Starting your own business is a journey, and not always an easy one. It can be a struggle to stay motivated when a client cancels a contract, an investment deal falls through or you just wake up feeling a little sick. In times like these, it can be helpful to get some motivating advice from great business owners, leaders and thinkers who have come before you.
Here are 18 motivational entrepreneur quotes to give you the dose of inspiration you need.
We hope they help you keep up the hard work when times get tough.
1. Richard Branson
"Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again."
Richard Branson knows more about failure than most. While most people today know him as a successful billionaire, he’s had his share of failed ventures in his time running Virgin Group. From a now extinct cosmetics line to an online automobile retailer to a Coca-Cola competitor called “Virgin Cola,” failure has been part of Branson’s career.
But people don’t know Branson for his failures. They know him for his astronomical success. So in your own career as an entrepreneur, take a page from Branson’s book and don’t be afraid to start ventures that fail.
2. Steve Jobs
"I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
The late Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, had the above line to say about what to do when things are difficult. Jobs’s own career was no walk in the park, either. We remember him for his visionary leadership of Apple, but we forget that at one point he was ousted from Apple and that people doubted the company’s viability. Nevertheless, Jobs persevered, and so should you.
3. Winston Churchill
"Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
Churchill wasn’t an entrepreneur, but as prime minister of the United Kingdom he faced challenges greater than most of us can even imagine. He led the country through the Second World War while also managing to write a book that would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. In the quote above, war was very much on Churchill’s mind, but even if the “war” you’re fighting is just one to keep yourself motivated, the advice still applies.
4. Mark Twain
"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Most people know Mark Twain as a writer, but fewer know that he was also an entrepreneur. He held three patents, the most successful of which was a “self-pasting scrapbook” that sold 25,000 copies. He was also entrepreneurial in his career as an author, leveraging the success of his books into a lucrative round-the-world speaking tour.
He was also an intrepid explorer and traveler, the above quote is no surprise. It’s an exhortation to take risks and live a life without regret, which is crucial advice for current and would-be entrepreneurs.
5. Albert Einstein
"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."
Physicist Albert Einstein is the archetypal genius, the scientific pioneer who revolutionized our understanding of the universe (not to mention paving the way for modern technologies such as the GPS).
But Einstein lived much of his life in obscurity, failing even to obtain a teaching job and having to instead work a boring job at a patent office. Still, he continued to pursue his intellectual work, the fruits of which would be his famous E = mc2 formula and an enduring scientific legacy.
He wouldn’t have achieved any of this, however, without being unafraid to make mistakes, and neither should you.
6. Henry Ford
"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it."
It’s fitting that Henry Ford, pioneer of transportation and manufacturing processes, would use a transportation metaphor. But the advice is sound — the flight of an airplane seems impossible, and yet it happens. Ford’s quote is an invitation to lean into adversity and challenge, trusting that they are not the enemy but rather the path to success.
7. Bill Gates
"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
This quote from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates delivers a valuable lesson about all you can learn when your product makes contact with the market. It's easy to view unhappy customers or clients as people who are just being mean or difficult. While this can be true, Gates reminds us that we can still learn a lot from these moments if we view them as learning opportunities.
8. Reid Hoffman
"If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."
For another product-related lesson, we have this quote from Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. It's a reminder to resist perfectionism and just launch your idea. Once you've gotten it out there, you'll learn valuable lessons you can use to refine your offering, lessons you'd never get just from waiting to release your product until it's perfect.
9. Zig Ziglar
"Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will."
Master salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar reminds us that positive thinking really can change your life. In this quote, he points out that thinking positively won't just make you happier, it will increase the quality of the work you do.
10. Nolan Bushnell
"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."
You may not have heard of Nolan Bushnell, but odds are you've heard of the two companies he helped found: Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. If you're not sure where to start or what to work on, the above quote may kick you into gear. It's a reminder that action will beget business success. Just sitting and thinking will not build a company.
11. Scott Belsky
"It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen."
We've no idea if Scott Belsky and Nolan Bushnell are friends, but based on their quotes they seem like they'd get along. As the co-founder of Behance, Belsky hasn't just made his idea happen — he's given graphic designers a platform to showcase theirs. Don't focus so much on the idea itself. Focus on execution.
12. Tim Ferriss
"For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. ‘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."
It's hard to be in the online business world for long without coming across Tim Ferriss's classic “The 4-Hour Workweek.” Maybe it inspired you to quit your job, or at least to take the leap into starting your own business. Even if you haven't read the book, you can still take the advice in the above quote, which dismantles the idea that you should wait until the timing is right. Don't wait on the things that matter to you.
13. Mark Cuban
"It doesn't matter how many times you fail. It doesn't matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because all that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are."
Serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Mark Cuban delivers another quote about the importance of embracing failure. When you're starting out, no one knows who you are anyway, so there's no harm in failing; the whole world isn't watching. Take this as an opportunity to make mistakes and experiment.
14. Mark Zuckerberg
"If you just work on stuff that you like and you're passionate about, you don't have to have a master plan with how things will play out."
Facebook co-founder, chairman, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a literal social media pioneer. But before he was the wealthy, successful business leader he is today, he was just a college kid tinkering in his dorm room, working to make his passion for connecting people a reality.
We can't promise that working on the things you like will make you a multi-billionaire, but we can recommend it as a way to find your business idea. Even if it isn't the next Facebook, injecting your passion and energy into it can still lead to world-changing things.
15. Thomas Edison
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Best known for creating a reliable incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison is one of the most celebrated inventors in American history. The story of his work on the light bulb is shrouded in legend, but no one will deny that Edison endured failure after failure to perfect his creation. Yet, as the quote above shows, Edison didn't view this as failure; it was simply a learning opportunity. We suggest adopting the same approach in your work.
16. Rand Fishkin
"A hard thing is done by figuring out how to start."
Best known for founding SEO software company Moz, Rand Fishkin is a luminary in the online marketing world, especially when it comes to SEO. His quote offers insight into overcoming difficulties, revealing that you just need to find a starting point to get into a difficult undertaking. You don't have to have it all figured out from the beginning. Once you’ve started, you can figure out the rest as you go along.
17. Richard Harroch
"It's almost always harder to raise capital than you thought it would be, and it always takes longer. So plan for that."
This quote from venture capitalist Richard Harroch falls more into the realm of practical than inspirational, but we think it’s good to have a dose of that sort of advice amid the rest of the quotes in this article.
If you are seeking investment, then you shouldn’t assume it will be easy; you’ll need perseverance, a thick skin and high tolerance for rejection. You should, in other words, take the advice of the other entrepreneurs we’ve quoted so far.
18. Catherine Cook
"To any entrepreneur: If you want to do it, do it now. If you don't, you're going to regret it."
Finally, we have this quote from Catherine Cook, co-founder of myYearbook (now known as MeetMe). It’s a simple reminder to go out and take charge of your destiny, warning that regret will be the consequence of failing to follow whatever entrepreneurial urge you have. Cook certainly didn’t wait; she was only 15 when she co-founded the company that would become myYearbook.