Our family treasure

The Sentences That Life Is Made Of

Niklas Göke
Jul 31, 2018 · 9 min read

There’s an old, wooden box in our attic. It looks like a treasure chest. What’s actually inside it is not nearly as interesting as what I find when I open it only in my mind. The last time I did, it was full of…sentences.

Not the kind of sentence you hope will have a lot of impact when you say it. Like “I do” when you get married or “I quit” when you resign from a job you hate. The kind of sentence a friend might drop only in passing, but that will mysteriously visit you again at just the right time.

When Einstein said that “two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, but I’m not so sure about the universe,” he wasn’t gunning for a place in the books of history. He was probably making a joke at dinner. It was a line and then we turned it into a quote. All quotes start as sentences, but very few as bold declarations. It is that second kind, the inconspicuous kind, that life is truly made of.

That’s why I find something different each time I open the box. Some are things people have said to me, others have found me along the way, but they all made me think a lot when they did. From third grade until today, here’s my life in 77 quotes.


  1. “What you don’t have in your head, you gotta have in your legs.” — My grandma, mostly about leaving things lying around. But applies to so much more.
  2. “Nonsense.” — My uncle, about every trend and tradition he didn’t buy into because he didn’t like it. He died at 52. I like to think he made the most of his time.
  3. “My boss used to say: ‘I’ve been producing ‘navy blue’ for 40 years now!’ That’s when I knew I needed to get out of there.” — My dad about his first job making dyes at a chemical company.
  4. “If you can go to bed late, you can also get up early.” — Grandma, on laziness.
  5. “Tomorrow’s another day.” — My mom, whenever I was sick, down, broken, or defeated.
  6. “Mapping a career is straightforward. You always have certain building blocks. All you gotta do is chain them together.” — My other uncle, who’s a partner at a big consulting firm.
  7. “We learn for life, not for school.” — A college friend, joking about the pain of studying. But he always had a point.
  8. “Everyone should know how to set up and run a blog.” — My statistics professor in the USA, right before making us all set up a blog for his class.
  9. “The days when we least want to exercise are the days we need it the most.” — A former roommate.
  10. “Everything happens for a reason.” — An ex-girlfriend.
  11. “How would you feel if someone said that to you?” — A marketing guru, about a huge blunder I made with another marketing guru.
  12. “If a Berliner can’t complain, he’s not happy.” — An old lady, who was hosting me in Berlin. Made a note to never have that attitude.
  13. “A library must be huge. You need room to think.” — Another roommate.
  14. “I would not say a word.” — Bill Gates, answering what he’d tell his 20-year-old self on the phone when giving a talk at my school. Reminded me to never regret where I am right now.
  15. “Sympathy is free, envy must be earned.” — My mom, whenever someone attacks me because I’m smart or different.
  16. “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.” — The lyrics of Chumbawamba’s ‘Tubthumping,’ which played 24/7 on our fourth grade field trip.
  17. “So much to do, so much to see, so what’s wrong with taking the back streets?” — The lyrics of Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star,’ which came a close second.
  18. “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” — J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was the first book I read in English.
  19. “60% of all human communication is nonverbal, body language; 30% is your tone. So that means that 90% of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.” — Alex Hitchens in Hitch, The Date Doctor.
  20. “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” — Alfred to Batman after a tragic failure in Batman Begins.
  21. “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” — J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  22. “Don’t poop where you eat.” — Barney Stinson, about dating someone you see on a regular basis.
  23. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” — Alfred about the Joker in The Dark Knight.
  24. “Kids, you may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or to throw it in someone’s face. But there’s a third option: you can just let it go. And only when you do that is it really gone and you can move forward.” — Ted from How I Met Your Mother, about being left at the altar.
  25. “There is no worse way of missing someone than to sit next to them, knowing they’ll never be with you.” — A quote that was floating around high school when I was 16. Hit home.
  26. “I realized, maybe it shouldn’t matter what my friends think of my girlfriend, but it sure as hell matters what my girlfriend thinks of my friends.” — Ted, How I Met Your Mother.
  27. “Sometimes things have to fall apart to make way for better things.” — Ted, after yet another breakup.
  28. “The only predictor of a successful tomorrow is a successful today.” — James Altucher.
  29. “I make my living off of words and do what I love for work and got around 980 on my SATs. Take that system, what did you expect? Generation of kids choosing love over a desk.” — Lyrics from Ten Thousand Hours by Macklemore.
  30. “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
  31. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” — Sir Ken Robinson in his famous TED talk.
  32. “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
  33. “Always the stairs, never the escalator.” — Casey Neistat in Do More.
  34. Life is long if you know how to use it.” — Seneca in On The Shortness Of Life
  35. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
  36. “It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference.” — Lyrics from Same Love by Macklemore.
  37. “Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Picasso
  38. “If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place.” — Thorin in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
  39. “Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong.” — Peter Drucker in Managing Oneself.
  40. “If you have to take a vacation, never come back.” — Joel Salatin.
  41. “I got at a very early age the idea that the safest way to try and get what you want is to try and deserve what you want.” — Charlie Munger in his USC Commencement Address.
  42. “The moment you accept total responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you claim the power to change anything in your life.” — Hal Elrod in The Miracle Morning.
  43. “The person who makes it is the person who keeps on going after everyone else has quit.” — Jerry Weintraub in his biography, When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead.
  44. “Being an entrepreneur is mostly about trusting in your ability to figure it out.” — James Clear, in an interview with Self-Publishing School.
  45. “What gets measured gets managed.” — Peter Drucker.
  46. “Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.” — Benjamin Franklin.
  47. “You have to make yourself the only person who controls your dreams.” — James Altucher.
  48. “Life is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk. Walk and you stay put. Stand still and you go backwards. To get ahead, you have to hustle.” — Casey Neistat on Youtube.
  49. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” — Simon Sinek in Start With Why.
  50. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs in his Stanford commencement address.
  51. “You have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.” — Seth Godin in The Dip.
  52. “One is greater than zero.” — Gary Vaynerchuk, on putting in the work.
  53. “Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” — A poem by Dylan Thomas, as quoted in Interstellar.
  54. “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job.”” — Terence Fletcher, the drum teacher in Whiplash.
  55. “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” — Steven Pressfield in The War of Art.
  56. “The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” — Elie Wiesel, but found it in The War of Art.
  57. “You must believe in yourself enough to be the person now that others will remember you for later.” — Late fitness icon Greg Plitt.
  58. “Winners win. Losers lose.” — From a motivational video.
  59. “Truth is like poetry. And most people f-ing hate poetry.” — Michael Lewis in The Big Short.
  60. “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien.
  61. “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care. Stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest. Life will be better that way.” — James Altucher on what he calls the 30/30/30 rule.
  62. “The long way is the shortcut.” — Seth Godin in an interview.
  63. “Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” — Steve Jobs.
  64. “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” — Jor-El to Kal-El (Superman) in Man of Steel.
  65. “The haters, the doubters are all drinking champagne in the top deck of the Titanic and we are the f-ing iceberg.” — Casey Neistat in Do What You Can’t.
  66. “Death is what gives life meaning.” — The Ancient One in Dr. Strange.
  67. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” — T. Siedner
  68. “Don’t be what they made you.” — Wolverine in Logan.
  69. “Your move, chief.” — Therapist Sean to Will in Good Will Hunting.
  70. “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman in Song of Myself.
  71. “That’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff. That’s all your house is. Your house is just a place for your stuff. If you didn’t have so much god damn stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.” — George Carlin in a standup bit on stuff.
  72. “Life is a single player game.” — Naval Ravikant.
  73. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
    “I don’t much care where –”
    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
    — Alice talking to the Cheshire Cat in Alice In Wonderland.
  74. “You should think of the word depressed as ‘deep rest.’ Deep. Rest. Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play.” — Jim Carrey talking about identity.
  75. “Whatever people say, there is right, there is wrong. There is nothing in between.” — Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express.
  76. “Anger is a hot coal you’re holding, waiting to throw it at someone else.” — From a podcast.
  77. “Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be… or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.” — Martha Kent to Superman in Dawn of Justice.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Niklas Göke

Written by

I write for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. I’m also working on a book to help you live a balanced life: https://emptyyourcup.substack.com

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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