Quotations about   success

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There is always some peace in having submitted to the right. Don’t spoil it by worrying about the results, if you can help it. It is not your business to succeed (no one can be sure of that) but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with God ….

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter to Arthur Greeves, Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. 2: 1931-1949 (2004)
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Added on 20-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
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Success don’t konsist in never making blunders, but in never making the same one the seckond time.

[Success doesn’t consist in never making blunders, but in never making the same one the second time.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Molassis Kandy” (1874)
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More discussion of this quotation here.
Added on 5-May-19 | Last updated 5-May-19
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It was better, he thought, to fail in attempting exquisite things than to succeed in the department of the utterly contemptible.

Arthur Machen (1863-1947) Welsh author and mystic
The Hill of Dreams, ch. 5 (1907)
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Added on 26-Jan-19 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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In reality, the likelihood of reaching the pinnacle of capitalist society today is only marginally better than were the chances of being accepted into the French nobility four centuries ago, though at least an aristocratic age was franker, and therefore kinder, about the odds. It did not relentlessly play up the possibilities open to all, … and so, in turn, did not cruelly equate an ordinary life with a failed one.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, ch. 9 “Entrepreneurship” (2009)
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Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
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The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.

John Wooden (1910-2010) American basketball player and coach
They Call Me Coach, ch. 25, epigraph (1972)
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Added on 21-Nov-18 | Last updated 21-Nov-18
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Man is a successful animal, that’s all.

Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915) French poet, novelist, critic
Promenades Philosophiques (1908)

Alt. trans.: "Man is merely a successful animal."
Added on 9-Apr-18 | Last updated 9-Apr-18
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There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.

Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) American clergyman and writer
“Salt,” Counsels by the Way (1921 ed.)
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Added on 13-Dec-17 | Last updated 13-Dec-17
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How easy it is to be amiable in the midst of happiness and success!

Anne Sophie Swetchine (1782-1857) Russian-French author and salonist [Madame Swetchine]
Life and Letters of Madam Swetchine, ch. 5 [8th ed., 1875] (ed. de Falloux; tr. Preston]
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Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result. For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Prince, ch. 18 (1513) [tr. Marriott (1908)]
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Origin of the paraphrase "The ends justify the means," which is generally attributed to Machiavelli.
Added on 6-Dec-17 | Last updated 6-Dec-17
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I’m not sure why it happened, and I’m not certain at all when it happened, but at some point, wanting a happy ending became uncool. Maybe it’s the relentless (and again, highly flawed) criticism that “such things aren’t realistic.” To which my response is, so the fuck what? It’s call fiction. If you want real, step outside.

Greg Rucka (b. 1969) American comic book writer and novelist
Lazarus: X+66 #3, letter column (Sep 2017)
Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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… a noble aim,
Faithfully kept, is as a noble deed,
In whose pure sight all virtue doth succeed.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) English poet
“Brave Schill! By Death Delivered, Take Thy Flight” (1809; pub. 1815)
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Sometimes misquoted "is a noble deed".
Added on 21-Jul-17 | Last updated 21-Jul-17
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If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same ….

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“If–” st. 2 (1910)
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We learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Press conference (28 Jul 1965)

Defending his decision to to not withdraw US troops from Vietnam.
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Man can climb to the highest summits; but he cannot dwell there long.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Candida, Act 3 (1898)
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The tragedy of life is not that man loses, but that he almost wins.

Heywood Broun (1888-1939) American journalist, author
“Sport for Art’s Sake,” Vanity Fair (Sep 1921)
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Reprinted in Pieces of Hate, and Other Enthusiasms (1922).
Added on 31-May-17 | Last updated 31-May-17
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KATE: One’s religion is whatever he is most interested in, and yours is — Success.

HARRY: Ambition — it is the last infirmity of noble minds.

James Barrie (1860-1937) Scottish novelist and dramatist
The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)
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Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“The Poets,” Atlantic Monthly (Jul 1878)
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Your responsibility as a parent is not as great as you might imagine. You need not supply the world with the next conqueror of disease or a major movie star. If your child simply grows up to be someone who does not use the word “collectible” as a noun, you can consider yourself an unqualified success.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Social Studies, “Parental Guidance” (1981)
Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 22-May-17
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We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
“The Viet Nam Negotiations,” Foreign Affairs (Jan 1969)
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Sometimes paraphrased as "A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla army wins if he does not lose."
Added on 2-May-17 | Last updated 8-May-17
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If you bungle raising your children I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) First Lady of the United States (1961-1963), book editor, celebrity
Interview with Sander Vanocur, NBC News (1 Oct 1960)
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What you get by reaching your goals is not nearly so important as what you become by reaching them.

ziglar-what-you-become-by-reaching-them-wist_info-quote

Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar (1926-2012) American author, salesperson, motivational speaker
Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles (1974)

Ziglar used multiple variations of this phrase. Also attributed to Goethe and Thoreau. For more discussion see here.
Added on 30-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Dec-16
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We cannot insure Success, but We can deserve it.

adams-insure-success-deserve-it-wist_info-quote

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (18 Feb 1776)
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Added on 28-Dec-16 | Last updated 28-Dec-16
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The only thing most people do better than anyone else is read their own handwriting.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
(Attributed)
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To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

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Howard Zinn (1922-2010) American historian, academic, author, social activist
“The Optimism of Uncertainty,” The Nation (2 Sep 2004)
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Adopted from Zinn's essay of the same name in Paul Loeb (ed.), The Impossible Will Take a Little While (2004). See also Zinn, "A Marvelous Victory" (23 Feb 2004).
Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Dec-16
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It is not yours to finish the task, but neither are you free to set it aside.

tarfon-finish-the-task-wist_info-quote

Tarfon (fl. 1st-2nd C AD) Jewish rabbi, sage
Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 2:15-16

Alt. trans.:
  • It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.
  • It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.
  • We need not finish the task but neither can we desist from it.
  • Although I am not free to avoid doing the work, it is not always necessary that I finish the task.
  • You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Speech, Plymouth (22 Dec 1802)

Sometimes given as "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
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The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
“The Sub-Treasury,” speech, Illinois House of Representatives (26 Dec 1839)
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The only route to success is hard work. If you didn’t work hard I don’t think it counts as success.

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
Twitter (27 Nov 2012)
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Added on 14-Jul-16 | Last updated 14-Jul-16
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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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The way to bliss lies not on beds of down,
And he that has no cross deserves no crown.

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Esther, Sec. 9, Meditation 9 (1621)
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There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?

Erin Hanson (b. 1996) Australian poet
“There is freedom waiting for you”
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If my books had been any worse, I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I should not have come.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Atlantic Monthly (12 Dec 1945)
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The most successful men in the end are those whose success is the result of steady accretion. That intellectuality is more vigorous that has attained its strength gradually. It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider — and progressively better able to grasp any theme or situation — persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thought upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Interview, in Orison Swett Marden, How They Succeeded, ch. 2 (1901)
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The engine which drives Enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
The Treatise on Money (1930)
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It is a very rare thing for a man of talent to succeed by his talent.

Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #88 (1886)
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He that succeeds in the world loves it. He that fails in it hates it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1831)
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If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Speech, French Philosophical Society, Paris (6 Apr 1922)
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Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) American educator, writer
(Attributed)

Quoted in Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom, ch. 6 (1958).
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Every life is allocated one hundred seconds of genius. They might be enough, if we could just be sure which ones they are.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
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The political leaders with whom we are familiar generally aspire to be superstars rather than heroes. The distinction is crucial. Superstars strive for approbation; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support; heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of their inner values.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
“With Faint Praise,” New York Times Book Review (16 Jul 1995)
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The pat on the back, the arm around the shoulder, the praise for what was done right, and the sympathetic nod for what wasn’t, are as much a part of golf as life itself.

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) US President, (1974-77) [b. Leslie Lynch King, Jr.]
Speech, Dedication of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Pinehurst, North Carolina (12 Sep 1974)
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If you mean to profit, learn to please.

Charles Churchill (1732-1764) English poet and satirist
Gotham, 2.1.8 (1764)
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[The commander] must always think and plan two battles ahead — the one he is prepared to fight and the next one — so that the success gained in one battle can be used as a springboard for the next.

Bernard Montgomery (1887-1976) British military leader
The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery, ch. 6 (1958)
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Every great improvement has come after repeated failures. Virtually nothing comes out right the first time. Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
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Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table Talk,” Prose Works (1857)
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The trouble with being number one in the world — at anything — is that it takes a certain mentality to attain that position in the first place, and that is something of a driving, perfectionist attitude, so that once you do achieve number one, you don’t relax and enjoy it.

Billie Jean King (b. 1943) American tennis player
Billie Jean (1982)
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You have greatly ventured, but all must do so who would greatly win.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, Act 1, sc. 1 (1821)
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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Creativity is constantly in danger of being destroyed by success. The more effectively the environment is mastered, the greater is the temptation to rest on one’s oars.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
The Necessity for Choice: Prospects of American Foreign Policy, 8.3 (1961)
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Perhaps we need, for worldly success, virtues which make us loved and vices which make us feared.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [tr. Collins (1928)]
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He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much, who has enjoyed the trust of good women, and the respect of intellectual men and the love of little children, who has filled his niche and accomplished his task, and who has left the world better than he found it whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul, who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it, who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had, whose life was an inspiration, and whose memory is a benediction.

Elisabeth-Anne "Bessie" Anderson Stanley (1879–1952) American poet
“Success” (1904)

The essay (though often presented in stanzas) was written for a poetry contest to answer the question "What is success?" in 100 words or less. It (especially the first 13 words) is often misattributed to Robert Louis Stevenson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Elbert Hubbard (the latter probably because the essay appeared in an advertisment in his series of books Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Lovers (e.g.). More information here.
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Success is ten percent opportunity and ninety percent intelligent hustle.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
An American Bible [ed. Alice Hubbard] (1918)
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There is no such thing as success in a bad business.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927) [ed. Elbert Hubbard II]
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One overmuch elated with success
A change of fortune plunges in distress.

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman poet and satirist [Quintus Horacius Flaccus]
Epistles, 1.10 [ed. Kraemer, Jr (1936)]
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When we watch a child trying to walk, we see its countless failures; its success are but few. If we had to limit our observation within a narrow space of time, the sight would be cruel. But we find that in spite of its repeated failures, there is an impetus of joy in the child which sustains it in its seemingly impossible task. We see it does not think of its falls so much as of its power to keep its balance though for only a moment.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian Bengali poet, philosopher [a.k.a. Rabi Thakur, Kabiguru]
Sadhana: The Realization of Life, ch. 3 (1913)
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