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Everyone needs inspiration from people who’ve been there and done that. Here are some words of motivation and wisdom from a variety of successful entrepreneurs.

On overcoming failure

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

  • Thomas Edison, inventor, businessman, and founder of the first industrial research lab dedicated to technological innovation

How many people are completely successful in every department of life? Not one. The most successful people are the ones who learn from their mistakes and turn their failures into opportunities.

  • Zig Ziglar, salesman and motivational speaker

I had to pick myself up and get on with it, do it all over again, only even better this time.

  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  • Teddy Roosevelt, owner Elkhorn Ranch and former president of the United States

Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.

  • Henry Ford, founder Ford Motor Company

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.

  • Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets and former basketball player

Show me a person who never made a mistake, and I will show you a person who never did anything.

  • William Rosenberg, founder Dunkin’ Donuts

Recognize that there will be failures, and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success.

  • Michael Dell, founder Dell, Inc.

On achieving success:

Everyone who achieves success in a great venture solved each problem as they came. They helped themselves and they were helped through powers known and unknown to them at the time they set out on their voyage. They keep going regardless of the obstacles they meet.

  • Clement Stone, entrepreneur and author

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.

  • Zig Ziglar, salesman and motivational speaker

What I lack in talent, I compensate with my willingness to grind it out. That’s the secret of my life.

  • Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur, marketing expert, and author

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

  • Henry Ford, founder Ford Motor Company

Embrace what you don’t know, especially in the beginning, because what you don’t know can become your greatest asset. It ensures that you will absolutely be doing things different from everybody else.

  • Sara Blakely, founder of SPANX

Success is about creating value.

  • Candice Carpenter, founder of iVillage

You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills.

  • Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and motivational speaker

You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.

  • Michael Dell, founder Dell, Inc

I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.

  • EstéeLauder, co-founder Estée Lauder Companies and named one of the 20th century’s most influential business geniuses

Success is not the result of one decision, but a culmination of many decisions.

  • Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications

Sometimes you have to get rid of something that’s good, and tinker with something that’s better.

  • John Schnatter, CEO of Papa Johns

Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.

  • Booker T. Washington, educator, speaker, and founder and executive committee member of the the National Negro Business League, c. 1910

You must be very patient, very persistent. The world isn’t going to shower gold coins on you just because you have a good idea. You’re going to have to work like crazy to bring that idea to the attention of people. They’re not going to buy it unless they know about it.

  • Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines

After 25 years of buying and supervising a great variety of businesses, Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them. To the extent we have been successful, it is because we concentrated on identifying one-foot hurdles that we could step over rather than because we acquired any ability to clear seven-footers.

  • Warren Buffet, investor

Patience is a key element of success.

  • Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft

On maintaining priorities:

A man should never neglect his family for business.

  • Walt Disney, animator and founder of The Walt Disney Company

[My biggest mistake is probably] weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.

  • Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

  • Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and founder of Covey Leadership Center

So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.

  • Caterina Fakke, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch

Build your business around your life, not your life around your business. This will give you stamina to build a business with longevity.

  • Brenda Brock, founder and CEO of Farmaesthetics

You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.

  • Gary Vaynerchuck, founder VaynerMedia, investor, and wine expert

Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.

  • Ryan Freitas, co-founder of

Life-fulfilling work is never about the money — when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.

  • Eileen Fisher, fashion designer and founder of Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.

  • Farrah Gray, self-made millionaire by the age of 14 and motivational speaker

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. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

  • Steve Jobs, co-founder Apple, Inc.

Live out your imagination, not your history.

  • Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and founder of Covey Leadership Center

There is little success where there is little laughter.

  • Andrew Carnegie, investor in steel and railroads

On understanding and creating value:

If you would like to know the value of money, try to borrow some.

  • Benjamin Franklin, co-founder Library Company of Philadelphia, inventor, and diplomat

Long ago, Ben Graham taught me that “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

  • Warren Buffet, investor

Overcoming obstacles:

Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.

  • Jay Z, music producer, bar owner, and sports agent; founder of Roc Nation

You didn’t grow up driving . . . you figured it out.

  • Gary Vaynerchuck, founder VaynerMedia, investor, and wine expert

On customer satisfaction:

Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.

  • Zig Ziglar, salesman and motivational speaker

Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers.

  • Elizabeth Arden, founder Elizabeth Arden, Inc.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

  • Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft

I think I’m in the service business. I mean, our sandwiches are pretty good; I don’t know if they’re extraordinary. But our service is . . . I wanted all my stores to be the same, to offer the same customer experience, whether I was there or not. Customer loyalty comes from consistent experience. They learn to count on you. When you screw it up, you fire your customers.

  • Jimmy John Liautaud, founder Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC

When a customer’s expectations for your business don’t match reality, his or her perception is affected, oftentimes permanently. Shoddy business presentation and practices affect how much value a customer places on your brand . . . Any business, no matter what it is, lives or dies by the customer reactions it creates.

  • Jon Taffer, former business owner and restauranteur, current host and co-producer of Bar Rescue

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.

  • Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising in the world.

  • Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company

On employees:

Never hire someone you can’t fire.

  • Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady

They don’t teach you this at Harvard Business School, but it’s all about people.  Everything happens by, with or through people. Nothing just happens on its own. Small businesses know this because we actually have to get things done.

  • James Koch, co-Founder and chairman of Sam Adams

You don’t lie to your own doctor. You don’t lie to your own attorney, and you don’t lie to your employees.

  • Gordon Bethune, retired Navy Lieutenant, aeronautics executive and named one of the top 25 Global Managers in 1996 and 1997

Make your team feel respected, empowered, and genuinely excited about the company’s mission.

  • Tim Westergen, co-founder Pandora

Surround yourself around the best people you can and give them an opportunity to do what they love to do best. Each one of my staff and faculty are leaders themselves. I cannot succeed without them.

  • John Stonecipher, President and CEO of Guidance Aviation Inc., and named Small Business Person of The Year

You honor the past by embracing fresh ideas and by bringing in the right people.  You have to entrust the people in your organization to find the right talent and let them do their job.

  • Rocky Wirtz, President of Wirtz Corporation and Chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks

On entrepreneurship:

I’m a big fan of small business ownership. I think it’s the backbone of American innovation. But to be successful, you first have to have the courage to go for it.

  • Bill Rancic, first winner of the TV show “The Apprentice”

It doesn’t matter whether the Dow is 5000 or 50,000. If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no bad time to start a company.

  • Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur, marketing expert, and author

Entrepreneurship is largely about being scrappy, creative, fearless, and somewhat irrational.  Those aren’t the principle traits nurtured in formal business training. And ultimately, general business skill sets are easy to hire.  My own business training was in a rock band.

  • Tim Westergen, co-founder of Pandora

I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.

  • Madame C.J. Walker, beauty entrepreneur, founder Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1908, and widely considered the first African-American woman self-made millionaire

You never lose in business, either you win or you learn.

  • Melinda Emerson, SmallBizLady

Starting a small business has been one of the best choices I ever made. I have grown, and have learned, and have been able to explore my creativity in ways that I would not have been able to had I not taken that first step.

  • Rawa, Founder, Peachcake LLC

If you are committed to creating value and if you aren’t afraid of hard times; obstacles become utterly unimportant. A nuisance perhaps; but with no real power. The world respects creation; people will get out of your way.

  • Candice Carpenter, founder of

If you want to build a successful business, make sure you have three things—a big market opportunity, great people, and more than enough capital.

  • Richard Harroch, Venture Capitalist, Author, and Entrepreneur

What is best for people is what they do for themselves.

  • Benjamin Franklin, co-founder Library Company of Philadelphia, inventor, and diplomat

If I had to choose one attribute that would be most predictive of success for an entrepreneur, I would have to say being a good communicator. By that I mean having the ability to get other people excited or inspired about your vision. In the end, success comes largely from the work and contribution of others around you, not yourself.

  • Tim Westergen, co-founder of Pandora

The problem you ultimately want to have, as an entrepreneur, is deciding who to help, not deciding who can help you.

  • Gene Simmons, entrepreneur and musician

Almost every entrepreneur I know loves to brainstorm new ideas, often reminiscing the early days when they were still figuring out what to build. Side projects can ignite this entrepreneurial spirit and get a team excited.

  • Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt

I don’t know why people are obsessed with growing so big all the time. It’s never been my idea to just grow so huge that I need a staff of 50. I love being nimble.

  • Natalie Sisson, co-founder of FundRazr

Being an entrepreneur isn’t just a job title, and it isn’t just about starting a company. It’s a state of mind. It’s about seeing connections others can’t, seizing opportunities others won’t, and forging new directions that others haven’t.

  • Tory Burch, CEO of her own billion-dollar fashion brand

That is the life of an entrepreneur: It’s a steady stream of hard work, occasionally punctuated by some really hard decisions.

  • Dharmesh Shah, author and co-founder of Hubspot

Entrepreneurs often think that there is a formula for running a business: measure this, check that box, and you’re done. But it never looks like that on the ground. It’s messy, but it has to happen organically.

  • Marc Eckō, entrepreneur and founder of eckō UNLTD

On taking risks:

I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.

  • Walt Disney, animator and founder of The Walt Disney Company

People don’t take opportunities because the timing is bad, the financial side unsecure. Too many people are overanalyzing. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

  • Michelle Zatlyn, co-founder of CloudFlare

Often, in the real world, it’s not the smart who get ahead but the bold.

  • Robert Kiyosaki, investor and author

I don’t look at risk the way other people do. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to go in feeling like you’re going to be successful.

  • Lillian Vernon, founder of catalog business and first woman-owned business listed on the American Stock Exchange

On hard work:

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

  • Benjamin Franklin, co-founder Library Company of Philadelphia, inventor, and diplomat

I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.

  • Oprah Winfrey, founder Harpo Productions and media mogul

I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

  • Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc.

The only place work comes before success is in the dictionary.

  • Vidal Sassoon, hair stylist and founder of hair salons and products

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

  • Rob Kalin, founder of Etsy

I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.

  • Estée Lauder, co-founder Estée Lauder Companies and named one of the 20th century’s most influential business geniuses

There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.

  • Madame C.J. Walker, beauty entrepreneur, founder Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1908, and widely considered the first African-American woman self-made millionaire

The only way to do something in depth is to work hard. The moment you start being in love with what you’re doing, and thinking it’s beautiful or rich, then you’re in danger.

  • Miucci Prada, business owner and fashion designer

The reality is that with a startup, you can’t sit around waiting for magic to happen–you have to just work your ass off instead. Talk to customers, build your product, get feedback, then do it all over again. It’s a cycle, and it’s hard work, and it definitely doesn’t involve magic.

  • Hiten Shah, co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics

On innovation and creativity:

Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.

  • Sara Blakely, founder SPANX

We want to do just a few things better than everyone else. We just do things we think are right.

  • Steve Ells, founder and co-CEO of Chipotle

I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.

  • Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.

  • Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla

On leadership:

Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.

  • Lee Iacocca, senior executive of the Ford and Chrysler Motor Companies; author

Know what you bring. Know what you don’t bring. And build a team that covers everything you need.

  • Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.

  • Andrew Carnegie, investor in steel and railroads

The more effort that goes into a commitment, the greater is its ability to influence the attitudes of the person who made it.

  • Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

As a leader, it’s a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow.

  • Himanshu Bhatia, Rose International Inc.

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.

  • Jack Welch, chemical engineer and former CEO of GE

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.

  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club

Most businesses think that product is the most important thing, but without great leadership, mission and a team that deliver results at a high level, even the best product won’t make a company successful.

  • Robert Kiyosaki, investor and author

The secret to success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right man to do it.

  • Andrew Carnegie, investor in steel and railroads

On motivation:

One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged.

  • Lucille Ball, owner of Desilu Productions, actress and comedian

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

  • Teddy Roosevelt, owner Elkhorn Ranch and former president of the United States

The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.

  • Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

  • Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc.

When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser. The choice is yours and yours alone. Refuse to throw in the towel. Go that extra mile that failures refuse to travel. It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure.

  • Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream and how you handle disappointment along the way.

  • Robert Kiyosaki, investor and author

I daydreamed for motivation. I didn’t lie to myself and talk about my passions and how if I was passionate enough about something I could be successful at it.

  • Mark Cuban, owner Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres, and investor

Sustaining a successful business is a hell of a lot of work, and staying hungry is half the battle.

  • Wendy Tan White, founder and CEO of Moonfruit DIY

I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?’

  • Leah Busque, founder of TaskRabbit

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

  • Dale Carnegie, author How to Win Friends and Influence People; speaker

People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.

  • Andrew Carnegie, investor in steel and railroads

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

  • Thomas Edison, inventor, businessman, and founder of the first industrial research lab dedicated to technological innovation

On vision:

You must have an honest conversation with yourself about the vision you have for the future of your small business.

  • Donna Levin, co-founder and VP of Operations at

Thinking about your purpose is actually pretty crucial to your success as a company and a brand: Not only does it give customers something to believe in, but it will inspire your team to think bigger, and make your product better.

  • Hiten Shah, Co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics

Walt Disney told his crew to ‘build the castle first’ when constructing Disney World, knowing that vision would continue to serve as motivation throughout the project. Oftentimes when people fail to achieve what they want in life, it’s because their vision isn’t strong enough.

  • Gail Blanke, President and CEO, Lifedesigns

All I got is dreams. Nobody else believes. Nobody else can see. Nobody else but me.

  • Jay Z, music producer, bar owner, and sports agent, founder of Roc Nation

Long-term goals are dangerous. They limit you. They hinder you from reacting to new conditions.

  • Pete Cashmore, founder Mashable

If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent their growing.

  • Coco Chanel, fashion designer

High expectations are the key to everything.

  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club

Let’s get to brass tacks:

Whether you’re a programmer or a seamstress, it’s all about new techniques, simplifying old techniques, and consolidating steps. Making things go faster — but not worse.

  • Martha Stewart, founder Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

If you want to sustain excellence over a long time, you’d better come up with a system that works well. Anyone can sprint for a little while, but you can’t sprint for forty years.

  • Michael Dell, founder of Dell, Inc.

Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing . . .  layout, processes, and procedures.

  • Tom Peters, co-author In Search of Excellence

The truly gifted negotiator, then, is one whose initial position is exaggerated enough to allow for a series of concessions that will yield a desirable final offer from the opponent, yet is not so outlandish as to be seen as illegitimate from the start.

  • Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

You can market your ass off, but if your product sucks, you’re dead.

  • Gary Vaynerchuck, founder VaynerMedia, investor, and wine expert

If a vacuum cleaner salesman rings your front door, he will be selling HIMSELF first. The vacuum cleaner is secondary.

  • Gene Simmons, entrepreneur and musician

Companies that realize that their growth opportunity goes beyond the surface level marketing and focus inward at the opportunities presented within their own product are the ones who will find outsized results.

  • Sean Ellis, Founder of Qualaroo and GrowthHackers

See every crack, every detail. I learned to really see and not just look at my business.

  • Jon Taffer, former business owner and restauranteur, current hosts and co-producer of “Bar Rescue”

To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources — not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.

  • Daniel Pink, author To Sell is Human and named one of the 50 most influential management gurus

On taking action:

Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes but they don’t quit.

  • Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels

Even a correct decision is wrong when it was taken too late.

  • Lee Iacocca, senior executive and Ford and Chrysler Motor Companies, author

Execution really shapes whether your company takes off or not.

  • Pete Cashmore, founder Mashable

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

  • Wayne Gretzky, former hockey player and owner of sports teams and restaurants

I am not the richest, smartest or most talented person in the world, but I succeed because I keep going and going and going.

  • Sylvester Stallone, restauranteur, art collector, actor, director

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 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, founder of Atari, Inc. and Chuck E. Cheese

My best advice to entrepreneurs is this: Forget about making mistakes, just do it.

  • Ajaero Tony Martins, CEO of Firefly Technologies

I got my start by giving myself a start.

  • J. Walker, beauty entrepreneur, founder Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1908, and widely considered the first African-American woman self-made millionaire

There are many really stupid ideas that wind up being brilliant, if you can implement them.

  • Gene Simmons, entrepreneur and musician

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.

Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping – they called it opportunity.

  • Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft

I think business is still largely an execution game, not an invention game.

  • Tim Westergen, co-founder of Pandora

A thousand acres that can feed a thousand souls is better than ten thousand acres of no more effect.

  • Benjamin Franklin, co-founder Library Company of Philadelphia, inventor, and diplomat

So many people told me it was not a good idea to a start a restaurant, especially a fast-food restaurant. There was so much wrong with it—it was too spicy; everything was done by hand, from scratch. Everything was wrong. But that’s why customers liked it; it’s different, in the right way. If you have an idea, just go for it. If everybody is telling you that it’s wrong, maybe that’s an indication that it’s an original idea.

  • Steve Ells, founder and co-CEO of Chipotle

Tenacity will beat brains seven days a week. Go in on Saturday. Stay ’till 6:30 on Fridays. Somebody will notice, and reward you for it.

  • Jimmy John Liautaud, founder Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC

If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.

  • Robert Kiyosaki, investor and author

Screw it, let’s just do it.

  • Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

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