Robert A. Heinlein Quotes

Most popular Robert A. Heinlein Quotes

Never try to outstubborn a cat.


The stars incline, but do not impel.
— Robert A. Heinlein


Obscurity is the refuge of incompetence.
— Robert A. Heinlein


In handling a stinging insect, move very slowly.
One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.


Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
— Robert A. Heinlein


The greatest productive force is human selfishness.


Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.


You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.


Women and cats will do as they please. Men and dogs had better get used to it.
— Robert A. Heinlein
"Love" is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

happiness love

Everything in excess!  To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.


If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage but not his judgment.


The most important lesson in the writing trade is that any manuscript is improved if you cut away the fat.


Never appeal to a man's "better nature."  He may not have one.  Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.


Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
— Robert A. Heinlein


If tempted by something that feels "altruistic," examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!

Giving altruism self-deception

Nobody has ever seen an electron. Nor a thought. You can't see a thought; you can't measure, weigh, nor taste it—but thoughts are the most real things in the Galaxy.


Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human.  At best he is a tolerable sub-human who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.


If you happen to be one of the fretful who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do.  Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe.  Learn to wait.


Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die.  Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.


There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk "his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor" on an outcome dubious.  Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.

risk-taking challenges

So learn to say No—and be rude about it when necessary.  Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.

saying no

Writing is antisocial.  It's as solitary as masturbation.  Disturb a writer when he is in the throes of creation and he is likely to turn and bit right to the bone...and not even know that he's doing it.  As writers' wives and husbands often learn to their horror.


A long and wicked life followed by five minutes of perfect grace gets you into Heaven. An equally long life of decent living and good works followed by one outburst of taking the name of the Lord in vain—then have a heart attack at that moment and be damned for eternity. Is that the system?
— Robert A. Heinlein


Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation.  Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid.  But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.


Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy—in fact, they're almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.  Both at once can produce unbearable turmoil.


It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.

religion and politics

I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny.  Not force, but secrecy...censorship.  When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives.

secrets tyranny

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized.  Or even cured.  In a household with more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick.  Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears or become violent.  Or he may not hear you at all...and, if you shake him at this stage, he bites.