Quote of the Month: February 2021

“It isn’t about whether you can or can’t: it’s whether you do or don’t.”

Before I take a look at this month’s quote, I have a confession to make: this line is actually from a videogame. I want to point that out from the offset because, as a rule, I don’t like to take philosophical advice from videogames, especially anime-styled JRPGs which can be a bit wishy-washy and idealistic at the best of times. I’m also not a big fan of people who get all of their life advice and inspiration from fictional game characters, as I see such behaviour leading to a somewhat deluded way of living whereby a piece of fantasy becomes reality in some people’s minds, distracting them from real life.

All of that said, I liked this quote from Namco’s Tales of Xillia 2 enough to take it seriously as useful life advice…even if it was spoken by a chesty anime waifu.

And that’s because it really is a positive, take-action attitude that anybody can apply to their life.

And there’s no need to engage many brain cells and formulate your own interpretation of the quote either (this ain’t no Sun Tsu quotation). Essentially, this is about not getting hung up on whether you think you can or can’t achieve something, because that isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that you bloody well try in the first place. Maybe it’s a physical challenge, or an academic obstacle. It could be approaching that person you’re attracted to. Perhaps it’s that promotion at work or an interview for a new, better job. In all of these scenarios, it’s easier to simply give up and walk away without even trying – easier to make excuses and tell yourself that you surely can’t do it.

But how do we know without trying? Sometimes it’s down to a lack of belief in ourselves; other times it really is because it’s much easier and less strenuous to not try in the first place – to retreat to the safety of our comfort zone. In either case, we will never improve ourselves or get any closer to the life that we want, and our failure to act will, ironically, only fuel the poisonous convictions we reinforce in our minds about not being able to achieve things. Thus, a vicious cycle is born and the only way to break it is to take action and do something.

The thing is, we aren’t psychic: we can’t know the outcome of our actions and expeditions before we attempt something (otherwise we’d all be buying lottery tickets!). Sure, we can make probability-based predictions (using existing data or evidence) in certain situations, but most things are dependant on a) our willingness to put ourselves out there and try something in the first place, and b) how much we are prepared to work for something. It’s far better to take action and actually do something, than to live with regret and not know what could have happened if you’d tried.

I have big respect for people with failed businesses, for example. Because, while others are mocking and criticising the downfall of those who had a go, at least that person tried something new and invested themselves (as well as money and resources) into that business. And, as is often the case, those people standing on the fringes and passing judgment on the failed ventures of others have likely never tried to better themselves. Meanwhile, the owner of the failed business will have gained valuable experience, and the knowledge that they at least tried. After all, that person will have grown through trying, and have learnt new things, while their critics are stagnating and going nowhere.

The key word is “action”. A lot of people make the mistake of waiting for inspiration to strike in order to feel motivated enough to take action. This is an incorrect approach that will only lead to procrastination and a lack of action. In essence, you are waiting for something to change, or your life to improve, by doing the same thing(s) over and over. It is the very definition of madness. The correct approach is Action >> Inspiration >> Motivation.

And it doesn’t have to be something a momentous. If you are a writer and are suffering with writer’s block, for example, just tell yourself that you will write just the one paragraph. Chances are, that one paragraph will become two, then three and so on. It’s the taking action in the first place – and breaking of the cycle – that allows inspiration to strike, and the motivation to keep going to subsequently form. It calls to mind another quote that I often refer to:

“Do something – do anything.”

Momentum (or the snowball effect) is a powerful thing, but you can’t get any momentum going if you don’t get moving in the first place (think of a huge rock atop a slope that will certainly get moving once pushed over the edge: it won’t go anywhere without that initial action of being shoved). That’s where taking action comes in.

Will you fail? Possibly. Inevitably, even. We all fail at things throughout life but we learn from our failings and grow as a result. It’s quite possible that you can’t do something, or that things don’t work out, but those are bridges to cross and outcomes to deal with when – if – you reach them. What matters is that you take the advice of that big-boobed, unsuitably-garbed anime girl, and at least try in the first place.

Little notebook of wisdom [Part 2]


Previously, I posted about how I had decided to utilise one of my (many) empty notebooks as a place to record snippets of practical wisdom. It would be a place to return to and remind myself of useful nuggets of truth whenever I’m in need of a good kick up the arse. This is another selection of the wisdom that I have jotted down.

Link to Part 1

Why do we fall?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Yes, this a much-overused quote from a certain bat-themed superhero movie but, if you subtract the pop-culture and t-shirts emblazoned with this quote, you will find that it remains an incredibly useful piece of advice. We seem to be petrified of failure, whether it’s due to being afraid of letting ourselves down or losing face in front of others. It also doesn’t help that our society and the media are set on punishing failure. However, failure is absolutely necessary in order to facilitate growth because how else are you going to learn what does and doesn’t work? It is only through failure that we can let go of our fears and learn to take risks. It is only through failure that we learn to analyse what went wrong, modify our approach(es) and become more adept at something. It is only through failure that we learn how to take the punches and move on from setbacks, rather than dwelling on them for prolonged periods of time.

Ask yourself: who is really living their life? Person A who takes risks and sometimes fails, but is at least trying new things and amassing experience, or Person B who stays inside their self-limiting comfort zone and devotes time and energy to mocking or criticising Person A’s failures?

Never ask advice of someone whom you wouldn’t want to trade places with.

This one seems obvious but we all do it from time-to-time, myself included. We ask the wrong people for advice on our problems and wonder why we get no closer to solving them. We need to learn to surround ourselves with the right people and not imitate those who are crashing and burning or hurting others for personal profit. As an example, a player of a man might be shagging multiple women and walking around with a big grin on his face right now, but would you want to be in his shoes when it all (inevitably) goes horribly wrong and his wife/girlfriend finds out?

Action > Inspiration > Motivation

Do something – anything

I – like many people – used to believe that you had to be inspired first in order to gain the motivation needed to take action. This isn’t entirely false as we all occasionally find ourselves struck by inspiration while going about our everyday lives. However, subscribing to the “Inspiration First” method is far from guaranteed to yield results. It’s why so many people don’t accomplish anything or better themselves; because they are sitting around waiting to be inspired – waiting for somebody/something else to come to them. It puts you in the passenger seat and can lead to a self-victimising attitude where you blame the world around you for not providing inspiration, when you should be out there hunting it yourself.

This isn’t to say that you need to become a larger-than-life go-getter who travels the world and seeks crazy adventure. “Taking action” means doing anything, as long as it’s something. For example, if you want to write but feel as if you are lacking inspiration, just resolve to write something – anything – to get the wheels turning. If a big essay needs writing but you aren’t feeling motivated, or are intimidated by the figurative mountain of work before you, simply decide to write a single paragraph. You may well find the pressure on yourself lifted and one paragraph will become two, then three. Before you know it, you could have filled several pages with words without noticing how long you have been at it.

Even with this blog, I’ve sometimes not wanted to write but I say, “okay, I’ll just type out the introductory paragraph.” More often than not, I’ll go on to produce the entire post or, at the least, a good chunk more than that opening paragraph. Often, it’s the act of getting started that is the most difficult but any small step towards achieving something can be enough to stoke your boiler, build up a strong head of steam and find forwards motion.

Little notebook of wisdom

Sometime back, I made a post about an entirely self-inflicted (and pretty dumb) problem. I had amassed too many empty notebooks, none of which I had any concrete uses planned out for. Since then, I’ve put some of this unnecessary stash to use and in this post, I’m going to tell you about this little red notebook and what I’ve been using it for.


I decided that I would use this pocket-sized book to record any useful quotes or scraps of wisdom that I come across. Good stuff to refer back to when the going gets tough or I need reminding of a harsh truth or two. The aim is to fill it up to the point where there is a handy nugget of advice for most situations.

So far, I’ve gathered together stuff from all over the place: books, films, even videogames. If something seems useful and relevant to self-development and the direction I want to take, then I’ve jotted it down. I’ve even taken bits of general advice and condensed it down into small, focused passages that are straight to the point.

I will share some of the contents here, in this post, then periodically return to my red notebook in future posts where I will divulge some more…

“It isn’t about whether you can or can’t; it’s whether you do or don’t.”

This one was me, in full-on nerd mode, taking a quote from a videogame and running with it. I feel that this is one of most profound quotes in my notebook. It’s applicable to a great many situations and reminds me of the importance of at least attempting something – no matter the odds – instead of avoiding it because you feel that you aren’t capable. After all, it’s better to regret something you have done over something you haven’t. And you never know; perhaps you will surprise yourself and actually succeed.

“Instead of complaining about bad experiences or mistakes, look to see what lessons can be learned.”

I think this is one that a lot of us can benefit from digesting. It’s very easy to just bitch and moan about negative experiences, but the truth is that these things have already happened and can’t be reversed. It’s much more constructive to analyse what happened and see whether you can learn something from it. The most powerful lessons usually come about as a result of the biggest balls-ups, for example. You’d be a fool not to identify said lesson and take it onboard.

“Take control of a situation. Don’t let it control you.”

A very important one, this. Sometimes shit happens that we have no control over and, in these cases, we are legitimate passengers. However, we often use this as an excuse to avoid having to act when we are perfectly capable of influencing a situation or straight-up taking the controls. If we can’t gain complete control, we are still responsible for our emotions and responses to a negative event in our lives. Things may happen to us that are 100% not our fault but there comes a transitional point where we are, in fact, responsible for how we react and proceed.

“A winning attitude is one that asks itself every day, how it can get better.”

Here on this blog, I will never equate “winning” with a load of macho BS or extravagant materialism. A “winning” attitude to me is simply a positive, constructive mindset. This quote from four-time Formula 1 champion, Alain Prost, is relevant to us all because, however good we think we are, we can always improve ourselves. Asking ourselves critical questions is also an important way of getting to the truth about ourselves and thus identifying our shortcomings.

And that’s all for now. I have plenty more scrawls on plenty more pages though so I’ll be returning to the red notebook in due course.