Daily affirmations have long been used to boost self-esteem. They compel people to start their days on the right foot. But while letting a smile be your umbrella might fortify your positive attitude, it’s not going to inspire your business ventures.
Everyone must work, but for many of us that job isn’t just a paycheck, it’s an opportunity to express ourselves and make something better. Entrepreneurs and go-getters often feel as if they carry the weight of an entire organization on their backs, and therefore could always use a little extra motivation.
1. “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
Churchill lead Britain through one of its darkest periods. With enemies threatening to advanceacross the English Channel, bombing London daily, the pressure to survive was paramount. But Churchill, like any entrepreneur worth their salt, understood that failure was part of the process. One learned from their mistakes, and the greatest lesson was that there was always another day to fight on.
2. “Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” – Phil Knight
The brand that gave us “Just do it!” qualifies that tagline, which always felt a bit broad, to include boundaries. You can’t “just do it” without regard to the rules, as Knight clearly states. Those rules are what level the playing field and protect fair competition. But rules have nothing to do with the passion in which you play within them.
3.“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” – Richard BransonBranson’s Virgin has proven that from record labels to airlines, where there is a will there is a way. The door isn’t always open, but sometimes it’s ajar or the key is on the floor. All you must do is pick it up and turn the lock. Basically, the right environment for success ebbs and flows, but a keen businessperson is never passive.
4.“Every problem is a gift—without problems we would not grow.” – Anthony Robbins
The idea that one can go through life without conflict or issues arising is unrealistic. Some might dream of a frictionless ride through the world as the ideal journey, but without some form of pushback, growth is impossible. It is these problems that we face which build our character, engage our creativity and build humility.
5.“You only have to do a few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” – Warren Buffett
The idea of right and wrong is a construct, of course, and it might feel overly simplistic to suggest that making the right choices will smooth the path forward. But the famous investor is merely noting with this business quote that avoiding a wrong decision is as important as making the right one. Avoiding bad decisions is aided, of course, with careful planning.
6.“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” – Henry David Thoreau
Philosopher, naturalist, essayist, etc.—Thoreau knew a thing or two about productivity. He wisely saw that those who are seeking success are more likely romanticizing the idea and not doing the hard, practical work necessary to achieve it.
7.“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin
Nin was no stranger to the creative act. As a writer, she had to take pen to paper or her stories would remain phantoms in her mind. It is safer to keep these ideas to oneself. There’s no rejection or criticism that way, but there’s also no way to hone one’s skills and produce something of value.
8.“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.” – Seth Godin
Writer and former dotcom businessman, Godin is saying that talk is cheap, but in a nicer way. Yes, ideas are a dime a dozen, but the real meat on those bones comes from trying to realize them. It is only then that the problems show up and the real work of resolving them starts.
“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.” – Seth Godin
9.“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” – G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton, a writer of paradoxical stories, is the contrarian on our list. He speaks for the pig-headed and visionary alike. Sometimes one must buck the conventional wisdom. The hard part is knowing whether you’re acting out of conviction for your ideals or if you’re just being deluded by ego.
10.“I don’t know the word ‘quit.’ Either I never did, or I have abolished it.” – Susan Butcher
She’s not being literal, but rather exaggerating to make a point. There comes a time in everyone’s life where the idea of just throwing in the towel is attractive. You’re exhausted. The obstacles feel insurmountable. But those who can reject the idea of quitting and tap an unforeseen reservoir are usually those who cross the finish line.
11. “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
People get caught up in the product and forget the worth of anything lies in the process. Win or lose, it’s the fact that you tried, with all you could offer, to do the best at something you feel is of value. That alone is rewarding.
12.“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” – Steve Jobs
We only see the success after it’s been reached. Like a tree that reaches the clouds, the roots that hold it up are invisible. They’re beneath the ground, having spent years digging through the hard ground to stabilize and feed the tree’s growth. It is also so with business.
13.“Almost everything worthwhile carries with it some sort of risk, whether it’s starting a new business, whether it’s leaving home, whether it’s getting married, or whether it’s flying into space.” – Chris Hadfield
True, but not all risks are created equally. Going into space feels like a bigger risk than starting a company. That puts things in perspective, though, and acknowledges the fact that nothing is without risk, therefore, don’t try to completely bubble-wrap your enterprise. Play it safe, of course, but not to the point of inertia.
14.“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rodgers
America’s ambassador of good cheer did more than pass out smiles in his life. He offered practical business advice: complacency is death. Even if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re not moving forward, constantly pushing yourself to reach beyond your comfort zone, then you’re in trouble. The competition will overtake you.
15.“The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” – Barack Obama
The president knows a lot about failure and success. The Affordable Healthcare Act was more than once dead in the water, but the president didn’t give up. He compromised, he convinced and he labored, but not once did he allow himself to become embittered.
16.“Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.” – William Durant
There is only the present, so the enlightened ones tell us, and we cannot allow ourselves to become tied to the past or enchanted by the future. There is only the here and now. We must concentrate on that and act. This quote doesn’t reject the lessons of the past or the plans for the future, but we only have this moment, so do your best in it.
17.“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein
You’ll have noticed that often one inspirational quote contradicts the next. That’s because it is in these paradoxes that real wisdom is born. There is never just one way to look at something and with perspective comes opportunity. Ideas might be nothing without execution, but without those ideas the execution is empty.
18.“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” – Helen Keller
People should take failure as a badge of honor. It’s a crucible that burns things down to their essence and shows us what we’re really made from. If the path to success was clear, then everyone would be one it and success would lose all meaning.
19.“The first one gets the oyster, the second gets the shell.” – Andrew Carnegie
It sounds brutal, and one doesn’t become a steel baron without nerves of steel, but there is a harsh truth in this statement. Resources are exploited by businesses to achieve their goals. They’re not a collective, sharing the wealth, so like the early bird, if you want the worm, then get up early.
20.“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney
The more business quotes from these masters of industry and history, the more you notice a common thread knitting them together. They tend to same things only in different ways. That alone should make it clear that actions speak louder than words, to use another old axiom.
21.“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!” – Henry Ford
This statement might confuse at first, but once you get it, like a Zen koan, it makes perfect sense. What the father of automotive automation is imparting with this quote is that success is as much a mind game as it is determined by fate. With the right attitude you can do almost anything.
22.“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
Inspiration is great, but there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. The general is right. Success is being prepared, working hard and learning from mistakes, as many others have also stated. If we can edit the quote a wee bit, we’d add luck to fill out the recipe for success. There’s always an unknown element in the mix.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
23.“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer
Many people have it backwards, struggling to achieve success in order to feel good about themselves. But the irony is that it’s in the doing, not the goal, where the happiness resides. Even if you fail at your enterprise, if you enjoy the process, then you’ll be happy.
24.“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel
If you’re keeping your eyes on what can go wrong, it will go wrong. Successful people strive to move on. They aren’t ignorant of failure, but they’re also not stymied by it. They don’t know what failure is, because to them it’s merely a bump in the road, not its terminus.
25.“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
The famous story about Edison and the incandescent lightbulb, which took thousands of tries to find a filament that would burn but not extinguish, is proof to the pudding of his statement. You just never know what’s around the corner until you get there.
26.“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey
We spoke of luck as a crucial element to any success. There are always those forces beyond our control, but there are also those forces which are within our ability to regulate. If opportunities are rare, then one must be ready for them when they come in order to take advantage. That might not be the definition of luck, but it does feel like good fortune.
27.“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” – Estée Lauder
People can get lost in thought. In their mind’s eye success is clearly laid out. It’s as if they’re already there. Daydreaming might be creative, but creativity takes work. You’re not going to get anywhere standing in place.
28.“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” – Babe Ruth
This has been said in many ways, but sometimes it takes the sports analogy to get it to sink through. Of course, for Ruth this wasn’t a metaphor but fact. However, it also applies to business. We can’t rest on past glory.
29.“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vidal Sassoon
It’s a funny way to look at things, but there’s truth in the fact that success is not something we are handed. It is something we must work at. Success isn’t inheritance. While we might get handed great wealth, power and prestige, it’s what we do with it that counts.
30.“The only way around is through.” – Robert Frost
What the great America poet is saying is that there is no way to avoid what must be done. We cannot go around the difficulties in our life or business but face them head on and work through them. Just having the courage to do that is the hallmark of success.