Today’s post is about a motivational quote that is often misattributed to Andrew Carnegie. Follow along to learn who really wrote it as well as who is spreading this false information.
The Misattributed and Misworded Quote
✘“Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”
The Correct Quote
✓Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious year lies before you! In a year you can regain health, fortune, restfulness, happiness!
Push on! Achieve, achieve!
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“Let the Past Go”
The Heart of the New Thought (1902)
Here is the quote found in The Heart of the New Thought.
Here is the title page showing Ella Wheeler Wilcox is the author.
Here is the table of contents.
Note: Andrew Carnegie authored several books, and this quote does not appear in any of them.
After surveying 100 websites featuring today’s misquote, I found the following trends.
Percentage Type of Website
36% Quotes only
18% Corporation/corporate individual
16% Quotes a major feature
12% Social media
3% Online app or service
1% Quotes paraphernalia
Quote Websites Are the Main Source of Today’s Misquote
The above statistics indicate that websites with the sole purpose of providing quotes are the largest group propagating today’s misquote. If we combine them (36%) with the websites that provide quotes as a major part of their functionality (16%), we find that 52 percent of the websites perpetuating this misinformation are major quote repositories. As I’ve written before, the vast majority of administrators for quote websites do not fact-check the data they are providing. And because these sites specialize in quotes only, most people assume they are the best resource for quotes. In reality they are the worst resource for quotes.
Quote Websites Are Rewriting History
The popularity of quote websites has created a plague of misquotes, and sadly, academia has become infected. History is now being rewritten because misquotes are actually being taught in our educational institutions. For example, my 12/31/15 post No, Clara Barton did not write that is about a misquote that is featured in most contemporary nursing textbooks as well as on nursing school websites. Students are being taught that Clara Barton wrote something that was actually written by someone else. My 03/31/16 post No, Margaret Fuller did not write that is about a quote by Thomas Fuller that is attributed to Margaret Fuller on websites of prominent universities. This misquote even appears in a thesis found online for a Master of Arts in English. The subject of this thesis is actually Margaret Fuller. Go figure! My 11/30/15 post No, Leonardo da Vinci did not write that is about a quote by Thomas Paine that is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci on a website created by K–12 principals and school administrators. One can only wonder what other parts of history are being rewritten.
Possible Cause of Misattribution
This misquote appears as early as 1906 in A Conspectus of American Biography Being an Analytical Summary of American History and Biography (James T. White & Company, 1906) compiled by George Derby. It also appears in Character Lessons in American Biography for Public Schools and Home Instruction, fifth edition (The Character Development League, 1909) by James Terry White. The common denominator is James Terry White, and yes, these two instances of James T. White are one and the same. I cannot say with certainty that he is the originator of this misquote, but he definitely contributed to it.
Modern Books Are Another Source of Misquotes
During my research, I came across 18 books featuring today’s misquote. All were published in the 2000s. Six of them are quote books. As I’ve written before, the vast majority of quote books published after the inception of the internet are riddled with misinformation. Unfortunately, contemporary authors use quote websites as a resource for their quotes, and consequently, their books are about as reliable as quote websites.
Do Not Trust a Quote with the Author’s Name Only
The one thing that most quote websites and modern quote books have in common is that neither provides source data with each quote. Typically, the quoted person’s name is the only information given. This is a red flag indicating the quote was probably not verified. The attribution should also include the title of the work in which the quote is found along with applicable information such as chapter, act, scene, line, stanza, etc.
As usual, today’s misquote is available for purchase. For $24.62 you can have your own 24″ x 36″ misquote poster. Now that’s a steal!
Let’s Kill the Quote Virus Together
There’s no vaccine for the quote virus, so the only way to combat it is through education. You can help by sharing the knowledge, especially with a teacher or professor. Forward this post to family and friends, and if you’re on Facebook, “like” my Facebook fan page. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me @SueBrewton.
Until next time,
“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”