What Lies Behind Us and What LiesBefore Us are Tiny Matters Comparedto What Lies Within UsPosted on January 11, 2011 Albert Jay Nock?Ralph Waldo Emerson? Oliver Wendell Holmes? Henry David Thoreau? Henry StanleyHaskins? William Morrow? Expelled Wall Street Stock Trader?Dear Quote Investigator: I attended a graduation ceremony last year and was genuinelyimpressed by a quotation used in the keynote address:What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.The speaker credited Ralph Waldo Emerson and that sounded plausible to me, but when Isearched on the internet to find a specific reference I was surprised to discover substantialdisagreement. Some websites do attribute the words to Emerson, but other websites favor OliverWendell Holmes, Jr., and yet others credit Henry David Thoreau. Also, I found the wordingvaries somewhat. Not one of the attributions has a strong justification. Too many websites simplycopy information from other repositories of unconfirmed data. Could you overcome thisconfusion?Quote Investigator: This popular motivational saying has been ascribed to a diverse collection ofindividuals, and QI will be glad to examine it for you. Top expert Ralph Keyes wrote in theQuote Verifier [QVLB]:This quotation is especially beloved by coaches, valedictorians, eulogists, and Oprah Winfrey. Itusually gets attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. No evidence can be found that Emerson said orwrote these words.The earliest appearance of this adage located by QI is in a book titled “Meditations in WallStreet” that was produced in 1940 by the publishing house William Morrow & Company with anintroduction by economics writer Albert Jay Nock. The word “before” is used instead of “ahead”in this initial saying:What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.When the book was originally released the name of the author was kept a mystery although thewordsmith was described as a Wall Street financier. However, that did not prevent eager
quotation propagators from fabricating attributions. The maxim has been assigned to theintroduction writer, Nock, and it has even been credited to the head of the publishing house,William Morrow.In 1947 the New York Times printed the author’s identity: Henry S. Haskins, a man with acolorful and controversial background as a securities trader. QI believes that Haskins originatedthis popular saying which has in modern times been reassigned to more famous individuals. Hereare selected citations in chronological order.In 1910 the New York Times reported in a front page story that a disciplinary action was takenagainst the Wall Street trader Henry Stanley Haskins. The firm Lathrop, Haskins & Co. had failedand a committee report blamed “reckless and unbusinesslike dealing” on the part of Haskins.Understandably, Haskins disagreed and stated that he was being unjustly treated. His defendersclaimed that he was a scapegoat [NYHH]:The Governing Committee of the Stock Exchange, at a special meeting yesterday, took actionwhich practically amounts to the expulsion from the Exchange of Henry Stanley Haskins, thefloor member of Lathrop, Haskins Co., leaders in the Hocking pool, which collapsed on Jan. 19.In 1940 a book containing the adage under investigation was published and a short review in thefinancial magazine Barron’s commented about its unknown author and its compelling aphoristiccontent [BMWS]:One of the most popular guessing games current in downtown New York is finding an answer tothe question, “Who wrote „Meditations in Wall Street‟?” So far there‟s no authoritative answer,but this little book deserves reading in any case. It is not just about the Street—in fact, very littleof it is devoted to affairs of finance. It is the philosophy of a successful business man andfinancier—or so it‟s stated in the extremely laudatory preface by Mr. Nock—expressed inaphorisms.Later in March 1940 a reviewer on the opposite coast of the United States in Los Angeles alsocommented about the mysterious author [LTWS]:Titled “Meditations in Wall Street,” this book just published by William Morrow & Co., NewYork, and reputedly written by an important financier of old New England stock, presents theanomaly of being written in Wall Street by a Wall Street man with nothing in it that deals withWall Street.No market theories or advice on how to get rich but only pungent and philosophical aphorismson various phases of life are served the reader.Later still in March 1940 the book received a very positive notice in the New York Times. Thereviewer clearly thought the maxim was original and interesting because he or she reprinted it andremarked on it [NYWS]:It is a book of meditations on life and humanity and the individual, and if they are terse and pithythey are also farseeing and wise. The author‟s name is not known to the publishers; Albert JayNock has “heard him spoken of vaguely as „a Wall-Streeter,‟” but the precise nature of hisoccupation even he does not know. …
With all the philosopher‟s play of wit and diversity he never weakens his major emphasis: “Whatlies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Or, asquoted by Mr. Nock in the foreword, “It is the brain which does the thinking, not the thought; it isthe soul which moves us forward, not ourself.”In May 1940 the Los Angeles Times incorrectly speculated about the author of “Meditations inWall Street”. In a caption beneath a caricature of Albert J. Nock (image shown above) the paperpresented a guess about authorship [LAJN]:ALBERT JAY NOCK — Is believed to be the author of “Meditations in Wall Street” (Morrow.)By 1947 the New York Times had identified the author of the book. Thus when the newspaperreprinted an aphorism from the volume it was attributed to Henry S. Haskins [NYHH]:Glory lies in the estimation of lookers-on. When lookers-on perish as countless generations havedone, glory perishes, as countless glories have done.Henry S. Haskins in “Meditations in Wall Street.” (William Morrow & Co.)In 1950 the Chicago Tribune concurred with the New York Times, and attributed adages in thebook to Haskins [CTHH]:“With some whose nerves have a deep covering of fat, happiness is less of a problem that it is anaccident of anatomy.”Henry S. Haskins: Meditations in Wall StreetIn 1974 Forbes magazine credited the adage being researched to William Morrow the founder ofthe company that published “Meditations in Wall Street”. For many years every issue of Forbescontained a page titled “Thoughts on the Business of Life” that presented a collection ofquotations. The words of Haskins credited to Morrow appeared on this page in the February issueof 1974 [FWM].In 1980 the President of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona attributed the saying toRalph Waldo Emerson [CSP]:Cal Poly president Hugh La Bounty said at the awards banquet that some lines from RalphWaldo Emerson best summed up the Scolinos philosophy and the team performance thatexemplified it:“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”The Library of Congress Online Catalog lists Henry Stanley Haskins as the author of Meditationsin Wall Street and it also notes that originally the author was anonymous.
In 1989 the bestselling book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” included thequotation and attributed it to Oliver Wendell Holmes. The author did not specify whether Jr. orSr. was supposed to be responsible for the maxim [SOWH].By the 1990s a modified and extended version of the saying was being attributed to Thoreau in abook offering spiritual guidance and numerology [LBL]:What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lieswithin us.”That’s what my Starbucks cup said.Ralph Waldo Emerson and I were never all that close, so I can’t say for sure, but if I hadto guess, I don’t think he wrote that quote so it could be printed on a multi-billion dollarcompany’s disposable cup to promote their “community oriented” philosophy.I mean, that’s just not what transcendentalism was about.But social-marketing agendas aside, Starbucks picked a winner with this motivationalsaying. Within this quote, Emerson identifies the key to any form of personal success orhealing: the human spirit. I believe that an inner willpower and positive spirit is essentialto all accomplishments. Simple slogans of motivation, like those found on our coffeecups and Pinterest boards have the power to get us out of bed and through the day, butwe often forget how endless the potential of the human spirit truly is.Consider a timeless example of physical domination; Muhammad Ali and GeorgeForman’s legendary 1974 boxing match. Prior to this fight, Ali had been suspended fromboxing for over three years, and upon return, lost crucial matches. Forman was pickedas an overwhelming favorite against Ali, and almost no one gave the former boxingchamp a chance at regaining his title. However, in the months prior to the match Ali letall of his critics know what exactly Forman was up against. At a press-conference, Alidelivered a rousing speech claiming that he had “wrestled with an alligator, tussled witha whale, handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail...murdered a rock, injured a stone,hospitalized a brick, made medicine sick,” and that George Forman “was in trouble”. Aliclosed the press conference by stating that “all you chumps are gonna bow when I whuphim [Forman],” and testified that “Imma show you how great I am!” After eightcaptivating rounds displaying Ali’s tactical genius and unwavering determination, Aliregained his title against a younger and stronger George Forman.From this point on, and forever forward, Muhammad Ali was known as “The Greatest”.Ali’s past was filled with defeat and setbacks and before him stood a boxing legend farstronger than he was, but within Ali was a willpower and determination greater thaneverything standing in his way. His triumph over his past, his critics, and his obstacleswasn’t done with fancy footwork and punching combos, but with an indomitable will.Willpower is every bit as crucial to success as muscle and agility. Willpower is theundeniable force that sets our skills and talents into action.Inner beliefs and motivations not only hold the potential to overcome external
opponents, but internal challenges as well. The metaphysical conditions of individualssuffering from an illness or injury have often been found to be just as vital to theirsurvival as their physical conditions. The results of a recent clinical study at DukeUniversity found that individuals who attend religious services on a regular basis weremore likely to have better immune function. In another study of 232 older adultsundergoing heart surgery, results showed that “Those who were religious were 3 timesless likely to die within the 6 months after surgery than those who were not. Not one ofthe 37 people in this study who described themselves as deeply religious died.” Anadditional study of AIDS patients showed that “those who had faith in God, compassiontoward others, a sense of inner peace, and were religious had a better chance ofsurviving for a long time than those who did not live with such belief systems”. Thestrength within a patient can often be what saves their life. To quote Marcie Calandra,Director of Nursing at Hinsdale Hospital, “Medicine only goes so far, and then comesspirit. There comes a time when doctors have done all they can, and the patients whosurvive are the ones that believe they can.” Survival would be impossible without avigorous and unconquerable willpower. Our inner spirit, whether rooted in religion or aninner will, is what drives and motivates us to push forward and regain strength when ourbodies turn against us. The appropriate mental attitude has the ability to conquer thedeadliest of diseases or the most fatal of injuries. Nothing can hold us back from healingand success.There are truly amazing forces within us, which we would be powerless without. Success,whether mental, physical, or emotional, cannot be attained without a fitting mindset.Our willpower and spirit allow us to make triumphs greater than what we first imaginedpossible. The inspirational quotes and metaphors that decorate our coffee mugs anddesk calendars aren’t only reminders that we can make it through the day, butinvitations to achieve all that we can. Within us lies unlimited potential and capability. Itis up to us as individuals, to put down our coffee cups, and make something of our gift.I think that’s more what of Emerson was getting at.