One major employer of my youth provided a ‘My Plan’ diary each year – a rather nice, leather-bound one – in which you could keep track of your appointments, meetings and generally important aspects of your work life. Each day had its quotation to inspire your activity, such as ‘Rifleshot, not buckshot‘, or ‘By the inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it’s hard’. These ought to be self-explanatory, and in the context of inspiring useful activity, they have their place.

What effect these everyday words of wisdom had on me in my tender 20s, is difficult to say, but what I can admit to, is a dip in my personal successes and fortunes at one particular point, leading me to wonder if I was cut out for what I was doing. And then, there was a company restructuring, and our sales operation in Sheffield came under the management of someone based in Leicester – someone who was universally admired for getting the best out of his staff. Perhaps there was some light….

At the first general meeting he took, he kept his words to a minimum (brownie point for that), but one thing he said then, stuck with me throughout my business career, and my life in general. 1975/76 was a time when Britain was on its knees with social conflict, economic decline, the 3-day week etc, which conversely meant that businesses were looking to save money by being more efficient, which is where my company’s products came in. This man named Ken stood there and said ‘If ever there was a year to shine, this is it.’

On the face of it, and taking into account the situation in the country at that time, this could be called crass or over-optimistic. But actually, it was a stroke of genius, as whilst it was said in public forum to c100 people, I certainly felt that he was talking to me on my own. And I thought ‘why not? – why shouldn’t I shine’. And if I put the rifleshot and inch techniques in there too, perhaps this is how to do it. It was a small thing to say, but real inspiring leadership in my book – and I then proceeded to have my best year with that company to the huge satisfaction of all. And I still look back and tell myself that this is where it all started, where I knew that no-one else could do it for me – it was down to me to get out there and make a name for myself.

There are many other quotes, proverbs and truisms that have stuck with me over the years – I just wish I could have come up with some of them myself, but I feel that I should share a few with you, to inspire and to amuse. The first ones especially, can be applied to many facets of life.

There are risks and costs to any programme of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. J F Kennedy

I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. Cyrus S. Ching (American industrialist)

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. AndrĂ© Gide

Little wit in the head makes much work for the feet. Anon

Success is that old A-B-C – Ability, Breaks and Courage Charles Luckman

Sleep, riches and health, to be truly enjoyed, must be interrupted Jean Paul Richter

Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great. Nicolo Machiavelli


I wish I’d been there when you were alive, Daddy. One of my daughters when young, looking at photos of me when I was the same age as her

I used to think I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure. A comedian

You’ve been cursed with people’s high expectations. It means also they are easily disappointed. Vaclav Havel on Barak Obama

Naked ambition tempered by arrogance. Another doctor describing Benton on the TV series ER

Don’t worry, a couple of days on your feet and we’ll have you back in bed in no time. Joan Collin’s doctor when she fell ill

The sort of guy who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if you put the instructions on the sole. Garrison Keillor story subject

The Green Belt is a great achievement, and the Government are going to build on it. John Prescott

How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. Shakespeare from Merchant of Venice

…the easy confidence of someone who’s never been pressed too hard by life. Obama on David Cameron

A film you shouldn’t attempt to watch unless you’ve seen it at least once. Roger Ebert on Synecdoche

In my book, such good news calls for another slice of Madeira Cake. Nurse Crane on TV’s Call the Midwife

We got our exercise lowering coffins out of upstairs windows….It was clogs, clogs on cobbles. You could hardly hear yourself coughing up blood. Victoria Wood reminiscing about the old days

An expression somewhere between winsome despair and trapped wind. Anon

Keep your face always toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. Walt Whitman

Being happy, smiling a lot, red wine and keeping fit with yoga. Recipe for a happy life from Eileen Ash, former England cricketer who died in 2021, aged 110