(CCSLQ-41) – Go Back and Change

The following is part of a series exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. As I near the publication of a book on the subject, it is difficult to say how often I will post additional material (even though over 30 additional quotes are identified). The working title of the book is THE MISQUOTABLE C.S. LEWIS  and it is scheduled for release in May, 2018.

There is an “at a glance” page (CLICK HERE) to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series, which also includes a list of the other quotes I’ve identified as questionable. Also, if you haven’t already, consider reading the INTRODUCTION to this series to gain an understanding of the three main categories.   

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can
start where you are and change the ending.”

Most quotations that are falsely attributed to Lewis are difficult to determine as erroneous without a good deal of detective work. However, that is not the case with this expression. Having said that, investigating quotes is somewhat like using a GPS for the first time. Meaning, the initial time you do either, it may be somewhat confusing until you get use to how to use it. That’s why it usually takes me no more than five minutes of using a search engine online to figure out if something is from Lewis or not. As noted elsewhere, I’ll usually do this before searching the various electronic collections of Lewis’ books I have access to.

When I used Google for this expression it seemed pretty convincing that Lewis WAS the author from the first page of results. But when I reached the end of the page, I noticed some alternative suggestions for the quote. One started with “we cannot go back and start over.” Those results preview several names for that variation. The first result led me to an article from the excellent website, QuoteInvestigator.com.

Specifically, it led me to an article that suggested no less than seven people, plus one football team as the source of the expression!  The most famous possibility is Zig Ziglar, but he gave credit to a person named Carl Bard.  The conclusion from that article was that James R. Sherman first had a version published in a 1982 book entitled Rejection. It said the following:

“You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.”

Astute readers of Lewis may object and point out that, while unpublished material from him came out after his death in 1963, Sherman might have been quoting Lewis. However, I confirmed that work already carefully done by Garson O’Toole from the QuoteInvestigator,com website, by previewing the page via Google Books to see the author was presenting it as his own thought. Plus, I did go ahead and search various word combinations from the version falsely attributed to Lewis to confirm the words are not in any of the published works by him.

The next article posted is:

“To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness in yourself.”

Related Articles:

Exploring C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions (6-part podcast series)

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 1/20/2018


No comments


  1. (CCSLQ-40) – Next Moment | Essential C.S. Lewis - […] “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change … […]