Life is constantly moving. It is made of successes, failures, wins, losses, agonizing defeats and incredible victories.
We will all experience these moments in one capacity or another. As someone in his mid-30s, I’ve had my share of triumph and defeat, and these seven quotations from seven people that I deem incredible have shaped the way I have moved in life.
These quotes have given me the ability to overcome adversity, learn from my failures, better my communication skills and become happy with who I am—as well as giving me fuel to strive for more.
All seven of the people I have quoted have seen the ups and downs of life. They are not talking from a vantage point of perfection. Some went to prison; others experienced bankruptcy, didn’t finish school, and even were murdered.
But they all have one thing in common: integrity. I hope that we can embrace the wisdom that these quotations have given me and countless others.
1) “Make It Plain.”
~ Malcolm X a.k.a. El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Human Rights Activist and all around incredible person.
I have learned so much from the man born as Malcolm Little that I could fill up two essays alone on his teachings. However, for this piece I have chosen his quote, “Make It Plain.” When I started out writing, debating or public speaking, I thought that I had to use big words and long, drawn-out explanations to get my point across. I wanted to give the impression that I was smart and I knew what I was talking about. But I found that the most successful way to communicate with people is to talk with normal, simple language—or as Malcolm said, to “Make It Plain.” There is no need for big SAT words. The best communicators are people whom everyone can understand.
2) “There is no excuse for ignorance.”
~ Lavoska Barton, my Grandfather, smartest man I have ever known.
When I was a young child, I would sit on the couch with my Grandfather and watch TV. Whenever someone would say or do something my Grandfather considered stupid, he would remark, “There is no excuse for ignorance.” You can’t use the, “I didn’t know” answer when you offend someone, break the law or injure somebody. This stops being a plausible excuse after the age of 16. If you don’t know something, look it up. There is Google—and these places called libraries.
3) “The world is a book and those who do not travel only read only a page.”
~ St. Augustine of Hippo; Christian philosopher and author of Confessions, the archetype of the modern autobiography.
I started traveling in my early 20s, because I wanted to see the world, and also because I wanted to grow as a person. I remember being asked by a date why I felt the need to travel. I said, “Because I wanted to be more than what I was.” Coming from the Midwest, I was not exposed to much culturally. I wanted—needed, even—to be more well-rounded and versed about the world, about life. So I visited Spain, Costa Rica, Peru, France, Panama and Greece. I learned about different customs, traditions, how people ate and how they celebrated. A friend would always say, “Traveling is the best investment you can make in your life,” and he was right. My travels were better than any material item I could buy.
4) “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.”
~ Gisele Barton, my mother and the most incredible person in my life
At one point in my life I had low self-esteem. Maybe it stemmed from my stutter, my big head or my overall goofiness, but I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. When I would attempt to interact with women, participate in poetry slams or even interview for jobs, there would be this voice that would say, “You are not good enough. You don’t have this or that.” One day I talked to my mother about this and she said, “LeRon, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Why would I feel confident in dating someone or hiring someone for a job if they are not confident in themselves?” It then clicked—I needed to project confidence and success to gain success. Slowly but surely, I started to apply this concept to my life and I started to build confidence and believe in myself.
5) “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
~ Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize in Literature winner; author of The Old Man and the Sea; the man’s man.
One of the qualities that I am most proud of in myself is being considered a great listener. Whenever someone talks, I try to take everything in—not only their words, but the sound of their voice and body language. But, I haven’t always been like this. Many times in my life I would listen half-heartedly and immediately interject to get my point across, sometimes even cutting people off in mid-sentence. The conversations would either be one-sided, or I would walk away not really knowing what the person said. A lot of this came from my insecurities—wanting to impress people with my intelligence and trying to mask my stutter. I realized that by doing this, people would be put off when talking to me. So I learned to slow down, wait until the person was finished with their statements and responses, and just listen. When I started doing that, the conversations got better, and from that, I became a greater listener and overall communicator.
6) “Be Like Water.”
~ Bruce Lee, Creator of Jeet Kune Do; Martial Arts Icon; King Of All Badassery
Life is always changing; it never sits still for a minute. Because of that, challenges will always be thrown our way. Disappointments will occur, setbacks will materialize and unexpected situations will present themselves. In other words, sh*t will happen. It is how you deal with the sh*t that is important. I interpreted Bruce Lee’s quote as meaning it is important to be flexible and adapt to changes and environments like water does. If water cannot go through an object, it will go around, under and sometimes over. Nothing stops the flow of water, and nothing should stop you.
7) “Hard Work Beats Talent.”
~ Dr. Dre, Founding Member Of NWA; Creator Of Beats By Dre Headphones; Billionaire
When I was attending a Fine Arts high school for creative writing, I saw many writers whose talents were vastly superior than mine. My fellow students could write a soul-bearing essay or a beautiful sonnet easily, not think anything of it, and receive A after A. Myself, I had to crunch down and write, write, write, and would barely get a B. This pattern would continue into young adulthood. As I wrote and wrote, I noticed my more skilled peers output would lessen to nil. I continued to become a better writer by writing and I finally started to get published. I never was envious of my former classmates’ writing skills, because I knew my hard work and perseverance would overcompensate for my talent. I think back on that quote from Dr. Dre, “Hard Work Beats Talent,” and realize he was onto something.
Author: LeRon L. Barton
Editor: Toby Israel