My 10 Favorite “Half-Full” Quotes (Reprised)

Occasionally I need to refer back to famous optimists at those times where my glass gets a bit below half-full. Today was one of those days (triggered by the recent financial market crisis and the resulting 780 point drop in the Dow). For days such as this, I keep a list of my 10 favorite quotes.

I know the roller coaster will bottom out and we’ll be heading back up (that’s what history tells us), but in the meantime it was good to re-review my list:

  1. The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious of the rose – Kahlil Gibran
  2. The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection – Thomas Paine
  3. A pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs; an optimist doesn’t see the clouds at all – he’s walking on them – Leonard Louis Levinson
  4. The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true – James Branch Cabell
  5. Optimism is the foundation of courage – Nicholas Murray Butler
  6. A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties – Harry Truman
  7. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier – Colin Powell
  8. For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else – Sir Winston Churchill
  9. You see things; and you say “why?” But I dream of things that never were, and I say “Why not?” – George Bernard Shaw
  10. The tenth is actually a story my old boss used to tell just about once a month; it’s about two boys who one beautiful day were exploring their neighbor’s farm and came upon an empty barn that smelled of manure – the first boy said, “we got to get out of here, this smells horrible“, but the second boy said “Oh boy, this is great – there must be horses around!“. Yes, true optimists can even find a silver lining from manure!


  1. says

    Terry, these are great, and just what we need these days. I’ll offer one more; it’s a favorite of mine:

    “Whenever you see darkness, there is extraordinary opportunity for the light to burn brighter.” – Bono

  2. says

    An experience that stuck in my mind was when I was at an AI conference and one expert was declaring a particular research area to be “too hard”. When he was finished, an Eastern European gentlemen stood up and responded with an enthusiastic: “Good! We have much work to do!”

  3. says

    I’ve always loved Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” (albeit a bit long)

    Another is “Unless a man undertakes more than he possibly can do, he will never do all that he can.”

    Henry Drummond (1851-1897)
    Scottish theologist and scientist

    (Great post, btw!!)

  4. says

    Ive got the world on a string
    Im sitting on a rainbow
    Got the string around my finger …

    (composed by Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler – sung by everyone)

    The story about the pony was a favorite of President Reagan.

    Great list!

  5. says

    Hey Karen, Scot, Rosa, Tammy, Chris, Barbara, Dawn, Troy and Julie! Thanks, as always, for stopping by and adding more optimistic and positive vibes. Sharing them on this blog and with the rest of the world is a very good thing. Individually and collectively, we CAN make a difference in how our world turns. Keep the faith and all the best!


  6. says

    One more for the geeks: “The optimist thinks the glass is half full; the pessimist thinks the glass is half empty; the engineer thinks the glass is twice as big as it needs to be” 🙂

  7. says

    Hey, thanks Darin for the “bonus” quote (which a geek like me really, really likes) and Trina, thanks for your kind words.
    All the best to you both!

  8. says

    When confronting the cup of life, the optimist claims it’s half-full; the pessimist insists it’s half-empty and the Taoist drinks it.

  9. Walt Birdsong says

    I must say that you are the absolute best at putting the hay down where the cows can eat it. I other words, you get you point across without talking down, and keep the readers interest.

    Would love to hear you speak in person some time.

    Keep up the greatest body of of leadership work ever.

    Thank you.


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