Gaga for Goethe

I’m a collector. It’s a far nicer description than packrat, don’t you think? I flit from one collection to another ” tea cups, swizzle sticks, matchbooks, Pez dispensers, Disney animated movie CDs, postcards, stamps, whole bean coffee bag clips, bookmarks, travel journals, fast-food kids meal toys, wine labels ” the assortment is pretty daunting. I have to admit I even did the Beanie Baby collecting when I was in retail.

Not books: I do collect them, but I have to be honest and call that an obsession and lifeline versus a collection ” now I do have an assortment of book collections within that obsession ”

My collectables are everywhere in my house and office. You can imagine what these oddball collections of mine are doing to my efforts with the collecting of open loops in my GTD processing right now. My choices of an adequate inbox is reaching dumpster proportions.

As I said, I flit between them, losing interest in particular collections after a while. I don’t think I have a complete set of anything. There’s only one collection that has been a constant for me for as long as I can remember, and it is so wonderful to know that it will never be completed: it’s simply not possible.

I collect quotations. In electronic lists, in whole books, and on 3×5 cards that I can shuffle for a new day’s inspiration wherever I happen to cut the deck. I love them. Words have such power, and language has such beauty.

I have so many, you would think I’d have a hard time narrowing down my favorites, but I don’t: Time and time again I cut the deck to something by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

These are the three I share with other people the most, particularly in my coaching: I just did it again yesterday in this comment with this first one. You’ve probably seen it before, but only the last part – many people have never read how it begins.


Lose this day loitering, ‘Twill be the same story Tomorrow — and the next more dilatory. Then indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting overdays! Are you earnest? Seize this very minute! What you can do, or dream you can – begin it! Courage has genius, power and magic in it. Only engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin it, and the work will be completed.


One ought, everyday, to hear a song, read a fine poem, and, if possible, to speak a few reasonable words.


Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life.

And a fourth I’ve shared with you before: it is the epigraph in the beginning of my book, Managing with Aloha:


Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.

Feel free to add to my collection: The Talking Story comment fields make fantastic inboxes. What is your favorite quotation? Can you remember where you first read it or heard it? How has it inspired you?

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  1. says

    Today, mine is:
    Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions; to despise nothing in the world except falshehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor’s except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends…and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit. These are little guideposts on the footpath to peace.
    — Henry Van Dyke

  2. Jason says

    I have a book called Goethe’s Werkes. I think it’s a collection of his poems in original German, printed in 1817. Have any idea what it’s worth??