51 Success Quotes from History's Most Famous People

51 Success Quotes from History’s Most Famous People

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Success is something that everyone wants.

It may be success in business. It may be having successful relationships. It may be success for your family. It may be success in living healthy. It may be success in some specific skill.

Success takes all forms, and so do people's viewpoints on success.

Collected here are 51 of the best success quotes of all time. These picture quotes range as far back as 2,500 years ago. With success quotes from Confucius to a few modern day success stories who are still sharing their wisdom.

So for today's post I would like to share these great success quote pictures. I hope you will be inspired and motivated to do your own great things.

(Side note: One of the simplest ways to be more successful in your career is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley.  This newsletter is a 5-minute read that's informative, witty, and FREE!)

These quotes are meant to inspire and help others get the motivation to achieve a measure of their own success. So please help spread the word.

So here are 30 useful, thought provoking, insightful and motivating picture quotes about success. To keep the load speed reasonable, I have loaded 10 success quotes per page, so page to the bottom and click the big blue “more quotes” button to load the next ten success quotes in the series when you want to see more.

What You Will Learn

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain-success in life-ignorance or confidence quote

To start off this list of success quotes from history, let’s go start with a funny one. It is a little bit humorous but also deadly serious. A trait that sums up much of Mark Twain's writing.

Confidence is certainly one of the keys to achieving any measurable success. But ignorance actually can have its place.  People who achieve those incredible levels of success that people make not of and talk about often also need to gamble to achieve their success. They take risks, they fight long odds and they overcome them. This is wonderful and motivating, but could any sane person face such odds if they were not a little bit ignorant of what they were facing?

“Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” – “Grandma” Moses

life is what you make of it- success quote

Anna “Grandma” Moses was a popular folk at painter.  She had a productive 23 year career as a painter, despite the fact that she started painting at 78. That fact by itself makes a great point about it never being too late to start on your path to success. Grandma Moses was able to start her professional career at 78 and have it last longer than the professional career of Vincent Van Gogh.

“The best revenge is massive success.” – Frank Sinatra quote

Frank Sinatra Massive success quote

By just about any measure, Frank Sinatra is one of the most successful entertainers in history. He was one of the most popular singers of his era, and even 30 years after his death he is considered to be an iconic music figure. He was a successful actor, winning critical acclaim for multiple movies and an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity. He was a renaissance man in the entertainment industry.

He also started out as a scrappy kid from New Jersey. His quote shows this sentiment, and an honest truth. Never waste time and energy on people who do not believe in you. All they can do is stop you from achieving your desires. Ignore them and let your ultimate success speak for itself.

“I walk slowly but never backwards.” – Abraham Lincoln quote

Abraham Lincoln is considered by most polls to be one of the top five Presidents in history. He led the United States through one of the most tumultuous periods in history. He was constantly besieged by members of both sides of his own political party.

One side complaining he moved too slowly and needed to be more radical. The other side seeking compromise to return the union to its previous state. His answer to this was the quote, “I walk slowly, but never backwards”.

When you take this sort of deliberate approach to your success, it will not happen overnight. It will take time, but you also avoid a lot of the calamities and dangers of trying to achieve your dreams with undue haste.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Maya Angelou quote

This success quote has always seemed like a special one to me. A wonderful, nearly poetic quote from someone who was a Nobel Laureate in poetry, perhaps should not be that big of a surprise.

This quote shows clearly the things that are truly important in life. Not materialist things.  Not achieving greater success in your job.  What matter are those important moments. The moments you only get when you live life to its fullest.

“The path to success is to take massive determined action.” – Tony Robbins quote

Tony Robbins has made a highly successful career by convincing people to do the things they need to do to be happier, healthier and more successful. And he has done a wonderful job of it.  Just you look at the massive success of all of his professional and personal development books, courses and events.

In this quote on achieving success, he is setting out some truth bombs. If you want success, it is going to take A LOT of work (massive action). Not only that but the work has to “determined”… in other words, it has to be the “right” things.  Generally this comes down to proper goal setting and doing the actions that move the dial, not just any old pointless effort.

“A strong positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success.”  – Dr. Joyce Brothers quote

Dr. Joyce Brothers was the first “call in” radio psychologist.  Pioneering this field on her extremely popular program. She was known as the face of American psychology, and helped quote a few people battle with their issues of self-esteem and confidence (and much more).

In her success quote she reminds us that it takes more than just hard work to succeed in all aspects of life. It takes having a strong self-image and the self-esteem to have enough faith in yourself to take the risks involved in trying to achieve any massive success.

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach quote

Staubach is an ex-football quarterback. But he is much more than that. He won the Heisman Trophy while a midshipman for the Naval Academy, and then did a tour of duty in Vietnam before he embarked on a professional career. He gained to name Captain Comeback from his can-do attitude and the way he would never quit. In 11 years of playing for the Dallas Cowboys he was able to lead them to 5 Superbowl appearances, winning two times.

Staubach reminds us that most people will not put in that extra effort to achieve success. The willingness to go that extra mile and simply work harder than everyone else can be a key to achieving your dreams.

“I attribute my success to this: I never took nor gave any excuses.” – Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a social activist who helped bring about a great many changes in England in the 19th Century. However, she was most noted for her organizing nurses in the Crimean war. It is not an exaggeration to say that many modern nursing practices were the same ones she invented over 150 years ago.

Being tough is a great path to success. Never using excuses yourself, or never accepting them from others, is a very high standard.  It can be a tough one to live up to.  But anyone who is able, is sure to separate themselves from the wafflers, who easily accept excuses, and who refuse to ever accept their just blame.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

George Eliot was the author associated with some of the greatest works in literary fiction, such as Silas Marner and Middlemarch. Women at the time, were published under their own names, but she felt the women writers wrote inconsequential romances, and she wanted her works to be taken seriously.

In this essential success quote, Mary Evans (The real name of George Eliot) reminds us that it is never too late to get started.

This quote reminds me of another of my favorite quotes. The Chinese proverb:

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” -Charles Darwin quote

Darwin is famous for his theory of evolution. That all species, if you trace things back far enough come from common ancestors. Part of this theory is the idea of natural selection. In a nutshell, this theory postulates that the creatures that best fit the environment, survive and pass on their genetics traits that made them the best. Given a long enough period of time, this will change species to always have those traits.

When it comes to achieving success Darwin's quote becomes an important one. To succeed you do not need to be the brightest. You do not need to be the strongest. You do not need to be the richest, or best looking or most charismatic. To achieve success in life you simply need to be aware of upcoming changes and place yourself to take advantage of these changes as they occur.

“Success does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi quote

Gandhi was a man who achieved an incredible change in both India and the British Empire, by sheer willpower. Rather than trying to overthrow the British rulers of his country by strength of arms. He had his followers protest by use of non-violent civil disobedience.

Gandhi's quotes on success comes from his own life experience.  That the strength to succeed is not based on physical strength. It is based on indomitable will.  If you work harder than your peers. Persevere through tough times, and never-ever quit, sooner or later you will succeed and achieve all your goals.

“Whether you think you can or think you can't – you're right.” – Henry Ford quote

Henry Ford was a man who knew a lot about success.

He practically invented the way all manufacturing today works by creating the first big assembly line. Although he did not “invent” the automobile, he was certainly the key player in bringing the automobile to the masses. He was an optimist who created one of the most profitable businesses of the 20th century.

In Ford's quote about success, he shares an essential point. Your destiny is what you decide it is. If you feel you will succeed, and put in the work, then you can and will succeed.  However, the moment you decide that success is impossible. It becomes impossible.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – John F. Kennedy quote

John F Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, and the youngest man ever elected to the office.

His presidency was noted for a feeling of hope and optimism. If only makes sense that his success quote reflects the same hope and optimism. You can dream about achievements all you want, but to actually accomplish anything you will need to decide to give the effort our entire will.

You will need to start. Give maximum effort. Persevere through setbacks and keep going if you want to have a chance at success.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr. quote

Martin Luther King was a spiritual man who dreamed of a better world. He was an activist minister and leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He used rhetoric and non-violent civil disobedience to bring about massive change in the United States.

Faith was always one of King's core beliefs so it is not surprising that his feeling on achieving success include faith. He points out that you may not always have the end game in your head when you start on your path, but you need the faith to get started anyway.

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.” – Muhammad Ali quote

Ali was an Olympic and professional boxer and an activist. He is  considered by most people to be one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.

One of the great things about Ali was also that he was so well spoken and quite quotable. He had a way with words as you can see from the quote above. His success quote is all about optimism. This is the mindset you need to achieve the success you desire.

“Life is 10% what happens and 90% of how you react to it.” – Charles Swindoll quote

Charles Swindoll is the most “modern” of our 10 historical figures. He may also be the least well known. However, I simply LOVE his success quote. He is an evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher.

Charles makes a very important point in his quote. Many people spend too much time worrying about the things that have happened, or failed to happen, in their lives. This time is wasted because we all have bad things happen. What really matters is how you react to life's problems.

“Believe you can and you're halfway there.” – Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt quote

Theodore Roosevelt quote on success

Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorite historical figures. He was a man of boundless energy, major contradictions and an incredible amount of optimism. He was a Yankee elitist. But he was also a cowboy, a statesman and a reformer. He was a soldier but he was also a naturalist.

His optimism was boundless. He had belief in himself and others that was energizing. Teddy didn't only throw out good quotes, he lived them. Once Teddy was giving a speech and he was shot in the chest. The bullet was slowed by a book in his pocket, so it was not immediately deadly. But immediately after he was shot, Teddy “believed he could”. He stood back up, and finished a 90 minute speech.

“Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is.” – Vince Lombardi quote

Vince Lombardi was an American football player and coach.  He was mainly known as the inspirational head coach of the Green Bay Packers. He was also known as a man wanted to win at just about any cost, both as a player and a coach. He reminds us that winning is not everything. No matter how good and prepared you are, you will sometimes lose. But the thing you must always have is the drive to win.

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus quote

Historic Christopher Columbus Success quote

Christopher Columbus was a sailor, navigator and explorer. He is credited with being the first person who, “discovered” America.

His quote about success might seem like a fairly common quote for any sailor. But there is certainly a deeper meaning. Achieving your dreams may take getting outside of your comfort zone. This “losing sight of the shore” can be uncomfortable but you need the faith to do it before you are able to achieve your desires.

Here we are, two-thirds of the way through these quotes about success. I hope you enjoy them so far!

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Aristotle

Aristotle was a philosopher and scientist who lived during the Classical Period of Ancient Greece (from 384 B.C. to 322 B.C.). He was considered to be the “Father of Modern Philosophy.”

This quote emphasizes that when you’re successful, there will definitely be detractors. If you’re afraid of what people will think or say about the things you do, then you should not aspire for success.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer who revolutionized fashion for women. She’s considered to be one of the most influential women of the 20th century.

Her quote reminds us that to be successful, we should not entertain the thought that failure can be possible. We should aim for success alone.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu was a philosopher and the supposed author of the classic text Tao Te Ching. His influence promoted humility among leaders.

This quote tells us that when we stop being so attached to our achievements, our titles, and status in life, we will function according to our highest potentials. We will achieve greater things because we are not acting in the service of our ego but for the common good.

“Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military commander and emperor. He is known as one of the greatest military leaders of all time, even briefly becoming an emperor. Even today, his strategies in warfare are studied in military academies.

In this quote, Napoleon reminds us that we can never be successful if we limit ourselves.

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is considered one of the world’s greatest writers. He is often called England’s “National Poet.” His written works are still included in the English literature curriculum in numerous schools and his plays are still performed in various theaters all over the world.

Many of us experience the impostor syndrome, especially when given leadership roles. This quote reminds us to not be afraid of greatness, for everyone will experience it through different circumstances.

“I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him.” – Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei was an Italian scientist who made great contributions in astronomy, physics, and mathematics during the 16th and 17th centuries. His greatest work was proving that the earth revolves around the sun, putting him in conflict with the then-powerful Catholic Church.

In this quote, he reminds us that knowledge is not only in the hands of learned people. We can learn something from anyone, and we should not dismiss them for being less educated than we are.

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the most influential composers during the Classical Period. His orchestral masterpieces still evoke a feeling of euphoria to listeners to this day.

This quote reminds us that there is nothing to be gained by paying attention to other people’s opinion of us. In order to be great, we must march to our own tune.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman philosopher of the Stoic tradition, as well as a just and competent emperor. He was one of the “Five Good Emperors,” who ruled Rome in relative peace.

When you realize that you have power over your thoughts and not the other way around, you achieve greatness. You can ascend new heights and gain new perspectives in decision-making.

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” -Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the well-known polymaths during the Renaissance Period. His gifts included being a painter, writer, inventor, architect, botanist, and sculptor.

This quote is a reminder for us today that to become successful, we are required to take action. Nothing comes to us if we just sit around waiting for things to happen.

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” – Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth was a professional American baseball player who was famous in the 1920s. He was a prodigious slugger, and broke several significant slugging records in the Major League Baseball’s history.

This quote tells us that behind the success of a person, he or she has encountered several failures. The key is not to lose hope but keep on slugging.

“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” – Estée Lauder

Estée Lauder was an American businesswoman and cosmetics pioneer. She was the founder of the eponymous cosmetics line and is recognized as one of the most influential self-made women entrepreneurs in the United States.

Her quote tells us that there is no room for merely daydreaming about success. In order to achieve it, we should put in the work necessary.

“You can’t give up! When you give up, you're like everybody else!” – Chris Evert

Chris Evert was the winner of 18 Grand Slam championships. She’s now retired as a tennis player, and her record is a tough one to break.

She reminds us that being tenacious is the way to achieve success. A lot of people give up on their dreams when met with difficulties. Evert encourages us to never give up.

“You must trust the small voice inside you which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide.” – Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman was a multi-awarded Swedish actress. She is considered as one of the best actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era, as well as the most revered.

Her quote tells us to trust our instincts. We all have that inner knowing about what decisions to make, what directions to take in life. We can benefit from cultivating the practice of paying attention to that voice within.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy was a Russian writer and is considered to be one of the greatest contributors to literature of all time. He was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, as well as for the Nobel Peace Prize. His most notable works are Anna Karenina and War and Peace.

Many of us challenge old beliefs and traditions. We fight for the rights of the oppressed. However, we often overlook that change, good change, can only come from within. And that is what Tolstoy is reminding us with his quote.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was an American poet, journalist, and essayist. He is called the “father of the free verse” and is considered as one of the most influential American poets.

This quote tells us that we must never lose hope, no matter what challenges come our way. We need to always turn our face toward the light, so that the shadows are behind us.

“There are three things you can do with your life: You can waste it, you can spend it, or you can invest it. The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will last longer than your time on Earth.” – Rick Warren

Rick Warren is an American evangelical pastor. He is best known for his book, the Purpose Driven Life, a best-seller that discusses the 5 purposes of human life.

His quote tells us that we have a choice of what to do with our lives. We can choose to squander our time or work to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

“It's fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney quotes

Walt Disney was an American film producer, animator, and entrepreneur. His most enduring legacy is the happiness every child feels after watching an animated film made by Walt Disney Pictures and during a visit to Disneyland, dubbed as the “happiest place on Earth.”

This inspiring quote encourages us to make our dreams a reality. It’s fun to see what happens when something impossible is manifested.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

In this quote, Mark Twain reminds us of the pitfalls of staying in the status quo. Success comes to those who stand out, to risk being ridiculed and misunderstood.

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” – George S. Patton

George S. Patton was a highly respected army commander who led the American forces in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. Patton was an inspiration to a lot of army officers.

How many times have you encountered failure in your quest for success? Patton tells us that what matters most is your ability to get up every time you get seemingly defeated. Eventually, success will be yours.

“What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.” – Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. During her time in office, she was known as “The Iron Lady” for her indomitable will. She was credited for saving Britain from an economic slump.

Her quote just about sums what is required to become successful: a love for what you’re doing, working hard, and having a sense of purpose.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” – Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington was one of the most influential leaders in the African-American community in the early 20th century. He was an advisor to several presidents of the United States. He was also a notable orator and educator.

His quote is another reminder about the benchmark of success. It usually comes after one has encountered several challenges and has overcome them.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was a Spanish master painter who is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He stayed in France for most of his adult life, honing his craft.

His quote is to remind us once again that the key ingredient to success is our own action. If we do not work towards the success we envision, regardless of the talent we have, we can never succeed.

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

Woody Allen is a multi-awarded American comedian, director, and writer. He is considered as one of the world’s greatest comedians.

This quote is a reflection of his successful career that spans six decades. Showing up is the first step towards success. When you want to become fit, write that first novel, be the next employee of the year, showing up at the gym, in front of the computer, or at the workplace is already 80% of the battle won.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”Winston Churchill quotes

Winston Churchill was a British statesman, military officer, and writer. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. He led the Allied Forces to victory.

This quote tells us that it is our perspective that produces either our success or failure in life. In every occasion, we have a choice of how to view things. It’s up to us to see the opportunity or the challenge.

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” – Og Mandino

Og Mandino is the author of the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World. He is one of the world’s most widely read and influential authors. Many readers have been inspired to follow their dreams after reading his writings.

We understand that we need to work hard in order to reach our goals. More importantly, failure may be at our heels but it can never touch us when we have the will to make it through.

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German poet, novelist, and statesman. He is considered as one of the greatest writers of the German Romantic Period.

His words caution us against merely knowing about things — we must apply what we’ve learned. Further, instead of just waiting and wishing for success, we must proactively work to reach it.

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Helen Keller was an American educator and writer. Blindness and deafness struck her during childhood, but she overcame these obstacles to become one of the most influential women in America.

Her life is an inspiration to many. She had an adventurous spirit, and this is reflected in the quote above.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis was a British author, well known for his works such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters. He is considered one of the most significant British writers since after World War II.

Many of us stop pursuing our dreams when we reach a certain age. This quote encourages us to never stop setting goals or pursuing dreams no matter how old we are.

“To see what is right and not do it is a lack of courage.” – Confucius

Confucius was an Ancient Chinese philosopher and political figure. He created ethical models for interaction within the family and in public. His teachings focused on love for fellow humans, the veneration of ancestors, observance of rituals, and self-discipline.

Ideally, we should act selflessly. It is one of the inviolable laws of the natural world to always do the right thing. Confucius’ quote reminds us of this law.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball was an American comedienne and businesswoman. She became a powerful force on television and broke the barriers that previously prevented women from entering the entertainment business.

We often try our best to please others, in the mistaken notion that it’s the way to success. However, it’s only when we know how to love ourselves that we can make the right choices that allow us to achieve our own goals and reach success.

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh was a Dutch painter who is considered one of the most influential people in the art world. His most famous paintings include Starry Night and The Night Café.

When you’re passionate about something, you pour your heart and soul into it. When something is done with passion, people tend to notice. Most successful people have passion for what they do. It’s the driving force that propels them to reach those accomplishments.


What are your favorite success quotes? Let me know your favorite picture quotes in the comments below. Remember to share the best one(s) on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter or your favorite social network.

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