Wellbeing

These 5 Famous Authors Give The Perfect Life Advice

We’ve rounded up some poignant and powerful quotes from these five famous authors, the kind that can inspire you in every aspect of your life.

Authors have a mandate to think deeply about life and articulate their experiences (and the learnings from them). When you’re reading their books, you’re reading their conclusions; their thoughts and ideas about our existence.

It’s no surprise, then, that authors tend to have some of the most inspirational ideas around. Here are some brain-exploders that will remedy whatever ails you:

Cheryl Strayed

“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life.”

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Image: CherylStrayed.com

Cheryl Strayed is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Wild, the New York Times bestsellers, Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough, and the novel Torch. She also wrote the much-loved advice column ‘Dear Sugar’ for The Rumpus, from which this quote comes.

This quote resonates deeply – we’re constantly bombarded with opaque measures of achievement to gauge our career success. Are we earning enough money? Are we winning prizes or awards? Do we have a huge social following? Are we happy? Strayed reminds us that it’s all a moot point if we aren’t living our actual lives successfully.

And there’s so many ways that a life can be successful; having a career is just one part of the larger picture.


Kurt Vonnegut

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in New York City in 1979. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal)

Via writinguniversity.org Image: Marty Reichenthal

The late Kurt Vonnegut was a prolific author of funny (and sad) books. He was a veteran of WW2, and survived the firebombing of Dresden by the Allied forces, giving him a rare outlook on humanity that was forged by tragedy. What’s inspiring about him is that his message is ultimately hopeful – he has been through some of the worst acts that humanity is capable of, but was still able to believe in the basic goodness of humanity.

This quote is from his collection of speeches and essays A Man Without a Country and is a paraphrase from his Uncle Alex, who would periodically pipe up in a moment of domestic happiness and say ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is’. This is the wise old-coot of ‘YOLO’, a gentle and beautifully written plea to sit back and enjoy a moment.

So often YOLO is used to justify clearly regrettable actions, dropping lots of cash on frivolous things or making rash decisions. This is about sitting back and enjoying the little things in life, because they’re just as powerful.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity… When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

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Photo by Chris Boland

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist and short story writer, well known for being heavily sampled in Beyonce’s song ‘Flawless’. Her TED speech ‘The Danger Of A Single Story’ is incredibly powerful, and the excerpted quote a good example of why.

Chimamanda is basically telling us to look again at any situation, and realise there’s not just one perspective, one point of view or one explanation. She uses examples from her own life, both funny and sorrowful, to flesh this out. The way she describes how stories can also empower, rather than simply break people down into stereotypes is inspiring. It makes you think about your own story, and how to recreate your own version of it.


Amy Poehler

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it… Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that – that is what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”

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Amy Poehler is a comedian, actress and the author of Yes Please. She’s probably best known as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, and has also been cast on Saturday Night Live. Yes Please is named after two things – her improv training which has taught her to say ‘yes’ to things, and her gratefulness to be offered opportunities.

The book is a memoir, tracking her time training at the famous improv school Second City, to Saturday Night Live and beyond. It’s also an incredibly inspirational book, as she takes the time to dish out all sorts of advice and insight.

Amy has us pondering whether taking a risk is really so risky. It’s something I try to remember; jumping in and just doing something, even if I feel unprepared. It’s easy to feel daunted by opportunities, but this quote reminds you that you need to grab them with both hands.

For extra Amy Poehler points, watch this inspiring speech:


Margaret Atwood

“I see that there will be no end to imperfection, or to doing things the wrong way. Even if you grow up, no matter how hard you scrub, whatever you do, there will always be some other stain or spot on your face or stupid act, somebody frowning.” 

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Photo by Chris Boland

It is impossible to please everyone. Margaret Atwood, a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist, wants that sentiment to sink in. She writes amazing speculative fiction novels which are often grim views of the way the world might end up.

But this quote isn’t so grim as it is insightful and soberingly realistic. It’s from her novel Cat’s Eye, which is, amongst other things, a story of childhood bullying. Acknowledging perfection as an unrealistic desire – a harmful utopian idea that causes us personal anxiety and discontent – is liberating.

Once you acknowledge that striving for complete and utter perfection is impossible, you will be freer and happier in the long run. Why waste energy fighting for something unattainable?


Patrick Lenton is a writer and digital marketer. He runs Town Crier, a social media and marketing consultancy for authors.