Four things come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, the neglected opportunity.
Saudi Arabian proverb
Seize opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.
Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.
If you want a thing done, go. If not, send. The shortest answer is doing.
Thinking well is wise; planning well, wiser; but doing well is wisest and best of all.
A journey of a thousand miles starts in front of your feet.
The beginning is the half of every action.
Abundance is from activity.
Using the proverbs
The old management truism has it that you must 'walk the walk' not just 'talk the talk'. A cliché, but it's true. An individual or an organization may be brimming with ideas, may be ambitious for success, but will never become truly effective unless properly organised for action. The world (as demonstrated by the international breadth of the sources above) is full of 'would haves', 'could haves' that go no further because of a failure to act, to act first, or to be organized for the opportunities that emerge from the creative process.
Use these eight proverbs from around the world to underline memorably how important it is to act as well as talk about what you are going to do.
From artists to sports stars to world leaders some of the most successful people in history have been labelled at an early stage as failures or no-hopers; here are just a few of them.
Fred Astaire made a screen test for MGM in 1933. The memo from the testing director to the studio read: 'Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.' After he made it in movies the Hollywood star kept that memo over the fireplace in his plush Beverly Hills home.
Lucille Ball was told by the head tutor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, where she started studying in 1927: 'Try any other profession.'
The Beatles were turned down for a recording contract by Decca Records in 1962, weeks before their first hit with EMI's Parlophone. Decca's evaluation: 'We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out... The Beatles have no future in show business.'
Michael Caine heard his headmaster confidently predict: 'You will be a labourer all your life.'
Winston Churchill was rebellious by nature and had a poor academic record, attracting censure and punishment at three different independent schools that he attended. He also had to overcome a speech impediment. Nevertheless he became Britain's most celebrated Prime Minister whose stirring public speeches galvanised the war effort. One of his most famous included the words: 'Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.'
Charles Darwin earned the disapproval of his father when he gave up his medical career. He told his son: 'You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching.' In his autobiography, Darwin wrote: 'I was considered by all my masters, and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.'
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he 'lacked imagination and had no good ideas.' Many of his early business ventures failed and he was bankrupted more than once. His proposal for a theme park (Disneyland) was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.
Albert Einstein did not talk until the age of four and could not read until he was seven. His parents considered him 'sub-normal' and he was described by a teacher as 'mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.' He was expelled from school and refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He made up later for his slow start.
Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life - this was to the sister of one of his friends, for which she paid only 400 francs. Despite his commercial failure he completed over 800 paintings, many of which are now regarded as the most valuable in the world of art, worth many millions.
Abraham Lincoln was several times unemployed in his early working life and failed as both a businessman and a lawyer before he turned to politics. He was defeated in his first attempt for the legislature, defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for Congress, defeated in his application to be Commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. He did, however, become the sixteenth President of the USA and is one of the four great statesmen commemorated by having their faces carved from rock at Mount Rushmore.
Louis Pasteur as an undergraduate student was regarded as mediocre at best, ranking fifteenth out of twenty-two students in chemistry.
Elvis Presley was fired after only one performance at the Grand Old Opry. The venue manager Jim Denny told Elvis: 'You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.'
Babe Ruth became baseball's most famous player for his home run record, but for years he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career. Babe was philosophical about this: 'Every strikeout brings me closer to the next home run,' he said.
Stan Smith was rejected as a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because he was 'too awkward and clumsy'. He went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open as well as eight Davis Cup Finals.
Frank Winfield Woolworth was not permitted to serve customers when he worked in a dry goods store because, his boss said: 'he didn’t have enough sense.'
Using the stories
Use these examples both as a reminder that 'expert opinion' should not always be taken at face value and, more importantly, that success rarely comes easy but opportunities are available where talent and focused dedication unite.