Worthy #Proverbs And Silly Ones


We’re affected by proverbs, aphorisms, and slogans…and not always for the good. 

- Marty Nemko, Ph.D.

(The following excerpt from Worthy Proverbs And Silly Ones by Marty Nemko, Ph.D., originally appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

We might be affected more by proverbs than by tomes. For example, might the slogan, “Do random acts of kindness” have caused more good than 1,000 sermons?

In any event, slogans or their more formal analogues, proverbs and aphorisms, certainly have impact.

Here are those I believe are the most and least helpful:


Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. This seems to strike the balance between unrealistic optimism and pessimism. It’s a formula likely to lead to good outcomes.

Better be alone than in bad company. When we’re alone, we can choose as our company, for example, a mind-expanding book, an hour aiding the miracle of a growing garden, or watching a YouTube of a concerto, representing dozens of lifetimes of dedication to creating beauty.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So many people know a sliver of what’s needed to make an informed decision but act with the surety of a guru. When I was teaching college, many callow students made absolutist and ill-founded assertions about how to solve such complex matters as the achievement gap.

Actions speak louder than words. I feel compelled to change the station when politicians assert things that are the opposite of what they actually do in policy and certainly in their personal lives.

Rules are made to be broken. Of course, some rules should be followed but always?

The Buck Stops Here. So many people externalize responsibility. I’ve had many career counseling clients who have been fired or “laid off” multiple times who blame all the terminations on someone or something other than themselves. In contrast, most of my highly successful clients look inward and take appropriate responsibility.

The early bird catches the worm. Another major differentiator between my successful and unsuccessful clients is that the successful ones rarely procrastinate. And I recall a week in which I gave two talks: one to college presidents, one to unemployed people. I told both groups, “Raise your hand if you’re a procrastinator.” About 15% of the presidents did while 90% of the unemployed people did.

Knowledge is power. My clients who have taken the time to become expert at something are more successful than the dabblers, dilettantes, jacks and jills of all trades.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I’ve certainly found that with clients. We can develop a step-by-step career plan that addresses the client’s skills, interests, values, and preferences yet some of them remain inert. Yes, some from fear but others truly because of laziness. For example, they have a spouse or inheritance that will keep them comfy.

Birds of a feather flock together. I know we’re supposed to celebrate diversity but it’s much easier to get along with people with values, intellect, and interaction styles like our own. That proverb is utterly politically incorrect yet bears some wisdom.

The pen is mightier than the sword. I sure hope so.



It’s amazing to me that these proverbs have stood the test of time:

Don’t change horses in midstream. I’d replace that with Longfellow’s, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The reasonable person stays with an idea or relationship as long as it’s wise but sometimes, in midstream, recognizes that it is indeed wise to change horses. Or to quote country singer Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. That’s absurd on both counts: Is cleanliness really the second most important attribute of all? More important than ethics, hard work, and intelligence? And is Godliness #1? A God that would allow massive earthquakes and diseases such as cancer, which kill literally billions of people, including children, slowly and painfully?

Faith will move mountains. If God allows cancer, can you reasonably think that faith in God will help you overcome even small challenges?

Good things come to those who wait. I’d rather say, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That argues that good is good enough. That’s both a formula for mediocrity and discourages progress beyond the adequate.Ignorance is Bliss. Absurd.

Ignorance is Bliss. Absurd.

Live and let live. Do we not have some obligation to help others?

Money is the root of all evil. In fact, money motivates billions of people to get up in the morning, go to work, and be productive. Excess materialism may the root of much evil, but money?

Nice guys finish last. Terrible overgeneralization. Yes, some “winners” get there by stepping on people but many highly successful people are kind.

A miss is as good as a mile. Sometimes, getting part-way yields much of the benefit. For example, even if an aspiring researcher couldn’t quite complete their PhD, s/he will have acquired lots of skills that would help land a good job.

All’s fair in love and war. Absurd. Even if war and especially in love, should there not be a foundation of humanity?

Blood is thicker than water. Few families can claim to have no painful relationships. That’s not surprising. Whereas we choose friends based on compatibility, we have no choice in who’s in our family. To assert, without qualification, that blood is thicker than water seems silly.

Clothes make the man. Clothing may make shallow people like or respect a person, but clothing certainly doesn’t make the man or woman. Obviously, accomplishment, character, wisdom, and kindness do.

Don’t cross the bridge ’til you come to it. That argues against planning, which is indefensible. Of course, it’s unwise to worry about things you can’t change or to perseverate about an upcoming problem that you’ve adequately thought through but to say, “Don’t cross a bridge ‘til you come to it” is a formula for failure. More helpful is the title of Intel founder Andy Grove’s book, “Only the Paranoid Survive.”

Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. If we all did that, nothing would get accomplished. A wiser philosophy is, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Only the good die young. I’ve not seen that.

Spare the rod and spoil the child. Horrible advice. Corporal punishment may yield short-term compliance but longer-term resentment. It also teaches a child that violence is a way to get what you want.

The end justifies the means. More horrible advice. That implies that cheating, abusing people, and despoiling the environment is worth it if you get what you want in the end. Ugh.


Why We Hate It When People Invade Our Space


(The following excerpt Why We Hate It When People Invade Our Space by Joe Navarro, M.A., recently appeared on psychologytoday.com.)

Those photos of John Travolta, at the Oscars with Scarlett Johansson and Idina Menzel (link is external), and Joe Biden (link is external), at the swearing-in ceremony of new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, seeming to keep their hands on seemingly unsuspecting women for unusually long times, have dominated social media for a week and have many asking, what’s the brouhaha about? Why are these things important?

Beyond the uncomfortable looks of the women involved, and the jokes about the incidents, there is something more important going on here.

Any time someone’s space is violated, two things happen: It registers in our long-term memory, where all negative experiences are recorded—this is why we don’t have to relearn every day not to touch a hot stove—and it causes “limbic hijacking (link is external).” This is an unsettling of neural activity that serves to protect us, and gets us ready for survival behaviors such as freezing in place (as we see in these photos from last week); distancing or running away; and, finally, the fight-or-flight response. In all three cases, limbic hijacking takes us away from our normal thinking and cognitive processing as well as homeostasis, and leaves us rattled.

In both of these incidents, with Travolta and Biden, the women involved (Menzel, Johansson, and Stephanie Carter) were attending to important moments in their lives; the last thing they wanted to do was to be distracted. We could say they were working in furtherance of something—no small matter. Then along comes someone who seems to think he’s entitled to violate their intimate space—generally considered the space from one’s skin to about 10 inches away—without considering their wants or the context; Is this the right place to do this? This is what we call having a lack of social intelligence—after all, the burden is on these men to determine if their intrusive behavior will be proper and wanted. Clearly, it was not.

So what’s the big deal? The effects of limbic hijacking, that emotional unsettling, actually last about 30 minutes or so. They can make us falter or stumble cognitively. They can even affect memory and muscle control. Ever wonder why you can’t think of the cleverest lines until 30 minutes after an argument’s over? Or why, when someone scares you, your heart races and it takes a while to settle down? It’s because of limbic hijacking.

So next time you see people exercising poor judgment and a lack of social intelligence, it isn’t just quaint or no big deal; it’s an invasion of the intimate space that we value and hold dear. Such behavior is not wanted, it is ill timed, ill advised, and most of all, psychologically discomforting. Period. End of story. That’s why it matters.

Joe Navarro, M.A., is a 25-year veteran of the FBI and author of What Every Body is Saying (link is external), as well as Louder Than Words. For additional information and a free bibliography, please contact him through Psychology Today or at http://www.jnforensics.com (link is external). Joe can be found on twitter: @navarrotells or on Facebook. His latest book, Dangerous Personalities, (Rodale) is available on Amazon.



#StephenHawking: #Aggression Could Destroy Us


“It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, but now it threatens to destroy us all.”

- Stephen Hawkings

(The following post Stephen Hawkings: Aggression Could Destroy Us by Nick Clark recently appeared on independent.co.uk. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

Aggression is the human race’s biggest failing and it “threatens to destroy us all”, Stephen Hawking has said, urging people to be more empathetic.

Professor Hawking spoke at the Science Museum while giving a tour to Californian Adaeze Uyanwah, who beat 10,000 international entrants to win a special trip to London, in which he is shown the sights by celebrity guides.

“The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression,” the astrophysicist said. “It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or a partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all.”

The human quality the scientist would most like to magnify was empathy. “It brings us together in a peaceful loving state.”

Professor Hawking is the subject of the film The Theory of Everything, in which he is played by Eddie Redmayne. He said he was pleased to provide his official synthesized voice to give Redmayne “a bit of a boost in his efforts to win an Oscar” and joked: “Unfortunately Eddie did not inherit my good looks.”