Profiles in Greatness: Ralph Waldo Emerson



Ralph Waldo Emerson (

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)


Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was one of the most renowned philosopher-transcendentalist poets writers of the 19th century. He rallied against conformity and taught a new way of life through his many essays and lectures on Self-reliance and self-realisation. He became known as the central figure of his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists, who shared a key belief that each individual could transcend, or move beyond, the physical world of senses into deeper spiritual experience through free will and intuition.

Emerson’s beliefs and his idealism had strong influences on the work of his protégé Henry David Thoreau, a great philosopher and contemporaries like Walt Whitman, the famous American Poet and Margaret Fuller, and Amos Bronson Alcott.

Emerson was a prolific writer and speaker. He gave more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. His famous1837 speech, entitled, ‘The American Scholar’ was considered to be America’s ‘Intellectual Declaration of Independence’ by none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr himself.

Here are twelve gems from the numerous quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Read them, reflect on them and you are sure to find great insights that have the power of transcending beyond the physical realm.

1. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
2. What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you.
3. For every minute you are angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.
4. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
5. A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
6. The only way to have a friend is to be one.
7. Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.
8. Write it on your heart that everyday is the best day in the year.
9. Always do what you are afraid to do.
10. To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
11. You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
12. Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.           Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.



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