“This is a war. And this war will have a winner and it will have a loser. We are not here to fight the war. We are here to win it.”

My Share of the Task: A Memoir
General Stanley A. McChrystal, U.S. Army, ret.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”


“Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

James Downey as Principal in Billy Madison, 1995

“Running, one might say, is basically an absurd pastime upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd pastime: Life.”

Donald Sutherland as Bill Bowerman in Without Limits, 1998

“I found a nice, medium-sized wave, possibly the first of a set. I caught it, shaky with relief, then I managed to fall off. I popped up, annoyed, and found myself looking at a wall of water that seemed to have marched out of my worst nightmares. It was already pulling water from the shelf, pulling me toward it, and there was no chance at all that I would escape it. It was the biggest wave I had ever seen at Pequena, and it was already starting to break. I swam toward it hard and dove early, but it plucked me out of the depths and beat me until I screamed in hopeless protest. When I finally surfaced there was another one behind it, just as big, just as malignant. There seemed to be a bit more water on the shelf. I swam to the bottom and tried to get a grip on a rough slab of rock but was instantly ripped away. Another long, thorough beating. I tried to cover my head with my arms in case it dashed me against the bottom. It didn't. I eventually resurfaced. There was another one. It was bigger than the others, but the important thing about it was that it sucked all the water off the shelf. Boulders started surfacing in front of me, and then I was standing in a field of rocks in rushing, waist-deep water. I did not understand where I was. A field of rocks had risen out of the ocean, quite far from shore, at a break I thought I knew. In a lifetime of surfing, I had never seen anything like this. The wave mutated into a hideous, boiling, two-story wall of white water, almost without breaking. It had run out of water to draw from. I had a moment in which to decide what to do before it hit me. I picked a fissure in the wall and threw myself up and into it. The vague hope was that if I wriggled in deep enough the white water might swallow me rather than simply smash me to pieces on the rocks. Something like that occurred apparently. My feet were sliced up from the leap but I did not hit the bottom as I rag-dolled shoreward in the bowels of the wave, and when I next surfaced I was in deep water, in the channel East of Pequena, safe.”

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan

“It only added to the allure of this shimmering fantasy land in the desert [Nellis Air Force Base] that it was one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Rarely did a week go by that a fighter pilot did not crash. And when a fighter crashed at 400 knots, it was for keeps. When a pilot ‘augered in’, ‘screwed the pooch’, ‘fucked the duck’, and ‘bought the farm’, then the base siren wailed and the blue car drove slowly and wives stood in the windows and the Chaplin consoled and the flag hung at half staff. But it always happened to someone else, never to the best fighter pilot in the world. And if you have to ask who the best is, it sure as hell ain't you.”

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
Robert Coram

“The Air Force loathed everything about the AX, which soon would be known as the A10. Jokes were made that it was so slow that it suffered bird strikes, from the rear. And that instead of carrying a clock the cockpit had a calendar. The aircraft was so ugly it was called the ‘Warthog’. Many in the Air Force said no airplane could perform or survive in combat as this airplane was supposed to perform. It would be almost twenty years before the A10 had the chance to demonstrate just how wrong its detractors were.”

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
Robert Coram

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

Henry David Thoreau

“[General Curtis] LeMay said, ‘If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

Robert McNamara in The Fog of War, 2003

“When I was shaking out at the hueco, I didn’t have any running thoughts aside from what is happening in that present moment: how my body feels, what my breathing is like, just how I’m feeling right then. I definitely felt pumped and my fingers were cold. I had those thoughts, but more as statement of fact and not a worried ‘Oh no, I’m pumped!’ There was no emotion whatsoever; it was super-mechanical. I turned into this machine."

Nina Williams on the ascent of Amborsia, Bishop

“We have to speak for animals because they don't have a voice.”

Mom

“When Pope Benedict asked Giotto to prove his worth as an artist Giotto drew a perfect circle, freehand. Perfection. It's a powerful message.”

Liev Schreiber as Dr. Ted Fielding in Sphere, 1998

“The pundits forget that if we had been so fortunate as to interdict any of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers, months before the attacks, they might have been dismissed as a laughable bunch of losers who didn't inspire fear or confidence. The liquids plot saga turned out to be emblematic of my CIA career. If there was a common thread during my lengthy time at the agency it was that no good deed went unpunished. The liquid plot incident further drove home to me the importance of swift action, of nimble decision making, and of being able to hold and interrogate key terrorist suspects ourselves without relying on surrogates who have a different and uncertain agenda.

Throughout my career controversy followed me around like a hungry dog. I wish all my decisions and all my actions were universally supported and applauded, but I am comfortable with who I am and what I have done. I have been extraordinarily privileged to play a role in some historic events and believe I'm uniquely positioned to explode some myths and clarify some mysteries that have heretofore gone unexplained.

As memories of 9-11 faded, political correctness and timidity grew. The unanimity of support that the intelligence community enjoyed eroded and one by one the tools needed to fight those that wish to destroy our country have been taken away. Worse, those men and women who volunteered to carry out our Nation's orders in combating Al Qaeda found themselves second guessed, investigated, and shunned.”

Hard Measures: How Agressive CIA Actions After 9-11 Saved American Lives
Jose A. Rodriguez

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”


“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

Revelation 6:8

“Let them try.”

Jean Reno as Enzo Molinari in The Big Blue, 1988

“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“Chang Yu . . . adds: ‘Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you'll find an excuse.”


“Unless you enter the tiger's lair, you cannot get hold of the tiger's cubs.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.”

Roger Alan Wade

“Did he fail? Fuck no. Do you know why he didn't fail? Let me explain to you why the fuck he didn't fail. When he got through sqatting he was laying on the fucking floor. You know what that means? That means that he gave every fucking thing that he had. And any time you give every fucking thing you have, you cannot fail. It's impossible. That is the fucking point. Give it all.”

C.T. Fletcher

“I watched the story that night on the evening news. The blackout episode helped me better understand what was ahead of me. I had been cautious. NSA was a national treasure and my first task had been to do no harm. Now it was clear to me that no course of action I could set out on would be as dangerous to the agency as standing still. Had I known what awaited me and America a year and a half down the road, I might have been even bolder. But the broader lesson stuck: caution isn't always a virtue, not if you're serious about doing your duty.”

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror
General Michael V. Hayden, U.S. Air Force ret., former Director of NSA and CIA

“Mei Yao-ch'en says: ‘The only chance of life lies in giving up all hope of it.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“A few weeks after my sixtieth birthday I pulled into two barrels, back to back, at Pua'ena Point, on the North Shore of Oahu. They were as deep and long as any tube I had ridden since Kirra, more than thirty years before. Both waves let me out untouched. Being adjacent to that much beauty — more than adjacent; immersed in; pierced by it — was the point. The physical risks were footnotes.”

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan

“All civilized hunters, bound to their prey by the same theory of mind that makes us empathize with our children, mourn the death. It's dangerous not to do so, says the old wisdom. And the old wisdom is right. The planet, if not its horned Gods, will judge our modern ecocides sternly.”

Being a Beast
Charles Foster

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don't belong.”


“I don't want it if it's that easy.”

Tupac Shakur

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
Yvon Chouinard

“All kinds of things happen in the woods.”

Bob Ross

“Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“You can't drive me crazy cuz I'm close enough to walk.”

J-Ro, on Tha Alkaholiks' Bullshit

“When climbing outdoors, the beauty of movement is very important for me. Very often I can find it on some rocks that a lot of people would think of as very crappy. But the beauty of movement is there, the interesting moves you need to really ponder about for hours, imagining the sequence and planning how to do it. Also very often a solid looking wall turns out to be very stupid from the climber's point of view.”

Adam Ondra

“[Janapatrick] Barroga, who had arrived at [Combat Outpost] Keating only two days earlier and who had never before been in combat, turned to him with a question. ‘Hey Sergeant,’ Barroga asked, ‘are these attacks always this bad?’”

“‘No dude, not at all,’ Breeding declared emphatically, ‘they have never been this bad.’”

“‘Well, is everything gonna be OK?’ asked Barroga, unable to connect the dots.”

“In his eighteen years in the Army, John Breeding had never been a dispenser of bullshit. He saw no need to change now. ‘I don't know if we're going to get out of this one,’ he replied, looking Barroga in the eye, ‘all I can tell you is that, if we go, we're taking some of these Mother Fucker's with us.’”

Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor
Clinton Romesha

Tom Bishop: “Ah, Jesus Christ, you just... You don't just trade these people like they're baseball cards! It's not a fucking game!”

Nathan Muir: “Oh yes it is. It's exactly what it is. And it's no kid's game either. This is a whole other game. And it's serious and it's dangerous. And it's not one you want to lose.”

Robert Redford as Nathan Muir to Brad Pitt as Tom Bishop in Spy Game, 2001

“During the drive, Andre told me about his divorce. I was surprised he'd been married, he was so young. He and his wife had split up, he said, over surfing of course. Chicks had to realize, he said, that when they married a surfer, they married surfing. They had to either adapt or split. ‘It's like if you or I hooked up with a fanatical shopper,’ he said, ‘I mean a total fanatic. You'd have to accept that your entire life would be traveling around to malls, or really, more like waiting for malls to open.’ I could see how his marriage might have crashed.”

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan

“A friend once said, ‘You can't get so hung up on where you'd rather be that you forget to make the most of where you are.’ We got lost along the way, but we found each other, and we made a life. A beautiful life. Together."

Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane in Passengers, 2016

“Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“When you feel like quitting think about why you started.”


“Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“Tu Mu closes with a note of warning: ‘Just as water, which carries a boat from bank to bank, may also be the means of sinking it, so reliance on spies, while production of great results, is oft-times the cause of utter destruction.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life."

"Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“So no matter what — your nose bleeds, it's that time of the month, the kids are cry'n, you don't feel like it, your back hurts, you got aches and pains — it's still your mother fucking set. Let's get it done.”

CT Fletcher

“One day I was training with CT. I was about to pass out. He told me I pass out and it's still my set.”


“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas Edison

“It's not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it.”

C.S. Lewis

“Tu Mu quotes: ‘The skillful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man. For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“The link between a climber and success is the contact of his skin on the handholds and the rubber on the footholds. Between these things is a massively complicated process of confidence, a harmony of understanding, and a precision of timed movement.”

Stevie Haston

“There's a temptation for all of us to blame failures on factors outside our control — the enemy was ten feet tall, we weren't treated fairly, or it was an impossible task to begin with. There's also comfort in doubling down on proven processes regardless of their efficacy. Few of us are criticized if we faithfully do what has worked many times before. But feeling comfortable or dodging criticism should not be our measure of success. There's likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that's your mission.”

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
General Stanley A. McChrystal, U.S. Army, ret.

“For inspiration I would turn again and again to Lieutenant Jason C. Redman, a Navy SEAL who had been shot seven times and had undergone nearly two dozen surgeries. He had placed a hand drawn sign on the door to his room at Bethesda Naval Hospital. It read, ‘ATTENTION. To all who enter here: If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere. From: The Management.’”

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War
former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

“I'd assumed only famous surfers rode Waimea. But now I saw that local fathers rode it too. And in time perhaps their sons would as well. These people never appeared in mainland magazines. And there were many families like the Kalakakuis in Hawaii, multi-generational surfing families, Ohanas rich in talent and tradition, known only to one another.”

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan

“For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm's way that it is capable of striking a blow for victory.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

George Orwell

“To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an enemy drawn up in calm and confident array:—this is the art of studying circumstances.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“Ts'ao Kung has the note: ‘He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“It was one of the most memorable meetings during my tenure as Secretary [of Defense]. It was also the only encounter with a foreign leader in which I lost my cool . . . He [King Abdullah] went on and on about how the United States was seen as weak by governments in the region. The longer he talked, the angrier I got . . . I told him that what he considered ‘America's great weakness’, showing restraint, was actually great strength. Because we could crush any adversary. I told him that neither he nor anyone else should ever underestimate the strength and power of the United States. Those who had — Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union — were all now in the ashcan of history.”

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat . . . There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who ‘but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier’.”

Citizenship in a Republic
former president Theodore Roosevelt
speech delivered on April 23, 1910, at the Sorbonne in Paris

“Chang Yu says: ‘Humanity and justice are the principles on which to govern a state, but not an army; opportunism and flexibility, on the other hand, are military rather than civil virtues to assimilate the governing of an army.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place or something. Shit! I always do that. I always mess up some mundane detail.”

David Herman as Michael Bolton in Office Space, 1999

“Forget your lust for the rich man's gold;
All that you need is in your soul;
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try;
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man

“Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“It's a slow process, but quitting won't speed it up.”


“Yeah, well ya know, what's so funny is I thought the season was over and, ya know, things were calming down so I started taking some time off, and low and behold The Eddie comes around and, ya know, it's as massive as it gets. So ah, ya know, we train for, ah... life. Ya know, this is a way of life for me. And my training program is just for me to survive whatever happens, whatever's the next thing that comes my way.”

Makua Rothman

“I wore a helmet the other day. When I work with people I make them wear one. I check everybody's knot whether they want me to or not. The right tool for the job is sometimes just a question. ”

Stevie Haston

“For me, it's all about leadership. It's easy for armchair quarter backs and politicians not in power to simply say ‘you must do the right thing’. Figuring out what that ‘thing’ is can be only half the problem. Then you must decide if you are willing to pay the price for being right. One of the most essential factors for me was loyalty to the people I led. That loyalty was my moral compass. I could not operate any other way. I was strengthened by the knowledge that the loyalty worked both ways and time and again my fidelity to my people was repaid many fold by their incredible support for me. When you make difficult decisions you must do so with the hope, but not the expectation, that in the end your actions will be validated and vindicated. The easiest thing in the world is to make no tough decisions. I could have had a much more placid and profitable life in recent years if I had elected to make no tough choices. Those who ‘go along to get along’ rarely suffer negative consequences. After years of investigation and scrutiny I believe my actions are vindicated and, I must tell you, that judgement felt sweet. But there are no guarantees. A leader has choices to make. I chose to pursue hard measures. I have no regrets. I would do it all again because it was the right thing to do, vindicated or not.”

Hard Measures: How Agressive CIA Actions After 9-11 Saved American Lives
Jose A. Rodriguez

“Sun Tzu is represented as saying to Wu Yuan: ‘As a general rule, those who are waging war should get rid of all the domestic troubles before proceeding to attack the external foe.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“Chang Yu . . . says: ‘The axiom, that war is based on deception, does not apply only to deception of the enemy. You must deceive even your own soldiers. Make them follow you, but without letting them know why.’”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“I can't always be in the wild. Sometimes I have to be in places that smell of fear, fumes, and ambition. When I'm there it helps very much to know that badgers are asleep inside a Welsh hill, that an otter is turning over stones in one of the Rockford pools, that a fox is blinking in the same sun that makes me sweat in my tweed coat, that a red stag is cutting amongst ghost trees by a stone circle near Hoar Oak, and that there's a swift hatched above my Oxford study hunting almost beyond human sight in the high, hot blue over the Congo River. That these things should be a comfort is strange. They should taunt, not comfort. They should say, ‘you're not there—ha, ha, ha’. Why does that not happen? Well, I note that I get a similar sense of comfort only from being assured of the continued existence of things, and notably people, that, whatever love is, I love. Perhaps then, whatever love means, I love these creatures.”

Being a Beast
Charles Foster

“One morning in May, on the front page of The New York Times, there was a photograph of a soldier firing his rifle at Taliban attackers from the ramparts of Fire Base Restrepo in Afghanastan. An Associated Press photographer had captured Specialist Zachary Boyd defending his Fire Base dressed in helmet, body armor, flip flops, and pink boxer shorts with little red hearts in which were printed, ‘I Love New York’. I burst out laughing. Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip flops has a special kind of courage, I said publicly. What an incredible innovation in psychological warfare. I loved that picture so much that an enlargement hung on the wall outside my office for two years.”

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War
former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

“Look wide, and even when you think you are looking wide — look wider still.”

Robert Baden-Powell

“If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.”

The Art of War
Sun Tzu

“It is easy to be judged a success when luck runs with the fortunate son. But when adversity strikes, the true measure of a man percolates to the surface.”

Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan
Sean Parnell

“I would not expect to be able to sit with you in 12 months from now and tell you that we are at victory or near victory or even close to victory. What I would say is I would hope to be able to convince you we have an organization that is now focused and moving in the right direction with the right culture, so that you could then believe that this is the kind of effort that could be successful.”

My Share of the Task: A Memoir
General Stanley A. McChrystal, U.S. Army, ret.

“I don't want you pencil-neck mother fucker's to fuck yourselves up trying to do this shit.”

C.T. Fletcher

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one — one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”

Heraclitus

“All my life, man and boy, I've operated under the assumption that the main idea in running was to win the race. Naturally, when I became a coach I tried to teach people how to do that. Tried to teach Pre how to do that. Tried like hell to teach Pre to do that. And Pre taught me. Taught me I was wrong. Pre, you see, was troubled by knowing that a mediocre effort can win a race and a magnificent effort can lose one. Winning a race wouldn't necessarily demand that he give it everything he had from start to finish. He never ran any other way. I tried to get him to, God knows I tried... but... Pre was stubborn. He insisted on holding himself to a higher standard than victory. ‘A race is a work of art’; that's what he said, that's what he believed and he was out to make it one every step of the way.”

Donald Sutherland as Bill Bowerman in Without Limits, 1998

“When we walk into a wood we share its sensory outputs — light, color, smell, sound, and so on — with all the other creatures there. But would any of them recognize our description of the wood? Every organism creates a different world in its brain. It lives in that world. We are surrounded by millions of different worlds.”

Being a Beast
Charles Foster