Do a quick Google search of "Inspirational Quotes." You'll get millions of results instantly. People LOVE this shit. Here's one from motivational speaker Jack Canfield, "Twenty things completed have more power than 50 things half completed." So true, Jack. So true. And then there's this little guy: "Life begins -- at the end -- of your comfort zone." That one is from some post titled, "55 Inspiring Quotations That Will Change The Way You Think." Oh, and for effect, that quote is perfectly centered directly between breathtaking blue sky and rolling, verdant hills. It's really quite lovely.
For many people, these inspirational quotes are uplifting, motivating and maybe even life-changing -- though I really, really doubt it. But every time I read one them, I always think the same thing: "That guy's a dick." (Except for when I read a Gandhi quote -- that guy was always starving so he probably couldn't help being so dramatic.)
And this is especially true of any quotes by businessmen and marketing gurus. On first read, these little phrases of hope tend to sound like they rolled right off of said speaker's golden tongue. I can almost picture Bill Gates staring off into the distance, reflecting on his very existence and saying, "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure," in response to a waitress's question about whether he saved enough room for dessert.
That's not how it happens. I know the people who said these things or wrote them or whatever thought long and hard about it. And I think that's what bothers me the most. I think most people actually believe that the visionaries credited with saying these inspirational things are so brilliant they're actually shooting pearls of wisdom right out of their tight, pretentious assholes on a whim. But I know there had to be first drafts and second drafts and so on.
Before John D. Rockefeller said "A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship," he probably spent weeks strutting around an expansive mansion spewing out imperfect versions of his famous maxim, while some assistant followed obediently behind, scribbling furiously in some little book. Maybe the original one wasn't quite as punchy, maybe it was something like, "A friendship founded on business is better than a situation in which two gentlemen, who happen to share a great affinity for each other decide, impulsively, to go into business with one another precisely because of that friendship. That my friends, is much worse." But people only see the finished product.
Of course, I also like to think the author's inspiration could come in another way. Take Benjamin Franklin, for example. That guy was a piece of shit, a complete fucking asshole. Benny Franklin was a Class-A cocksucker. But history was kind to Mr. Franklin, and we know him mostly for his numerous accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin is quotable king. "Poor Richard's Almanac," which was published by Franklin, is chalk full of sayings that get passed along from generation to generation. But on top of the Almanac, Franklin used to run a profitable insurance scam. Philadelphians would purchase fire insurance from Ben and, in exchange for their business, Franklin would give them a plaque to attach to their home as proof they were insured. Problem was, the plaques were wooden, so when the fires burned down people's home, the plaques were destroyed, too. When people went to collect on their policies, Franklin supposedly refused to pay out without the plaque. "A penny saved is a penny earned," is easy when you're fucking trusting people out of their hard-earned pennies, right Ben?
Anyway, I like to think that Ben Franklin's most inspiring quotes came to him during moments of absolute depravity. I picture Big Ben plowing two -- maybe three -- of the wives of his closest colleagues, while piles of money he'd amassed from things like the fire insurance policy racket are strewn all over his bed "Indecent Proposal" style. While his conquests scream out the inadequacies of their husbands, a touch Franklin insisted upon, Ben is compelled to vocalize his thoughts, as well. "Little strokes fell great oaks!" he screams while he continues to thrust rhythmically. "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," Franklin whoops as two women switch places. "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," he exclaims triumphantly as he reaches climax and collapses headfirst on the bed. And in this manner Benjamin Franklin's most memorable quotes were composed.