Whether it’s hitting a wall at work or the need for some inspiration to get up and conquer the morning, we all need some encouragement from time to time. When we feel like giving up, hearing encouraging quotes from people who rose to the top of their fields can remind us that greatness is within our reach as well.
Let’s take a look at some inspirational quotes from some of the most influential people of history. Hopefully, their achievements and words of wisdom will inspire you to fulfill your own calling and march into the day with confidence.
1858 – 1919
President Theodore Roosevelt was known for his love of nature through his policies on ecological conservationism. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize for playing a role in ending the Russo-Japanese War. He became the youngest person to become an American president after President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. He went on to win a second term on his own platform in 1904.
Here are some inspiring quotes from the president and outdoorsman.
- “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
- “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
- “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
1954 – Present
Before Oprah Winfrey built her own media empire, Winfrey came from humble beginnings. She overcame extreme poverty and suffered sexual abuse from multiple family members; this multimillionaire used to resort to wearing potato sacks as clothing. She became pregnant at 14, but rose above her situation and the oppressive Jim Crow South and became one of the most respected personalities on television.
There’s another layer of authenticity to her encouraging quotes, because she knows what it’s like to have the odds stacked against you.
- “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment” ― Oprah Winfrey
- “Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” ― Oprah Winfrey
- “The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free.” ― Oprah Winfrey
1928 – 2014
Maya Angelou overcame similar experiences to Winfrey; at the age of seven, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When the family discovered what he’d done, they killed him, which scarred Angelou so severely that she didn’t speak for five years.
But she found her voice, a voice that took the nation by storm with her premiere book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her authenticity in her long-form pieces and poetry alike make her one of the most cherished authors in American history.
Like Winfrey, her encouraging quotes hit harder, because you know she had to walk through hell while still maintaining her unshakable spirit.
- “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” ― Maya Angelou
- “Lift up your hearts / Each new hour holds new chances / For new beginnings.” ― Maya Angelou
- “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ― Maya Angelou
1842 – 1910
William James holds the title of “The Father of American Psychology,” as he was the first person to ever offer an academic course on the subject. He was a philosopher with a medical degree, which helped shape his perceptions and theorems on the human psyche. His best-known written works are The Principles of Psychology and The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy.
His encouraging thoughts come from his close examination of the machinations of the human mind.
- “Thoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Alter your thoughts, alter your reality.” ― William James
- “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ― William James
- “This life is worth living, we can say since it is what we make it.” ― William James
1879 – 1955
Perhaps the scientist with one of the most impactful theories of the 20th century, Einstein is best known for his work as the physicist who developed the general theory of relativity. Despite winning a Nobel Prize in 1921, he had to flee to America when he became a target of the German Nazi Party.
Knowing what he had to overcome certainly gives his quotes a deeper meaning.
- “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ― Albert Einstein
- “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ― Albert Einstein
- “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” ― Albert Einstein
1880 – 1968
Helen Keller is best known for overcoming her blindness and deafness, but her accomplishments don’t end there. She became an American educator, the co-founder of the ACLU, a respected humanitarian, and a vocal advocate for the blind and deaf community.
Her optimism and persistence alone are inspiring.
- “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” ― Helen Keller
- “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ― Helen Keller
- “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” ― Helen Keller
1910 – 2010
UCLA basketball coach John Wooden made history as he led his team to 10 national championships during his 12 years as a coach for the college. At Purdue University, he was an All-American guard. He was the first person inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a coach and a player.
His encouraging quotes are excellent for someone with a love of sports.
- “All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” ― John Wooden
- “Just try to be the best you can be; never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s in your power.” ― John Wooden
- “We can have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else.” ― John Wooden
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson is known for his writings as a philosopher following the tenets of American Transcendentalist thinking. He wrote poetry and essays that discussed his passion for nature and his philosophical musings.
Emerson’s encouraging quotes all have an air of poetic essence and form about them.
- “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
1913 – 1970
Known best for his success as a coach for the Green Bay Packers, he embodied someone who possessed a single-minded determination for victory. He led the team to five championships during his time as their NFL coach and general manager.
His quotes reflect the tenacity of someone unafraid to give a goal your all.
- “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ― Vince Lombardi
- “If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.” ― Vince Lombardi
- “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” ― Vince Lombardi
1844 – 1900
Although his writing career was criminally short, Nietzsche managed to produce some of the most well-regarded pieces of the philosophical literature of the 19th century. His works like Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Twilight of the Idols discuss his views of humankind and the dichotomy of good and evil. His writings still influence many prominent thinkers today.
- “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
- “The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
- “you must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame / how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
William Randolph Hearst
1863 – 1951
In 1887, William Randolph Hearst took a small step towards creating the company now known as Hearst. Hearst Digital Media works as a journalism giant with more than 360 unique businesses to lead the global and diversified media discourse. Part of Heart Digital Media works with major television platforms, while other parts work in the financial sector, and the rest covers practically everything in between.
Here are some of Hearst’s most motivational quotes, showing how it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. It’s more important to focus on your goals than the setbacks, and failure might just be the beginning of something successful and brand new.
- “You must keep your mind on the objective, not on the obstacle.” ― William Randolph Hearst
- “Any man who has the brains to think and the nerve to act for the benefit of the people of the country is considered a radical by those who are content with stagnation and willing to endure disaster.” ― William Randolph Hearst
- “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, your readers might like it.” ― William Randolph Hearst
What to Do With These Encouraging Quotes
Bookmark this article so you can return for inspiration any time you’re feeling unmotivated or down. Knowing that some of history’s giants struggled with inspiration of their own can remind you that it’s okay to question your path or feel a little lost. Even the greatest minds struggle and need a reminder to stay strong in times of conflict.
Now go achieve greatness. You’ve got this!
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