10 Ancient Proverbs That Are Actually About Living in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is undoubtedly a great city, and like the great cities that came before us, we have our share of philosophers. But did you know that some of the ancient proverbs handed down to us from many centuries ago are actually about L.A.?

Well, maybe not exactly about L.A., but the truth contained in many of these simple sayings retains its value today, even in the vastly different technological, fast-paced, ADD world that is contemporary Los Angeles. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that simply applying some very straight forward advice will make your experience of living (and making it) here about a thousand times more enjoyable, successful, and rewarding.


So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what some ancient philosophers have to say about the city of angels. Or, at least, what they would have said.

Confucius Beauty Quote
Pretty sure he was talking about the Chandelier Tree here.

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

-Lao Tzu

Angelenos are generally an ambitious bunch. We have a thousand things to accomplish by the time we’re thirty. Or twenty-nine again.

Thanks to Chinese philosophy, we know that the path to these grand schemes has to start somewhere. That first step may not seem like much, but put one foot in front of the other and eventually it has to add up. It’s math.

“There are plenty of acquaintances in the world; but very few real friends.”

-Chinese Proverb

Los Angeles is full of people we like, people we tolerate, people we can’t stand. Some people we like so much that we think we’re friends.

So what is a true friend? Consider the acquaintances, professional relationships, family members and neighbors in your life. Which ones have your best interest at heart? How can you be a true friend to them?

“Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.”


In a culture obsessed with youth and beauty, it’s ironically difficult to recognize the gorgeousness that is all around us. Certainly L.A. is a beautiful place – barring the oceans, mountains, trees and flowers we also have some pretty incredible architecture and landscaping.

But Confucius said, “everything,” and I’m sure he means, “everything.” Take a sec and look around. Any hidden beauty you might have missed before now?

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”


So much to do, so little time. Always. This is the story of life in L.A. But what truly matters?

Take time to reflect on occasion. Make sure your busyness is contributing to your overall satisfaction with your life. It’s a tall order, I know, but tell that to Socrates.

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”


This quote is a favorite amongst creative professionals who have flocked here for the sake of their art. Isn’t it fascinating that the concept of steering your destiny is reflected in such ancient wisdom?

I guess non-conformity and meaningful work were relevant topics for discussion even in 551 BC.


“One generation plants the trees in whose shade another generation rests.”

-Chinese Proverb

There a lot of palm trees in this city, and I’m pretty sure they were not here originally. When you consider that most of our home county is essentially desert, someone clearly spent a lot of time, money and energy making it nice.

And now we get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. On a more serious note, many of the strides we seek to make in the culture and community of L.A. may be best realized in future generations. I’m not sure if that is an encouraging thought, but let’s stew on it.

“The road to a friend’s house is never long.”

Danish Proverb

Once you find those friends, visit them. Even if it means driving through rush hour hell and back just to make it.

Traffic on the 210 Freeway
For a true friend, braving this traffic is no big thing!


“There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.”

-French Proverb

Oui! Guilt is to a good night’s sleep like a weak bladder is to a drinking contest… Dis. Ruptive. And you know how we get when we’re tired. Remember Jiminy Cricket. Your conscience is your guide through the treacherous terrain of your own personal 1,000-mile journey (see #1).

As mentioned before, Los Angeles is a city teaming with ambition (and by definition then,  ambitious people). At every step, there will be temptations to compromise your values and go against your instincts. But no kind of success is worth losing your integrity.

“There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.”


It’s difficult to tell which is which. Especially when the genius in question is toting a bag of oranges and sporting terry cloth shorty shorts. However, I think the lesson here is that sometimes when you have a vision of what you want to accomplish, even if it seems a little out there, you have to stick to it. Something to think about if you came out to L.A. with a specific dream you wanted to pursue.

“If you think you have someone eating out of your hand, it is a good idea to count your fingers.”

-Nigerian Proverb

In other words: look out for the yes-men. Real friends give it to you like it is, but flattery and deferential treatment almost always have darker motivations behind it. If you happen to work in the entertainment industry, this may be highly applicable in your life, though sycophants are not exclusive to the professionals in Hollywood.

The Takeaway

Whether it’s Chinese, Nigerian, Greek, French, Danish or Ranch, the wisdom passed down over centuries is probably worth repeating. Question is, which of the above could you apply to your life?


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