17 Non-Inspirational Inspirational Quotes Interpreted

The Reality Behind InspirationI love a good inspirational quote. You probably do too. However, in recent times, I have started to seek more in a quote. I wanted to feel and learn more from the totality of experience and not just the positive. Not just beauty, magic, elevation and passion I also wanted pain, uncertainty, depth and confusion, because those too are undeniably important elements of life.

The usual quotes people see, post and enjoy (myself included) are what I call ‘sprint’ quotes. They give us a short burst of energy, of inspiration, and act like sparks that combust and gives us that initial fiery lift. What they don’t do, is keep the engine running when reality strikes, and reality tends to strike all too soon.

So I hunted down 17 unusual ‘marathon’ quotes, quotes that are inspirationally non-inspirational and are much more expressive about the uncertainties and dangers we face on the path to meaningful living. One of them I actually have above my work desk and try to live by everyday. Points to you if you can figure it out.


17 Non-Inspirational Inspirational Quotes

1.“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones


Interpretation: There is information and then there is meaning and it’s the major events, the meaningful moments, that shape our lives. Having elegant examples of how to deal with love, thoughtfulness and death would serve many young minds well.


2. “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Diary


Interpretation: This is very much about facing truth and moving away from self-absorption. The only way to live forever is to create something for others, that allows for the current and future generations to connect to. It may be something artistic but it also has to do with people themselves. It’s an interesting question to consider, but what legacy would you like your grandchildren and beyond to leave behind and how could you instigate it?


3.“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”
― Jim Morrison


Interpretation: It’s not always about happy faces. Society continues to try and inoculate itself from the reality of pain. However, all emotions have a purpose. Painful emotions cause the most growth once understood. The secret is to find a safe way to express it, and that often requires developing good relationships, especially with others when you’re feeling good so when you’re not, you have people you can trust who will assist.


4. “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
― Abraham Lincoln


Interpretation: Sometimes, no matter how you try and dress it up, you must work to accept and deal with the truth. For example, many economies in the world right now like to come up with all sorts of words and terms to try and hide the fact that they are deeply in debt. Debt is debt, no matter how you dress it up, if what you owe as a society or an individual outweighs what you earn every year, you’re going to wish that tail between your legs was an additional running leg.


5.“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.”
― Karen Marie Moning


Interpretation: So many people are all talk. They have every excuse, 9 lives and know how to pull the heart strings. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is did you shut up and get on with it? Did you do what you set out to do?


6.“How many times have you tried to talk to someone about something that matters to you, tried to get them to see it the way you do? And how many of those times have ended with you feeling bitter, resenting them for making you feel like your pain doesn’t have any substance after all?

Like when you’ve split up with someone, and you try to communicate the way you feel, because you need to say the words, need to feel that somebody understands just how pissed off and frightened you feel. The problem is, they never do. “Plenty more fish in the sea,” they’ll say, or “You’re better off without them,” or “Do you want some of these potato chips?” They never really understand, because they haven’t been there, every day, every hour. They don’t know the way things have been, the way that it’s made you, the way it has structured your world. They’ll never realise that someone who makes you feel bad may be the person you need most in the world. They don’t understand the history, the background, don’t know the pillars of memory that hold you up. Ultimately, they don’t know you well enough, and they never can. Everyone’s alone in their world, because everybody’s life is different. You can send people letters, and show them photos, but they can never come to visit where you live.

― Michael Marshall Smith, Only Forward


Interpretation: Pain is real and your experience is unique. You can not rely on others, no matter how supportive, to give you the courage you need to make that leap of faith through over your own barriers. Sometimes you are alone, a tough decision will need to be made and no one else will understand. You’ve got to bet on you.


7.“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
― Aldous Huxley


Interpretation: How devastatingly true. Economically, few people have learnt their lesson and it’s going to hurt even more the next time around. You’ve got to be grateful for what you have and really consider the effect of your mistakes, and the mistakes of those you trust. Then do everything you can to fix them before it happens again!


8.“To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


Interpretation: Ordinary people are inherently lazy. That’s why they’re ordinary. How can an ordinary person, doing ordinary things ever get anything greater than ordinary results? Having ability and using it are two different things. See my previous post if you need more information as to why people of today are more intelligent and dumber than ever at the same time.


9. “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House


Interpretation: Total reality is overwhelming. Meaningful living is difficult. Fortunately our brain is designed to protect us from feeling the complete pain of failure and other such realities we deal with. To learn more check out point 5 on this blog piece. You actually need to dream and embrace a little fantasy or you’ll fall into the hole that is average living.


10. “Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it’s noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin


Interpretation: This is a tough, highly unromantic truth, but it doesn’t have to be. We can go beyond the flesh and into the heart of moments and memories and actions. What are you really remembering someone for?


11.“If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper


Interpretation: We are designed to connect and not everyone figures out how to do it well. Seek to understand the motivations of the important people in your life, including loners, and you may discover a depth of connection you never thought possible.


12. “The dreams we are chasing and the reality that is chasing us are always parallel; they never meet.”
― Ai Yazawa


Interpretation: No matter how clearly you envision something, it never ends up quite like you planned it. You have to be purposeful and open to unforeseeable circumstances at the same time. Perhaps then, you can tap into both worlds and create and experience something beyond your expectations.


13. “There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations”
― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes


Interpretation: I’m sure you know what the average person will choose. One of those answers is an illusion. Happiness is a way of being that must be earnt and not obtained through some sort of default victory.


14. “Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.”
― Arthur Miller


Interpretation: Oh how the truth hurts. We have a bias towards acknowledging pain. Violations of trust stick in the mind in an attempt to prevent us from being placed in such vulnerable positions again in the future. However, if you can accept that it will happen, knowing that you too will betray others at some point, and can be forgiving as well as learning from such incidents, wonderful connections are still possible.


15. “Be regular and ordinary in your life so you can be violent and original in your work.”

– Gustave Flaubert


Interpretation: There is no glamour in the creative process. Live simply, diligently and with minimal distraction and you’ll be surprised about how much the quality of your work accelerates.


16. “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
― Elizabeth Edwards


Interpretation: You’re going to get screwed over. It is a fact of life. A natural disaster, a car accident, a relationship where you were taken advantage of. It’s always about how you bounce back.


17. “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?”
― M.C. Escher


Interpretation: At the end of the day, you decide what is possible and what the rules are for your life. Others will not see what you see and you will have two options, accept their reality at the cost of yours, or forge ahead with your own and alone if need be.


There you have it, 17 non-inspirational inspirational quotes to consider life’s challenges a little more deeply. Got any to add, feel free.

4 Responses to “17 Non-Inspirational Inspirational Quotes Interpreted”

  1. Don’t promise when you’re happy, Don’t reply when you’re angry, and don’t decide when you’re sad

    • aleks

      Hi Ziad,

      I like it. I think the answer to all 3 of those things is aim to be calm when having to make promises, replies and decisions.

  2. Jan Albert-Thenet

    I like this one “Trying to be someone you are not, is a waste of the person you really are.” Marilyn Munroe.

    Interpretation – If you are feeling sad, be sad, you’re allowed to be. That’s the unique you.

    • aleks

      Hi Jan,

      Nice addition :). I agree with you. I’d also add I think it relates to all emotions. Whether feeling positive or negative, it is your life and your experience and it is just as valuable as any one else’s. Trying to hide who you really are is just a waste of time and because it is inauthentic, it doesn’t work either as people will struggle to fully connect to you.