Leading Thoughts
reality leadership
Reality Thinking

From Euripides to Bennis, we have collected a selection of thoughts about reality, exposing it and acting on that reality. They will help you to think differently about your reality.

If you come across some other great quotes about reality thinking, let us know about them.


Thomas Huxley
A Liberal Education
The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe; the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.

Nothing is as frightening as ignorance in action.

Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, xii
The best way to come to truth [is] to examine things as really they are, and not to conclude they are as we fancy of ourselves, or have been taught by others to imagine.

Pearl Bailey
You never find yourself until you face the truth.

General Colin Powell
Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so just because you might not like what you find. Untidy truth is better than smooth lies that unravel in the end anyway.

Winston Churchill
It is no use dealing with illusions and make-believes. We must look at the facts. The world ... is too dangerous for anyone to be able to afford to nurse illusions. We must look at realities.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.

Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
In its most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it. Most companies don't face reality very well. ... Realism is the heart of execution, but many organizations are full of people who are trying to avoid or shade reality. Why? It makes life uncomfortable.

Alfred North Whitehead
In this modern world, the celibacy of the medieval learned class has been replaced by a celibacy of the intellect which is divorced from the concrete contemplation of the complete facts.

Hippolytus (Theseus)
O men who vainly err in so many ways, why do you teach so many thousands of skills and devise and discover so many things when you have not yet learned or even tried to learn to teach the ignorant to use their brains.

Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote to Sancho Panza
This that appears to you as a barber's basin is for me Mambrino's helmet, and something else again to another person.

Warren Bennis
Why Leaders Can't Lead
If America has any point at all now, and I am by no means convinced that it does, it is to avoid reality. It is as if the entire nation had decided to stop facing facts.

Philip K. Dick
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Philip K. Dick
Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems—but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.

Tom Clancy
The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.

Dio Chrysostom
(ca AD40 - AD112)
I know that it is difficult to teach people but that it is easy to deceive them. They learn with difficulty, and even when they do learn something from the few that know what they are talking about, they are deceived even more quickly by those who do not know what they are talking about. And they are deceived not only by others but even by themselves. For the truth is bitter and unpleasant to people who do not think, while things that are not true are sweet and attractive. One might draw an analogy to people who have sore eyes: when one's eyes are sore, it is painful to look at the light and it is comfortable to look into the darkness even though one can't see very much.... Now, as I have said, it is difficult for people to learn. But it is even more difficult for people to change their beliefs, especially when they have been hearing nonsense for a long time.... It is not easy to alter their opinions, regardless of how many arguments you have to prove their error.

Byron Katie
When you argue with reality, you lose—but only 100% of the time.

Jack Welch
Former CEO General Electric
The art of managing and leading comes down to a simple thing. Determining and facing reality about people, situations, products, and then acting decisively and quickly on that reality. Think how many times we have procrastinated, hoped it would get better. Most of the mistakes you've made have been through not being willing to face into it, straight in the mirror that reality you find, then taking action on it. That's all managing is, defining and acting. Not hoping, not waiting fro the next plan. Not rethinking it. Getting on with it. Doing it. Defining and doing it.

It does no good for sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism when the wolves think otherwise.

Winston Churchill
The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may destroy it, but there it is.

Andy Stanley
The Next Generation Leader

Designing and implementing a strategy for change is a waste of time until you have discovered and embraced the current reality. If you don't know where you really are, it is impossible to get where you need to be.

Michel de Montaigne
Book I, Essay xxvii

It is a human tendency "to measure truth and error by our capacity."

Michel de Montaigne
Book I, Essay xxvii
It is perhaps not without reason that we consider credulity and the readiness to be persuaded to be signs of simplicity and ignorance. For I was once taught, I think, that belief is like an impression made upon the mind and that the softer and less resistant the mind, the easier it is to impress something upon it. 'As the scale of the balance must necessarily sink when weights are placed upon it, so the mind must yield to clear proof.' The emptier a mind is, and the less counterpoise it has, the more easily it sinks under the weight of the first argument. That is why children, the common people, women, and the sick are particularly apt to be led by the ears. But then, on the other hand, it is a stupid presumption to go about despising and condemning as false anything that seems improbable; this is a common fault in those who think they have more intelligence than the crowd.

The clever reader who is capable or reading between these lines what does not stand written in them but is nevertheless implied will be able to form some conception.

Mark Twain
The Mysterious Stranger, Chapter IX
I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful are right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves.

Ned Herrmann

Most of us assume we are seeing the world the way it really is.

Tristram Shandy, IV, xxvii

How finely we argue upon mistaken facts!

Barbara Tuchman
The March of Folly
"Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkable role in individuals. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts. It is epitomized in a historians statement about Phillip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns: 'No experience of the failure of the policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.'"

Murphy's Third Law
Nothing is ever so simple as it first seems.

John F. Kennedy
Speech at Yale University
As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality. For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Mythology distracts us everywhere.

Thomas Huxley
Science and Culture, ix
Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.

Henry Adams
The Education of Henry Adams, xxxi
No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.

Elliot Aronson
The Social Animal
Chapter V
It is possible to achieve mastery of a problem or a skill without hurting another person or even without attempting to conquer.

Don Juan, XII, xl
But now I'm going to be immoral; now
   I mean to show things really as they are,
Not as they ought to be; for I avow,
   That till we see what's what in fact, we're far
From much improvement with that virtuous plough
   Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
Upon the black loam long manured by Vice
   Only to keep its corn at the old price.

Pope, An Essay on Man, II, 1-18
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

John D. Rockefeller
Random Reminiscences of Men and Events

Be sure that you are not deceiving yourself at any time about actual conditions.

Anaïs Nin

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

Anaïs Nin

There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

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