Greatest Quotations Ever on Success and Failure

Compiled by Michael Josephson. —

The Nature of Success —

  1. Failure is an event, never a person. – William D. Brown
  2. The only real failure in life is not to be true

    to the best one knows. – Buddha

  3. There are no objective criteria for either success or failure. People who achieve their goals are successful, those who don’t are not. – Michael Josephson
  4. Our greatest fear should not be of failure … but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. – Francis Chan
  5. It is better to be unsuccessful pursuing a significant goal that being successful attaining an insignificant one. – Michael Josephson
  6. Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein
  7. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. – Henry David Thoreau
  8. Success or failure can only be measured in terms of a particular objective. The success of a person whose life objective is money or status will look very different than the success of one who sets out to make a positive difference in the world.  – Michael Josephson
  9. There comes a time in the life of most high achievers where they come to place much less value on success and much more on significance. – Michael Josephson
  10. Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. – W. Clement Stone
  11. What will matter in the end is not your success, but your significance. –Michael Josephson
  12. Some aspects of success seem rather silly as death approaches. – Donald A. Miller
  13. A certain formula for an unhappy life is pursue someone else’s definition of success. Until you define your own goals and purposes your life is not your own and there can be no sense of fulfillment no matter how much you achieve. – Michael Josephson
  14. When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. – John Lennon
  15. Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. – Les Brown
  16. As you climb the ladder of success, be sure it’s leaning against the right building. – Stephen Covey
  17. Success by Bessie Anderson Stanley (1904)* (for the full story about this poem and common mis-attributions see He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; /Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; / Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; / Who has left the world better than he found it whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; / Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it; / Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; / Whose life was an inspiration; / Whose memory a benediction.
  18. Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get. – Dale Carnegie
  19. The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows. – Buddha
  20. Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being. – Kevin Kruse
  21. Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good. – Joe Paterno,
  22. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  23. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. – Author Unknown
  24. There are defeats more triumphant than victories. – Michel de Montaigne
  25. Success is more permanent when you achieve it without destroying your principles. –Walter Cronkite
  26. The two hardest things to handle in life are failure and success. – Author Unknown
  27. Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves–to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today  – Stewart B. Johnson.
  28. All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney
  29. It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin
  30. There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed. –Ray Goforth
  31. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
  32. Pray that success will not come any faster than you are able to endure it. – Elbert Hubbard
  33. The moral flabbiness born of the bitch–goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid interpretation put on the word success – is our national disease. – William James

How Success is Achieved

  1. The key to success is effort. The bigger the goal, the greater the effort. Michael Josephson
  2. Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure. – Earl Wilson
  3. Success in anything important rarely comes without the Five Horsemen of Success: planning, effort, positivity, perseverance and resilience. – Michael Josephson
  4. Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen
  5. The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs… one step at a time. – Joe Girard
  6. First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end. – Aristotle
  7. For you to be successful, sacrifices must be made. It’s better that they are made by others but failing that, you’ll have to make them yourself. – Rita Mae Brown
  8. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.  – Samuel Beckett
  9. Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it…. Success is shy – it won’t come out while you’re watching. –
  10. The trick to getting ahead is to give it the same effort you give to getting even. – Robert Brault,
  11. Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. –Charles Swindoll
  12. Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success. – Dale Carnegie
  13. Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to. – Author
  14. Unknown Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing. – Abraham Lincoln
  15. The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down as a failure. – B.C. Forbes
  16. If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried. – Author Unknown
  17. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. There’s no use in being a damn fool about it. – W.C. Fields
  18. To have success, you can’t let failure stop you. To have great success, you can’t let success stop you. – Robert Brault,
  19. If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” – Thomas Watson, Sr.
  20. If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average. – M.H. Alderson
  21. Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. – William Feather
  22. I failed forward toward success. – Charles F. Kettering
  23. Failure is an inside job.  So is success.  If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first.  You can’t let the failure outside you get inside you.” – John Maxwell
  24. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always gotten.
  25. I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse. – Florence Nightingale
  26. Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. – George Addair
  27. Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. – Joshua J. Marine
  28. Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.  John Wooden
  29. If you want to achieve excellence, quit doing less–than–excellent work. – Thomas J. Watson
  30. Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self–discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility, and commitment. – Ross Perot
  31. The Lord gave us two ends – one to sit on and the other to think with. Success depends on which one we use the most. – Ann Landers

The Nature of Failure

  1. The opposite of success is not failure. Unsuccessful efforts are not failures unless they so discourage you that you abandon further efforts to achieve your goal. Even then, the venture or effort may be a failure but you are not. Failure is an event not a character trait. – Michael Josephson
  2. If one insists on calling all unsuccessful efforts failures the meaning of failure is really quite benign. When trying anything new or taking on any challenge, unsuccessful efforts are an essential aspect of skill building. – Michael Josephson
  3. Failure is much easier to handle if you just think of it as feedback to guide your next effort. – Michael Josephson
  4. The difference between a fall and failure. A young gymnast who wants to learn how to do a back layover on a balance beam will fall off the beam many times before she masters the skill. No one who understands the task would think of the falls as failures. It’s called practice. But what if she falls during a competition? It’s the same thing. A fall is not a failure because every performance builds experience and skill and is part of the ongoing process of improvement. Performing under pressure in a competition before an audience in a situation where the performance will be judged and graded is very different than performing in practice. The gymnast must build the skill of competitive performance in the same way she built the underlying skill – through practice and experience.  The more she does it, the better she will become. With this attitude she will more quickly and completely rebound from frustrations and disappointments, pick herself up and get back on the beam because she wants to build skills and experience so she will be better the next time, and the next time, and the next time. – Michael Josephson
  5. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. – Thomas A. Edison
  6. I failed my way to success. – Thomas A. Edison
  7. I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.  – Thomas Edison
  8. An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots. – Charles F. Kettering
  9. 99 percent of success is built on failure. – Charles Kettering
  10. I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan
  11. Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb
  12. Fall seven times, stand up eight. – Japanese Proverb
  13. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky
  14. Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. – Henry Ford
  15. Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, “I have failed three times,” and what happens when he says, “I am a failure.” – S.I. Hayakawa
  16. Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  17. Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit. – Paul J. Meyer
  18. The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try.  I would never promote to a top–level job a man who was not making mistakes… otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.”  – Peter Drucker
  19. If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” – Mary Pickford
  20. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure all your life.” – John W. Gardner
  21. If you are not failing, you are not growing. – H. Stanley Judd
  22. The moment you say you can’t– you won’t. – Unknown
  23. A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him. – Elmer G. Letterman
  24. Every major difficulty you face in life is a fork in the road. You choose which track you will head down, towards breakdown or breakthrough. – John Maxwell
  25. Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities. – Napoleon Hill
  26. Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated.   They simply quit.” – Paul J. Meyer
  27. A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein
  28. If your life is free of failures, you’re not taking enough risks. – H. Jackson Brown
  29. In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time. – Anthony J. D’Angelo
  30. If at first you do succeed – try to hide your astonishment. – Author Unknown
  31. No matter how well you perform, there’s always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it’s lousy. – Sir Laurence Olivier
  32. One reason God created time was so that there would be a place to bury the failures of the past. – James Long
  33. Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. – J.K. Rowling
  34. Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. – Robert F. Kennedy
  35. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. – Confucius
  36. Rest in peace failure. Today, I celebrate the birth of a lesson learned. – Kim Brevard
  37. You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. – Beverly Sills
  38. The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. – Lloyd Jones
  39. There is no failure except in no longer trying. – Elbert Hubbard
  40. We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction. – Douglas MacArthur 3/18/11
  41. When we can begin to take our failures non–seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to laugh at ourselves.” – Katherine Mansfield
  42. You always pass failure on your way to success. – Mickey Rooney
  43. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down. – Mary Pickford
  44. Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better. – Jim Rohn
  45. Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” – George Bernard Shaw
  46. Be patient with yourself. Self–growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” – Stephen Covey
  47. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas A. Edison
  48. What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?” – Robert Schuller
  49. Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.” – Thomas J. Watson
  50. It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates
  51. My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure. – Abraham Lincoln
  52. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s ok to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.” – H. Stanley Judd
  53. Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure. – George Elliot