Quotes are great because they can distill ideas very efficiently.
Even though famous quotes are very popular, few people manage to create their own personal quote catalog. Being a quote collector myself for nearly a decade, I find several benefits in maintaining a personal collection of favorite quotes, famous or otherwise.
1. Instantly Transform your Mood
Quotes have the power to change our mental state very quickly. Just like books or movies, quotes can generate strong emotions, inspire, motivate or make us laugh – with the notable difference that we don’t need to invest hours of our time to experience the desired effect.
It’s very easy to incorporate the reading of quotes in your life if you have your own collection handy. If it is organized in categories, you can have an instant dose of humor or inspiration whenever you like. If you know quotes that have a particularly powerful effect on you, you can also put them in a highly visible place to have your quick fix many times a day.
"I pick my favorite quotations and store them in my mind as ready armor, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence." –Robert Burns.
2. Get to Know New Authors
You may already be a quote junkie, but let’s face it: quotes don’t replace good books. ‘Quotes is reading for lazy people’, I once heard. But being exposed to quotes from different or unknown authors can spark your curiosity and make you go read their works. For example, I used to think Einstein was only a genius of physics. It was only after knowing some of his quotes that I had the interest to read his great essays on subjects such as religion, the meaning of life and many others.
"At any rate, I am convinced that He does not play dice." –Albert Einstein.
3. Distill Insights and Communicate Them Effectively
Quotes have the highest wisdom density you can get in a single sentence. Although quotes may seem, in hindsight, obvious observations about reality, the truth is that it requires a lot of insight to be able to to grab those reality bites in such accessible format.
It is very rewarding to find a simple and concise quote that expresses one idea that you already had, but didn’t know how to express it quite well. Moreover, you can use the quote as a shortcut for explaining your own established views to others. Having that easily communicable expression of an idea can be a springboard to start new discussions that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
"The point of quotations is that one can use another’s words to be insulting." –Amanda Cross.
4. Be Known and Know Other People Better
People say you can know someone by the books one reads, or by the friends one has. I would say that a quicker way to know people is by taking a look at the quotes they collect.
Just as it happens with someone’s personal music library, if you read just a few quotes from someone’s quote collection, you can already tell a lot about that person. I bet that if you check some quotes from my own collection in this blog’s sidebar, you can quickly infer what kind of person I am, without having to spend much time having a conversation with me (lucky you!).
There are social websites built around quote collections, where you can, based on your own favorite quotes, get to know like-minded people and get recommendations of new quotes. A good example is the Quotiki website.
"We are the people our parents warned us about." -Jimmy Buffett.
5. Get a Different Perspective
Even more interesting that stumbling upon a quote that expresses something you already know, is to find one that expresses something totally unexpected or contrary to what you know.
An essay, for example, usually builds a point of view step-by-step. If the ideas in that article go against your own point of view, the natural response is to resist them. And since reading an article is a somewhat long activity, your brain has plenty of time to build its internal mental wall. But with a single quote, it’s completely different: you take your brain off-guard. That is great, because it allows your mind to generate brand new thoughts you wouldn’t have otherwise.
“If there’s only one answer, then this must not be a very interesting topic.” -Ron Jeffries.
Start your Quote Collection Now
With the proliferation of websites in recent years, collecting quotes became extremely easy. You just need to be careful not to overwhelm yourself with information. The best strategy is to transform it in a habit – instead of browsing the huge catalogs available online.
I also recommend that you be very selective in adding a quote to your collection: when in doubt, don’t. You may also want to consider doing regular clean sweeps in your database; you only want to see the quotes you consider to be the absolute best there.
Regarding format, try to keep it simple. A simple text file or spreadsheet will do it.
If you don’t mind having it hosted by a third-party, you can use a website (see below). You get the benefits of universal access, tagging and social interaction – all very nice. I am totally in favor of using online services – the only reason I don’t currently maintain my own catalog in such services is that I couldn’t yet find any with export functionality. When I do, I will certainly take my database online. Call me old-fashioned, but I still need to own my data to feel comfortable – especially a database that takes decades to build.
Where to Get Quotes
You can find good quotes everywhere – all you need is to go look for them. If you’re serious about growing your collection, I highly recommend quotations websites. I suggest you pay them a visit and see what you like most. I particularly recommend you use the ones that provide RSS feeds. Feeds are a great way to get quotes since you don’t actively spend time browsing thousands and thousands of pages (if you are not into RSS feeds, most websites provide some sort of daily e-mail functionality, too).
Most of the quotes I get nowadays are from:
- The Quotations Page: Very comprehensive collection. I subscribe to the session Quotes of the Day [feed].
- BrainyQuote: Also provides good feeds by category and keep my collection a bit more diverse than if I got it all from the same source. I subscribe to Quote of the Day [feed] and Funny Quote of the Day [feed].
These give me some good ones often enough. Other quote sites that are definitely worth a visit are:
- Wikiquote – It’s the Wikipedia branch for quotes. That speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
- Quotiki – It’s sort of a social site built around quotes. You can get to know other people based on preferences and find out similar quotes to the ones you have.
- ThinkExist – Yet another quote site with nice features such as a great search engine, daily e-mail and quote ratings.
In case you’re interested, I created a page sharing my entire personal collection – it currently has more than 400 of the best quotes I’ve come across so far.