Stop the Pretending Your Quotes are Important

Socrates - a Wise Dude.
Socrates – a Wise Dude. But he still didn’t say it.

A friend of mine, who I have a lot of time for with his enthusiastic, positive and generally, “Get it done” approach and underlying sensitivity recently posted a motivational image. It was a quote regarding change. Its provenance was ‘Socrates’. This triggered my interest because I was unaware of the ancient Greek philosopher’s interest or teachings in Change Management Theory. Now then…

I was going to say, “I hate being the one who looks into quotes and then farts on their proclaimed sources as false when this turns out to be the case” but I don’t hate it. I think that if you’re going to motivate me or teach me wisdom, the most wise and motivational thing you can do is get your source right. If you can’t do that, then I’m going to assume that the actual wise and motivational quote can only motivate and enlighten me along the path of laziness via gullibility.

Using a source such as ‘Socrates’ (with the obvious assumption that you’re talking about the Greek philosopher) is actually worse than attributing your motivational and wise quote to “Picture of Wise Old Native American Woman” or “Cloud Angel Atra”. Socrates, or in the case of the George Orwell not-quote about PR and journalism, is embedded into the Western cultural “common sense” both as ‘wise’ and also as ‘intellectually learned’. Using this sort of provenance gives apparent veracity and weight to your quote. It also gives a veneer of intellectual rigour to you and to what is basically just your opinion.

Socrates the Gas Pump Guy
Socrates the Gas Pump Guy

Thank the lord for QuoteInvestigator who (click here) delivers the following conclusion (seriously, read the whole thing here):

“In conclusion, the quotation is from a character named Socrates who was a gas-station attendant in a book published in the 1980s by Dan Millman. The quote was not from the renowned Greek philosopher.”

So, before you start churning out opinion as historically underpinned wisdom: Stop. Think. Don’t do it unless you can be sure of it. If not, then just state your opinion, who knows, you might even be right.