What do Gandhi, Buddha, Helen Keller, Kahlil Gibran, Emerson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Confucius all have in common?
They are all some of history’s greatest thinkers and philosophers, and they mastered the ability to use their inner talents and gifts to the fullest extent. Most of history’s greatest inventors, philosophers, thinkers, and achievers went through rough times (just like you and me) getting to where they truly wanted to be. These gifted individuals have (more or less) focused on values as their main thrust, their life’s work, and their legacy. Well, some were collectors of dollars (and the power it brings), but that could be considered misguided – I mean, you can’t take it with you! They also tended to use their money for things that would outlast themselves once they were done playing with it and trying to dominate other men.
One strategy that the greatest and most successful people in the world use is to understand that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Einstein wasn’t inventing his own unique values; in fact, he famously said that “The values that have lighted my way have been kindness, beauty, and truth.” Perhaps even more well-known is “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He was known for his ingenuity, creativity, passion, dedication, peace/non-violence, and willingness to risk. These are the very values in question.
If Einstein was wise, the values he pursued, upheld, and sought to cultivate within were, by definition, values of the wise. If he were a fool, his values would be termed values of a fool. If he sought to acquire money above all else, his values would be those of the greedy or of the acquisitive.
There are others who have ”been there,” and are willing to share their advice with future generation – saving us countless hours, heartaches, and hard-earned dollars. These pursuers of wisdom wrote books and letters and poetry; they composed sonnets and concertos; they put their lives on the line for social justice movements; they used their hands to create great and memorable works of art. The things they thought, felt, believed, learned, and taught should be remembered by those of us who don’t have quite the talent, wisdom, or insight; they can be our leaders and our teachers. It is truly conservative and traditional and progressive (yes, all three!) to take what they taught and use it in our own lives. To propagate these values. To grow and excel and “move the ball down the court,” if you will. In fact, one of the greatest scientists of all time – Isaac Newton – is thought to have said (with great modesty – which is a value of the wise!): “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
So which are the values I believe are the best – the most enduring, the most reliable, the most critical? I will now list them, and provide a quotation to give the flavor:
Knowledge, Wisdom, & Education; Respect, Tolerance & Modesty; Fulfillment, Meaning, & Optimism; Humor, Lightheartedness, & Acceptance of the Absurd; Creativity, Ingenuity, & Vision; Dedication, Discipline, & Will; Honor, Integrity & Morality; Liberty & Peace; Kindness, Magnanimity & Altruism; Self-confidence & Self-Worth; Development, Progressivism & Integration; Passion, Willingness to Risk & Self-Awareness; Strength & Courage; Truth & Justice. These awesome ideas, these humanistic virtues and humane ideals are the thread that weaves the best of humanity together.
Wondering which values move you and to which you are drawn the most? Use this free, online self-assessment and find out! It’s called the Top Values Tool:
The following are examples of quotations that illustrate or provide evidence in favor of the 37 values of the wise. Keep in mind that the database of quotations relevant to the values of the wise is over 25,000 and growing every month.
Examples of Values of the Wise:
Justice: “Injustice is relatively easy to bear; it is justice that hurts.” ~ H. L. Mencken
Creativity: “I like to think of thoughts as living blossoms borne by the human tree.” ~ James Douglas
Knowledge: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” ~ Marie Curie
Development: “To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.” ~ Buddha
Dedication: “Here is a test to find out whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~ Richard Bach
Vision: “It all depends on how we look at things, not how they are in themselves.” ~ Carl Jung
Self-confidence: “A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandi to come back—but they are gone. We are it. It’s up to us. It is up to you.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman
Truth: “The truth shall make you free.” ~ The Bible, John 8:32
Progressivism: “Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Lightheartedness: “A little nonsense, now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” ~ Roald Dahl
Strength: “Independence is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Integration (and beauty): “What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.” ~ Susan Sontag
Liberty: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Modesty: “We believe nothing so firmly as what we least know.” ~ Michel de Montaigne
Magnanimity (and love): “The best practical advice I can give to the present generation is to practice the virtue which the Christians call love.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Optimism: “There is always hope.” ~ J. R. R. Tolkien
Acceptance of the Absurd: “A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” ~ Bill Vaughan
Self-worth: “If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?” ~ Maya Angelou
Peace: “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” ~ Alfred Adler
Meaning: “Out of my great woe I make my little song.” ~ Heinrich Heine
Honor: “Cunning has little honor.” ~ Danish proverb
Passion: “Begin at once to live.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Courage: “Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.” ~ Amelia Earhart
Fulfillment: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ “George Eliot”
Ingenuity: “We have to find our own ways to inner peace and strength and character, they cannot be bequeathed to us by those who came before.” ~ Marianne Williamson
Integrity: “Wise men, though all laws were abolished, would lead the same life.” ~ Aristophanes
Altruism: “Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind!” ~ Henri Amiel
Wisdom (and meaning): “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” ~ John Patrick
Morality: “If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.” ~ Samuel P. Ginder
Will (and love): “Love is the active concern for the life and growth of that which we love.” ~ Erich Fromm
Acceptance of the absurd: “I have too much respect for the idea of God to make it responsible for such an absurd world.” ~ Georges Duhamel
Tolerance: “They condemn what they do not understand.” ~ Roman proverb
Knowledge: “Poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge.” ~ Aimé Césaire
Respect: “Real kindness is mouth-gaping respect and compassion for just how hard it is to be a human being – any human being.” ~ Rebecca Alban Hoffberger
Self-awareness: “Organizing and disciplining our mental processes clears away the clamor and allows us to hear the inner voices of our body’s needs and knowledge.” ~ Lenedra J. Carroll
Willingness to risk: “When in doubt, risk it.” ~ Holbrook Jackson
Kindness (and compassion): “Compassion operates at the same level as celebration because what is of most moment in compassion is not feelings of pity but feelings of togetherness.” ~ Matthew Fox·
Responsibility: “If you’re too busy to give your neighbor a helping hand, then you’re just too darned busy.” ~ Marie T. Freeman
Who can leave us a great quotation? Who writes poetry worth reading? Which persons write songs that are worthy of being called great? Anyone can! Does everyone? No. It is up to us to determine which quotations really represent these wonderful values and virtues. We can use a guide, which is why I started compiling quotations and categorizing them according to the value they represent back in 2003. Having published seven books, I claim to know what I am talking about.
I am just a messenger, though – my quotes comprise far less than 1% of the 25,000 I have collected and wrote about and been inspired and guided by. Gandhi, Churchill, Chavez, Earheart, the Dalai Lama, Einstein, and Mother Teresa are some of the most memorable names. None of these great thinkers and actors we know of had values more noble than the values of the wise; these are the values to which they aspired, for which they sacrificed. Some, such as love, joy, and freedom are not represented literally, but they are certainly in the spirit of values of the wise.