A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“My college graduation was in an arena, and it was hot in there, like 5,000 degrees” (5/26)
“In America, you can always find a party. In Russia, the party always finds you” (5/26)
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Entry from June 11, 2012
“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there”

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there” is a saying popularized by college basketball coach John Wooden (1910-2010) in his book, They Call Me Coach (1972). “Ability will get you to the top, but character is required to keep you there” has been cited in print since at least 1953; the word “talent” has been used for “ability” since at least 1982.

“A man of force can get there, but it takes a character to stay there” is from December 1912 and is the earliest known form of the saying. In 1917, “A man with push can get there, but it takes a man with character to stay there” was credited to “Shepherd.” The author of the saying remains unknown.

The saying has been used in both sports and business to stress that ability or natural talent is not enough to stay successful; a proper character is also necessary.


Google Books
December 1912, Meyer Brothers Druggist (St. Louis, MO), pg. 383:
A MAN of force can get there, but it takes a character to stay there.

Google Books
January 1917, Texaco Star, pg. 2, col. 2:
“A man with Push can get there, but it takes the man with Character to stay there.”

Papers Past
26 January 1917, Feilding Star (New Zealand), pg. 2 ad:
A man with push can always get to the front, but it takes the man with character to stay there.

Google Books
27 October 1917, California Fruit News, pg. 3, col. 4:
A man with push can get there, but it takes a man with character to stay there.—Shepherd.

18 January 1922, Bellevile (IL) News-Democrat, “Rules for Success,” pg. 4, col. 2:
A man with push can get there, but it takes a man with character to stay there.—Shepard.

23 January 1953, Sheboygan (WI) Press, “Office Cat,” pg. 18:
Ability will get you to the top, but character is required to keep you there.

Google Books
They Call Me Coach
By John R. Wooden with Jack Tobin
New York, NY: Bantam Books
1973, ©1972
Pg. 153:
Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.

24 October 1973, Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, “Basketball” by Ken Wynn, pg. 19, col. 1:
Besides the Kentucky players, like UCLA, have character.

Ability can get anyone to the top but it takes character to keep you there.

Google Books
See You at the Top
By Zig Ziglar
Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub. Co.
1975
Pg. 382:
You also understand that ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there. That while there is plenty of room at the top, there is not enough to sit down.

Google Books
Heaven and Hell in the NHL:
Punch Imlach’s own story

By Punch Imlach with Scott Young
Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart
1982
Pg. 97:
It’s the old story: talent can get you there, but it takes character to keep you there.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • (0) Comments • Monday, June 11, 2012 • Permalink