Judging by social media friends and followers posts, my 30 year habit of reading an inspirational quote each morning has caught on. And whilst I loved Branson’s tweet: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” the first time I read it, now, after several hundred repetitions, it has lost it’s impact. This is true of so many other popular quotes, many of which are also inaccurate and misattributed.
For example, Darwin never said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” This quote was actually a shortened version of a speech made in 1963 by a Louisiana State University business professor named Leon C. Megginson at the convention of the Southwestern Social Science Association. He said, “Yes, change is the basic law of nature. But the changes wrought by the passage of time affects individuals and institutions in different ways. According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.“ Only Darwin didn’t say this in his famous tome, this was Megginson’s interpretation.
And this has got me thinking that there must be many thousands of hidden gems that can be utilised within our presentations, in our emails and team talks.
A few weeks ago I heard a presentation where the speaker said: “the search for someone to blame is always successful” and I thought, “gosh, that’s good” only to find on checking that it was first attributed to Robert Half, founder of the eponymous recruitment agency. On further investigation it’s apparent that Mr Half not only had a lot to say on many different matters but managed to do so most eloquently as this selection confirms:
“When one teaches, two learn.”
“People who look down on other people don’t end up being looked up to.”
“Convincing yourself doesn’t win an argument.”
And that’s just for starters. For your main course consider some of these belters:
“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.”
“There are some who start their retirement long before they stop working.”
“When your future arrives, will you blame your past?”
And does it matter that considerably more than half of us have never heard of Robert Half? I think not. Indeed, if you put any of these quotes up on a screen and properly attribute them with a citation below the statement I don’t think it would diminish the impact at all.
So when you’re next looking to inspire an audience try searching beyond the standard set of Darwin, Einstein and Branson – who knows, it might be misattributed to you in the future.
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