As a born and bred New Yorker, I was especially saddened by the loss of former Gov. Mario Cuomo on New Year's Day. Cuomo was 82. He served as the 52nd governor of New York for three terms and was known for his liberal views and public speeches, particularly his keynote at the 1984 Democratic Convention.

Cuomo was an inspiring speaker and leader--and will also be remembered as the "Hamlet on the Hudson" who perhaps deliberated too long about whether to run for the White House.

Many of Cuomo's famous quotes are about politics and government. But no matter your politics, anyone aspiring to be a better leader and human being can gain wisdom from his words.

Here are five famous quotes from Mario Cuomo that will surely inspire you, along with an equally inspirational if less famous one as told to a friend:

1. "You will not be able to tell that they are capable of greatness until you provide them with a packed house, a 3-and-2 count and the game is on the line."

2. "Most of us have achieved levels of affluence and comfort unthought of two generations ago. We've never had it so good, most of us. Nor have we ever complained so bitterly about our problems."

3. "There are only two rules for being successful; one, figure out exactly what you want to do, and two, do it."

4. "Decide exactly what you want to achieve. Do you want to help people, or do you want to be powerful?"

5. "Every time I've done something that doesn't feel right, it's ended up not being right."

My friend AJ Jacobs is a best-selling writer and inspirational thought leader in his own right. AJ recalled a story of his meeting Cuomo, and shared the following:

"When I was 13, I met Mario Cuomo for five minutes. I don't imagine he spent a lot of time reminiscing about our talk. But I do. What he told me in those five minutes changed my life. It was 1982, and Cuomo was running for his first term as governor of New York, a position he would hold for the next 12 years. My grandfather took me to a party for him. There were a lot of people at the party who could help Cuomo more than I could. Even if I had donated my entire allowance, it would have barely paid for a lawn sign. But Cuomo talked to me like I was the most important bigwig at that fund-raiser.

First he answered my inane questions. Which hockey team did he like better, I wondered, the New York Rangers or the New York Islanders? He said, "Officially, I like them both. But just between us, I prefer the Rangers." When I ran out of queries, the famous orator bent down and gave me some advice I still remember practically word for word 26 years later:

"In this life, you should read everything you can read. Taste everything you can taste. Meet everyone you can meet. Travel everywhere you can travel. Learn everything you can learn. Experience everything you can experience."

Thank you, AJ Jacobs, for sharing this story. And thank you, Mario Cuomo, for your many years of service, incredible leadership, and inspirational words.

Published on: Jan 1, 2015
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