Self-Reliance Quotations


If I am not I, who will be?

Journal, 9 August 1841

Emerson says that his life is so unprofitable and shabby for the most part, that he is driven to all sorts of resources, and, among the rest, to men. I tell him that we differ only in our resources. Mine is to get away from men.

Thoreau to H. G. O. Blake, 8 August 1854

Go not so far out of your way for a truer life; keep strictly onward in that path alone which your genius points out. Do the things which lie nearest to you, but which are difficult to do.

Journal, 12 January 1852

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. Wherever a man separates from the multitude and goes his own way, there is a fork in the road, though the travelers along the highway see only a gap in the paling.

Journal, 18 October 1855

Do what you reprove yourself for not doing. Know that you are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with yourself without reason.

Journal, 1850

Let me say to you and to myself in one breath: Cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil. Regard not your past failures nor successes. All the past is equally a failure and a success; it is success in as much as it offers you the present opportunity.

Journal, 1850

Whether he sleeps or wakes — whether he runs or walks — whether he uses a microscope or a telescope, or his naked eye — a man never discovers anything, never overtakes anything, or leaves anything behind, but himself.

Thoreau to H. G. O. Blake, 20 May 1860

If you aspire to anything better than politics, expect no cooperation from men. They will not further anything good. You must prevail of your own force, as a plant springs and grows by its own vitality.

Journal, 3 April 1858

Things do not change; we change.


He who receives an injury is an accomplice of the wrong-doer.

Journal, 9 July 1840

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