Little Box of Quotes

All the quotes

Craig Constantine

You can jump to a random quote. That link targets a new window in case you want to bang on it a few times. ;)

All the quotes are here on my web site, tagged Quotes. If you want to page through them. (But following the tags on a particular quote might be more interesting?)

Finally, there is a small collection of posts about the quotes and how I collect them, tagged Little Box of Quotes.

Weekly email

If you simply love quotes, my ever-growing collection figures prominently in my weekly email. It comes out on Sundays and contains my reflections on interesting things I find laying about mixed with a selection of quotes worth pondering. There are no hooks, no affiliate links, and no guest posts— Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up:

Podcast

The quotes are also published as bite-sized podcasts. Search for Little Box of Quotes wherever you normally listen. You can also play them in your web browser directly from Simplecast.

Deep dive into books

Today I thought I’d share a thorough explanation of what I do “to” a book these days. This process—which to be honest I don’t follow for every book I read—is the result of combining a few different ideas:

  • I love the physicality of books. The typography, the paper, writing in them, desultory bookmarks, (I add my own ribbon bookmarks,) and numerous sticky-notes poking out the side.
  • I love the peaceful, inertness of books. They literally sit there and do nothing. There are no alerts, and no interaction, (from anyone beyond the author’s original magic spell.)
  • I’ve always wanted to retain more of the knowledge from a book once I’ve read it.
  • I’ve wanted to be free of my self-imposed rule of reading every page.
  • These days I have a slipbox, and I want it to grow.
  • I love to collect quotes.
  • I’ve always wanted a set of crib notes, summary, or something that I could lay hand on after reading a book.

Arrival

Fortunately, books arrive slowly. It took practice, but I learned to do all of the following in a minute or two.

If it’s a new book, I take a few moments to prepare the spine. (Please tell me you know how to do that.) I affix a small, white, circular label on the spine, and I slap a sticky-note on the first face opposite the cover.

I skip over to librarything.com and find the book in “Your Books”—my books, that is. Most arriving books are coming in after already being in my “wishlist” collection; They get moved to the “library” collection. Otherwise they get searched for and added to my collection. Books get tagged as “physical,” (as opposed to those tagged “PDF,” “iBooks”, or “Kindle,” because, yeup, I track those too.) I see what MDS number Library Thing says the librarians of the world have chosen.

On the sticky-note, I write “LT”, (for “this book is entered into Library Thing,) and the MDS number. I write the main, three-digit part of the MDS number on the label on the spine.

Finally, I skip over to bookmooch.com and remove it from my Wishlist over there to ensure I don’t forget about it. (Lest I accidentally “spend” my Book Mooch points requesting a book I now have.) If this is a book that someone sent me because of Book Mooch, I hit the “Received!” button instead.

This book is now “ours.” And some amazing things are now possible just by having spent a couple minutes on each book as it arrives. (Please ignore the entire week I spent bootstrapping ~500 books when I started doing all this. :)

  • Physical bookstores are fun again! What books are on my wishlist? (500+ at the moment) …okay, what wishlist books are tagged, “priority”? (about 250 — yes I have a problem.) Picking up a book… “this looks interesting…” Do I already have it in the house, maybe now is the time to buy it? Did I once have it, and it’s no longer in our collection, (part of my collections in Library Thing is “had but gone now”)?
  • Long-term storage of books doesn’t mean they are lost. A big portion of the books in our house are here because we want to keep them. They sit for years untouched. Those are shelved by MDS number. Ask me for a book, and I can walk directly to it; It’s either laying about somewhere and top of mind, or it’s shelved where it can be found immediately.
  • This is morbid, but if the house burned down I could decide what books to replace.

Books are for reading

Well, technically, one can also build a thing called an anti-library. But eventually, hopefully, or at least this is what I keep telling myself: I start reading the book.

I do tend to read the entire book. But generally I read the table of contents first to see what I’m getting into. If I think the book is going to be a really deep read—something I want to read more than once, refer to, and really ingest—I probably read the Afterword first. The Afterword was written dead-last, after the book was done and the author is a different person at that point. Then maybe the Foreword, or some books have a Summary, or a Preface, whatever.

I’ve no qualms about skipping parts. For example, in books like Trust Yourself by M Wilding I skipped all the anecdotes and skipped all the workbook/exercises stuff. I ended up reading only about one-third of all of the pages. (Still, a good book by the way.)

As I’m reading, if anything quotable jumps out, I’ll capture that on the spot. This leads to me making some marks, allocating a slipbox slip address, and I’ll leave a small post-it sticking out the side. I’ve never met a book worth reading that didn’t have at least one quotable bit awaiting me within.

Slipbox

As soon as the first slip gets created from the book, that slip needs to refer to the book. That means the book itself needs to be in the slipbox. Apparently, I always wanted to be a librarian.

And now I can leave a “(2tu1)” reference on the quote’s slip.

So that’s a bit of detour, but it really only takes me about a minute. You’ll notice—first photo at top—that the sticky-note for this example book has a slipbox reference, “(2tu1)”—the parens mean “this is a reference”. I didn’t put that on the sticky-note when the book arrived. That was added when I put the book into the slipbox by creating slip “2tu1”.

But mostly, I’m just reading the book.

Identify summarizing bits

One day, I’m finished reading.

I find that even if it took me months to finish, the book’s contents remain pretty fresh in my mind. I flip through the book cover-to-cover, just skimming and noticing what I recall from reading. When I see a good, representative bit, I simply stick in a blank card at those spots. This lets me gauge how many slips my “summary” will be; Two is too few, and 20 might be too many.

Each spot has some key point that I want to include in my summary. I don’t write anything at this point. The goal is just to stick the cards into all the places that I want to include in my summary.

(I once tried using a printed template whose layout facilitated taking brief notes and had pre-printed page numbers. Folded, it doubled as a bookmark so I could build some notes as I read. When an idea leapt out, I’d find the page number on the sheet and jot a note. It was a neat idea, but didn’t work out for me.)

Summarization

Finally, I go through all the spots I’ve identified and I do a little underlining. I jot the basics of the idea on a slip and address it. So for this example book, whose slip is addressed “2tu1”, this first of the summary slips goes “below” as “2tu1a.” Next summary slip would be, “2tu1b”, “2tu1c” etc.

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Escalation

It’s fine if you didn’t, but last week you may have noticed this weekly missive put on a few extra pounds. (I just love the word, “missive,” don’t you?) This week’s missive is similarly embiggened. And for the foreseeable future, you can expect about 42.9% more puzzlement. What, pray tell, has happened?

Here’s how much care I put into this . . .

I write, and schedule, the it’s-just-a-quote posts as I find new quotes. At this moment, there are a few—202 to be specific—lined up in the wings awaiting their day in the sun. I had been scheduling them every third day. But you nimble-mathing people will realize that means I was scheduling them nearly two years out. (Relax. WordPress makes it easy to do.)

Worse, because I feed the quotes to my Little Box of Quotes podcast-turned-Little_Shop_of_Horrors-monster, I must accumulate at least one new quote every day, (on average.) Not only are the quotes stuck, like an epic fat-berg, in the pipeline of my blog, that ‘berg is quickly growing. What to do?

Well, I really don’t want to turn my blog into a quote-a-day web site. That’s the only real way to fix the pile-up. Instead, I rescheduled them to be every-other-day. (Relax. WordPress doesn’t make it easy, but I’m cuckoo, and fast.) I already felt that I was cheating 33.3% by only writing two blog posts between every-third-day’s quote— But there was no way I could bear to only write a blog post every-other-day. (Don’t misread that as: I couldn’t bear to cheat that much. No, the posts come out of my head faster than that, and I couldn’t bear to ignore them.) Which brings me to…

I’m going back to writing a blog post for every day, and you’re getting 3 or 4 quotes each week. Thus the jump from a regimented 7 items per week to an embiggened 10 or 11 items per week.

So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

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Not so little anymore

Recently my “little” box of quotes outgrew its original little box. The collection now exceeds 600 cards and continues to grow at an accelerating pace.

…and it has expanded conceptually far beyond simply being a box on my desk. The Little Box of Quotes podcast has surpassed a year of daily episodes. A precious 10 or so of the quotes were the original seeds for what became my personal sequence of daily reminders for reflection. My personal sequence then inspired my series on Practicing Reflection which ran during the opening days of 2021.

I’m curious to see where I’ll be with this in another 5 years.

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Not satisfied

Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live. Not satisfied to merely keep good watch over their own days, they annex every age to their own. All the harvest of the past is added to their store. Only an ingrate would fail to see that these great architects of venerable thoughts were born for us and have designed a way of life for us.

~ Seneca

slip:4a382.

That quote opens Holiday’s, The Daily Stoic, which I have been circling through for a few years. Fortunately, I didn’t try to study Philosophy too early in life; it took me a couple decades once I started trying to improve myself for me to be ready to really listen. I hope you are far ahead of me.

In recent months I’ve been spending more time reading. The more I read, the more quotes I find to share, and the quote backlog is currently at level, “ridiculous.” I was scheduling quotes for publication in December of 2022 and finally decided I better schedule them more frequently. I have so many quotes that earlier this year I kicked off a podcast with daily quotes; search for “Little Box of Quotes” wherever you listen to podcasts.

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On podcasting

The short version of this story is simply: I’m simply curious. I try things. I make mistakes. I ask questions.

My podcasting journey began with the Movers Mindset project, which grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. Started in 2015, at first it was just a web site that shared others’ writing. But as I travelled, I kept finding myself in cool conversations until one day someone said, “you should have recorded that. I’d listen to that podcast.” Excited, but with no clue how much work it would be, I kicked off the Movers Mindset podcast at the start of 2017. For the first dozen episodes I did far too much of the work myself, until I wised up and started finding a few incredible people to share my new passion.

By this point I was devouring anything I could about interviewing. I smashed through thousands of podcast episodes in the process of wondering, “how does everyone else do it?” Podcasts, books, online courses… Everywhere I turned I found something new to work on in my own journey.

In the fall of 2018 I had about 30 interviews published on the podcast. I was getting comfortable travelling by plane, train and automobile, being invited into people’s lives to capture the Movers Mindset interviews. I was invited to the North American Art of Retreat, a Parkour leadership retreat, in the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle. There I did a series of interviews with the event’s presenters and organizers, and handed those recordings off for Art of Retreat to create their own podcast.

When 2019 rolled around, on a whim, I jumped into an Akimbo course called The Podcast Fellowship. I wanted to search for unknown-unknowns, to rethink everything I had done so far, and much about the Movers Mindset podcast changed in this period. To my surprise, I was invited back to be part of a small group of alumni who assist the coaches for the 4th, (and then the 5th, and 6th) running of the course. It’s mind-bogglingly inspiring and energizing to hang out daily with hundreds of people who share your passion. I even tried to summarize the fun of it in The Journey.

Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset episode numbers kept climbing and I’ve been branching out to interview more challenging guests; challenging for me as I’m forced to converse and discuss topics I know less and less about, but which none the less intrigue me endlessly. In the fall of 2019, this time with help from some of the Movers Mindset team, I was invited back to Art of Retreat. There, we did a second series of interviews for Art of Retreat’s podcast. Today (circa 2020) I’ve done over 150 recorded interviews and conversations… and every time I find new things to explore and learn.

I have another fun podcast based on my ever-growing collection of quotes. You can search for “Little Box of Quotes” wherever you normally listen to podcasts, and the related posts here on my blog are tagged, as you might expect, Little Box of Quotes.

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The little box on my desk

(Part 56 of 74 in series, My Journey)

A long long time ago I began collecting inspirational quotes and aphorisms. I kept them on the first version of my web site, where they were displayed randomly. But as time went on, I realized I wanted them where I would see them. Eventually I copied the fledgeling collection onto 3×5 cards and put them in a small box. As I find new ones, I add cards.

I keep the box on my desk with one card showing — just wedged in so it stands up readable. I change the card randomly, whenever the urge strikes.

Countless times I’ve pulled another card and found it eerily appropriate to the challenges of the day.

Countless times I’ve returned to my desk and felt inspired upon rediscovering an old card’s whispered counsel.

Countless times, just as I was about to throw in the towel, I was saved by an echo from the little box on my desk.

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Things have grown since this was originally posted in 2016. The box is Not so little anymore, and has become a podcast at, https://littleboxofquotes.simplecast.com/. If you love quotes, the ever-growing collection figures prominently in my weekly email. Start here, or if you’re in a hurry simply subscribe: