100 Plus Inspirational Cliches That Were Actually Helpful

Working for a youth leadership development organization for 5 years, I came across thousands of so called ‘inspirational quotes’. You know, those sayings like:

  • “Life begins once you step out of your comfort zone.”
  • “If not you then who? If not now then when?”
  • “To be a good leader, first learn to be a good follower.”
  • “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”

I even remember playing the cliche-quote-drinking-game where we’d go around saying a quote and whoever can’t recall one would have to drink.

While much of these have become cringe-triggering, corny cliches I now roll my eyes to, many undoubtedly shaped who I am today.

It also occurred to me that what’s a cliche to me might not be a cliche to others. In this spirit, here are 100+ inspirational quotes that continue to influence me to this day.

Arranged by theme. Indeed, themes overlap.

Not in any order.


Emotional intelligence, compassion





“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing that you were the prisoner.”


“Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”




“Emotion is a spark that’s out of your control, while mood is the candle that you have the power to put out any time.”


“Harsh interventions are a warning that the leader may be uncentered or have an emotional attachment to whatever is happening.” – Lao Tzu



“There are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.”


“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Samuel Johnson


“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” (Golden rule)


“Don’t treat others the way you want to be treated. Treat them the way they want to be treated.”



Motivation, productivity, inspiration


“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by and that has made the difference.”Robert Frost




“Begin with the end in mind.” – Stephen Covey



“Focus only on what you can control and what matters.”



“Forget about perfection: focus on progression, and compound the improvement.” – Dave Brailsford


“Perfect is the greatest enemy of progress.”


“If you can do something now, do it now. You never know what will come up tomorrow.”


“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr


“Yesterday you said tomorrow.” – Nike


“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balance, keep moving.”


“The fool didn’t know it was impossible, so he did it.”


“If you’re going to be a janitor, be the best janitor in town.”


“Transmit positivity throughout uncertainty.” 


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu


“A black belt only covers two inches of your ass, you need to cover the rest.”


“If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it.” 



“I don’t understand why people get mad when they get rejected by somebody or something. They have done you a favor by not wasting your time.”


“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo


“Each of us choose to suffer one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” – Jim Rohn



“You don’t need more motivation. You just need discipline.”


“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”


“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.” – Nassim Taleb



“Failure is often nothing more than good luck in disguise; the destruction of an old way.”



“It’s often when we’re feeling down that we end up taking a step toward our next level of personal growth.”



“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.” – James Clear


“Knowing we are enough gives us the courage to do more, do better, do our best.”


Self-improvement, learning, growth




“There are three layers of behavior change: a change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, or a change in your identity.” – James Clear


“2 things will define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.”


“Have big goals but don’t tie happiness to your goals. You must be happy before you attain them.” 


“Happiness is a conscious choice.”




“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi


“If you are not growing, you are dying.”



“A good goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot.” – Joe Vitale



“Extraordinary minds do not need to seek validation from outside opinion or through the attainment of goals.”


Don’t be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.” – Dale Carnegie





“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford



“Behind every problem, there’s a question trying to ask itself. Behind every question, there’s an answer trying to reveal itself. Behind every answer, there’s an action trying to take place. And behind every action, there’s a way of life trying to be born.” – Dr. Beckwith


“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


“Instead of learning from other people’s success, learn from their mistakes.” – Jack Ma


“If you are not in the process of becoming you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.” – Dale Carnegie


“Seeing yourself as a victim is completely self-defeating. It’s an attitude that kills all your options.” – Jack Welch



“Master in the art of living knows no distinction between work and play” – Lawrence Jack



“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.” 


“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.” – Seneca


Critical thinking, problem solving, open-mindedness





“Intelligence is not about identifying patterns. Rather, it’s identifying the false ones.” – Nassim Taleb


“Blind certainty – a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.” – David Foster Wallace


“Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract arguments inside my head instead of simply paying attention to what’s going on right in front of me, paying attention to what’s going on inside me.” – David Foster Wallace



“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Nassim Taleb


“Who’s more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”


“We add meanings to every situation we see and then carry these meanings around as simplistic, often distorted, and dangerous models of reality about our world.” 


“True brilliance is understanding that your view of order, logic and spirituality is what created your world and therefore being forever capable of changing everything.” – Mike Dooley


“Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas.”







“Listen with attention, speak with intention.”


“Write to express, not impress.”


“Listen more than you speak. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.”


“Show rather than tell.”


“Our intention must be to suspend judgment; to resist the temptation to interrupt; to fight our tendency to build arguments in our heads while someone is talking. It requires us to explore; to question and to rephrase. This kind of listening comes from a conscious decision to truly understand what is being said. It does not require us to agree but it provides the opportunity for meaningful discussion that can lead to breakthrough thinking and effective collaboration.”


“10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.”


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin


Management, teamwork, culture



“If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.” – African proverb




“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker


“First who, then what.” – Jim Collins


“The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.”


“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”




Strategy, Innovation


“Strategy is about choosing what not to do.”


“When a measure becomes a goal it ceases to become a measure.”


“Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction.” – Andy Grove


“The person who is the star of previous era is often the last one to adapt to change, the last one to yield to logic of a strategic inflection point and tends to fall harder than most.” – Andy Grove


“Rarely is there the inclination to mess with a winning formula until it’s too late.”


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford


“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt


“The customer is always right about their problem. But not always right about the best solution.”


“Less is more.”


“Measure twice, cut once.”




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