Carl Mays: Quotes can give us insight

May. 08, 2014 @ 11:52 PM

I’ve always liked quotes.

And, of course, there are all types. Some inspire and motivate us when we really need something to get us going or encourage us to keep on keeping on.

Some help us regain a misplaced or lost focus and get back on track. Others help us get our priorities straight, to put first things first.

Still others simply touch our emotions, bringing a smile, laugh or tear, and produce actions as a result of these emotions.

But you know, quotes can give us insights into people, cultures and situations. They can make us think about things, maybe view things from a new or different perspective.

That’s why when I hear or read a statement or phrase that really strikes me, I like to capture it as a resource. I’ve used quotes in my speeches and training sessions, books, columns, articles and songs.

Often, however, I just think about a quote, and the insight it shares. And I continue to learn things.

For example, as I was going through some saved quotes this week, I ran across one from an article about high school students in China protesting the presence of invigilators (someone who watches students taking exams to prevent cheating).

The leader of the protesters said: “We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.”

First of all, I learned what an “invigilator” is. Secondly, I gained an insight into some values and morality of some students from a high school in Zhongxiang, China. The student’s quote was in The London Telegraph, which had a lead into the article that read: “What should have been a hushed scene of 800 Chinese students diligently sitting (taking) their university entrance exams erupted into siege warfare after invigilators tried to stop them from cheating.”

Conversely, Benjamin Franklin is credited with the quote: “Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that don’t have brains enough to be honest.”

He is the person who also is credited with originally saying, “Honesty is the best policy.”

And, since I brought Ben into the picture (or column), something else he is credited with saying and doing is that each morning when he arose he asked himself, “What good shall I do this day?”

It’s not like we always have to “plan” to do something good. Opportunities come everyone’s way to do good each day. We just have to show an awareness of the people and situations with which we come in contact.

Opportunities begin within our families and extend outward through the day.

Doing the “good” Franklin expressed leads to Albert Einstein’s advice: “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”

When I have used an Albert Einstein quote, it has usually been something quite lofty, since Albert Einstein was quite a lofty-thinking scientist.

But recently I came across an Einstein quote that not only reveals his IQ but also his common sense and sense of humor: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

On the topic of “giving the kiss the attention it deserves,” since I am writing this column just prior to Mothers Day, let’s make sure we all give the occasion the real attention it deserves, whether in the presence of Mother or in memory.

To this end, singer/musician Stevie Wonder presented a tremendous tribute to his mother when he said, “Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness.

If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.”

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. Email or visit