Words to live by

Posted on January 11, 2009. Filed under: American culture, language |

I  recently asked my friends on Facebook to tell me their life mottos. Not surprising, their responses were very American. I don’t think they thought they were being American, I think they were just being.  
When I do relocation training for executives moving to the US,we discuss American values and their application in daily life and business. This list includes the following values:
  • individuality/personal responsibility
  • freedom/equality
  • work/achievement/progress
  • future-oriented/optimistic
  • materialism/consumerism
  • creativity/innovation
  • directness/assertiveness
  • time as a resource to spend or save
  • goodness toward humanity/volunteerism/charity

The life mottos that my friends selected fit very neatly into these catagories. No one mentioned the importance of living your life with patience or humility. No one mentioned following the wisdom of your ancestors, or the importance of fitting in to the group.

When I asked, “what are the mottos you live by” here were some of the responses, and the cultural traits they reflect:

personal responsibility:

  • We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.
  • I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can still do something…I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

optimistim/positive attitude:

  • where there is no hope, one must invent hope
  • There are 2 ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle


  • do what you love, love what you do
  • I am like all people; I am like some people; I am like no other


  • calling out your own bullshit and copout in your resistance for positive action. Fear not!
  • it’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission

hard work:

  • things that are hard are worth doing
  • want to be the best? Exceed expectations
  • power through and go
  • do what you’re capable of doing and nothing less.


  • give merit to the ridiculous
  • fantasy…enables you to laugh at all of life’s realities
  • ask, “Why not?”

What are your mottos to live by? How do they reflect your culture?


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