(CCSLQ-41) – Go Back and Change

UPDATED (8/25/18) – The Misquotable C.S. Lewis is my book that examines 75 quotations attributed to Lewis that I caution you not to share. Some are falsely attributed to him, others are paraphrases of his words, and a few have context issues. Don’t share a quote attributed to Lewis unless you can confirm he wrote it and the meaning is clear without the context!


The following is a quote I examined that led me to writing The Misquotable C.S. Lewis. I started calling quotes like this as “questionable” because I wanted people to question whether or not Lewis wrote it. This led me to coming up with three main categories, or types of misquotes. You can learn about that in the INTRODUCTION to this series. There is also an “at a glance” page to see what quotations I’ve covered in the online series. Please note that the book has revised entries and provide more details about the expressions examined.  



“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:

Surprised By Misquotes (2018 Taylor Talk)

Exploring C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions (2017 6-part podcast series)

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

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

Updated 8/25/2018
Originally posted 11/11/2017


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