Quotes and Sayings

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." -  Proverbs 25:11

Somehow I aquired the habit of writing down random things that people say since I was about 11 or 12 years old. Over time I have collected a large amount of sayings, jotted down on scraps of paper, in pocket books, in my diary, and lately - also electronically. Here are a few that seemed worth sharing:

Quotes from my colleagues

I am blessed to work with colleagues that are uniquely gifted in their field. But they also possess an interesting depth of wisdom. Some of what they say is worth remembering.


  • I still believe I’m right. But then again, I’ve been wrong once already today. So maybe I’m not. – Francois
  • “There are many ways to do that. For now we just have to…. Start at the beginning…” - Francois
  • “I’m not afraid to make mistakes. I’m PROUD to make a mistake. Because then at least I’m doing something.” – Francois
  • “People get a lot more from us if they are nice.” – Francois
  • “Winners are quick to make decisions and slow to change them.” – Francois
  • “Oh, I just ignored it.” – Justin’s response to my advice today.
  • “No he is a missionary. There is no difference between a missionary and a mercenary.” – Francois
  • “Screw consensus. Sometimes you just have to just make a decision.” – Francois
  • “That’s not cast in stone, but we decided it is.” – Francois
  • Justin: “I’m surprised that the customers are not shouting at us…” Francois: “Not if you try so hard.”
  • "You have to communicate clearly and loudly – and then repeat it." – Francois
  • “People will go to war because of ego.” – Francois
  • "I don’t believe in constructive criticism. If you criticise you put someone down. You’re not trying to build him up." – Francois
  • "Never pick a fight with a child." (Advice from a parent) – Francois
  • "We have ONE problem. We are too scared to fail!" – Francois
  • "Don’t confuse laziness with loyalty. Some people are so gatvol with their customers but they’re too lazy to break it up." – Francois
  • "It’s hard to be good. Being mediocre is easy." – Francois

My quotes:

  • Some friends you love but you’ll always wonder why. – Herman
  • And the customer will love you for it unless you rape him. – Herman
  • You can joke and poke as much as you like – I’ll just pretend that it doesn’t hurt. – Herman upon Justin’s telling he is getting old for having made coffee and forgotten it so it went cold.
  • You have to admire stupidity for its destructive potential. – Herman
  • Many swap a big dream for a small one because they think it is lighter to carry. But it is not. All dreams weigh the same. The only difference is that small dreams fit more easily into your pocket – there to become obscured from view. – Herman
  • “The important thing I learnt in life is that I know nothing at all. If you know that, you know a lot.” – Herman
  • In case of mutiny, hanging a man or two can be the kindest way of saving an entire vessel. – Herman
  • When the soul weeps, the tip of the pen sheds tears. Carved into the walls of the world by the sharp nib of our emotions, the words glare back at us. Like bloodshot veins in the white of an eye. For a while they glisten and speak with longing emotion. And then are soaked into the paper of forgetfulness. The years fade them with relentless persistence, until in time, it becomes hard to tell the words from the paper. We sometimes forget that paper can be used to dry the tears of the soul. But there are some who remember. – Herman
  • When you don’t know what to say – you might as well consider the truth. – Herman to a colleague.
  • What’s the value of victory if you cannot gloat? – Herman
  • “What is the answer?” You ask.
    Statistics answers: “What would you like it to be, and I’ll make it so? I’ll provide all the numbers to match the maths.” - Herman
  • Maths and statistics are sometimes the same thing. But frequently not. – Herman
  • Amazing how one angry cloud can darken an entire landscape. – Herman about an upset colleague.
  • Curiosity is one of the mightiest forces in the world. People will murder and steal to satisfy their curiosity. They will risk their lives to discover the answer to mysteries of nature and science. They will jeopardize their reputations to peep through keyholes, or their mental comfort zone by daring to acquire rare and forbidden knowledge. And yet, sometimes when they find the answer – they will quickly look away and pretend that they never saw it. But still they ask more questions.
  • Reality is the enemy of dreams. Like a reflection in water. The moment you try to touch it you distort it. – Herman
  • Why should dreams suffer the confinement of reality? –
  • You have to keep inventing new magic if you want to keep your audience. – Herman
  • Nothing is ever as it seems. Not even reality. – Herman
  • Ek het baie probleme. En jy ook. Maar ek het drome vir die toekoms. En hulle is die wind wat my seile vol maak. Ek weet nie of ek by die soort goed gaan uitkom waarvan jy droom nie, maar ek seil. Ek seil elke dag met die doel as my dagtaak. En elke dag sit ek op die mas en kyk deur die teleskoop of ek nog nie my bestemming kan sien nie. 40 jaar lank, soos Moses in die woestyn. Dit raak bietjie lank, maar mens staan elke more weer op, span jou seile en hou aan beweeg. Ek's lus vir die toekoms. Die hede trek my nie aan nie. Dis net die plek waar ek 'n tydelike skaduwee moet gooi. Hou aan kyk vir jou drome. Drome is snaakse goed. Hulle het 'n geneigdheid om al hoe nader te kom, hoe meer mens na hulle staar. Ek moet nou ry. Ons gesels hopelik gou weer. – Herman, from a letter to Ina.
  • It's not that it was such a tall story - it's just that I know how to shorten the distance that separates fantasy from reality. – Herman
  • Constructive criticism is not when you tell someone what's wrong. It's when you tell him how he can be awesome. – Herman
  • An attitude of gratitude is at the heart of happiness. – Herman
  • There is something wrong with civilization. I always knew it. But I finally realized it. – Herman
  • Great minds are frequently misunderstood. – Herman
  • Sometimes the ship we miss turns out to be the Titanic. - Herman
  • Mistakes are like the rungs in a ladder. Each time you make you you can stand on it, and from there you can see further than before. - Herman

My family's quotes:

  • There is something like "it's none of your business," you know? - My dad to my mom when she expressed curiosity about someone.
  • I cut it off twice and it's still too short. - My dad
  • Wisdom is the comb experience gives you after you've already gone bald. - My dad
  • Tarzan doesn't let go of the rope unless he's already got another one in his hand. - My dad
  • Life is too short to hunt with an ugly gun. - My dad
  • When someone tells you "may the Lord bless you" in business - beat him up immediately. Because then you know he will cheat you. - My dad
  • It doesn't matter my child. As long as youv'e done your best - that's good enough for me. - My mom
  • My mother: "We must never lose this."
    Me: "What?"
    My mother: "Old-fashioned country hospitality."
  • A skinny cow dies easily in winter. ("'n Maer koei vrek maklik in die winter"). - My dad, warning me about being too skinny.
  • You don't argue with another man's servant. - My dad.

Quotes of my friends

  • I look up to small children sometimes. They find joy in the most simple things, they don’t hold grudges or resent everything, and they don’t over think things. There needs are simple and they just live. You never find a small child that is worried about what tomorrow will bring, and they trust that there is somebody keeping them safe. - Rebecca

  • They will take our rights away, little by little. Each time so little that it is not worth fighting for. And one day we'll see that what is left over is also too little to fight for. And then we'll walk away from it." [Hulle sal ons regte bietjie-vir-bietjie wegneem. Elke keer net genoeg sodat dit nie die moeite werd is om daarvoor te baklei nie. Totdat dit wat oorbly ook nie meer die moeite werd sal wees om oor te veg nie. En dan sal ons net eenvoudig daarvan wegstap.] - Wim Rabe (longt-time neighbour and family friend re. our heritage in South Africa.

  • I have only received one talent - and that is to simplify things. - Johnny Laggar.

Some of my favourites

  • Dying is the day worth living for. Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Sometimes a single battle decides everything and sometimes, too, the slightest circumstance decides the issue of a battle. There is a moment in every battle at which the least manoeuvre is decisive and gives superiority, as one drop of water causes overflow. - Napoleon
  • “Everywhere I walked in that time it was with my eyes to the ground—scanning for nuts, bolts, nails, pieces of wire, anything metal. The cabin trunk in my bedroom already held a large-size Blue Band margarine can full of metal. I picked up bits around the plantation and when we had gone to the city, Bandung, I had found lots in the streets. From the machine-shop floor I crammed steel filings into my pockets. No one knew why I collected metal. Jerry had asked, and so had my mother, and I’d said it was just something to do. But I had lied. There was a huge plan. I dreamt about it. When I was three we had come to Indonesia from Holland on a marvellous steamship with one funnel. My goal was this: when I had enough metal I would melt it all down and then build just such a ship—except mine would have to funnels. More metal was needed, much more—it would take years—and meantime it was best to keep the scheme secret. Drawings I had made I pinned up in my bedroom, but of course nobody knew they were of the plan. People would have laughed. For many months in the city and on the plantation, I carefully gathered small metal things and stored them in the cabin trunk. I had patience; lots of it. One day everybody’s ‘mouth would fall open.” – The Way of a Boy, A Memoir of Java., Ernest Hillen., Penguin Books., London., 1995., p. 14-15.
  • "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - Christopher Columbus
  • Close your eyes and pretend it's all a bad dream. That's how I get by. - Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
  • "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones" - John Cage
  • “You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.” - Jane Austen
  • "Mistakes are the portals of discovery." James Joyce- Irish author (1882 - 1941)
  • Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. - Perfect is the enemy of good.
  • "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible." - T. E. Lawrence, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"
  • Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. - Mark Twain

  • The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. -Jack London

  • When skating on thin ice, your safety lies in your speed. - anon

  • Boldness has genius. - anon

  • Nature favours the strong but God loves the weak. Somehow that levels the playing field of reality. - Henk Zeeman"

  • Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that's the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.” - Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

  • Some people feel the rain. Some just get wet. - Bob Marley

  • By making things absolutely clear, people will become confused. - Sign that was displayed in my high school mathematic class.

  • Always simplify things as much as possible - but not more than that. - Albert Einstein.

  • Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one. - Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

  • They could handle the peace because they knew what war was like. - Casper Labuschagne.

  • "Perhaps He knew, as I did not, that the earth was made round so that we woudl not see too far down the road." - Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa.

  • Forget it. This water lives in Mombassa anyway. - Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa.