The Mass of Men Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

The above quote comes from the classic book “Walden” written by Henry David Thoreau and speaks to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit.

I’m not trying to get all spiritual or new age on you, but I think the above quote is one of the most powerful and telling things I have ever read.

the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, walden henry david thoreau

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation...

What this says to me is most of us go through our lives wanting more but accepting less. We accept a life that is lacking passion.

We know we want to do more or make more of ourselves, and it tears us up inside, but we resign ourselves to accepting the status quo and not taking any action to make our life and the lives of those around us better.

“… and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

I think this is the saddest part of the quote, because, to me, it says that not only do we know we want more and to make more of ourselves, but we have the ability to make the changes we want, but are simply too tired, drained, and discouraged to do so.

Pretty depressing, right?

This Quote and You

So, how does this relate to you?

First, if you feel this quote applies to you, work like heck to get out of your rut and start making some changes in your life, even if it’s something simple like driving a different route to work.  Sticking with your current routine shouldn’t be an option!

(Although, be smart about it.  Quitting your job or not paying the bills might feel good, but will probably leave you in an even worse bind!)

Second, find something you’re 100% passionate about and spend time doing it. For me, it’s writing about entrepreneurship, personal finance, and the environment. Whatever your passion is, find it and embrace it!

Third, if you’re so inclined and want to take on the challenge, try and find ways that you can turn your passions into a business. Even if it’s something that you do on the side in your spare time, I think you’ll find even more fulfillment in your passions by transferring them to your “work.”

What are your thoughts? Are you one of the quietly desperate with a song in you? Have you broken free and made extraordinary changes in your life? Leave your comments below!

Turning Your Passions into Your Business

Per FTC regulations, please note that the above link to Walden is an affiliate link, and should you purchase the book I will receive a commission.


  1. Follow your bliss.
    If you do follow your bliss,
    you put yourself on a kind of track
    that has been there all the while waiting for you,
    and the life you ought to be living
    is the one you are living.
    When you can see that,
    you begin to meet people
    who are in the field of your bliss,
    and they open the doors to you.
    I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
    and doors will open
    where you didn’t know they were going to be.
    If you follow your bliss,
    doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.
    -Joseph Campbell

  2. I am right there, at this turning point in my life, and I have decided I must do something now. I have made big plans and started with change already and am surprised how quickly things can happen if you brave the chill and just step out!

  3. Wow … this person SO misunderstands what Thoreau is talking about.

    More is NOT more. In Thoreau’s mind, LESS was “more” and was the secret to finding one’s own inner song.

    This guy here has no clue!

  4. My English Comp teacher wrote this on our board this week and wanted us to look it up for a bonus on our Vocab test! What an amazing quote….I love it and will cherish it always…
    Thank you,


  1. […] Reactors settle into a low-risk, low-reward game.  The leveraged positions of Initiators take most of the rewards of success (first to kill is first to eat) but cover most of the losses from failure. Reactors, therefore, are boxed out of big gains but kept safe from dangerous fall-out. Reactors’ risk aversion is associated with practical, commonsense decision-making (and, conversely, lack of confidence and limiting beliefs).  By tagging along on the shadowy coattails of their risk-taking counterparts, Reactors experience a muted life experience. Their disposition attains security. But being only able to nibble at the low-hanging fruit, Reactors often lead quiet lives of desperation. […]