Category Archives: Quotes

Quick Quotes Weekly | The Head On Edition

We all find inspiration in different ways. For some, it stems from solitude and meditation. For me, this often comes through allowing my ideas to collide with the thoughts of those far smarter than I. As I look to improve, I find that attempting to write great things often starts with reading them. Attempting to inspire others often begins with becoming inspired yourself. With this in mind, I regularly collect and share some of the more inspiring work I find on the web.


Sometimes our lizard brains build mountains where only roads exist — mainly so we have an excuse not to venture down them.

Patrick Rhone <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Art inspires. Design motivates.

Otl Aicher

(via UnderConsideration.com)


We eschew personal responsibility out of laziness with the expectation that, somehow, “technology” and “science” has–or will find–a way out, whatever the cost.

Instead of facing our flaws head on, instead of killing our passions at the root, instead of practicing sane asceticism and foregoing that which we ought not do and working hard to do that which we ought, we march onward to the noose hoping they’ve engineered a rope that does not choke.

J.D. Bentley <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


If you like what you see, be sure to visit and subscribe to my Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am! Need more inspiration? Click here to see a random quote, it is just like a fortune cookie, only smarter!

Quick Quotes Weekly | The Worth Reading Edition

We all find inspiration in different ways. For some, it stems from solitude and meditation. For me, this often comes through allowing my ideas to collide with the thoughts of those far smarter than I. As I look to improve, I find that attempting to write great things often starts with reading them. Attempting to inspire others often begins with becoming inspired yourself. With this in mind, I regularly collect and share some of the more inspiring work I find on the web.


Winners simplify.

Eddie Smith <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


It makes me think that the thoughts that I have in my head that make me feel the most lonely, because I don’t feel that anyone else thinks them, are also the thoughts that have the most potential to make me feel connected.

zefrank <— Click To See More Smart Stuff!


If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

Benjamin Franklin (Hat tip to Merlin Mann) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


I don’t believe that every person in this world is destined for satisfaction in their profession. That’s fine, I think. I’ll never begrudge anybody the sacrifice of personal satisfaction in the name of providing for the ones they love. But. I do believe that those of us who have the opportunity–the luxury, even–to pursue what is true and beautiful and profitable both for us and the world around us have a duty to do it.

Brett Kelly) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


The device in my pocket is rarely more important than what’s around me. Remembering that when my mind yearns for easy distraction — for anything to avoid a moment of mental idling — is the hard part.

Surat Lozowick <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


When you’re new to something, all the pain is out in the open. You stub your toes until they’re black and blue on things the veterans have all learned to avoid.

[…]

This is the time to do the impossible, because you don’t know enough to know what can’t be done yet.

David Heinemeier Hansson <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


If you like what you see, be sure to visit and subscribe to my Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am! Need more inspiration? Click here to see a random quote, it is just like a fortune cookie, only smarter!

Creating Visually Compelling Quotes

Todd Chandler. Todd has a gift: the man finds exceptional words from others and brings them to life with his daily visual quotes blog, Observation Paper. As someone with no design skills whatsoever, I’m consistently in awe of his creativity and willingness to improve at his craft. Here’s a first hand look at how Todd approaches and improves daily at his artful endeavor…Note: While I’m away this week toiling away in the desert (read: I’m working and playing in Las Vegas) I’ve asked a few friends to step in and take over for me. Today’s guest is

My grandfather believed that every day you should be better than the day before. For a while, he wore that philosophy proudly like a new shirt you’re sure people will notice and ask where you got it. When people asked him, “Bill, how you doing?” He would answer, “Better” meaning he was better today than he was yesterday. His trial of sharing this optimistic outlook gradually ended as he grew weary of having to repeatedly explain that he hadn’t been sick or recovering from surgery.

Last fall, Michael Schechter challenged me to become better by creating a Tumblr account to share daily quotes. I’m pretty sure his dare was merely an attempt to get one more follower for his Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am, but I was okay with that because I liked what he was doing. It was different. His quote of the day didn’t follow the traditional deep-thoughts-from-famous-dead-people format. They were timely, relevant quotes from stuff he was currently reading.

I’m an information junkie, and the task of finding something worth sharing every day appealed to me. So on Thanksgiving Day, I took the plunge and posted my first quote on Tumblr. I didn’t want to just copy Michael’s format directly, so I looked for a way to make it my own. By day, I create learning materials, and I’m constantly seeking ways to package information in more compelling ways. That interest drove me to play with methods to make my quotes more visually appealing. After posting 185 visual quotes, here are five lessons I’ve learned.

SOURCES MATTER

“Garbage in, garbage out” was an early obstacle. I was not absorbing enough high end content to source a steady stream of thought-provoking quotes, so I had to up my daily information consumption in both quality and quantity. Plenty of “Zen gurus” claim we are drowning in information and recommend cutting back on such daily infusions, but I benchmarked against the ultimate old-schooler, Warren Buffett. I figured if he still reads six newspapers a day, surely I can commit to few more blogs and podcasts.

Those two media are my biggest sources for quotes while books, newspapers, magazines, movies, and workshops round out the rest. I capture quotes in Simplenote and nvALT that sync in a master note across my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Placing new quotes at the top along with the author and a link to the source makes editing easier when I go to create the posts.

DESIGN ELEMENTS CREATE TONE AND CONTEXT

I focus my design on two elements: words and images. With typography there are only a few variables (font, size, color, spacing, and layout), but they can be combined into infinite combinations like the menu items at Chipotle. I’ve discovered two rules to live by:

  1. Don’t over do variation. A good guideline is no more than three variations of any factor – no more than three different fonts, no more than three different sizes, no more than three different colors. Use variation to emphasize key words or points; too much variation creates visual clutter and weakens the emphasis.
  2. Find the natural rhythm of the quote. Group words together around complete thoughts and repetitive phrases. This “Unique needs no modifier” quote by George Carlin illustrates strong natural rhythm.

Images include the background, graphics, and pictures. Here are four options that have worked for me:

  1. Find a complimentary photo that can completely fill the screen and place the quote over the top of it. This photo of a pink sky and different plants captured the Dr. Seuss saying perfectly, and these colorful walls provided a dramatic way to highlight Merlin Mann’s comment. I start most image searches using Viewfinder because I like how easy it is to download the photo and to copy the attribution.
  2. Display a shot of the author along with the quote. You can either frame the author as I did with this Stephen Tobolowsky quote or frame the quote itself like this Bill Bryson quote.
  3. Add an illustration or chart to reinforce the quote. On Horace Dediu’s comment, I created a goofy little chart to illustrate his point, and I drew a timeline to reinforce Maya Angelou’s message.
  4. Simply pick the appropriate background if the quote is lengthy or images detract from the words. The notebook background matched with this statement about training and education, while the clean white background reinforced this message about simplicity.

A GOOD VARIETY OF TOOLS EXPANDS OPTIONS

I’m still experimenting, but I’m starting to fall into a groove of three main tools: doodling in Noteshelf (a drawing/notetaking iPad app), playing with typography in Keynote, and adding text to pictures in Pixelmator. Here are three variations of the same quote showing the distinctions.

Editor’s note: You’ll be seeing more of this quote here on the blog soon.

CONSTANT CREATION IMPROVES QUALITY

Ira Glass has an encouraging video for beginning storytellers (hat tip to Erin Feldman) where he says at the start of your creative journey, your level of taste is really good, but the quality of your work isn’t. And the solution is “to do a lot of work. Do a hugh volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline, so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story.” That constant practice closes the gap and raises the quality of your work to meet your level of ambition.

In preparing for this post, I went back and reviewed my 6 months of quotes. Ira’s right. The ratio of crap to quality was higher at the beginning, and while I still crank out occasional crap, it’s becoming less frequent. For me, what started out as a curious little whim, has turned into a habit of constant improvement. My grandpa would be proud to see me better today than 185 quotes ago, and this daily production has whet my appetite to continue publishing as practice. The next phase being to layer in bigger creative endeavors.

What constant practices have you found helpful? What have you learned from them? Any new ones you would like to begin?

See all of Todd’s quotes at Observation Paper and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

Quick Quotes Weekly | The Infinite Capacity Edition

We all find inspiration in different ways. For some, it stems from solitude and meditation. For me, this often comes through allowing my ideas to collide with the thoughts of those far smarter than I. As I look to improve, I find that attempting to write great things often starts with reading them. Attempting to inspire others often begins with becoming inspired yourself. With this in mind, I regularly collect and share some of the more inspiring work I find on the web.


Creativity is fostered, not inherited.

Shawn Blanc <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Life is anything but inevitable. But it continually amazes me how when I stop pursuing something that isn’t really right for me that I discover something perfect.

Randy Murray <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


I am looking for people who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

Henry Ford (Hat tip to Shawn Blanc) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

Bertrand Russel (Hat tip to Gabe Weatherhead) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


That thing is out there lying in wait for you. The one that is waiting for you to focus your energy on. The one you want to do. The one you love to do. It will not happen without you. No one else will do it. Maybe someone else will do something like it. But that will be their thing. That won’t be your thing. Your thing will only happen when you decide to do it.

Patrick Rhone <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


If you like what you see, be sure to visit and subscribe to my Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am! Need more inspiration? Click here to see a random quote, it is just like a fortune cookie, only smarter!

Quick Quotes | The Sharp Enough Edition

We all find inspiration in different ways. For some, it stems from solitude and meditation. For me, this often comes through allowing my ideas to collide with the thoughts of those far smarter than I. As I look to improve, I find that attempting to write great things often starts with reading them. Attempting to inspire others often begins with becoming inspired yourself. With this in mind, I regularly collect and share some of the more inspiring work I find on the web.


There’s no need to sharpen my pencil anymore, my pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark.

Ze Frank <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


I’ve never met an “expert” that wasn’t dead wrong about something. I’ve never met an “amateur” who couldn’t teach me something.

C.J. Chilvers <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.

Chuck Close (Hat tip to Todd Chandler) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Your most reliable work will always be within your range. Go just a bit outside of that to show your passion and stretch yourself. But go too far beyond that and you’ll be so strained that ultimately the work will suffer.

Pat Dryburgh (Hat tip to Patrick Rhone) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. These people are waiting for a bus on a street where no buses pass.

Brian Tracy (via C.J. Chilvers) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


If you like what you see, be sure to visit and subscribe to my Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am! Need more inspiration? Click here to see a random quote, it is just like a fortune cookie, only smarter!

Quick Quotes Weekly | The Real Power Edition

We all find inspiration in different ways. For some, it stems from solitude and meditation. For me, this often comes through allowing my ideas to collide with the thoughts of those far smarter than I. As I look to improve, I find that attempting to write great things often starts with reading them. Attempting to inspire others often begins with becoming inspired yourself. With this in mind, I regularly collect and share some of the more inspiring work I find on the web.


You need to have a tolerance for having no idea where your thing is going.

Merlin Mann (Hat tip to Todd Chandler) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Doing what you’ve been doing is going to get you what you’ve been getting.

Seth Godin <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


The real power in GTD is not really in the hand writing or typing we do onto lists–it’s in the executive and creative thinking triggered as we engage with them.

David Allen (Hat tip to C.J. Chilvers) <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


We ought not strive to be inoffensive, agreeable, pleasant or polite because the truth ain’t as such. The truth is absolute and, by that very fact, offensive.

J. D. Bentley <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


The danger of creating a path instead of following one is far more important than the feeling you get resting at the apex.

AJ Leon <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


If you like what you see, be sure to visit and subscribe to my Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am! Need more inspiration? Click here to see a random quote, it is just like a fortune cookie, only smarter!

Quick Quotes | The 2x4x2 Edition

A while back, I moved my interview series, 2×4, to Lifehack at the urging of my buddy and podcast co-host, Mike Vardy. The goal of this ongoing collection of interviews is to ask those who make things on the web the same eight questions on how they approach creative endeavors and to get a feeling for how they manage to actually get things done. While I’ve been regularly updating the official 2×4 page here on the site, it’s been a while since I’ve shared some of the stellar and smart things people have been saying in the series.


By putting a productivity system in place that you can trust, you’ll go from doing productive to being productive. And that’s when you’ll get to go places.

Mike Vardy <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Get to work. If you love something, want to become an artist, go and hook up with those who are already doing it. Study, get training, do it. Suck a lot, but get better.

Randy Murray <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


The act of transforming some nebulous concept from my mind to something feels like magic and still amazes me every time it happens. Whenever I get in a rut, creating something pulls me out.

David Sparks <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


It took me a long time to realize the thing I enjoyed the most. I tried so many different projects before I came to podcasting and now I don’t want to do anything else. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things out; you just don’t know what you might find.

Myke Hurley <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Anyone can be creative if they can figure out how to fight their brain’s need to avoid the pain of creation. If you’re not feeling that pain, you’re not pushing yourself enough.

C.J. Chilvers <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Hit publish on the work you’re compelled to do every single day.

Ev Bogue <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


I don’t follow movements. I prefer to focus on what makes me happy. I don’t cut things out to achieve an ideal. I just spend more time with the things I like. I do the parts of GTD I like. I don’t clean my desk to be minimal. I don’t have inbox-zero. Movements and mantras are insidious and counterproductive to me.

Gabe Weatherhead <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


While I’m sure most people would say “Don’t give a shit about what others think,” for me, not caring what I think is more important in many ways. I often find myself dismissing one of my own ideas before I act upon it, censoring myself. Sometimes, that can be good, but for me, it often means that I don’t do things that I probably should.

Stephen Hackett <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Creativity isn’t about being able to paint or write or make music; it happens every day on a much smaller, less glamorous level. When I discover that I can use a binder clip to hold my iOS charging cable firmly to my desk, that’s creativity applied to problem solving (except people don’t usually use the world “creativity”).

Brett Kelly <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff!


Did you find this useful? You can find links to all of the 2×4 interviews here. Subscribe for free by Email or RSS to receive periodic updates on the series and more from A Better Mess.