Ancient Advice For Modern Times

What if everything we wanted to know has already been said?

I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. I love dragons, video games, mouth-breathing, and ancient wisdom. Now I’m not saying having an interest in ancient quotes and wisdom makes you nerdy, but I’m saying when you’re at the bar and bring up Confucius, people think it’s a cocktail with a little pink umbrella in it.

Disappointed conversations aside, I’m also a writer. Hence this article, and below are a few quotes filled with ancient wisdom that are worth pondering.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

This centering advice is often needed when you’re on the shores of starting a new goal and feeling washed over by a wave called “feeling overwhelmed.” I think many of us have grand dreams for our lives, but after we soberly consider the time it will take to see a dream come true, we often sigh and quietly shrug off our desires. We think, “this is too hard, this will take too long.” But it’s right after casting our dreams aside is when this quote enters your brain like a bad cowboy stomping into a peaceful saloon, the vibe is changed. Think of this quote as being the north star for us dreamers, with its moral nugget if you want to go far you have to move forward. Instead of focusing on all the work you need to do, focus on what you can do today. Like muscles growing on a person who consistently hits the gym, you will begin to move towards your goals so long as you work towards them.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” — Chinese Proverb

This is an eyebrow-raising, kick-in-the-nuts bit of practical advice that you sigh and say damn your right after hearing it. It’s simple and otherwise said: if you don’t know where you are going, don’t expect to get there. The takeaway is this: make a plan. Instead of mindlessly floating through life, pause to take a moment to decide what experience you want out of it so you can plan to seize it. Use this quote to remind yourself to get out of the passenger seat and into the driver seat as you and you alone are in charge of your journey.

“Never give way to anger otherwise in one day you could burn up the wood that you collected in many bitter weeks” — Meng Tse

Have you ever had an argument that started out as innocent and then transformed into an all-out screamfest where both parties bring up the slights that occurred for the past six months? Yeah, you have? Roommates, am I right?

Can’t live with them, can’t pay rent without them.

All kidding aside, this quote points to the anger we have stored up in us. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to lose your cool and say some childish shit that you don’t really mean and end up regretting. Hence burning the wood, you collected. Don’t do that. Instead, be proactive and air out all issues ahead of time so nobody gets hurt. Anger is a fire, and if you’re not careful, you and your loved ones will get burned.

“When my heart is at peace, the world is at peace.” — Zen Poem

Today we are more connected than we have ever been. Technology has made the world feel small, and we can now witness the world without being drunk on a sip of wishful mystery. Instead, we see the world, and it’s hardships stone-cold-sober. With all the chaos we as the human race have seen and experienced in these unprecedented timed of uncertainty, it’s rather easy to lose your heart and your cool. I like this quote because it reminds me to stop looking out and start viewing within. Naturally, if my heart feels good, I feel good. This is a gentle, profound observation that’s easy to implement, and I believe it will bring comfort to many.

“The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart. — Mencius

The tragedy of becoming an adult is losing your inner child. I have childhood friends who used to love going outside, playing sport, and going on trips, but when they grew up, they stopped doing what they used to love and instead fell victim to the routine of watching TV, slowly being lulled to death by sitcom. From what I have observed, those who are truly happy have kept their inner child alive. These are the people who never let their passions/hobbies die and have found time to express them despite becoming older. Having considered this, I have chosen to make time daily to have fun and enjoy the activities I’ve always enjoyed, and I genuinely feel happier.

“Always, we hope someone else has the answer. Some other place will be better. Some other time it will all turn out. This is it. No one else has the answer. No other place will be better, and it has already turned out.” — Lao Tzu

Wow, if this quote doesn’t sour the vanilla explosion in your latte, nothing else will. I think deep down, we all want someone to save us, and we all feel the grass is greener on the other side. But more often than not, the grass on the other side is just grass, and there isn’t a person coming to save us. Sorry for the rude awakening. What this quote does for me is forcefully shake me into becoming more present. I’m in charge of my life, I control how I interpret the world, and the ball is in my court. Like all good advice, it forces you to look into the mirror and come to terms with your own bullshit story.

“Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough” — Lao Tzu

This seems like some bathroom graffiti gossip you’d find on one drunken, piss filled night, that looks like a scribble but reads like a sacred text. Essentially what this means, if you think you have enough, then you have enough. It’s a humbling and honest expression so evident that it makes you mad that you never thought of it. With the constant pressure to be bigger, faster, stronger, it often robs us of the present because we are focused on the future. Instead, reflect on this quote to realize that you’re not doing so bad, and chances are, you are blessed with more than enough.

41 thoughts on “Ancient Advice For Modern Times

  1. I think a lot of ancient quotes like these are all we need. The self-help book industry is either retelling this ancient advice over and over while repackaging it or just making crap up.

  2. Aces! The one that hit home for me (in a good way) was “Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough” — Lao Tzu. I realized that reality in midlife, it’s something that took hold and is a basic part of me now. I need work with some of the others. 🙄 Thanks, great post.

  3. The 1st and 2nd quotes really speak to me! I haven’t heard them in a while and, once again, they’ve appeared at a time when I needed to hear them most – thank you for the post 😄

  4. Hey, thanks for dropping by my blog. I found this quote particularly relatable:
    ““Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough” — Lao Tzu”

    I felt okay with my single ass doing 9-to-5 work and occasionally work on my passion, but when people around me talking about promotion, took loan on property, pursuing higher degree, getting ready for marriage (and constantly remind me with their “prayer”), I felt attacked. Suddenly I felt that what I have right now is not enough. Even if deep inside my heart, I felt that I’m okay with my life.

    Thank you and keep writing.

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed – yeah it can make you feel like you’re behind when you focus on what others are doing but remember people only generally show the highlights of their life and rarely the BS so you never get the full story.

      focus on running your own race you’ll go farther that way

  5. I am ancient, and I usually give myself pretty bad advice. This morning was an exception as I advised myself to take a break from writing and finally read Tony’s Bologna. Wonderful piece, sir. I continue to admire your combination of truly fine writing and this eye for the bedrock of the plain old human psyche.

    A piece of Buddhist wisdom that I love is “If you cannot improve the silence, do not speak.”

    You always improve the silence.

  6. Thanks for popping by today Tony. I headed back here to say hello and found a lot of Lao Tzu today, which is a coincidence as I’m reading some Alan Watts at the moment.
    Plenty of reason to avoid some of the excesses in modern life at the moment, too many are fooled into trying to have more than enough of our world..

  7. I love this post Tony! All the quotes spoke to me. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this article in my blog. I will ofcourse give the credits to its rightful owner.:-D

  8. “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart.”  — Mencius

    As a father of six, I know the importance of this one. Children see the world through a different set of eyes… maybe clearer, actually.

  9. All good advice to live by – there are always new self-help books, but nothing really changes, and the old sayings are still valid. Thanx for posting (and reminding me where to focus my energy)

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