Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Favorite William George Jordan Quotes

William George Jordan - 1910-08 - Americana One of my favorite authors is William George Jordan. What I love about his writing is his ability to paint pictures with words and then use them to teach principles. You can find a quotable quote in nearly every paragraph he writes. Below are some of my favorites (I’ll be adding to this list over time).  If you are preparing a speech and are looking for insightful quotes on human nature Jordan has some great ones. Links to all of WGJ’s books can be found in my post “Books by William George Jordan.”

The Majesty of Calmness, 1900

  • Content makes the world more comfortable for the individual, but it is the death-knell of progress. Man should be content with each step of progress merely as a station, discontented with it as a destination; contented with it as a step; discontented with it as a finality. There are times when a man should be content with what he has, but never with what he is.

  • Everything that is great in life is the product of slow growth; the newer, and greater, and higher, and nobler the work, the slower is its growth, the surer is its lasting success. Mushrooms attain their full power in a night; oaks require decades. A fad lives its life in a few weeks; a philosophy lives through generations and centuries.

  • Man’s conscious influence, when he is on dress-parade, when he is posing to impress those around him,—is woefully small. But his unconscious influence, the silent, subtle radiation of his personality, the effect of his words and acts, the trifles he never considers,—is tremendous.

  • Man can develop his self-reliance by seeking constantly to surpass himself. We try too much to surpass others. If we seek ever to surpass ourselves, we are moving on a uniform line of progress, that gives a harmonious unifying to our growth in all its parts.

  • Life is not really what comes to us, but what we get from it.

  • The man who has a pessimist’s doubt of all things; who demands a certified guarantee of his future; who ever fears his work will not be recognized or appreciated; or that after all, it is really not worthwhile, will never live his best. He is dulling his capacity for real progress by his hypnotic course of excuses for inactivity, instead of a strong tonic of reasons for action.

  • Happiness consists not of having, but of being; not of possessing, but of enjoying. It is the warm glow of a heart at peace with itself.

  • Unhappiness is hunger to get; happiness is hunger to give.”

  • "Calmness comes ever from within. It is the peace and restfulness of the depths of our nature. The fury of storm and of wind agitate only the surface of the sea; they can penetrate only two or three hundred feet; below that is the calm, unruffled deep. To be ready for the great crises of life we must learn serenity in our daily living. Calmness is the crown of self-control."

The Power of Truth, 1902

  • "Let us conceive of gratitude in its largest, most beautiful sense, that if we receive any kindness we are debtor, not merely to one man, but to the whole world. As we are each day indebted to thousands for the comforts, joys, consolations, and blessings of life, let us realize that it is only by kindness to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one [and] begin to make gratitude the atmosphere of all our living and a constant expression in outward acts, rather than in mere thoughts."

  • Truth can stand alone, for it needs no chaperone or escort. Lies are cowardly, fearsome things that must travel in battalions. They are like a lot of drunken men, one vainly seeking to support another.”

  • A lie may live for a time, truth for all time. A lie never lives by its own vitality; it merely continues to exist because it simulates truth. When it is unmasked, it dies."

  • “Reputation is what the world thinks a man is; character is what he really is … Reputation is the shell a man discards when he leaves life for immortality. His character he takes with him.

  • Tolerance makes the individual regard truth as higher than personal opinion; it teaches him to live with the windows of his life open towards the east to catch the first rays of the sunlight of truth no matter from whom it comes, and to realize that the faith that he so harshly condemns may have the truth he desires if he would only look into it and test it before he repudiates it so cavalierly

  • It takes over thirty years for the light of some of the stars to reach the earth, some a hundred, some a thousand years. Those stars do not become visible till their light reaches and reacts on human vision. It takes an almost equal time for the light of some of the world's great geniuses to meet real, seeing eyes. Then we see these men as the brilliant stars in the world's gallery of immortal great ones. This is why contemporary reputation rarely indicates lasting fame. We are constantly mistaking fireflies of cleverness for stars of genius.

The Crown of Individuality

  • Gossip … has caused infinitely more sorrow in life than murder. It is drunkenness of the tongue; it is assassination of reputations. It runs the cowardly gamut from mere ignorant, impertinent intrusion into the lives of others to malicious slander ... He who listens to this crime of respectability without protest is as evil as he who speaks. One strong, manly voice of protest, of appeal to justice, of calling halt in the name of charity—could fumigate a room from gossip as a clear, sharp winter wind kills a pestilence.

House of Governors

  • We need in our country today less politics and more statesmanship, less party and more patriotism. We need an awakening to higher ideals. We need a higher conception of America's place and destiny in the evolution of the world. We need something nobler as a purpose than our self-satisfied complacency at the material prosperity of the nation,  …. We need the scourging of the money changers out of the temple of legislation—State and national. ... We need the clear clarion voice a great inspiration to rouse the States to their duty—not the gilded phrases of mere rhetoric, but the honest eloquence of a high and exalted purpose

  • As the wealth of the nation is concentrating in the hands of the few, so is the guidance of the destinies of the American people becoming vested in the firm, tense fingers of a small legislative syndicate. The nation soon will be no longer a solid impregnable pyramid, standing on the broad, firm safe base of the united action of a united people, but a pyramid dangerously balanced on its apex—the uncertain wisdom of a few.”

Little Problems of Married Life

  • Courtship is the joyous, sunshine launching of the craft of hope; marriage is the long cruise across uncharted seas

  • There are more people on this great, big, rolling earth hungering for sweetness, tenderness, and words of gentle appreciation, genial confidence and generous affection than are starving for bread.”

  • Those who wisely live within an income rarely have to face the problem of trying to live without one.

  • Plants grow most in the darkest hours preceding dawn; so do human souls. Nature always pays for a brave fight. Sometimes she pays in strengthened moral muscle, sometimes in deepened spiritual insight, sometimes in a broadening, mellowing, sweetening of the fibres of character,—but she always pays.”

  • If there is a little sand in the sugar of home happiness, it really seems better to concentrate on the sweetness that remains than to carry around samples of the grit in envelopes of conversational confidence.

  • The opening words of the world’s greatest book are “In the beginning,” and they are the most important words of married life; they open its chapters of greatest joy and keenest sorrows. All its problems are most easily mastered “in the beginning

  • Jealousy stifles faith, which is the soul of love. It is emotional suicide. It is a peculiar form of fear which seeks constantly to discover what it does not want to find. Jealousy is the chloroform of confidence. It requires faith to keep faith, trust to retain trust, love to cherish love.

Mental Training: A Remedy for “Education”

  • “When man fails he … says, ‘I am as God made me;’ but when he succeeds, he proudly proclaims himself a ‘self-made man.’”

  • any system which does not train man’s mind, make him an individual, and teach him to think, whether in the village schoolhouse on the plains, or in the university with its endowment of millions, is unequal to its possibilities and is cruelly unfair and unjust to the individual.

“What’s the Matter with Education”, The Forum, Mar 1923

  • Suppose a gardener were to take a plot of ground, and, without turning up the soil, preparing it or fertilizing it or doing anything to put it in good condition he were to plant it with seed of all kinds, covering every inch of the plot. Suppose that he then said: ‘This process will of itself enrich the soil and will produce beautiful flowers,’ we should think he had suddenly lost his reason. Because he did not first care for the soil and prepare it for the seed we would know that because of his wrong method he would accomplish neither of his claims, he would neither enrich the soil nor produce fine flowers, the soil would be unimproved and the plants poor, stunted, scrawny failures. Such a theory is not a whit more senseless and imbecile than the theory of our educational system.”

“Educating for Seven Lives”, The Forum, Apr 1923

  • Man is not put into the world as a finished product, of a predetermined limitation of capacity and development. He is not branded or stamped like a jug with its limit, as ‘one-gallon’ or ‘five-gallon.’ There are no men thus predetermined as ‘one-talent’ men or ‘two-talent” or ‘five-talent.’ If man wishes to thus limit himself it is he who does it, not Nature. We know the potentialities of no child that was ever born. We arrogate much to our own ignorance when we thus seek to fix individual limits.”

“Modeling Education on Genius”, The Forum, May 1923

  • We need men and women trained to think, not merely to think they think.

  • Education fails with the average human being; it fails even more with the exceptional. The geniuses and the men of talent or of signal ability, have a strength of mind, a fineness and an individuality that refuses to be pressed, like soft pulp, into an artificial mould. A whole book could be written on the great ones who were failures, dolts, dunces, or rebels at school. Among them may be mentioned: Milton, Wordsworth, Hawthorne, Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, Newton, Dryden, Byron, Thackeray, Heine, Balzac, Keats, Shelley, Napoleon, Lowell, Wellington, Longfellow, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Scott, James Fennimore Cooper, Henry Ward Beecher, Bacon, Locke, Hobbes, Gray, Goldsmith, Dr. Johnson, Gibbon, George Bernard Shaw, Stevenson and a host of others.”


  1. What beautiful thoughts. I am reminded of Max Ehrmann, a lawyer back in the same period (20s-30s) who had written what he called "Desiderata" (Latin, desired things). It encompasses many of the virtues that Mr Jordan has. I have a framed copy of the Desiderata on my bureau, and take a minute every so often to read it. It is only a few paragraphs long. It helps keep perspective in a foggy world, even in this day.
    I was happy, by serendipity, to read the thoughts of William George Jordan. My real name is George William Jordan. Who the heck would name their kid Wenmomojo?!

    Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.

    As far as possible, without surrender,
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even to the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
    they are vexatious to the spirit.

    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain or bitter,
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    Exercise caution in your business affairs,
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals,
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.
    Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love,
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
    it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be.
    And whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life,
    keep peace in your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

  2. Wenmomojo, Thanks for sharing the "Desiderata". It is filled with great thoughts. Wonder if Max had read any of WJG's works.

  3. @STUFF I absolutely agree. William's writing were inspired. He was a good man who took care of family and tried to help others throughout his life. BTW I checked out your blog. Good stuff :)


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