Quotes from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

contains spoilers

Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.

There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer.

“There will come a time,” I said, “when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this”—I gestured encompassingly—“will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”

I told Augustus the broad outline of my miracle: diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen. (I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.) It was, we were told, incurable.

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.

“Pain demands to be felt,” he said, which was a line from An Imperial Affliction.

“All salvation is temporary,” Augustus shot back. “I bought them a minute. Maybe that’s the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year. No one’s gonna buy them forever, Hazel Grace, but my life bought them a minute. And that’s not nothing.”

“Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them,”

“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

People talk about the courage of cancer patients, and I do not deny that courage. I had been poked and stabbed and poisoned for years, and still I trod on. But make no mistake: In that moment, I would have been very, very happy to die.

… and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” Easy enough to say when you’re a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.

What a slut time is. She screws everybody.

The living, thank heaven, retain the ability to surprise and to disappoint. Your Hazel is alive, Waters, and you mustn’t impose your will upon another’s decision, particularly a decision arrived at thoughtfully. She wishes to spare you pain, and you should let her. You may not find young Hazel’s logic persuasive, but I have trod through this vale of tears longer than you, and from where I’m sitting, she’s not the lunatic.

You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.

The world went on, as it does, without my full participation…

“You’re a hard person to comfort,” Augustus said. “Easy comfort isn’t comforting,” I said.

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

“I think forever is an incorrect concept,” I answered.

“It’s really mean of you to say that the only lives that matter are the ones that are lived for something or die for something. That’s a really mean thing to say to me.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

“You are a side effect,” Van Houten continued, “of an evolutionary process that cares little for individual lives. You are a failed experiment in mutation.”

“I don’t think defeatism is honest,” Dad answered. “I refuse to accept that.”
“So everything happens for a reason and we’ll all go live in the clouds and play harps and live in mansions?”

The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

In heaven, Augustus will finally be healed and whole,” implying that he had been less whole than other people due to his leglessness, and I kind of could not repress my sigh of disgust.

Funerals, I had decided, are for the living.

I thought of my dad telling me that the universe wants to be noticed. But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us—not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals.

Here’s the thing about Hazel: Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.
I want to leave a mark.
But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “They’ll remember me now,” but (a) they don’t remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your minimall becomes a lesion…
Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.

The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.

Quotes from Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

What percent of word of mouth do you think happens online? In other words, what percent of chatter happens over social media, blogs, e-mail, and chat rooms? If you’re like most people you probably guessed something around 50 or 60 percent… Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online. Most people are extremely surprised when they hear that number. “But that’s way too low,” they protest. “People spend a huge amount of time online!” And that’s true. People do spend a good bit of time online. Close to two hours a day by some estimates. But we forget that people also spend a lot of time offline. More than eight times as much, in fact. And that creates a lot more time for offline conversations.

These are the six principles of contagiousness: products or ideas that contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and wrapped into Stories… Taken together they spell STEPPS. Think of the principles as the six STEPPS to crafting contagious content.

…research finds that more than 40 percent of what people talk about is their personal experiences or personal relationships. Similarly, around half of tweets are “me” focused, covering what people are doing now or something that has happened to them… Harvard neuroscientists Jason Mitchell and Diana Tamir found that disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding. In one study, Mitchell and Tamir hooked subjects up to brain scanners and asked them to share either their own opinions and attitudes (“I like snowboarding”) or the opinions and attitudes of another person (“He likes puppies”). They found that sharing personal opinions activated the same brain circuits that respond to rewards like food and money. So talking about what you did this weekend might feel just as good as taking a delicious bite of double chocolate cake.

most people never cash in the miles they accumulate. In fact, less than 10 percent of miles are redeemed every year. Experts estimate that as many as 10 trillion frequent flier miles are sitting in accounts, unused. Enough to travel to the moon and back 19.4 million times.

A few years ago, students at Harvard University were asked to make a seemingly straightforward choice: which would they prefer, a job where they made $50,000 a year (option A) or one where they made $100,000 a year (option B)? Seems like a no-brainer, right? Everyone should take option B. But there was one catch. In option A, the students would get paid twice as much as others, who would only get $25,000. In option B, they would get paid half as much as others, who would get $200,000. So option B would make the students more money overall, but they would be doing worse than others around them. What did the majority of people choose? Option A. They preferred to do better than others, even if it meant getting less for themselves. They chose the option that was worse in absolute terms but better in relative terms. People don’t just care about how they are doing, they care about their performance in relation to others.

Back in mid-1997, the candy company Mars noticed an unexpected uptick in sales of its Mars bar. The company was surprised because it hadn’t changed its marketing in any way. It wasn’t spending additional money on advertising, it hadn’t changed its pricing, and it hadn’t run any special promotions. Yet sales had gone up. What had happened? NASA had happened. Specifically, NASA’s Pathfinder mission. The mission was designed to collect samples of atmosphere, climate, and soil from a nearby planet. The undertaking took years of preparation and millions of dollars in funding. When the lander finally touched down on the alien landscape, the entire world was rapt, and all news outlets featured NASA’s triumph. Pathfinder’s destination? Mars.

Even a bad review or negative word of mouth can increase sales if it informs or reminds people that the product or idea exists. That’s why a sixty-dollar Tuscan red wine saw sales rise by 5 percent after a prominent wine website described it as “redolent of stinky socks.” It’s also one reason why the Shake Weight, a vibrating dumbbell that was widely ridiculed by the media and consumers, went on to do $50 million in sales. Even negative attention can be useful if it makes products and ideas top of mind.

as Albert Einstein himself noted, “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

Sharing emotions also helps us connect. Say I watch a really awe-inspiring video, like Susan Boyle’s performance. If I share that video with a friend, he’s likely to feel similarly inspired. And the fact that we both feel the same way helps deepen our social connection. It highlights our similarities and reminds us how much we have in common. Emotion sharing is thus a bit like social glue, maintaining and strengthening relationships. Even if we’re not in the same place, the fact that we both feel the same way bonds us together.

In their wonderful book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath talk about using the “Three Whys” to find the emotional core of an idea. Write down why you think people are doing something. Then ask “Why is this important?” three times. Each time you do this, note your answer, and you’ll notice that you drill down further and further toward uncovering not only the core of an idea, but the emotion behind it.

If most students were uncomfortable with the drinking culture, then why was it happening in the first place? Why were students drinking so much if they don’t actually like it? Because behavior is public and thoughts are private.

Our basic hypothesis is that the more kids saw these ads, the more they came to believe that lots of other kids were using marijuana. And the more they came to believe that other kids were using marijuana, the more they became interested in using it themselves.

One of the main tenets of prospect theory is that people don’t evaluate things in absolute terms. They evaluate them relative to a comparison standard, or “reference point.”

Quotes from The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. — Bertrand Russell

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. — Buddha

“Believing seems the most mental thing we do,” wrote Bertrand Russell in 1921.

Reason is simply a tool to help the brain get what it cares about (and to feel good about it). And a brain cares, first and foremost, about itself—what’s happening in its environment and why, how it appears (to others and to itself), and whether or not it’s safe and in control. These hardwired biases to see patterns and make meaning, craft an acceptable and consistent personal narrative, and exert control over its environment are the irresistible forces that influence the brain’s creation of beliefs.

While delivering the commencement speech at Yale University in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noted, “We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Mythology distracts us everywhere.”

Our minds crave consistency in our beliefs and behaviors. We want to appear logical, to ourselves and to others. And when faced with evidence which contradicts our beliefs, our minds work to eliminate the psychological discomfort.

Emerson once remarked that there is properly no history, only biography. The stories we create about the past aren’t the Truth (with a capital T). They’re a personal fiction, the mind’s meaning-making apparatus at work. But, like most everything the mind creates, it affects us. How we visualize each role in each scene not only shapes how we think about ourselves, but also how we behave. Who we think we are is why we do what we do.

Desire not only focuses our attention on what’s attractive—on what has the potential to make us feel good—but also on information that supports those feelings. If we desire something, we’ll be attentive to the evidence that supports it and inattentive to conflicting evidence. And we update our beliefs based on that biased data.

Aspiring writers, athletes, actors and musicians ignore the mountain of data that point to frustration in their pursuits of fame and fortune. Instead, they persist by focusing on spoonsful of evidence—recognition, signs of progress and emotionally charged hero stories—which support their beliefs.

Our minds abhor a causality vacuum. We have a deep desire to understand and explain everything to ourselves, including the random twist and turns of our own lives. When no explanation is forthcoming, we will instinctively make one up to suit our situation and disposition, to make us feel good about our decisions and our stories.

Effective leaders know that the essential first step to changing people’s behavior is to understand their perspectives and embrace their desires and beliefs. Everything else flows naturally from there.

Dieter Rams said good designers “must have an intuition for the reality in which people live. For their dreams, their desires, their worries, their needs, their living habits.”

But research has repeatedly shown that rational arguments are not very effective, since people’s behavior is overwhelmed by their reasons—their beliefs and desires.

As Henny Youngman reportedly quipped, “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”

There’s a well-known quote, or some variation of it, that is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

Belief requires focus. It demands that we follow the lead of our feeling mind, of our intuition and assumptions. Distractions and difficulties turn on our thinking mind, which undermines belief by overriding our instincts.

Great leaders simplify the belief process by eliminating difficulties and competing options on our attention. They work really hard to make belief really easy.

As the film director Errol Morris recently made clear, “People despise reality, but love verisimilitude.”

As Lao-Tzu wrote in the “Tao Te Ching”:

Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.

Carl Jung noted, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

The great systems theorist and designer Buckminster Fuller put it this way. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Perhaps it’s why I’m so amused by comedian Mitch Hedberg’s absurd declaration: “I’m sick of following my dreams, man. I’m just going to ask where they’re going and hook up with ‘em later.”

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.”

Face it: We are either breaking out of our spirit-sucking routines and breaking through to new insights and experiences, or we are breaking down.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

Quotes from David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants.

…because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.

Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.

The reason King Saul is skeptical of David’s chances is that David is small and Goliath is large. Saul thinks of power in terms of physical might. He doesn’t appreciate that power can come in other forms as well—in breaking rules, in substituting speed and surprise for strength.

There is an important lesson in that for battles with all kinds of giants. The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem.

The Israeli minister of defense Moshe Dayan—the architect of Israel’s astonishing victory in the 1967 Six-Day War—also wrote an essay on the story of David and Goliath. According to Dayan, “David fought Goliath not with inferior but (on the contrary) with superior weaponry; and his greatness consisted not in his being willing to go out into battle against someone far stronger than he was. But in his knowing how to exploit a weapon by which a feeble person could seize the advantage and become stronger.”

We have, I think, a very rigid and limited definition of what an advantage is. We think of things as helpful that actually aren’t and think of other things as unhelpful that in reality leave us stronger and wiser.

You have to be outside the establishment—a foreigner new to the game or a skinny kid from New York at the end of the bench—to have the audacity to play it that way.

We spend a lot of time thinking about the ways that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the ways in which those kinds of material advantages limit our options.

The psychologists Barry Schwartz and Adam Grant argue, in a brilliant paper, that, in fact, nearly everything of consequence follows the inverted U: “Across many domains of psychology, one finds that X increases Y to a point, and then it decreases Y.…There is no such thing as an unmitigated good. All positive traits, states, and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits.”

Inverted-U curves actually have four parts. Stage one, where the curve is linear. Stage two, where “the initial linear relation has flagged.” This is the area of diminishing marginal returns. Stage three, where extra resources have no effect on the outcome. And stage four, in which more resources are counterproductive.

Inverted-U curves actually have four parts. Stage one, where the curve is linear. Stage two, where “the initial linear relation has flagged.” This is the area of diminishing marginal returns. Stage three, where extra resources have no effect on the outcome. And stage four, in which more resources are counterproductive.

We strive for the best and attach great importance to getting into the finest institutions we can. But rarely do we stop and consider—as the Impressionists did—whether the most prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest.

(Samuel) Stouffer’s point is that we form our impressions not globally, by placing ourselves in the broadest possible context, but locally—by comparing ourselves to people “in the same boat as ourselves.” Our sense of how deprived we are is relative.

Which do you think, for example, has a higher suicide rate: countries whose citizens declare themselves to be very happy, such as Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Canada? or countries like Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, whose citizens describe themselves as not very happy at all? Answer: the so-called happy countries.

An extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. A recent study by Julie Logan at City University London puts the number somewhere around a third. The list includes many of the most famous innovators of the past few decades. Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur, is dyslexic. Charles Schwab, the founder of the discount brokerage that bears his name, is dyslexic, as are the cell phone pioneer Craig McCaw; David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue; John Chambers, the CEO of the technology giant Cisco; Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s—to name just a few.

One of the most brilliant modern psychologists was a man named Amos Tversky. Tversky was so smart that his fellow psychologists devised the “Tversky Intelligence Test”: The faster you realized Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were. Adam Alter told me about the Tversky test. He would score very highly on it.

Sixty-seven percent of the prime ministers in her sample lost a parent before the age of sixteen. That’s roughly twice the rate of parental loss during the same period for members of the British upper class—the socioeconomic segment from which most prime ministers came. The same pattern can be found among American presidents. Twelve of the first forty-four U.S. presidents—beginning with George Washington and going all the way up to Barack Obama—lost their fathers while they were young.

There is a fascinating passage in an essay by the psychologist Dean Simonton, for example, in which he tries to understand why so many gifted children fail to live up to their early promise. One of the reasons, he concludes, is that they have “inherited an excessive amount of psychological health.” Those who fall short, he says, are children “too conventional, too obedient, too unimaginative, to make the big time with some revolutionary idea.” He goes on: “Gifted children and child prodigies seem most likely to emerge in highly supportive family conditions. In contrast, geniuses have a perverse tendency of growing up in more adverse conditions.”

Take a look again at what MacCurdy wrote about the experience of being in the London Blitz: We are all of us not merely liable to fear, we are also prone to be afraid of being afraid, and the conquering of fear produces exhilaration.…When we have been afraid that we may panic in an air-raid, and, when it has happened, we have exhibited to others nothing but a calm exterior and we are now safe, the contrast between the previous apprehension and the present relief and feeling of security promotes a self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.

Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.

The prediction we make about how we are going to feel in some future situation is called “affective forecasting,” and all of the evidence suggests that we are terrible affective forecasters.

“Jail helps you to rise above the miasma of everyday life,” he (MLK) said blithely. “If they want some books, we will get them. I catch up on my reading every time I go to jail.”

In the next great civil rights showdown in Selma, Alabama, two years later, a photographer from Life magazine put down his camera in order to come to the aid of children being roughed up by police officers. Afterward, King reprimanded him: “The world doesn’t know this happened, because you didn’t photograph it. I’m not being cold-blooded about it, but it is so much more important for you to take a picture of us getting beaten up than for you to be another person joining in the fray.”

When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters—first and foremost—how they behave. This is called the “principle of legitimacy,” and legitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice—that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.

“Think about the guy that invented safety belts. Do you know his name? I don’t. I’ve got no clue. But think about how many guys that are safe, or people that are safe, as a result of safety belts or air bags or tamper-proof medicine containers. I could sit here and go right through it. Simple devices that are made by Joe Average, just like me, that have gone on to save numerous lives. Yet we’re not looking for any kudos, we’re not looking for any pats on the back. All we’re looking for is results, and the results are my greatest reward.”

It was not the privileged and the fortunate who took in the Jews in France. It was the marginal and the damaged, which should remind us that there are real limits to what evil and misfortune can accomplish. If you take away the gift of reading, you create the gift of listening. If you bomb a city, you leave behind death and destruction. But you create a community of remote misses. If you take away a mother or a father, you cause suffering and despair. But one time in ten, out of that despair rises an indomitable force. You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.


Quotes from How to Live or A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer by Sarah Bakewell

6 – (Bernard Levin) I defy any reader of Montaigne not to put down the book at some point and say with incredulity: “How did he know all that about me?”

10 – As the novelist Gustave Flaubert advised a friend who was wondering how to approach Montaigne: “Don’t read him as children do, for amusement, nor as the ambitious do, to be instructed. No, read him in order to live.”

21 – M: If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don’t bother your head about it.

29 – (Pliny the Elder) Only one thing is certain: that nothing is certain. And nothing is more wretched or arrogant than man.

29 – (Euripides) How can you think yourself a great man, when the first accident that comes along can wipe you out completely?

Quotes from How to Live or A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer by Sarah Bakewell

Quotes from Blindness by José Saramago

22 – … a tendency to make hasty and definitive judgments, a mania which, owing to our exaggerated self-confidence, we shall perhaps never be rid of.

25 – … ten minutes later she was naked, fifteen minutes later she was moaning, eighteen minutes later she was whispering words of love that she no longer needed to feign, after twenty minutes she began to lose her head, after twenty-one minutes she felt that her body was lacerated with pleasure, after twenty-two minutes she called out, Now, now, and when she regained consiousness she said, exhuasted and happy, I can still see everything white.

32 – This is the stuff we’re made of, half indifference and half malice.

40 – This is madness, What did you expect, we’re in a mental asylum.

81 – … in all probabilty, their present unhappiness outweigh their past love, with time they will get used to this situation.

96 – … tears are often our salvation, there are times when we would die if we did not weep.

116 – … If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals…

174 – …If you say nothing it will be easier for me to understand.

261 – … replies do not always come when needed, and it often happens that the only possible reply is to wait for them.

288 – We are so afraid of the idea of having to die… that we always try to find excuses for the dead, as if we were asking beforehand to be excused when it is our turn…

297 – … The only miracle we can perform is to go on living…

304 – … now that’s enough of philosophy and witchcraft, let’s hold hands and get on with life.

308 – … One day, when we realise that we can no longer do anything good and useful we ought to have the courage simply to leave this world.

Quotes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

15 – It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.

16 – When someone sees the same people every day,… they wind up becoming part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

18 – “What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked, completely surprised.
“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.

23 – To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one.

31 – Don’t forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else. And don’t forget the language of omens. And, above all, don’t forget to follow your destiny through to its conclusion.

42 – I’m like everyone else—I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.

Quotes from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho