you don’t have to be the greatest singer in the world. what you need to be is…

#48 – Esquire What I’ve Learned: The Meaning of Life According to 65 Artists, Athletes, Leaders & Legends

dear kafka,

for nineteen years and counting, esquire magazine has a feature called “what i’ve learned” that tries to extract wisdom from famous people.

last year, they put a book together made up of these interviews.

i don’t know if you know this – i collect wisdom and try to live wisely, despite myself.

Selected quotes

Woody Allen: It’s just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don’t have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we’re just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone. And everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There’ll be nothing. The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself.

André 3000: Sometimes when you’re trying too hard to follow a rule, you’re doing yourself more harm.

André 3000: I don’t like to get old. But the cool thing about aging is that the older you get, the harder it is to lie to yourself.

Tony Bennett: When I was starting out, I used to stay onstage too long. Instead of criticizing me, Fred Astaire told me, “What I’ve learned is when you get a set together that’s absolutely perfect, go in and pull out fifteen minutes of it.” That was his way of telling me that less is more.

Joe Biden: I know it sounds corny, but my definition of power is the ability to help people.

Joe Biden: Nobody owes you a living. But everyone’s entitled to dignity.

Albert Brooks: In the beginning of any career, in every job, people are always forcing you you to the middle.

Albert Brooks: I don’t know that I can define fear. But one of the sources of fear is holding up some sort of model life that doesn’t exist and feeling like you’re far away from it.

Jim Brown: Ultimately, the soil replenishes.

Michael Caine: Fatigue doesn’t happen until you suddenly go, “I’m bored.”

Francis Ford Coppola: You have to view things in the context of your life expectancy.

Art Garfunkel: To relax is to unpeel your layers of bullshit, of personality, of protectiveness. It’s hard work.

Jake LaMotta: Most people aren’t good or bad. They’re naive.

Ricky Gervais: I’d never tried my hardest at anything before The Office. I put everything into it and I never compromised — and I learned what an amazing feeling not compromising is.

Jim Harrison: It’s just like when I was twenty and my father and sister got killed in a car accident. I thought, If this can happen to people, you might as well do what you want—which is to be a writer. Don’t compromise at all, because there’s no point in it.

Joan Jett: When I watch these cop shows, I think of how many things boil down to: Someone’s pride was affected. Somebody was disrespected.

Quincy Jones: Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me. That’s the way Ray Charles and I lived every day. We had to make up our own rules.

Padma Lakshmi: Canadian bacon is best left to the Canadians.

Yoko Ono: I still feel that I’m an outsider. About two days ago I was thinking, It’s wrong to think I’m an outsider. I’m just part of the world.

Mary-Louise Parker: Avocado is the perfect food. It’s so substantial. So rich. There’s something sensual about an avocado. You peel it and then you have to scoop out the rest and kind of lick it. Avocado makes everything better. A burger. A sandwich. It’s support. It just backs everything up.

Aaron Sorkin: Everybody does lists of the hundred greatest movie lines of all time. “You can’t handle the truth!” always seems to be in there, which is very nice to see. But for me, the best line will always be: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Aaron Sorkin: The rules are all in a sixty-four-page pamphlet by Aristotle called Poetics. It was written almost three thousand years ago, but I promise you, if something is wrong with what you’re writing, you’ve probably broken one of Aristotle’s rules.

Sting: You don’t have to be the greatest singer in the world. What you need to be is unique. Whenever you open your mouth, people should know: “Oh, that’s Van Morrison.” Or “That’s Bob Dylan.” Or “That’s Bono.” You want to get to that point where you have a unique vocal fingerprint. Then it’s about refining that sound and making it more and more you.

Christopher Walken: Morning is the best time to see movies.

Sigourney Weaver: I go on these panels and hear people crying because the public can watch movies on an iPod. Hey, who’s to say that taking your iPod into the forest and watching a little bit of Lawrence of Arabia is not a fabulous experience?

Ruth Westheimer: The biggest concern among men is still penis size. I tell them the vagina accommodates penises of all sizes. Then I tell them to go home, and, in the privacy of their own room, stand in front of a full-length mirror, bring themselves to full erection, and admire. You will never worry about penis size again because you won’t be looking down upon it. You’ll be looking at it from straight ahead.

Ruth Westheimer: The principal concern for women is not having an orgasm. But a woman has to take responsibility for her own orgasms.

Thom Yorke: Build gaps in your life. Pauses. Proper pauses.

Mark Zuckerberg inspired me to start an annual personal project – read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. 

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