The Power of Words

It was about a year ago. I must have been ill because I was watching Oprah. Proper flu, obviously, because that’s what it takes to reduce a man to daytime TV. “You know,” Oprah smirked, “I always say luck is when opportunity and preparation meet.” If I’d been well enough I’d have thrown something at the telly. It drives me mad when celebs trot out something that’s been around so long that it’s not even a cliché any more – and then pass it off as their own.

And yet here I am a year on, looking at a list of motivational quotations, and there’s good old ‘Luck equals opportunity + preparation.’ Credited to Oprah. ‘Bah, humbug’, as I believe Katie Price so famously said.

Enough, Ed. You’re turning bitter in your old age. But business quotations have been much on my mind. I was listening to a speech the other day and it was utterly memorable. The speaker’s approach was simple. Google the words ‘best business quotes,’ throw in a few ‘ands’ and ‘buts,’ season with a dash of ‘in conclusion,’ read it out and voila – job done.

“There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM.” Gosh, I haven’t heard that one before. Well, not more than three thousand times. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’ve been in sales too long. So this is an appeal to you. Please restore my faith and send me what you think are the best business and motivational quotes.

I’ve listed some of my favourites below. Ones that I think still have relevance and meaning today – when the pace of change seems to be faster everyday. And yet the first one is from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Could anything be more pertinent to business today?

And as parent, here’s one that I particularly like: it’s George Bernard Shaw – not quite a cutting edge teenage icon, but eight or ten years from now I may need to pin this on a bedroom wall. “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”

Here are a few more. But please, add your own – I hope there are hundreds that I haven’t come across. Let’s run this over the next month or so – and then just before Christmas I’ll publish a list of the best ones – something to carry us all forward into 2011 on a wave of enthusiasm.

I’ve started with one from Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi (oh, please. He won the Nobel Prize in 1937). “A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.” Wonder when he met Oprah?

Here are the rest of my favourites:

–       Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers

–       You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Christopher Columbus

–       Many of life’s failures are people who had not realised how close they were to success when they gave up. Thomas Edison

–       The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Stephen Covey

–       More often in life, we end up regretting the chances in life that we had, but didn’t take, than those chances that we took and wished we hadn’t. Anon

–       Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games. Babe Ruth

–       The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are a few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer. Nolan Bushnell

–       One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. One who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. Chinese Proverb

–       Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking. Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading: buying and selling. Anita Roddick

–       I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacation with better care than they do their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change. Jim Rohn

–       I found every single successful person I’ve ever spoken to had a turning point. The turning point was when they made a clear, specific, unequivocal decision that they were not going to live like this any more; they were going to achieve success. Some people make that decision at 15 and some people make it at 50. And most people never make it at all. Brian Tracy

Finally, one that sums up my Alternative Board philosophy. Jim Rohn again: “You cannot succeed by yourself. It’s hard to find a rich hermit.”

Over to you…



  1. Neil Huntington · October 29, 2010

    Hi Ed. Another great blog. I have always liked the “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined” part of a quote by Henry David Thoreau. It was very much a part of buidling my business and life the way I wanted it to be.

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Like that – congrats on being the first one back!! Thanks Neil

  2. Phil Hardy · October 29, 2010

    George Bernard Shaw

    “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this life are the ones’ that get up and if they can’t find the circumstances they want, they make them!”

    Samuel Smiles

    “Youth must work in order to enjoy, nothing credible can be accomplished without application and diligence. You should not be daunted by difficulties but conquer them by patience and perseverance, seek elevation of character without which capacity is worthless and worldly success nought”

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Thanks Phil – both excellent, and both new to me

  3. Jo Clarkson · October 29, 2010

    Hi Ed

    I have 2 to share

    – the first is framed on my desk and I’m aware if it every day – ‘Don’t kid yourself – it is the way it is’ (Jack Welch of GE fame)

    – and the second is ‘All you need is trust and a little bit of pixie dust’ (Peter Pan) – which might sound flippant but if surround yourself with people you trust (people like you possibly!!), add a bit of good fortune (which we all need, however good we are!) – great things can happen !

  4. edreidyork · October 29, 2010

    Thanks Jo – wasn’t expecting to see Peter Pan, but really like it!

  5. Lorraine Ives · October 29, 2010

    Think this is a great Blog Ed – mine is a bit corny, but I love the Nike one ‘Just do it!’ It always works for me.

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Nothing wrong with simplicity Lorraine – it’s one of the best straplines ever. Thanks!

  6. Rich Cadden · October 29, 2010

    I love quotes Ed! 🙂
    “Be the change you want to see in the world” Dalai Lama
    So many ‘managers’ are too willing to give instructions, but would never do the job themselves

    “Where are you? What time is it?”
    Reminds me to live in the moment. So many people dwell on the past or are planning for the future, without recognising whats going on infront of their eyes!

    And my own personal favourite that I would like to lay claim to…….
    “Impossible is just poor punctuation….. I’m Possible”

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Thanks Rich; I’ll let you claim the last one!

  7. Rich Cadden · October 29, 2010


  8. Rory Ryan · October 29, 2010

    “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Harold R. McAlindon
    (Although, in my game, encouraging builders or tradesmen to ‘leave a trail’ is definitely not good advice!)

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Trail-blazing as ever Rory – thanks!

  9. Dave Rawlings · October 29, 2010

    I’m afraid I can’t remember where I found this but the more I ponder it the better it seems to get:

    Someone once left this welcome message on their answering machine: “This is not an answering machine; it’s a questioning machine. There are really only two questions in life: Who are you? and What do you want? Please leave your answer at the tone.”

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      That’s very good indeed Dave – thanks

  10. Rich Cadden · October 29, 2010

    Loving that one Dave!

  11. Mike Towers · October 29, 2010

    Winston Churchill believed that the best way to find out what history would write about you was to write it yourself. So he did, in a series of epic books. He also said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” which offers another explanation why he wrote his books in the first place. Few would have dared such brazen self-publicity.

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Mike, that’s a great quote, and you’re right about his confident attitude – thanks for sharing it

  12. Justin Hyam · October 29, 2010

    Not so much a business quote, but a movie quote I often read to pump myself up for either an important meeting, or when I was younger before a key race (Sailing)…. It did the job for me

    don’t know what to say really. Three minutes till the biggest battle of our professional lives. It all comes down to today. Now either we heal as a team, or we’re gonna crumble. Inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me. And we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch at a time. Now I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. I look around, I see these young faces, and I think… I mean I’ve made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me, and lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know when you get old in life, things get taken from you. That’s part of life. But you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches. And so is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean… one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the ——- difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying! I’ll tell you this – in any fight, its the guy whose willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m going to have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what living is! The 6 inches in front of your face… Now I can’t make you do it. You’ve got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You’re gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen. And either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die, as individuals. That’s football, guys. That’s all it is. Now, what are you going to do? – Al Pacino from Any Given Sunday (A movie full of useful inspiring quotes)

    Oh and the other obvious one, albeit a bit aggressive; but useful to round off an arguement or to get a point across…..

    “It’s not Show Friends, it’s Show Business” – Jerry Macguire

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Thanks stranger! That big quote only works in a Pacino voice, doesn’t it?!

      • Justin Hyam · October 29, 2010

        indeed, that’s the plus point of copying and pasting! I’m sure there are some pretty good useable quotes from Chariots of Fire and also True Blue (Varsity Boat Race movie version). I’ll dig them out (you just need to read them in the style of the given actor)

  13. Andrew Walker · October 29, 2010

    Hi Ed

    Arnold Palmer :- “It’s a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get”

  14. Nicola Thresh · October 29, 2010

    You can’t stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes.
    Winnie the Pooh

    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Thanks Nicola; Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan both in 1 day – didn’t see that coming!

  15. Rebecca Gardner · October 29, 2010

    Hi all,

    I’ve known this one for a while, is said to have been used in a speach by Nelson Mandela, and has popped up recently on an advert for a university… so memorable that i can’t recall which one, but it starts:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

    by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

    It has got a faith angle to it (so if you’re not that type you’ll have to forgive me)- but i love the essence that we are created to be brilliant, and are not benefiting anybody by selling ourselves short…


    • edreidyork · October 29, 2010

      Hi Rebecca – thanks for posting – that’s quite a profound one, isn’t it? Time for a bit of reflection I think

  16. Julian Smith · October 31, 2010

    Heres one I use alot now:
    ‘ Its the small steps in business that create sustainability not the giant leaps. Giant leaps create a chasm to fall back into if it goes wrong. Unless of course you have created a ‘safety net’ through contingency planning’
    Julian Smith – TAB Facilitator/Coach in the Midlands.

    P.S. Everyone has shared the ‘well known’ ones I like, so thought I would be a little creative.

    • edreidyork · October 31, 2010

      A leaf from the Churchill book (see earlier quote) i.e. make up your own one! Like your style.

  17. Rich Cadden · November 2, 2010

    Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker

  18. Pingback: Pushing the Envelope – and other horrors… « EdReidYork's Blog

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