist Cora L. V. Hatch delivered a lecture at the Cooper Institute while in a trance as reported in “The Cleveland Plain Dealer”. Hatch employed a version of the expression: 1

You could not prevent a thunderstorm, but you could use the electricity; you could not direct the wind, but you could trim your sail so as to propel your vessel as you pleased, no matter which way the wind blew.

This was the earliest close match known to QI. Other oft-mentioned candidates for crafters of this adage were born after it was in circulation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1859 January 15, Daily Plain Dealer, Mrs. Cora L. V. Hatch on Spiritualism: The Law of God a Unit, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)

If Your Actions Inspire Others To Dream More, Learn More, Do More and Become More, You Are a Leader

John Quincy Adams? Dolly Parton? Peyton Manning? Anonymous?

johnquincydolly02Dear Quote Investigator: The following quote about leadership appears on my son’s T-Shirt and all over the web, attributed to John Quincy Adams:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

That can’t possibly be right, can it? It sounds so modern, even New Age. And yet we’re being told it even precedes Thoreau and Emerson. Who really said that?

Quote Investigator: This quotation does appear to be modern, and QI has located no evidence that John Quincy Adams spoke or wrote the words. The earliest version of this statement found by QI was printed in a 1997 book titled “The Most Important Thing I Know” that compiled inspirational thoughts from a variety of prominent individuals. An entertainer who built a multi-million-dollar business empire offered the following remark [MIDP]:

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”
Singer; actor

Small changes to the phrasing above yield the popular current version attributed to Adams. QI believes that Parton is the most likely originator of this quotation. If an earlier version of this sentiment influenced Parton then she does not mention it, and QI has not yet found evidence of its existence.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading