When I was a kid, my dad, who was the AP correspondent in St. Paul, Minnesota, would take me down to his office. It was a wonderful place.

What made the biggest impression on me were the walls. They were covered with the memorabilia of a lifetime of front-row seats. They were his favorites from among the countless stories and columns he had written. There were the autographed photos and menus, fight posters, baseball tickets, convention schedules, political flyers, funeral programs, wedding invitations, all linked one to another by a series of his pet aphorisms. He had made up some of this fortune cookie wisdom himself. Some was straight from the cookie, printed on those tiny slips of paper and occasionally stained with tea.

As a result, I’ve been an aphorism junkie all my life.

I hang them on my own walls, carry them in my wallet, put them in my books, and stick them in my speeches.

Here are my favorites. Like my dad’s, some are my own, others are of more uncertain ancestry.

  • You can take any amount of pain as long as you know it’s going to end.
  • I know that you don’t know… but you don’t know that you don’t know.
  • It’s not what you eat… it’s what’s eating you.
  • While on the ladder of success, don’t step back to admire your work.
  • They don’t pay off on effort… they pay off on results.
  • Most people emphasize What should I buy? What should I sell? Wrong question. More appropriate is When should I buy? When should I sell?
  • Those who have free seats hiss first.
  • People begin to become successful the minute they decide to be.
  • Good habits are as addictive as bad habits and a lot more rewarding.
  • People always remember two things: who kicked you when you were down, and who helped you up.
  • Putting your sales force on salary is like playing ball without keeping score: when nobody wins or loses, nobody cares.
  • It never hurts to let the other person feel they’re smarter than you.
  • If you win say little. If you lose say less.
  • If you want to triple your success ration, you have to triple your failure rate.
  • Your day usually goes the way the corners of your mouth turn.
  • If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
  • A person wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.
  • If you think education is expensive… try ignorance.
  • He or she who rides a tiger can’t dismount.
  • When a person strikes in anger, he usually misses the mark.
  • On the day of victory no one is tired.
  • Compromise is always wrong when it means sacrificing principle.
  • Cooperation can be spelled with two letters—WE.
  • An old broom knows the dirty corners best.
  • You will never get ahead of anyone as long as you are trying to get even with them.

Mackay’s Moral:

Weren’t those enough?


Excerpted from Pushing The Envelope All The Way To The Top

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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