Everybody Has Plans Until They Get Hit for the First Time

Mike Tyson? Joe Louis? Helmuth von Moltke the Elder? Fair Play? Walter Payton? Mike Lupica? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The opponent of a well-known boxing champion stated that he had a plan to win an upcoming match. The champion replied with a caustic dismissive remark. Here are four versions:

(1) Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time.
(2) Everyone has a game plan until they get hit.
(3) Everybody has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.
(4) Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Would you please help me to locate a citation and identify the two boxers involved?

Quote Investigator: In August 1987 the Associated Press news service published a piece about a boxing match planned for October in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Tyrell Biggs says he has a plan to beat heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. But the man they call “Iron Mike” is not impressed.

“Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time,” Tyson said.

QI believes that professional boxer Mike Tyson should receive credit for this remark. The phrasing has evolved over time. Thanks to researcher Barry Popik who found the above citation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Everybody Has Plans Until They Get Hit for the First Time


  1. 1987 August 19, Oroville Mercury-Register, Biggs has plans for Tyson (Associated Press), Quote Page 1B, Column 2, Oroville, California. (Newspapers_com)

No Plan Survives First Contact With the Enemy

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder? Carl von Clausewitz? Dwight D. Eisenhower? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Anybody who is attempting to accomplish a major project must be flexible. Planning is important, but adaptability is essential. Here are two versions of a pertinent adage from the domain of warfare and competition:

  • No plan survives contact with the enemy.
  • No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

This saying has been attributed to Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1871 Helmuth von Moltke wrote an essay about military strategy that included a lengthy statement that was essentially equivalent to the concise adage. Here is an excerpt in German followed by an English translation. Boldface added to by QI: 1

Kein Operationsplan reicht mit einiger Sicherheit über das erste Zusammentreffen mit der feindlichen Hauptmacht hinaus. Nur der Laie glaubt in dem Verlauf eines Feldzuges die konsequente Durchführung eines im voraus gefaßten in allen Einzelheiten überlegten und bis ans Ende festgehaltenen, ursprünglichen Gedankens zu erblicken.

No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces. Only the layman believes that in the course of a campaign he sees the consistent implementation of an original thought that has been considered in advance in every detail and retained to the end.

Over time Moltke’s statement was condensed to yield the currently popular adages.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading No Plan Survives First Contact With the Enemy


  1. 1900, Moltkes Militärische Werke: II. Die Thätigkeit als Chef des Generalstabes der Armee im Frieden. (Moltke’s Military Works: II. Activity as Chief of the Army General Staff in Peacetime) Zweiter Theil (Second Part), Aufsatz vom Jahre 1871 Ueber Strategie (Article from 1871 on strategy), Start Page 287, Quote Page 291, Publisher: Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, Berlin, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link

The Person Who is Clever and Lazy Qualifies for the Highest Leadership Posts

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder? Erich von Manstein? Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord? Douglas MacArthur? Frederick the Great? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: In self-help books I have repeatedly seen a two-by-two matrix used to evaluate individuals. The four elements in the matrix were labeled: Brilliant & Lazy, Brilliant & Energetic, Dumb & Lazy, and Dumb & Energetic. Curiously, the brilliant and lazy were extolled above all others.

Sometimes a different vocabulary was employed. Brilliant was replaced by smart, bright, clever, or intelligent. Energetic was replaced by industrious or diligent. Dumb was replaced by stupid.

This four-class categorization has been ascribed to several German generals, e.g., Helmuth von Moltke, Erich von Manstein, Carl von Clausewitz, and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord. Would you please explore the origins of this matrix?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in January 1933 in a periodical called “Army, Navy & Air Force Gazette” based in Great Britain. A passage attributed to German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord described the placing of officers into four classes.

The text was reprinted under the title “Selecting Officers” in the “United States Naval Institute Proceedings” in March 1933 1 and in the “Review of Military Literature: The Command and General Staff School Quarterly” in September 1933. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

General Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the present chief of the German Army, has a method of selecting officers which strikes us as being highly original and peculiarly un-­Prussian. According to Exchange, a Berlin newspaper has printed the following as his answer to a query as to how he judged his officers: “I divide my officers into four classes as follows: The clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities.

Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can under certain circumstances be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Person Who is Clever and Lazy Qualifies for the Highest Leadership Posts


  1. 1933 March, United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Professional Notes: January 1 to January 31, Section: Germany: Selecting Officers, Start Page 437, Quote Page 448, The Institute, Annapolis, Maryland. (This document states that the material from “Army, Navy & Air Force Gazette” was published January 19) (Verified on microfilm)
  2. 1933 September, Review of Military Literature: The Command and General Staff School Quarterly, Volume 13, Number 50, Section 1: Abstracts of Foreign-Language Articles, Selection of German Officers, (Excerpt from “Army, Navy & Air Force Gazette” of UK; dated January 18, 1933), Quote Page 23 and 24, Published Quarterly by The Command and General Staff School Library, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. (Special note: QI has not yet seen the issue of “Army, Navy & Air Force Gazette” containing the excerpt; this data is from “Review of Military Literature”) (Verified with scans from Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library)