Inspirational Quotes

Inspirational quotes are seemingly sound morsels of advice, but are in fact isolated and out of context. We cling to them because we seek immediate reassurance or prompt revelation. In inspirational quotes, we look for those things that we want to continue to tell ourselves and that ease us of the pain of confronting our truth and not the truth of others. These quotes are cycled through our culture, exhibited on social media, repurposed (eg. Keep Calm and …), and even modified. Some of them are misattributed widely. For example, you may have seen the following: “Well-behaved women seldom make history” and various thereof. The quote is often attributed to Marilyn Monroe and others, but was actually originally written by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in 1976.

The world of inspirational quotes is monoselective, preferring to focus on a singular portion of text because it appears accessible. Quotes like these are taken for themselves, without consideration of the original context in which they were used. They are misappropriated at times, and even transfigured and placed into categories and settings that do not agree with their original placement. But the greatest damage is not perhaps that these quotes are cherry-picked and shoved around. It’s that they are a means by which people seek to rest their case. When used in other texts, those that do not account for the context of the original quote do the quote and its author a disservice and potentially, misconstrued sense of reputation.

Photo of flamingo by Kyaw Tun

Inspirational quotes are the candy bar of intellectualism.

The fizz and spark of inspirational quotes may linger on the palate of some, but for others, the heart-pummeling and surge of confidence quickly escape. They are quick to ingest and may leave an aftertaste. But they offer minimal substance, again because they are decontextualized. Their popularity is likely due to the ease with which people can grab and chew them. In our culture, we use the words of great figures without reading their work. We begin to associate people simply through recognition of a phrase used in popular culture. They linger through bumper stickers and sudden posts on Instagram. We repurpose them to our liking, and to our own contexts. We do so sometimes without understanding the weight of the words in their original space.

As with many things in our culture, we seek immediacy. Inspirational quotes serve to instantaneously satiate readers. We seek no further explanation and contextual information. The inspirational quote takes the meaning that we give it, no matter how distorted it is from the source. When we make our meanings so granular, we fail to develop a proper narrative around our goals and intentions. If we seek lasting motivation, we need to find purpose in ourselves and not in the floating, disconnected words of others.

The Secrecy of Success

The secrecy of success astounds, confounds, and iterates pervasively through the minds of the driven. There is a luminous air about success, and secrecy is abundant in its proximity. In my last article, I spoke about the fact that people sell difficulty to make their skills appear more valuable and more difficult to match. In this article, I will point out a similar concept, but that of creating a veil of secrecy instead. Success cannot overall be pinned down to definitive goals, lifestyles, and social and monetary relevance. However, the regimentation of the criteria of success resides by closer definitions in subgroups that conglomerate around their criteria for success.

Take people who strive to live a life of travel blogging and remote work. Those people belong to a niche group, and are sold the idea of their free lifestyle by the people who appear to succeed to live that type of lifestyle. Those successful people may lay claim that it is difficult to achieve their lifestyle, and they may also use another tactic – secrecy. I call these tactics because they serve the goal of making something appear salable, un-attaining, far-reaching, and as if the people seeking to achieve the same goals require guidance.

The secrecy of success is prevalent in our success-driven culture. We seek success, even if it is in mocking, avoiding, and willfully ignoring society’s measures of success. Secrecy looks like the following article and video titles: “ten things successful people do that you don’t do” and the more outright, “secrets to becoming a millionaire.” Now, these are generic titles that are reformulated and repurposed in order to bid for a click and a view. Just like selling difficulty, the individuals formulating this content are selling secrecy. They claim to hold the answers to success. With secrecy, the selling component is alive and does not necessarily warrant continuous disclosure.

The main principle of the secrecy of success is that there is always something unsaid.

pyramids by Stijn te Strake

It can never be completely pinned down as misrepresentation. Because tied to the idea of the initial secrecy and partial disclosure, you have a stream of incoming provocations unto the reader or viewer. Secrecy endlessly nags, because secrecy is not isolated. There is not an end to it. Rather, someone reading the “top ten ways to network and get ahead” may be left with a gutted feeling that there are things unsaid. Which there are. The secrecy of success deals in abstracts, critically misleading information, and a lack of fundamentally concrete, itemized actions that can be performed to reach the ideal proposed in those same articles and videos.

The secrecy of success lies in the claims of absolute paths to abundance and other preferred states. Likewise, the secrecy of success lies in fear. One of the factors instigating this fear rests in suggesting that some people deserve success more than others, whether it is by their actions, charismatic abilities, or other factor. Another method of creating fear around success is replay scenarios and statements that suggest that the current lifestyle of consumers of these medias is intolerable. Sellers of the secrecy of success are fond of itemizing “struggles” that these consumers have. They dampen the ideals and practices of those things deemed in opposition to the true secret of success. They convolute the meaning of settling, mounting restraint and obstacles along the broken way to the unmasking of more secrets.