Work Quotes

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The way you think about work can change your life in an instant.

There are lots of ways to think about work: work as play, work as self-expression, work smarter, not harder. work to live, don’t live to work, etc.

If you live your values through your work, you breathe new life into everyday activities, turning the ordinary, into extraordinary.

Another key is to play to your strengths.

In fact, the key to a meaningful life is to use your strengths in the service of something that is bigger than you are.

Whether you see work as your personal dojo, or your platform for transformation, work is a chance to unleash what you’re capable of, and make your moments matter.

Here are inspirational insights about work from Steven Pressfield, Jim Rohn, Steve Jobs, Ayn Rand, Seneca, Lao Tzu, and more.

Top 10 Work Quotes

  1. “All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.” — Paul Laurence Dunbar
  2. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” — Benjamin Franklin
  3. “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot
  4. “It is only when I am doing my work that I feel truly alive.” — Federico Fellini
  5. “My work is a game, a very serious game.” — M. C. Escher
  6. “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” — James M. Barrie
  7. “The best revenge is massive success.” — Frank Sinatra
  8. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain
  9. “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” — Jim Rohn
  10. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs

Boldness, Genius, and Go-Big or Go Home

  • “Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” — Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood . . . Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” -– Daniel Burnham
  • “No one can arrive from being talented alone, work transforms talent into genius.” — Anna Pavlova
  • “Start before you’re ready.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Henry Stanley Haskins
  • “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “When a work lifts your spirits and inspires bold and noble thoughts in you, do not look for any other standard to judge by: the work is good, the product of a master craftsman.” —  Jean de la Bruyere

Career

  • “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” — Pablo Picasso
  • “Getting fired is nature’s way to telling you that you had the wrong job in the first place.”
    Hal Lancaster
  • “It’s easier to change what you do than people think it is. If you don’t change, your field changes around you.” — Walter Gilbert
  • “It’s like Forrest Gump said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates.’ Your career is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and make you the person you are today. That’s the exciting part – it’s an adventure in itself.” — Nick Carter
  • “The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else … The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!” — Earl Nightingale
  • “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” –Vince Lombardi

Discipline, Effort, and Hard Work

  • “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Gustave Flaubert
  • “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”  — Thomas A. Edison
  • “Everything yields to diligence.” — Thomas Jefferson
  • “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.” — Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” — Sam Ewing
  • “Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.” — Anne Frank
  • “Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.” – Horace
  • “Plough deep while sluggards sleep. “ — Benjamin Franklin
  • “The essence of professionalism is the focus upon the work and its demands, while we are doing it, to the exclusion of all else.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “To achieve what 1% of the world’s population has (Financial Freedom), you must be willing to do what only 1% dare to do … hard work and perseverance of highest order.” —  Manoj Arora

Excellence, Growth, and Greatness

  • “Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.” — Bette Davis
  • “Good is the enemy of great.” — Jim Collins
  • “I studied the lives of great men and famous women, and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.” — Harry S. Truman
  • “If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development.” -– Brian Tracy
  • “The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard
  • “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” — Pearl Buck
  • “The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.” –Thomas Aquinas
  • “There’s nothing of any importance in life—except how well you do your work.” — Ayn Rand
  • “Whatever your discipline, become a student of excellence in all things. Take every opportunity to observe people who manifest the qualities of mastery. These models of excellence will inspire you and guide you toward the fulfillment of your highest potential.” –Michael Gelb and Tony Buzan
  • “With regard to excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.” –Aristotle

Failure

  • “I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.” -– George Burns
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan
  • “No matter how great a writer, artist, or entrepreneur, he is a mortal, he is fallible. He is not proof against Resistance. He will drop the ball; he will crash. That’s why they call it rewriting.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” — Thomas A. Edison
  • “The greatest teacher I know is the job itself.” — James Cash Penney

Happiness, Joy, and Satisfaction

  • “A job well done is its own reward.” — Anonymous
  • “Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all you heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” — Dale Carnegie
  • “Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working.” — John Gay
  • “Everyone enjoys doing the kind of work for which he is best suited.” — Napoleon Hill
  • “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  • “Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what happiness is.” — Elbert Hubbard
  • “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” — Benjamin Franklin
  • “My experience has been that work is almost the best way to pull oneself out of the depths.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “The reward of a thing well done is having done it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.” — Henry Ford
  • “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” — Pearl S. Buck
  • “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” — John Dewey
  • “To work for the sheer joy of it, to wake up and be really excited on a Monday, to love what you do so much that the idea of a long vacation looks boring – that’s living.” — Manoj Arora
  • “Work, look for peace and calm in work: you will find it nowhere else.” — Dmitri Mendeleev

Humor

  • “Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.” — Robert Benchley
  • “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” — Farrah Gray
  • “By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” – Robert Frost
  • “Don’t stay in bed, unless you can make money in bed.” — George Burns
  • “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” — Edgar Bergen
  • “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” -– Jerome K. Jerome
  • “If a job’s worth doing, it’s too hard.” — Scott Adams
  • “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” — Bertrand Russell
  • “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas A. Edison
  • “The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” — Robert Frost
  • “When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: ‘Whose?'” — Don Marquis
  • “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” — Henry J. Kaiser

Luck

  • “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” — Ray Kroc
  • “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca
  • “Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work – and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.” — Lucille Ball
  • “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” — Samuel Goldwyn
  • “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.” — Harry Golden

Passion

  • “A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.” — Charles Schwab
  • “A work-in-progress generates its own energy field. You, the artist or entrepreneur, are pouring love into the work; you are suffusing it with passion and intention and hope.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
  • “Desire! That’s the one secret of every man’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire.” — Bobby Unser
  • “Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.” — Henry David Thoreau
  • “Every man loves what he is good at.” — Thomas Shadwell
  • “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” — Vincent van Gogh
  • “It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.” — Pablo Picasso
  • “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi
  • “Let us realize that: the privilege to work is a gift, the power to work is a blessing, the love of work is success!” — David O. McKay
  • “The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.” — Richard Bach
  • “The opposite of fear is love – love of the challenge, love of the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” — Buddha

Re-Invent Yourself

  • “Be open to the amazing changes which are occurring in the field that interest you.” — Leigh Steinberg
  • “Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it.” — Steve Chandler
  • “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” — Vincent Van Gogh
  • “Some people use language to describe the lives they lead, and other people use language to create the lives they lead.” — Steve Chandler
  • “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “The professional does not permit himself to become hidebound within one incarnation, however comfortable or successful.  Like a transmigrating soul, he shucks his outworn body and dons a new one.  He continues his journey.” — Steven Pressfield
  • “We work to become, not to acquire.” — Elbert Hubbard
  • “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu

Success and Achievement

  • “An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, a prisoner of style, a prisoner of reputation, or a prisoner of success.” — Henri Matisse
  • “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” — Teddy Roosevelt
  • “Do your work with your whole heart, and you will succeed – there’s so little competition.”  —
    Elbert Hubbard
  • “I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.” — Thomas A. Edison
  • “Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.” — Johnny Carson
  • “Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.” — David McCullough
  • “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” — Vince Lombardi
  • “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” — Colin Powell
  • “To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.” — Sister Mary Lauretta
  • “What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” — Benjamin F. Fairless

Teamwork

  • “Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence.” — Mike Schmoker
  • “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” — Henry Ford
  • “None of us is as smart as all of us.” — Ken Blanchard
  • “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” — Vince Lombardi
  • “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan
  • “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” — Andrew Carnegie
  • “The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better.” — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
  • “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” — Phil Jackson
  • “When you form a team, why do you try to form a team? Because teamwork builds trust and trust builds speed.” — Russel Honore

Work as Play

  • “All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.” — Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford
  • “Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.”
    Anatole France
  • “Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.” — Margaret Fuller
  • “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” — Arnold J. Toynbee
  • “When you’re following your energy and doing what you want all the time, the distinction between work and play dissolves.” — Shakti Gawain
  • “Work is much more fun than fun.” — Noel Coward

Work as Self-Expression

  • “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” — Albert Camus
  • “By the work one knows the workman.” — Jean de La Fontaine
  • “Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.” — Samuel Butler
  • “I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.” -– Rita Mae Brown
  • “My mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general, if you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” — Pablo Picasso
  • “People forget how fast you did a job – but they remember how well you did it.” — Howard Newton
  • “What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.” — Jason Fried
  • “Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.” — Henri-Frédéric Amiel
  • “You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid, monotonous work, chances are you’ll end up boring, stupid, and monotonous.” — Bob Black

Work is …

  • “Work is a necessity for man. Man invented the alarm clock.” — Pablo Picasso
  • “Work is a necessary evil to be avoided.” — Mark Twain
  • “Work is love made visible.” — Kahlil Gibram
  • “Work is not man’s punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.” — George Sand
  • “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” — Oscar Wilde

We all have to work for a living.

But WHY we do it, HOW we do it, and WHAT we do are up to us.

The strategies that helped me the most are think of work as self-expression, a job well done is its own reward, and work yourself out of your job.

Attempting to work myself out of my job has always helped me move up the stack, lift others up, and find creative ways to be better, faster, and cheaper.

These strategies have also helped me continuously re-imagine myself, re-invent the job, and transform work from a mundane activity into a chance to find my strengths, sharpen my skills, and learn how to operate at a higher-level in the service of others.

What quotes or words of wisdom have inspired you to bring out your best on the job, and in life?

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Image by Arup Kamal.

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5 COMMENTS

    • Thank you. It took me a few versions to cover the different angles and bring them under one collection.

      I now have a very large “cutting room floor” where I had to let go of a lot of quotes, so I could make space for the best.

      • Whenever I need a boost I dig through the quotes you have compiled…I’m very grateful…Thanks J.D Meier

    • Thank you.

      I’m a big believer that having many quotes at our disposal, gives us fresh ways to look at any situation, and be more resourceful.

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