‘Sail Away From The Safe Harbor’ – Did Mark Twain Say This Quote About Taking Chances?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims that author Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Verdict: False

These words does not appear anywhere in Twain’s writings.

Fact Check:

This quote may have originated with “P.S. I Love You,” a book of sayings compiled by author H. Jackson Brown Jr. Published in 1990, the full expression encourages readers to “throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Although Brown credited his mother with the saying, it was only a matter of years before others erroneously attributed the quote to Twain, author of American classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Life on the Mississippi.”

The Daily Caller reached out to several experts, none of whom thought the quote was authentic. It appears nowhere in his collected works.

“Though he’s not the source of this aphorism, Twain did frequently endorse the benefit of taking risks and trying new things, particularly exploring unfamiliar places and cultures,” Matthew Seybold, assistant professor of American literature at Elmira College and editor-in-chief of MarkTwainStudies.org, told The Daily Caller in an email.

Seybold pointed to Twain’s 1869 work “The Innocents Abroad” as one example.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” Twain wrote. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
Follow David on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].


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