199 Great Quotes


Posted on November 18, 2008 by Blake Leath

I love great quotes, just love 'em.

Knowing that I save so many, people often ask for sources and copies of those I share.  As a 'random bonus,' here are 199 great quotes that are useful in the context of leadership, management, and simply interacting with people.  I'll also throw in a few "just for fun." 


1. You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone. (Al Capone)

2. A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy and nothing can stop him. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

3. Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. (Robert Creenleaf)

4. Worshipping the teapot instead of drinking the tea. (Wei Wu Wei)

5. To change and change for the better are two different things. (German proverb)

6. What the rulebook says will change. In time all ink is disappearing ink. (William Warriner)

7. The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map. (Murphy’s Third Military Law)

8. What is now proved was once only imagined. (William Blake)

9. Ability is nothing without opportunity. (Napoleon Bonaparte)

10. Before we can change things we must call them by their real name. (Confucius)

11. Man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock. (Alvin Toffler)

12. Nothing is permanent except change. (Heraclitus)

13. Human inventiveness is overwhelming human adaptiveness. Our ability to judge lags behind our ability to create. (Robert Ornstein)

14. An enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one. (Sir Charles Sherrington)

15. The city is the soul magnified. (Plato)

16. Our education system and our society discriminate against one whole half of the brain. The right hemisphere gets only the barest minimum of training, nothing compared to what we do to train the left. (Roger Perry) 

17. The trouble with our age is that it is all signposts and no destination. (Louis Kronenberger)

18. I’m an excellent driver. Have to stay in the driveway. Oh-oh. Judge Wapner at six o’clock. Three minutes. (Dustin Hoffman in Rainman)

19. Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same. (George Bernard Shaw)

20. You must look into people, as well as at them. (Lord Chesterfield)

21. There is a word for the absence of stress: death. (Hans Selye)

22. Hell is other people. (Jean-Paul Sartre)

23. No matter how cynical you get, you can never keep up. (Lily Tomlin)

24. I do not like this word bomb. It is not a bomb; it is a device which is exploding. (Jacques Le Blanc, French ambassador to New Zealand, describing France’s nuclear testing)

25. People only see what they are prepared to see. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

26. Other people are not in this world to live up to your expectations. (Fritz Perls)

27. We have met the enemy and it is us. (Walt Kelly)

28. We’ve got to make this stuff we’re lost in look as much like home as possible. (Overheard at a strategy session)

29. Opportunity always knocks at the least opportune moment. (Decharme’s Precept)

30. Next week there can’t be any crisis. My schedule is already full. (Henry Kissinger)

31. Very few things happen at the right time and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects. (Herodotus)

32. The lily is doubling in size every day. In thirty days it will over the entire pond, killing all creatures living in it. The farmer does not want that to happen but being busy with other chores, he decides to postpone cutting back the plant until it covers half the pond. The question is, on what day will the lily cover half the pond? The answer is, on the twenty-ninth day—leaving the farmer just one day to save his pond. (Old French proverb)

33. People rise to the challenge when it’s their challenge. (Anonymous)

34. Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die. (Daniel Burnham)

35. Don’t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps. (David Lloyd George)

36. Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. (Jonathan Kozol)

37. A great wind is blowing that gives you either imagination or a headache. (Catherine the Great)

38. Always borrow money from pessimists; they don’t expect to be paid back. (Anonymous)

39. To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often. (Winston Churchill)

40. Educators and futurists can prepare individuals for the future by making the different images of the future more real for them. (Carl Townsend)

41. People change through observation not argument. (Will Rogers)

42. If there is another way to skin a cat, I don’t want to know about it. (Steve Kravitz)

43. Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. That’s about the only way it has ever happened in the past. (Margaret Mead)

44. What you don’t know will always hurt you. (First Law of Blissful Ignorance)

45. I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent. (Horton, via Dr. Seuss)

46. It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail. (Gore Vidal)

47. Attention must be paid. (Linda, in Death of a Salesman)

48. What we got here is a failure to communicate. (Strother Martin’s prison camp commander character in Cool Hand Luke)

49. We trained hard. But it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing. And what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization. (Gaius Petronius Arbiter, The Satyricon, first century, AD)

50. There is no limit to the amount of good that people can accomplish, if they don’t care who gets the credit. (Anonymous)

51. A leader is someone who understands where people are going, and stands in front of them. (Gandhi)

52. It was a cross between a screwball and a changeup. It was a screwup. (Bob Patterson, describing a ninth-inning home-run pitch)

53. Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps. (Emo Phillips)

54. If you haven’t struck oil in the first three minutes - stop boring! (George Jessel)

55. Just do it. (Nike)

56. Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work. (Thomas A. Edison)

57. When you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind. (Lord Kelvin)

58. To the blind, all things are sudden. (Old proverb)

59. We aim above the mark to hit the mark. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

60. When I hear the word art, I reach for my Luger. (Hermann Goering)

61. Reengineering is the new scientific management. (Tom Peters)

62. Beijing - Eighteen factory workers were executed today for poor product quality at Chien Bien Refrigerator Factory on the outskirts of the Chinese capital. (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 17, 1989)

63. If you don’t have time to do it right you must have time to do it over. (Philip Crosby)

64. Nine out of Ten people who go into a store looking for a self-help book need assistance finding it. (Internet graffito)

65. Leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow. (Dogbert, in the cartoon strip Dilbert)

66. An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. (Arab proverb)

67. Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. (Japanese proverb)

68. Fool someone once and they’ll be foolish for a day, but teach them to fool themselves and they’ll be foolish for a lifetime. (Michael Fry)

69. Management isn’t about making friends, it’s about getting things done. (Dave Marquette)

70. A good catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years. (Wendell L. Wilkie)

71. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. (Ken Blanchard)

72. The most important skill of managers and leaders in the years to come will be conversation. (Alan Weber)

73. It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. (St. Francis of Assisi)

74. If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown too? (Internet graffito)

75. Now let’s all repeat the non-conformist oath. (Steve Martin)

76. The grand dogma of our times, that groups would be evenly represented in institutions and activities in the absence of discrimination, would collapse like a house of cards from a study of societies around the world. (Thomas Sowell)

77. Knock. Don’t ring bell. (Sign on Pavlov’s door)

78. Whenever a system becomes completely defined, someone discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition. (Brooke’s Law)

79. We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything. (Thomas Edison)

80. Madness exacts its toll of us all. Please have exact change ready. (Found on the Internet)

81. Decay is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on, with diligence. (Buddha’s last words)

82. Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand-in-hand. (Unknown)

83. Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. (Henry Ford)

84. A thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words. (L.S. Vygotsky)

85. Worry is like interest paid in advance on a debt that never exists. (The Spanish Prisoner)

86. If we both agree, one of us is unnecessary. (Mark Twain)

87. When you’re green, you’re growin’; and when you’re ripe, you rot. (Ray Kroc)

88. I destroy my enemies by making them friends. (Abe Lincoln)

89. When we’re done, the people will say, “We did it ourselves.” (Lao Tzu)

90. Everything we do, we do with an eye to something else. (Aristotle)

91. I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I simply try to dance better than myself. (Mikhail Baryshnikov)

92. Forget your opponents; always play against par. (Sam Snead)

93. One’s mind, when stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimension. (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)

94. I present myself according to the type of relationship I wish to have with you. (Luigi Pirandello)

95. Every child of the Saxon race is educated to wish to be first. It is our system; and a man comes to measure his greatness by the regrets, envies, and hatreds of his competitors. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

96. There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self. (Hindu proverb)

97. What it lies in our power to do, it also lies in our power not to do. (Aristotle)

98. When we all think alike, then no one is thinking. (Walter Lippman)

99. Excellence is an actual state of superior performance rising out from an original state of potentiality. (Tom Morris)

100. The least important things, we think about and talk about the most, and the most important things, we think about and talk about the least. (Socrates)

101. The only constant in our world is change. (Heraclitus)

102. We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow worm. (Winston Churchill)

103. We do not go to work only to earn an income, but to find meaning in our lives. What we do is a large part of what we are. (Alan Ryan)

104. A useless life is an early death. (Joann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

105. A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle. (Japanese proverb)

106. Why, when I point to the moon, do you stare at my finger? (Zen proverb)

107. Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things — a chance word, a tap on the shoulder, or a penny dropped on a newsstand — I am tempted to think, there are no little things. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

108. How can you taste my tea if you do not empty your own cup first? (Zen proverb)

109. The more laws, the less justice. (German proverb)

110. Morality, when vigorously alive, sees farther than intellect. (J.A. Froude)

111. A liar is not believed; even when he tells the truth. (Cicero)

112. Our characters are the result of our conduct. (Aristotle)

113. All those who have been wronged, or believe themselves to be wronged, are terrible; for they are always looking out for their opportunity. (Aristotle)

114. In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. (Max DePree)

115. It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious. (Alfred North Whitehead)

116. The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. (Max DePree, Herman Miller)

117. Give me a lever long enough and single-handed I can move the world. (Archimedes)

118. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. (Unknown)

119. Every organization has a surplus of incompetent people. (Dr. Peter of “the peter principle”)

120. A person totally wrapped up in himself makes a small package. (Harry Emerson Fosdick)

121. Desires make good servants ~ but bad masters. (ancient philosophers)

122. The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. (Socrates)

123. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. (John Henry Boetker)

124. Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself. (Andrew Carnegie)

125. Blame is for God and little children. (Papillon)

126. Temptation resisted is the truest test of character. (Papillon)

127. Tough times don’t build character, they reveal it. (Michael Jordan)

128. Do what you love. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and grow it still. (Henry David Thoreau)

129. God resides in the details. (Einstein)

130. Prepare fish for a man, and you feed him for the day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. (Lao Tse Chiuh)

131. Step back in order to leap further. (Montaigne)

132. Be the change you’re trying to create. (Gandhi)

133. The chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken. (Warren Buffet)

134. Virtually every important action in life involves educated guesswork. Too few chances reliably translate into too few victories. (Thomas Hazlett)

135. The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit, which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 

136. Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways. (Stephen Vincent Benet)

137. The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts life. (William James)

138. As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. (Henry David Thoreau)

139. Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed. (Peter Drucker)

140. Men tire themselves in pursuit of rest. (Laurence Sterne)

141. The secret of success is constancy of purpose. (Benjamin Disraeli)

142. Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes. (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

143. We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it. (William Osler)

144. Dichotomizing pathologizes and pathology dichotomizes. (Abraham Maslow)

145. Only the consciousness of a purpose that is mightier than any man and worthy of all men can fortify and inspirit and compose the souls of men. (Walter Lippman)

146. Great minds have purposes, others have only wishes. (Washington Irving)

147. Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. (Mark Twain)

148. I went to the wood because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (Henry David Thoreau)

149. Organizations are webs of participation. Change the participation, and you change the organization. (John Seely Brown)

150. The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. (US Marine Corps)

151. Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time leading yourself — your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers. If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny. (Dee Hock)

152. Those who know much about others may be smart, but those who understand themselves are even wiser. Those who control many may be powerful, but those who have mastered themselves are more powerful still. (Lao Tsu)

153. The only sustainable advantage comes from out-innovating the competition. (James Morse)

154. To be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting. (e.e. cummings)

155. The most elusive key to satisfaction is not getting what you want — but wanting what you get. (Anna Muoio)

156. Character is destiny. Don’t develop your personality, cultivate your character. (Tom Morris)

157. He has the most who is most content with the least. (Diogenes)

158. There is no greater sin than enslavement to desire, no greater curse than discontent, no greater misfortune than selfish craving. Therefore, in being content, one will always have enough. (Lao Tsu)

159. Don’t be dissatisfied with acquisition, because you’ll never have “enough.” If anything, be dissatisfied with aspiration... always want to become more. (Tom Morris)

160. Dogs and philsophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards. (Diogenes)

161. While all excesses are hurtful, the most dangerous is unlimited good fortune. (Seneca)

162. As long as we think that we don’t have enough money, we don’t ask the important questions about our lives. We use that rationalization to protect ourselves from the fearsome fact that we do have choices... and they must be made. Sometimes we hate to admit we’ll never be happy with what we have. It’s time to be happy with who we are. (Shoshana Zuboff)

163. For most people, there’s a tension between dissatisfaction and fear. On the one hand, we’re not at peace with what we see in ourselves or our lives. On the other hand, we’re afraid to move... to change... to leave behind what we have been and what is known. (Shoshana Zuboff)

164. Many people today are hungry ghosts. Bottomless stomachs, small mouths. Always wanting... and nothing is enough. (Elizabeth Gibson-Meier, Buddhism)

165. For some people, work is like standing knee-deep in running water, struggling to keep a cork submerged with a sledgehammer. At the end of your day, you’re panting and red faced. And the cork bobs on the surface... taunting you. (Paul Wood)

166. Change is not about reorganizing, reengineering, reinventing, recapitalizing. It’s about reconceiving. When you reconceive something, creativity will flood your mind. (Dee Hock)

167. The best learning takes place through play. Airplanes are never built, cars are never made, oil platforms are never constructed without first building and playing with models. It is through dialogue and the prototype process that people learn how to do things. (Arie De Geus)

168. History is littered with people who “make it” and then crash. It’s a drama that has unfolded in every field of human endeavor since the beginning of time. (Tom Morris)

169. The four marks of public success are Money, Power, Fame, and Status. As long as they are used as resources, not goals, most people are okay. But when asking “how much is enough,” the answer is usually... “I’ll tell you when I get there.” Aristotle taught that desires feed on themselves. We must not seek these as outcomes, but as levers. (Tom Morris)

170. Do not emulate he who leads without managing; or he who manages without leading. Having one without the other is like day without night. Together, the two form one — complete, balanced. Divided, they remain a tale untold. (D.B. Lee)

171. Values are... The beliefs, principles, or standards which, when held in high regard, influence judgment and shape subsequent behavior. (Middle English, from Old French, from the Latin valere, meaning, to be of strong worth)

172. If you want to know what someone’s values are, look at his calendar and his checkbook. Since time and money are two of our most finite resources, they sometimes bottleneck the most noble ambitions. (Richard Leider)

173. Values are expressed not by what we say we wish for, but by what we really do. We love our families but we can’t count many friends with intact ones anymore…We love our children, but how many children come home to empty houses during the day? We believe in families, but how many families sit down to eat together anymore?…What are the real American values? Look at who our heroes are. They aren’t the people who volunteer in the soup kitchens; they aren’t struggling writers and artists… mainly they are the rich and famous and the successful and the beautiful… perhaps the best indicator of what we really are is what we spend our money on or what we watch on television. Look at what we read. Look at what we choose to do with our spare time. That’s what we value. (Stephen Covey)

174. The notion of situational ethics can be applied to values as well. As leaders, one major responsibility is articulating those values which you consider non-negotiable. In our personal lives we call this setting boundaries. Allowing articulated values to be negotiated away compromises your ability to effectively lead. This idea of leadership courage is all but gone in many organizations, communities, and families. (D.B. Lee) 

175. In the end, values, like ethics, should not flutter in the winds of political correctness, relationships, or appearances, but rather, should be bonded to our inner core and our character. (D.B. Lee)

176. When your time has come and gone, it is not what was said that matters most, but what was done. How will you serve? What will your legacy be? (D.B. Lee)

177. A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. (Mark Twain)

178. Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. (Arnold Palmer)

179. Joys shared are doubled, sorrows shared are halved. (Katherine Ferrari)

180. Do the thing, and you shall have the power; but they who do not do the thing have not the power. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

181. Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way. (Abraham Lincoln)

182. You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind. Your mind gets bored and therefore tired of doing nothing. Get interested in something! Get absolutely enthralled in something! Get out of yourself! Be somebody! Do something. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have. (Norman Vincent Peale)

183. The purpose of education is to replace an empty or cluttered mind with an open one. (Malcolm Forbes)

184. I have never let schooling interfere with my education. (Mark Twain)

185. Only the educated are free. (Epictetus)

186. Ye can lead a man to the university, but ye can’t make him think. (Finley Peter Dunne)

187. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. (Mark Twain)

188. We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world. We must learn to welcome and not to fear the voices of dissent. We must dare to think about ‘unthinkable things’ because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless. (James W. Fulbright)

189. The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat. (Napoleon Hill)

190. If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance. (Samuel Johnson)

191. The man who writes about himself and his own time writes about all people and about all time. (George Bernard Shaw)

192. Worry is like a rocking chair — it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere. (Dorothy Galyean)

193. I believe life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve. This level of resolve can move mountains, but it must be constant and consistent. As simplistic as this may sound, it is still the common denominator separating those who live their dreams from those who live in regret. (Anthony Robbins)

194. Because a fellow has failed once or twice, or a dozen times, you don’t want to set him down as a failure till he’s dead or loses his courage — and that’s the same thing. (George Lorimer)

195. Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. (Francis Bacon)

196. Understand that you, yourself, are no more than the composite picture of all your thoughts and actions. In your relationships with others, remember the basic and critically important rule: If you want to be loved, be lovable. If you want respect, set a respectable example! (Denis Waitley)

197. A birthday is not simply the day you were born. Over the course of your lifetime, it is the single day upon which people celebrate your existence. Do not frown upon it as merely “another day,” for it is YOUR DAY and the chance for others to acknowledge what you mean in their lives. (D.B. Lee)

198. Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. (M.L. King, Jr.)

199. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. (Nelson Mandella’s inauguration)