A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“Never buy from a rich salesman and always hire a rich attorney” (10/24)
“Incompetence is a double-edged banana” (10/24)
“The military is protecting democracy, not practicing it” (10/24)
Certainly Not News (CNN nickname) (10/24)
“Depresso: When you’ve run out of coffee” (10/23)
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Entry from November 24, 2008
“Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result”

The definition of “insanity” has been described as “doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting a different result.” This quotation has been attributed to Albert Einstein (1879-1955), but there is no evidence that he ever used it.

The quotation is widely used in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Eventually, the saying gravitated into an investment proverb.

A similar saying also popular since the 1980s is “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got” / “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you’ve ever got.”


Stock Market Adages
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Urban Dictionary
1.  insanity
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Working a job and expecting to get rich is insanity.
by 513 Sep 3, 2003
2.  insanity
doing something over and over expecting different results
-Albert Einstein
i keep hitting this hamster… but it wont make money, this is insanity!
by Sorry, im suburban, white Jun 11, 2005
3.  insanity
Trying to solve problems,
Expecting different results,
Using the exact same methods…
Insanity, Where our society is headed if we don’t learn to get along.
by Aug 26, 2006

The Quotations Page
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed)
US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)

Google Books
Sudden Death
By Rita Mae Brown
New York, NY: Bantam Books
1983
Pg. 68:
Unfortunately, Susan didn’t remember what Jane Fulton once said. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Google Books
Adult Children:
The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families

By John C. Friel and Linda D. Friel
Published by HCI
1988
Pg. 109: 
One of our favorite sayings, which we use in our therapy groups, is, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

Google Books
Narcotics Anonymous
Issue 1101
By Narcotics Anonymous.
Van Nuys, CA: World Service Office
1988
Pg. 23:
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

19 November 1990, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Prison Puzzle” by Mike Ward, pg. A1:
“Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Google Books
Step 2: Coming to Believe
Hazeldon Classic Step Pamphlets
by James G. Jensen
1992
Pg. 10:
“When I came into the program, I heard that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” Valerie says.

Google Groups: alt.recovery
Newsgroups: alt.recovery
From: (Allen)
Date: 13 Oct 92 18:41:01 GMT
Local: Tues, Oct 13 1992 12:41 pm
Subject: Insanity Definition and Pres Debate (NON-POLITICAL)

Does anyone out there remember the source of the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen?” (or words to that effect).

I was listening to the debate on Sunday with some 12-Steppers and we all enjoyed this particular quote.  All of us knew it and suspected it to be recovery-oriented, but could not think of the source.  Does anyone out there have an idea?  Go ahead, shoot me if it’s the Big Book ... grin

Google Groups: alt.recovery
Newsgroups: alt.recovery
From: (Bob Thomas)
Date: 15 Oct 92 14:57:06 GMT
Local: Thurs, Oct 15 1992 8:57 am
Subject: Re: Insanity Definition and Pres Debate (NON-POLITICAL)

+> >>> Does anyone out there remember the source of the quote, “Insanity is
+> >>> doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something
+> >>> different to happen?” (or words to that effect).
+> >
+> >The last time I heard it, it was attributed to “either John Bradshaw or
+> >Earnie Larson.  I don’t know who said it first.”
+> >
+> It is from the second step section of the How it Works chapter of the Narcotics
+> Anonymous Basic Text. Now, the dope fiends may have stolen it from somewhere
+> else (we’re like that, you know) but you will find it there.

The saying was around before the first draft of the Basic Text was written.  It was also around before John Bradshaw hit the big-time.  I’m not sure how long Ernie Larson has been on the workshop circuit, but I heard the saying 14 years ago when I was in finishing school.  ("Finishing school” is slang for a treatment center.  I’ve also heard them referred to as “dude ranches.")

Google Groups: alt.recovery
Newsgroups: alt.recovery
From: (Jason Steven West)
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1992 00:47:19 GMT
Local: Sun, Oct 18 1992 6:47 pm
Subject: Re: Insanity Definition and Pres Debate (NON-POLITICAL)

The first time that I heard this quote was from, Narcotics Anonymous in their “basic text”.  Third edition, page 21, under Step 2.  There could be earlier refrences that I haven’t read. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (2) Comments • Monday, November 24, 2008 • Permalink


actually, I think that “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is the definition of stupidity. Failure to learn.

Posted by rick  on  02/05  at  06:12 PM

Insanity should be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and getting different results.

Posted by vilignoble  on  01/11  at  01:31 AM

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