Never take a ‘wisdom quote’ or maxim literally, unconditionally - at least without filtering and adapting it to your experience. Never adopt rigid rules and mottos, because they will distance yourself from the whole truth.
A piece of quoted wisdom always represents an aspect of truth, but not the whole of it. It’s not an all-encompassing rule. Rather, it’s a specific insight for a specific situation.
Wisdom is knowing the insight and when to apply it.
“Never Give Up”
“Never Give Up” — not a specific quote, but a common motto nonetheless — truthfully conveys that some things in life can only come with hard effort, hard work, and rely on you pushing through obstacle and difficulty.
For every success story you’ll ever see, there’s undoubtedly a background of struggle, trial and error, frustration, drama. Or, at least, a scenario that doesn't have success alone, but many other things as well.
The path taken by the person, in a way, prepares him/her to handle success when it comes. It allows him/her to not take things for granted, to remain grounded, to a degree.
Nothing is a guarantee for anything. No amount of difficulty guarantees a lifetime of a non-stop stream of success. But there’s always a preparation, a test of resolve. This is the aspect of truth that “Never Give Up”, or “Never Quit”, represents.
“The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” — Randy Pausch
However, if you take the words literally, “Never Give Up” does not account for the situations when you do have to quit. Because it wasn't the best situation for you; because it didn't serve you; because it wasn't your own choice; because it was harming you.
This may sound obvious. “Of course sometimes you should quit”. But it goes to show that a quote is not meant to be taken unconditionally, word for word. Instead, it’s an energy. It’s a genuine piece of wisdom that, albeit deep and meaningful, nevertheless holds value for specific conditions, but not always, not 100% of the time.
Some may wonder: “Never Give Up is a bunch of **** - I’m allowed to quit”. Others might think “If I quit I’ll be a weak person, because only the strong persevere”. Both aspects are true. To quit may sometimes also be an act of courage. The challenge is to balance both truths out, know when to apply each one, when one is true and when it isn't.
Wisdom is the ability to identify and apply a motto, an idea, to the correct situation. And for that there is no rulebook. It’s combining external guidance with personal experience; the wisdom of others with your own living. This is something you have to learn by yourself.
“Work Hard” is a very similar proposition.
Many debate between working hard and working smart, and the answer is, again, both. Working hard also involves you learning when to detach, when to reserve some spare leisure time for yourself. You’re not literally working hard then - but you do need to rest and relax.
It involves you learning how to work effortlessly and from the heart, rather than spending a great deal of aimless effort and pain. It involves discerning when to push through self-blockages, or not insisting and taking a step back. All of this is a highly personal process and based on trial-and-error.
“Work Hard” refers to the truthful principle of enduring and striving to get to where you really want. Keep working, keep at it, until you see results.
However, should you take the words literally and only work hard, you’ll become off-balance and may start working aimlessly, without direction. Putting too much effort but in a way that’s not optimal for your desired results. There’s a time to push forward, there’s a time for assessment, and there’s a time of rest.
A quote that seems to be directly opposite to “work hard” is: “when you love what you do it’s not work”, or “life should be easy”.
Both are true. In your quest for perfecting your craft, there’s a personal learning process to find which things you can do with a minimal amount of effort yet get you the most gain. You’ll discover how to stop putting too much effort and instead do things easily. Paradoxically, only by working hard will you be able to find this out for yourself.
Working hard and smart are both possible. The trick is to get there by yourself, in your own skin.
The mind will question “do I work hard or do I work smart?”, “is it okay to quit, or must I never quit?”, “what is the truth?”. To the linear, thinking mind, many things are opposites to each other.
Often two conflicting aspects are both true at the same time; they belong to a truth that is greater than the sum of its smaller parts.
“Work Hard” is the (fundamental) lesson that is to be learned by the one who hasn't integrated the relentlessness of committing to his own work. The one who lets criticism and difficulty block his way, that is too attached to the opinions of others, and may not take full responsibility for his own choices and path.
Working hard is not the whole picture - just a part of it.
But when you do get it, when you learn it, you’ll take a step forward in your path. And as others see you taking steps, moving forward, they’ll want to know. They’ll ask: “What did you do?”; “What was your secret?”
And you’ll turn back to whoever asks you, and say: “Working hard”.
“The Answer is Always Love”
As far as I’m concerned, Love is the truest energy in all of Creation, and indeed has the power to heal anything. Also, responding to a negative situation with more of the same negativity is seldom of any help. At best, it makes you part of the problem.
However, if you take the motto literally, it discounts all the situations that need an assertive, strong response, rather than compassionate and forgiving Love.
When the child is being sexually abused by a parent or relative, is Love the answer? When your inner passion goes against what your relatives and/or family believe, or want for you, is Love the answer?
On a personal level, when you are stifled by the expectations or control others have on you, at some point a rebellion needs to happen. That rebellion isn't necessarily loud or violent; but aims to liberate you, to give you strength over the conditioning. Any other thoughts are nothing but excuses that dilute the impact of the realization that you’re trapped, thus preventing your release.
When you are victim of abuse, between the suffering and the ultimate acceptance there’s the “pissed off” stage. This is when you acknowledge what happened to you, and you let it all out. This is when the anger and the resentment are finally allowed to surface. This is healthy and necessary.
The process of venting, rebelling, becoming angry, against what happened, against conditioning, against oppression, is an inner acknowledgement of the injustice. Until it happens, you’re tolerating a situation that is intolerable — within yourself, in your memory — which is perceived by the spiritual self as a sellout. It’s as if you’re betraying yourself. You need to stand up and say: “No. This isn’t right!”.
Before there is some form of compassionate forgiveness (if any) from the victim, dealing with the experience might be far from feeling compassionate, caring Love. In this sense, Love is not always the answer. But it may be a form of Love: the act of self-Love from the victim towards herself, by facing the trauma and seeking liberation.
At some level Love itself may be involved; but the traditional meaning of the word “Love” may not apply in a straightforward manner. In fact, interpreting this motto in the wrong way may prevent you from making your next step.
No one has ever lived your life.
When you see a quote that touches you, you are inspired. It resonates. Some part of you knows it’s true. You’re being called to learn the lesson yourself.
When you see a quote you already learned, you tested it, you went through the fire, and you applied it, you’ll go: “I know what this means.”
Information is shareable; pure Wisdom is not. Knowledge is somewhere in between — a piece of wisdom, acquired by someone else, put into words.
You must sift through the energy of every quote, every advice, every metaphor, every story, every tale, every example, in order to learn what it really means, and how (and if) it applies to you. From family, from friends, from teachers, from authorities, from masters. You must learn by yourself when an insight is applicable and when it’s not. Where, and how, it fits in your own truth.
This will lead you to your own wisdom.
Quotes and sayings, no matter how deep, wise, or benevolent, come from wisdom gathered through the personal lenses of others. They are also subject to some degree to the cultural and living context of the quoted. You aren't being told of the details of the person’s life. Or even if you are, you might not have been there, listening to the words, feeling the moods, the tensions, and the stakes.
Quotes are never absolute; they are not to be taken without transformation, without perspective. No matter how wise or spiritual the person was, he didn't walk in your shoes.
Not even the greatest Master lived through what you are living.