What They Said

A collection of famous quotes to keep your motivation running high.

Around the time of March Madness this year I read about how coaches for both men’s and women’s basketball motivated their teams: A common thread was using quotations from all kinds of sources. From stirring speeches out of the mouths of great world leaders, to insults from opposing teams, inspiration often seemed to be drawn from the words of others.

This led me to wonder what the great minds of past and present have had to say related to entrepreneurism. Interpreted a bit liberally here and there, read on for a cross-section of those pearls of wisdom.


“A person who sees a problem is a human being; a person who finds a solution is a visionary; and the person who goes out and does something about it is an entrepreneur.” — Naveen Jain, founder of InfoSpace.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford, automotive pioneer.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”— Yoda, extraterrestrial sage.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain, America’s greatest writer.

“Next to our moral obligation to address global challenges, it is also an enormous business opportunity.” — Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretsky, greatest hockey player ever.

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.” Anonymous MBA student.

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” — Jimmy Dean (presumably the actor, not the sausage maker).

“Luck is the residue of design.” — Joe Paterno, football coach.

“This defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship — the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” — Peter Drucker, business writer.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” — Maya Angelou, poet.

“The type of person you are is usually reflected in your business. To improve your business, first improve yourself.” — Idowu Koyenikan, entrepreneur and writer.

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” —Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein, greatest physicist ever.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” — Michelangelo, artist, sculptor and inventor.

“No te illegitimus carborundum” (bad Latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”) — My mother, no doubt quoting somebody.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill, British prime minister.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” — Steve Martin, wild and crazy guy.

“Don’t worry about failure, you only have to be right once.” — Drew Houston, co-founder of Dropbox.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — Hunter S. Thompson, hallucinogenic writer.

“I do not wish to die well-rested.” — George Bernard Shaw, bombastic playwright.

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” — Babe Ruth, one of the greatest baseball players ever.


Needless to say, this list could have filled an entire issue of Biz, and speaking of entrepreneurial opportunities, there are companies making a lot of money putting inspirational quotes on posters and selling them. Being the entrepreneur that you are, all you need do is pick a few of your favorites and scrawl them on the office whiteboard.

As per another famous entrepreneurial quote, I’ve provided you with your inspiration, now you just need that 99 percent perspiration to be successful!


Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.

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