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Motivational Quotes

When I was a kid, I collected buttons — not the kind you sew on clothes, but the kind with a pin on the back. I had buttons for gymnastics (my childhood passion), “Big Mac attacks,” political campaigns, you name it. I had hundreds of them. More recently, I’ve been collecting quotes because trainers often need them to adorn their classrooms and motivate learners.  I started my collection over 15 years ago when we first created a set of quotes and trivia pre-formatted in PowerPoint, so facilitators could play at the beginning of an event — kind of like they do at the movies.  I’ve also tried to capture “favorites” listed online by trainers and educators. Because there are so many, I hope the categories help.

Attitude

  • “Doubt is a thief that often makes us fear to tread where we might have won.” ~ William Shakespeare
  • “The best attitude is the sense of gratitude”
  • “If it makes you happy to be unhappy, then be unhappy.”
  • “Life is what you make it”
  • “Attitude not aptitude, determines altitude.” ~ Jesse Jackson
  • “I can have any kind of day I want.”
  • “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, …”  ~ The Little Engine that Could
  • “Enthusiasm is contagious.  Be a carrier.” ~ Susan Rabin
  • “When life give thousands of reason for struggle, just show millions way to smile.”
  • “What I do best is share my enthusiasm.” ~ Bill Gates
  • “My goal in life: to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”
  • “Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about Learning To Dance In The Rain.” ~ Vivian Greene
  • “Frogs have it easy. They can eat whatever’s bugging them.”
  • “’The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.”
  • “You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth”. ~ Evan Esar
  • “Happiness is a perfume. You cannot pour it on others without getting a few drops on yourself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.”
  • “Whenever you are in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” ~ William James
  • “Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.” ~ Harold B. Melchart
  • “Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectations.” ~ Norman Cousins

Change

  • “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something; build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  ~Buckminster Fuller 
  • “If you don’t change your direction you might end up where you’re going.”
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~Nelson Mandela
  • “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
  • “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. ” ~ Anthony Robbins

Communication

  • “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
  • “Good communication is when your words, your voice and your body speak the same language.”
  • “Knowledge is power but communication is empowerment.”
  • “The word that is spoken is never the same as the word that is heard.”

Confidence

  • “Never argue with an idiot for they will bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
  • “Some people will like me and some people won’t, so I might as well be myself because then I know that those who like me, really like me.” Hugh Prather
  • “Stand for something or you will fall for anything”
  • “If you believe, you can.”
  • “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “You are the difference, that MAKES the difference.”
  • “You were born an original, don’t die a copy .” ~ John Mason

Effort

  • “Better to try and fail, than fail to try.”
  • “The difference between ‘try’ and ‘triumph’ is just a little ‘umph’.”
  • “Start from where you are. Work with what you have. Do what you can.”
  • “Don’t spend too much time on the bed, because only prostitutes make money there!! Get Up.”
  • “Excellence begins with the perfection of the basics.” Raytheon
  • “The harder you work, the luckier you get!”
  • “I’m like a duck: calm above the water, and paddling like hell underneath.”  ~ Fred Shero
  • “It’s not what you’ve got but what you do with what you’ve got that matters.”
  • “Just do it” ~Nike
  • “The mind is like the land, it gives you precisely what you give it.” In other words, “You get what you think about most of the time.”
  • “The worst form of failure is failing to try.”
  • “Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.”
  • “Expect Nothing. Blame Nobody. Do Something.”
  •  “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well’.”  ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “One doesn’t cross a river without getting wet.”
  • “The biggest room is the the room for improvement.”
  • “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
  • “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~ Brian Littrell

Leadership

  • “A great leader motivates people. A mediocre leader helps motivated people A bad leader helps no one. “
  • “The ultimate measure of a leader is not where he/she stands in moments of comfort, but where he/she stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “It’s difficult to inspire others to accomplish what you haven’t been willing to try.”
  • “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
  • “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized, I was somebody. ~ Lily Tomlin
  • “When you’re getting kicked in the rear, it must mean you’re in front.”
  • “First rule of leadership: to lead the orchestra,  you must first turn your back on the crowd.”
  • “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Carl W. Buechner
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” ~ John C. Maxwell
  • “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. ~ Samuel Johnson 
  • “Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty.” ~ John D. Rockefeller
  • “Leadership is Action, Not Position.” ~ Donald McGannon

Learning

  • “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.”
  • “Live as if you will die tomorrow; learn as if you will live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  • “If you think you can’t afford learning…….try the cost of ignorance!”
  • “A smart man wants to be understood, a wise man wants to understand.”
  • “The human mind once stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • “It’s not how smart you are, it’s how you are smart.” ~ Howard Gardner
  • “Learning is a process not an event.” Alison Tucker, Buckman Laboratories
  • “Learning is a treasure that follows its owner everywhere.” Unknown
  • “Dry lectures never satisfy a thirst for knowledge.”
  • “You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” ~ Galileo Gallilei
  • “You can never learn less…you can only learn more.” ~R Buckminster Fuller
  • “The only thing worse than training good employees and losing them, is not training your employees and keeping them.” ~ Zig Ziglar
  • “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” ~ Tom Bosch /Dan Stanford
  • “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” ~ Marcolm Forbes
  • “It’s never too late to learn . . . and it’s never too early either.”
  • “If you study to remember, you will forget. If you study to understand, you will remember.”
  • “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” ~ Confucius
  • “Learning is not a spectator sport.” ~ D. Blocher
  • “When you’re through learning, you’re through.” ~ John Wooden
  • “People can take away a lot of things from you . . . but they can’t take away what you’ve learned.”
  • “”You can give a person a fish and feed them for a day, or teach them to fish and feed them for a lifetime.” Proverb

Motivation

  • “If not you, who? If not now, when?” Anon
  • “It’s better to die for something, than to live for no good reason.”
  • “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
  • “You make a path by walking on it.” An African proverb
  • “You only have one life to live, and this is no dress rehearsal!”
  • “Do the right thing. Do it for the right reasons. Do it with the right people. Do it at the right time. do it in the right order. Do it with intensity. Do it for the right results. Do it in the right way.”
  • “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill
  • “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”
  • “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying… ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”  ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
  • “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”  ~ Zig Ziglar
  • “If you think you are too small to make a difference! Try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.”

Organization

  • “Plan the work. Work the plan.”
  • “Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” ~ Robert Schuller
  • “If you cannot afford to do something right the first time, when can you afford to come back and redo it?”
  • “Measure twice, and cut once!”
  • “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation.”

Perseverance

  • “Never, never, never give up.” ~ Winston Churchill
  • “Don’t wait for your ship to come in. Row out to meet it!”  ~ Unknown
  • “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Nelson Mandela quoting Marianne Williamson
  • “When you fall down, get up.”
  • “The best way to have a good idea, is to have a lot of ideas.” ~ Linus Pauling
  •  “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” ~ Arnold Glasow
  • “Try again.”
  • “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”  ~ James Joyce
  • “Be like a postage stamp. Stick to it ’til you get there.” ~Harvey Mackay
  • “Behold the turtle! He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”~ James Bryant Conant
  • “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.”
  • “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” ~ Mahammad Ali 
  • “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”  ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  • “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” ~Hal Borland

Risk Taking

  • “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, that’s where all the fruit is.” Mark Twain
  • “Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
  • “Nothing great has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.”
  • “Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” ~ Dalai Lama
  • A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ~ William Shedd
  • Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” ~ Albert Einstein
  • “If you risk ‘NOTHING,’ you risk ‘EVERYTHING’.”
  • “The other side of disaster is opportunity.”
  • “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” ~ T.S. Elliot
  • “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” ~ Jack Canfield
  • “The impossible: What nobody can do until somebody does it.”
  • “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”  ~ Ken Olson, founder Digital Equipment
  • “Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.” ~ Kobi Yamada
  • “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Christopher Columbus
  • “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ~ Ken Robinson

Success

  • “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it is getting.”
  • “Being open to new ideas is a universal strength of the truly successful.”
  • “Half of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.”~ Solomon Short
  • “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.”  ~ Martin Luther King
  • “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ~ Seneca
  • “When I play hockey I don’t skate to where the puck is; I skate to where it will be.” ~  Wayne Gretzky
  • “Whether you think you can or think you can’t–you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill
  • “There are many paths to the top.”
  • “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
  • “Some people dream of success . . . others wake up and work hard at it.”
  • “Life does not consist of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.”
  • “Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over by a train if you just stand there.”
  • “Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein
  • “Success each day should be measured by the seeds sown, not the harvest reaped.” ~ John Maxwell
  • “Success comes in cans, not can’ts.”
  • “In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
  • “The Road to success is always under construction.”

Teams

  • “Build bridges not walls.”
  • “Winning is not everything; it is far better to play the game squarely and lose than to win at the sacrifice of an ideal.” ~ Andy Smith
  • “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”  ~ Unknown
  • “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.” ~ Max Lucade
  • “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.” ~ Brandi Snyder

Time

  • “You may not have time in this life to do everything you want, but you have plenty of time to do what’s MOST important.” ~Sanaya Roman

Additional Resources

Pinterest is a great source for quotes with interesting graphics. Here’s my collection on Pinterest.

Vince Lombardi has a wonderful collection of quotes covering teamwork, commitment, success, discipline, leadership, winning, excellence, mental toughness, habit, passion, and truth.

55 Inspiring Quotes with great typographical presentation

25 Fantastic Inspirational Design Typographic Quotes

Alun Barrett also has a nice collection of quotes.


6 thoughts on “Motivational Quotes”

  1. My personal favorite for the classes I teach that include testing:

    If you study to remember, you will forget.
    If you study to understand, you will remember.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t originate it–I saw it on the white board at our local adult education program.

  2. Thanks for sharing these! I enjoyed following the discussion on LinkedIn about this topic. I use a similar activity in my online training workshops for graduate students who are learning how to teach. This kick starts our conversation about motivation in the college classroom. Thanks Sue!

  3. “Learning is a treasure that follows its owner everywhere” IS NOT a Chinese proverb! It’s in English and is made up by foreigners. I’m Chinese, and I’m telling you that it’s not from an authentic Chinese source, ancient or modern Chinese. I went to some website and tried to get this translated into Chinese. They attempted but sorry to say the grammar in Chinese was mangled. That tells you something. So, please do not use this so called “proverb” again. Thanks.

  4. Bryan, I appreciate your correction and have removed the reference indicating that the quote was a Chinese Proverb. ~ Sue

  5. My favorite saying of all time is by Hugh Prather –

    “The tools of the mind can be wrongly used, but the mind possesses no wrong tools.”
    Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person

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