Nearly everybody loves a good quotation. I don't mean the commonplace, tiresome, boring, or cliché quotes -- but truly good, powerful, inspiring, or thought-provoking quotes. And this desire for pithy wisdom is certainly not lessened by the emergence in recent years of technologies that encourage short messages, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. People share a lot of things using these kinds of services (and their private Enterprise 2.0 cousins), ranging from personal comments and opinions, to links to blog postings or articles, and yes -- good quotations.
For the past couple of years I've been collecting quotations related to the Learning and Development field. Some are focused on formal training, some on education and learning in general, and others are more narrowly focused on a particular sub-topic of interest to me. I consult this collection of quotes for many reasons: to find that perfect, thought-provoking line for use in a conference or webinar presentation; to share with others via Twitter; or perhaps most importantly, to simply provide myself regular inspiration before or after a long day.
With so many of these favorite quotations piling up in my personal collection, I thought I'd share a selection of twenty of them with you here. In a few cases, I’ll explain briefly what I find so valuable or interesting about the particular quotation -- your mileage may vary of course.
I’ll start off with this classic:
- In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. -- Eric Hoffer
This is a classic statement of the need to "learn how to learn," rather than (only) stuffing one's head full of facts and procedures that can become outdated. Of course, some amount of factual knowledge is needed to live, to do one's job, and so on, but maintaining and improving your ability to learn more in the future is also critical.
- To conserve a physical resource, you must limit its use. To conserve knowledge, you must increase its use. -- Unknown
This is a great retort to anyone who persists in "knowledge hoarding" in your organization, or who advocates systems that will clearly result in the same. Knowledge at Element K has been significantly conserved in the past four years since we started implementing internal Web 2.0 tools, such as Wikis, as more flexible knowledge bases than we had previously.
- We complain that learners want to be spoonfed, but then we won't let them hold the spoon. -- Jane Bozarth, via #lrnchat on Twitter
Learning professionals need to consider the right balance between control (of tools, of learning content, and more) and freedom for the people using their services. You should consider carefully how much you complain about something you are partially the cause of.
Some additional classic quotations in this general area (with similar sentiments often being said by multiple sources):
- Where my reason, imagination, or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn. -- Winston Churchill
- I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught. -- Winston Churchill
- Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. -- Daniel J. Boorstin
- Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. -- John Dewey
- Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -- William Butler Yeats
- The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. -- Carl Rogers
- An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. -- Jack Welch
- Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand. -- Chinese Proverb
- The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. -- William Arthur Ward
- Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. – Gandhi
- Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back. -- Chinese Proverb
- Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. -- Aristotle
Some other favorites have a bit of a humorous aspect, such as this one:
- If you question training, you only train yourself in asking questions. -- The Sphinx, from the movie Mystery Men
I've always loved this line, one of many deep-sounding statements from this character in the film. In a certain context, one can question training, for example, where formal training is not a good solution for the problem at hand. But in other contexts this is a pretty profound quip: if you do not seek out training/learning/education, you will remain ignorant and full of questions.
And a few more quotations that are both enlightening and clever:
- Bad training is a monologue delivered in the presence of hostages. -- Sardek Love
- The only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. – Unknown
- Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival. -- W. Edwards Deming
I'll close this collection with one of my own. You've probably heard of the philosopher Rene Descartes's famous line "I think, therefore I am" (first written in French, and then later as the famous Latin dictum "Cogito ergo sum.") He used that in the context of trying to provide a firm footing for knowledge, starting with the philosophical question of his own existence. He was noting that if you were to wonder whether or not you exist, you have by that very act alone proved that you do exist (you are the "I" who is doing the thinking).
Without delving further into Descartes' use of this famous phrase, I'll note that I've often flipped it around to make a normative suggestion, both to myself and others: "I am, therefore I should think!" In the context of education, learning, and development, I'll take it one step further, and substitute learning for thinking:
- I am, therefore I should learn!
So what about you? What are your favorite education, learning, and development quotations?