Quotes from influential people are powerful and unite us. They are like patterns for things we believe in and live by.
A while back, I wrote a post about my own personal favourite quotes. I had listed 41 of them. 41 quotes is nice, but which ones are keystone lessons?
Which ones have had the biggest impact in my personal life, but also in the lives of others?
I reached out to some of the top influencers on Medium across different publications to give us readers their most inspiring quotes and below is the result.
I hope you’ll enjoy this post!
- Hackernoon: David Smooke
- Thrive Global: Arianna Huffington
- The Writing Cooperative: Justin Cox 🍩 and Jessica Jungton
- Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Dave Schools
- Marketing & Growth Hacking: Lincoln W Daniel
- The Ascent: Steve Campbell
- The Post-Grad Survival Guide: Tom Kuegler
- Miss Tiffany Sun: Tiffany Sun
- Redoubtable: Jonathan Greene
- Struggling Forward: Tim Rettig and Jordan Gross
- Power Level: Danny Forest
*Ordered by descending order of number of followers
Publication: Hacker Noon
Editors: David Smooke
“Where there is credit to be taken I’ll gladly take it and where there is blame… it’s your fault.” — Pawnee Mayor Gunderson, in his obituary video.
This is how platforms work. It’s how Facebook can go to a senate hearing, and say they’re not a publisher, and then, go to court in the EU and say they are a publisher.
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Mr. Albert Einstein
There is purpose and brilliance to be had for everyone, but finding your niche is hard. I also love when complex minds make simple comparisons.
“Each of us is at one time young and weak and at another old and strong. It is indeed but a consolation that we evolve constantly!” -Painter Piet Mondrian
Change is the only constant. To not take it for granted when you are strong, and do not expect who is weak now to remain weak. I love how this one reminds me that life is a circle and every spot on the circle has a tangent.
“I recently took up ice sculpting. Last night I made an ice cube. This morning I made 12, I was prolific.” — Comedian Mitch Hedberg
This is my favorite joke about scaling. When you find a way to make something work, and then reduce the marginal cost, it’s funny because it’s profitable and it’s not quite the original thing.
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” — Author David Foster Wallace
Honestly, if you haven’t heard this commencement speech, I highly recommend stopping what you’re doing and listening to it. To me, it’s the coming of age essay about AWARENESS.
Publication: Thrive Global
Editor: Arianna Huffington
Source: Huffington Post
“True understanding is to see the events of life in this way: “You are here for my benefit, though rumor paints you otherwise.” And everything is turned to one’s advantage when he greets a situation like this: You are the very thing I was looking for. Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art — and this art called “life” is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing; what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend? “— Marcus Aurelius
“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” — Rumi
“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’”
And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.’” — Iain Thomas
“There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.” — Montaigne
“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. ‘A fight is going on inside me,’ he said to the boy. ‘It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.’
He continued, ‘The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’” — Cherokee legend
Publication: The Writing Cooperative
Editor: Justin Cox 🍩
“Absorb what is useful, disregard that which is useless.” — Bruce Lee
I don’t know where I first read this Bruce Lee quote, but it’s been on my Facebook “about me” section for over a decade. There’s so much useless stuff in our world that is easy to get enveloped in, yet like the master said, we should let it flow past us like water.
“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”— Saint Francis of Assisi
When leaders are more concerned with ego than governing and when violence is at every turn, the world can seem pretty dark. Yet we each have the ability to drive out the darkness, we just have to be light.
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. “— Philip K. Dick
The internet is a wonderful tool but it’s also driven us into segregated tribes. We’ve connected with our own version of reality, often to the detriment of actual reality. Truth is always there, waiting for us whether we like it or not.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Rob Siltanen
It seems cliché to use this quote since it’s been Apple’s brand statement since the famous 90’s ad campaign. But it stands out because we each have the ability to make a difference in our world. We just have to get off our butts and do something.
Editor: Jessica Jungton
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” — Vincent Van Gogh
This mentally helps me overcome discouragement. When tasks are overwhelming or my goals feel far away, I focus on what I can do right now, even if seems unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Knowing that all of these “small” decisions and actions will combine to create something more significant helps me to keep going and not give up.
Publication: Entrepreneur’s Handbook
Editor: Dave Schools
“If you meet with Triumph and Disaster… treat those two impostors just the same.” — Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”
Success and failure are both the mere fuel of life. Pure success makes you lazy, pure failure makes you crazy. As Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, “Cuss” both. You are more than what you do and the results.
“You will learn more in three days of acting than in six months of researching.” — anonymous Redditor
I love this for entrepreneurs. To hades with your analysis paralysis and just do it. Take action — it’s always the more epic alternative to research and thinking.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” — Mark Twain
I always try to write what I want to say in the fewest, most exact words as possible. This is an ongoing, lifelong challenge.
“You can tell how smart a man is by the answers he gives, you can tell how wise he is by the questions he asks.” — Anonymous
When I first heard this in high school, I tattooed it onto my brain. I have a weird obsession with questions. I even made an app with interesting questions.
“Toohey: “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.”
Roark: “But I don’t think of you.”
— Ayn Rand from her novel “The Fountainhead”
I believe we care too much about what people think of us. Howard Roark wasn’t afraid to do good, hard work, even if it was misunderstood and alienated people. His example is extreme, but there’s truth to not being afraid to take risks.
Publication: Marketing & Growth Hacking
Editor: Lincoln W Daniel
Ubuntu, which translates to “I am because we are” — a Zulu proverb.
This quote is the cornerstone of my life and the work that I do. I strongly believe that if I can help others achieve their goals, we’ll succeed together.
“You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down.” — Bateke Proverb
I believe in learning by doing. Reading to learn is useful, however, in my experiences, it’s been more fruitful to attempt to learn a new skill by practicing that skill repeatedly.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” — A simplification of Einstein’s true statements
In designing software experiences and writing an educational book, I have learned that my simplest systems, designs, and explanations have had the greatest affect on the recipients of my efforts; this has also meant greater adoption.
“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” — Steve Jobs
It’s lazy and, perhaps, harmful to think that a successful entity came by its success easily, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. I have learned the hard way that true success comes with time, planning, and sacrifice. Fairy tales are easy to write after the fact, especially when the grueling details are omitted.
“The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well.” — John D. Rockefeller Jr.
This one is self explanatory. How I apply this is by only embarking on projects I plan to deliver better than anyone else can in the long term.
Publication: The Ascent
Editor: Steve Campbell
“If information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” — Derek Sivers
I love this message and others like it because it really puts things into perspective for me. Knowledge is power, sure, but at some point you have to act on it. Otherwise, your brain is just a fancy car you’re thrilled to show off but never ends up leaving the driveway.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West
If I ever were to get a quote tattooed on me as a daily reminder, this would probably be the one. You can’t take your life for granted. As far as we know, we only get one, so make it count, each and every day.
“Failure sucks, but the pain that is failure does not exceed the pain that is not trying at all.” — Casey Neistat
This serves as a simple reminder that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Looking back on my life once I’m old and frail and can no longer do things, the last thing I ever want to feel deep in my heart is regret from not trying. Regret from failure is also tough, but that I know I can live with.
“My goal is to learn things once and use them forever.” — Tim Ferriss
I love Tim’s philosophy of experimentation and treating himself like a human guinea pig. This quote often reminds me that learning is, in fact, a tool, and when used properly, can be a lifelong one. That wouldn’t be the case if you had to constantly relearn chapter three each and every day.
“There is always time to get practical.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
There are a lot of things in life that frighten us into being more conservative than we’d sometimes like to be, especially the older we get. For me, diving into entrepreneurship at age 30 was one of those scary things. But even though it’s a daily struggle, I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I keep this quote constantly in the back of my mind.
Publication: Post-Grad Survival Guide
Editor: Tom Kuegler
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” — Anne Lamott
A reminder that we can’t censor ourselves when writing. We write to tell the truth, not to be liked. Be ruthless with what you say and don’t be afraid to say it because you might hurt someone. This is art, and our hearts deserve to sing our song.
“Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.” — C.S. Lewis
Seriously f*ck all the travel Instagrammers out there that make traveling look like a dream. Take a selfie at the airport 20 hours into your overseas trip. Let me see that horrible in-flight meal. Adventures are not always meant to be fun — they’re meant to teach us something. I love the Chronicles of Narnia series.
“Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” — Tim Ferriss
A call to do. The 4-Hour Workweek was probably the most influential book I ever read.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.
This quote reminds me of my Mom. The best quotes are so often a sentence or two, but J.K. manages to tell us so much about Snape through just one word. It’s heartbreaking. To me she’s the greatest writer of my generation.
“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
I remember this quote hitting me like a right hook from Mike Tyson. I don’t listen to people much. I don’t really read blog posts. I try to stick to my guns no matter what and it all stems from me reading this quote about 4–5 years ago in college. No quote has had a bigger impact on me.
Publication: Miss Tiffany Sun
Editor: Tiffany Sun
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” — Jim Rohn
Too many people expect to accomplish something overnight so they try it once but give up once they realized nothing has happened. The truth is, you need to constantly change direction and learn to bypass obstacles that might block you from what you want. Success is not a straight line; it’s a continuous tangle of experiences, failures and hard work.
Editor: Jonathan Greene
“He who knows others is intelligent; he who understands himself is enlightened” — Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way)
We can learn so much from others, but until we understand ourselves we will never reach our peak. I have learned this first-hand and have finally gotten to a place in my life where I can be open with myself. What makes me tick. Why I get up. What drives me. It provided a level of confidence in life that you can’t get any other way.
“There’s no one to perform for. There is just work to be done and lessons to be learned, in all that is around us.” — Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy
Social media is a performance. People creating their best self. Curating a life that doesn’t really exist. But it doesn’t matter because they are performing for the wrong audience. You don’t need an audience in life. You need be fulfilled by doing things that matter. I’ve taken that approach to writing in that I just let it go out there and whatever happens is just fine.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
We all like to talk about what we are going to do. Read articles on being productive. Make a to-do list of all the things we have to do. But unless we actually do it, we are accomplishing nothing. I broke this habit by tracking everything I did every day. How long I meditated, how many pages I read, how long I worked out, how many words I wrote. Looking at all zeroes didn’t just feel like failure, it was failure.
“The most important thing is to express your true nature in the simplest, most adequate way and to appreciate it in the smallest existence.” — Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Read that again. It’s so beautiful. Be yourself. Simply, but adequately. And appreciate it in the tiniest way possible. To be humble is to understand your place in the universe. But to express your true nature is freedom.
“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do — even when it doesn’t look like it makes any difference. And they do it long enough for the compounding effect to start to kick in.” — Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge
People don’t talk about momentum enough, but this is it. People give up too easily because something is boring or because it doesn’t pay them back right away. But those that persist and keep doing what they know is a good thing, get rewarded by momentum. And once momentum begins, it is very hard to stop.
Publication: Struggling Forward
Editor: Jordan Gross
“If information alone could change people, everybody would be rich skinny and happy” — Mike Williams
I love to tell people that the fear of the what if should always be greater than the fear of actually doing. People should fear more what would happen to them if they didn’t pursue their dreams, rather than what is going to happen when they do. When given any sort of information, guidance, advice, we must spring into action rather than sit back and let things come to us.
“Comfort is the enemy of progress” — PT Barnum
Complacency is one of the scariest words out there. We must never feel like we cannot improve, that we have made it, that there is nothing more to learn or do. Once we are comfortable in our lives, we lose track of new experience. If we are constantly trying to get better, we must constantly place ourselves in uncomfortable situations and thrive in them.
Editor: Tim Rettig
“The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth.” — Ryan Holiday
Struggle is an inevitable part of life. Once you have learned that, once you embrace the fact that struggle is not your enemy, you don’t need to be scared of anything. The more you achieve the more difficult challenges you will face. And the more difficult challenges you will face the stronger are going to be become.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Never be a victim of your circumstances. It is in your control alone to make the most out of your circumstances. Most of the time, people who win a lottery lose all of the money right away. They simply haven’t develop the right mind set to build wealth and a good life for themselves. Learn to make the most out of what you have right now and you can achieve anything.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
We get so quickly and easily distracted in life. Seemingly shiny opportunities will come up all the time and in all different kinds of formats. Most of the time, however, they are nothing but distractions from your main thing. Always make sure that you focus on the single most important thing in life and eventually you will succeed.
Publication: Power Level
Editor: Danny Forest
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn
This has been the truest thing that happened in my life. Once you realize how true that is, you can “easily” turn your life around. I used to be a lazy kid playing video games on my couch all day, then I met my wife and hung out with people way smarter than me. It changed my life forever!
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all” — Peter Drucker
I realized that too late. I prided myself that I was a very productive guy, using proven productivity techniques. But until I mastered this, it was wasted time. I did a self-improvement week a few weeks ago, and even though I didn’t work, it was the most productive week of my entire life!
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” — Steve Martin
I never aimed to write. Writing was just a skill I meant to improve for a month. Yet I got published after five days by The Startup, and became top writer in 12 categories, some of which after 23 days only. I had previously researched how to write good stories. That research made me good enough that I was noticed.
“Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.” — Jim Rohn
Simply put, work on improving yourself, and you’ll have a much higher chance at success, whatever that means to you. The success I’ve had in the past six months was due to myself focusing on learning three new skills per month and reading important non-fiction books, not because I sought it.
“It is not death man should fear, but he should fear never having beginning to live” — Marcus Aurelius
I used to be afraid to age or to die. Once I understood Marcus Aurelius’ quote, my life changed around. I started doing things. Anything. Everything. I’m no more afraid of death, as I’ve lived it and have no regrets.
Reply in the comments below with answers to any or all these questions.
- Which quotes spoke to you the most?
- Which writer is most like you?
- What are your own top 5 most inspiring quotes?
Don’t forget to be grateful to the authors who participated in this post. Follow them. Read their stories. Keep getting inspired by their wonderful journeys!
Live by these quotes and enjoy eternal wisdom!
You can do this!
Thanks for reading, sharing, and following the wonderful writers in this post (and myself)!
Looking forward to reading your comments!
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For more inspiration, check out dannyforest.com.