Quotes From The Edge

Dare to be different

I’ve always loved quotes.

I used to collect them, but my computer crashed years ago, and I lost them all.

I haven’t had the heart to start over.

But I still enjoy reading quotes and sometimes I save them in my phone—for what I don’t know. Future inspiration I suppose.

I came across a few this past week that got me thinking.

This one is from filmmaker George Lucas.

“The secret is not to give up hope. It’s very hard not to because if you’re really doing something worthwhile, I think you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side.”

This is an interesting thought and largely true. I think of the businesses we’ve been involved with and the fits and starts that they all seem to have. It’s never a straight line. It’s almost always a bumpy road full of pivots, near death experiences and a slew of ups and downs.

My first venture was an education newspaper that started in Delray. It was called “Student and Parent”, a boring title but it told the story of what we were focused on. We covered local schools, wrote about teachers and exceptional young people, and reported on the hot issues in education.

Unable to afford a sales staff to sell ads and wanting to keep our monthly paper free of charge, we decided to try and get corporate sponsors who believed in our mission and would back us for a year.

Frank McKinney was kind enough to loan us one of his oceanfront “spec” houses for a launch party. We figured the novelty of seeing the home would entice business leaders to attend. We were right, and ended up attracting enough sponsors to pay our expenses for a year. They didn’t even mind that my mom incinerated the hors d’ouevres in a convection oven she had never seen before.

We expanded to Boca and then Boynton and then went countywide with a name change. We were now “The Education Times”. We dropped off papers at every school that would have us, bundling papers and putting them in teachers’ mailboxes so they could be sent home in back packs. We also delivered papers to city halls, libraries, community centers and places where we felt families with kids might be.

It was a lot of work. And we did it on a shoestring. No investors; a modest credit line. All the (meager) profits were re-invested in the biz.

Along the way, we were pushed to the brink of hopelessness, as Mr. Lucas says, not sure if we would ever see the other side. My low point happened when my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and my partner injured his back and was unable to work. Was it time to throw in the towel? We were growing, but still not out of the woods.

We decided to push forward. And eventually we came out the other side when a media company decided to buy us out and hire us to run our paper and help run their publications.

Today, I’m pitched a steady stream of ideas from young and not so young entrepreneurs, and I always ask them whether they have the resilience to keep going when the going gets rough, because it always does.

It’s hard to measure grit. Most people think they have it, until they’re severely challenged and then they find out if they really do.

Mike Tyson used to say that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. He’s not a role model, but he’s sure right about that.

Sometimes it is prudent to know when to fold them, as the song says. But that’s an art as well because you never want to walk away too early. Life is one brushback pitch after another. You must stay in the batter’s box and wait for your pitch and then deliver.

Wanting to quit is a common feeling, but you must press on even if you have to start something else.

The second quote that grabbed me comes from Kurt Vonnegut.

“Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. Big, undreamed-of things. The people on the edge see them first.”

This one intrigues me because I am a “center” kind of guy. I’m in the middle politically, appreciate compromise and like to think I’m reasonable. (This is where my friends and wife may chuckle, but they know deep down that I don’t mean to be difficult. For example, because I’m left-handed, I require sitting on the side of the table where my arm won’t bother people. I think that’s considerate, not difficult).

Still, “the edge” intrigues me. I admire the risk takers, the people who go against the grain, the game changers that the old Apple computer ad celebrated.

I’ve known a few and I work with one—Carl DeSantis– who bet big on vitamins and won and bet big on Celsius the beverage and won again. Let’s just say, he’s a human thrill ride and I mean that in a good way, because through it all he has remained humble, down to earth, kind and generous to everyone he comes across.

My friend Carl has a favorite painting of sunflowers. The painting depicts a sea of sunflowers facing in the same direction but there’s one stray facing the other way.
“That’s me,” he told me.

Yes, it is.

Bless the souls that think differently. They make a dent in the world. They make magic.

The final idea I wanted to share came from an essay I saw in the New York Times. The writer, Lydia Polgreen, just lost her dad at 73. She talks about our need as humans to have an anchor, to know what’s next. But life is uncertain and that makes us vulnerable. We live in rough seas.

Turn on the news and you’ll hear about heinous crimes, the threat of nuclear war, the ravages of a hurricane, the doomsday scenarios surrounding climate change. We have high inflation, divisive politics, institutions we no longer trust and different sets of “facts” depending on where we sit on the political spectrum.

“But to tolerate uncertainty,” Ms. Polgreen writes. “Is to become buoyant, able to bob in the waves, no matter the tide.”

Polgreen continues: “You have to be incredibly vulnerable to admit that you think the world can be better, to believe that what you do could actually make some kind of change. We live in a time dominated by pessimism and cynicism. These poses are a kind of armor against the vulnerability of hope. To be cynical is to close the door to the possibility of disappointment. To be pessimistic is to foreclose the risk of being made a fool by optimism.”

The vulnerability of hope….

Think about that phrase for a moment. I can’t stop thinking about those words.

I believe most of us are naturally attracted to the dreamers and the optimists in our world. I know I am.

My favorite words are love and aspiration.

In a world where we don’t have to travel too far to see, feel and witness the destructive power of hate we must somehow find, teach, and spread love.

And in a world where every idea seems to be met with resistance, cynicism, and snark we must find a way to aspire.

Aspire or expire…that’s what I say.



  1. James Eaton says

    “Take my wife , please”

  2. We need more Jeff Perlmans in the world. Still reading your inspiring words from our new paradise -in The South Beaches of Melbourne Beach. The Space Coast is amazing. Always love DBch -we find ourselves visiting often! See you around town.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks so much, Kevro.
      So good to hear from you. Glad you are enjoying Melbourne Beach. What a wonderful part of Florida!

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