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List of quotes

Some of my favorite quotes that stuck with me forever. Alphabetical, does not include song lyrics.


  • I’ve actually felt slightly uncomfortable at TED for the last two days, because there’s a lot of vision going on, right? And I am not a visionary. I do not have a five-year plan. I’m an engineer. And I think it’s really – I mean – I’m perfectly happy with all the people who are walking around and just staring at the clouds and looking at the stars and saying, “I want to go there.” But I’m looking at the ground, and I want to fix the pothole that’s right in front of me before I fall in. This is the kind of person I am. (Linus Torvalds)
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (George Orwell)
  • It is better to be technically elegant with a higher learning curve, than to be easy to use, and technically crap. (Aaron Griffin)
  • Measured simply by numbers of users, the current leaders [in almost any field] will be mostly mediocre. Look at Windows. (Paul Graham)
  • Perfect is the enemy of good enough.
  • Premature optimization is the root of all evil. (Donald Knuth)
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission. (Grace Hopper)
    (Editorial note: aimed at working in teams with pre-built trust. Does not apply to personal relationships.)
  • Nobody should start to undertake a large project. You start with a small trivial project, and you should never expect it to get large. (Linus Torvalds)
  • Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. (recounted by Dwight Eisenhower)
  • Practice energy management, not time management.
  • The most competent people, with weak processes, will screw up. (Chris Peterson)


  • If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, I wouldn’t say anything. (Eric Lander, paraphrased1)
  • I told him that he cannot see the future because there’s nothing there to see; it hasn’t been built, yet. The future is something that emerges as we build it, even as we are thrown into it. (Chris Peterson)
  • School is for underachievers.
  • Talk is cheap. Show me the code. (Linus Torvalds)
  • To me, it feels very empowering to say “I can improve, but I don’t want to.” (Ozy)
  • You only need other people to give you advice that surprises you. That’s why there are a lot of ski instructors and not many running instructors. (Paul Graham)


  • Ethics is informal politics. (own)
  • Everyone knows that death is inevitable; there’s absolutely no surprise about that. Yet it arrives as a surprise, because we spend most of our lives refusing to think about it. (Schneier on Security)
  • Everything before the word “but” is bullshit.
  • I don’t believe in zero-sum games. (Scott Alexander)
  • I don’t have time to hold grudges.
  • I think it’s really important to not have an opinion on things you don’t know much about. (Yi Sun)
  • People only exist when you need them.
  • The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you. (Paul Graham)
  • You all have a little bit of “I want to save the world” in you. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.


I suppose if we couldn't laugh at things that don't make sense, we couldn't react to a lot of life.

  1. From the USAMO 2021 awards ceremony. 

Updated Wed 1 May 2024, 04:15:55 UTC by 8b26af999811