15 Work Quotes to Help with Motivation

Published by: Carolyn Brooks Fleming on Apr 1, 2020.

Editing with a View


Struggling to get a task done at work this week? Dreading a presentation? Hoping for a promotion? Sometimes all you need to start the day off right is a good motivational quote. One that will embody exactly what it is you not only need to hear, but the mindset you need to get the work done — and get it done right.

Luckily, Famous Quotes has an endless supply of motivational work quotes from a lot of celebrities, thought leaders, and writers to keep you inspired for days to come. We've compiled some of the best ones here that offer a lot of different insight and ideas from people who know a lot about work and what it takes to succeed and inspire.


Alexander Graham Bell

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."

Ever wondered how inventor, scientist and patent wielding Alexander Graham Bell was able to create the telephone? Apparently what he needed was focus. If you have a project or task, don't think about other projects that are due. Don't even think about the next step of the project you're working on. Just put all your energy into what you're actually doing and don't get weighed down by growing anxieties over other aspects of your work. Take your job day by day and you'll see a lot more productivity.


Jim Rohn

"Either you run the day or the day runs you."

Emanuel James Rohn was an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. Over the course of 17 different audio recordings and books, Rohn motivated people to take charge of their life and stay positive. This is a quote that embodies that spirit: don't let outside factors bring you down. Don't let work stress you out. Write out every task you want to get done and do them to the best of your ability in a way that makes you feel comfortable, inspired, empowered and able.


Paulo Coelho

"When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too."

A Brazilian novelist best known for his novel, The Alchemist, Coelho definitely has a way with words. And this quote is no different. Workers who just skirt by and can't wait for the day to end will see no improvement in their mindset or their situation. Instead, push yourself. Chase your passion. Take an extra step. You'll notice that you not only view work in a completely different mindset, but will see your situation naturally improve as you take charge of it.


Thomas Edison

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Ah, another inventor with something insightful to say. Thomas Edison is best known for his devices like the incandescent light bulb and the motion picture camera. What he's saying here is that a lot of people are scared to exert themselves and may just want to do the bare minimum. As a consequence, they might miss opportunities. This could mean raises and promotions and a better position. But it can also just mean the chance to make an impact with your work or a chance to feel proud about what you're doing. Try to see the benefit your work does for you and others.

Busy craftsman

Tyler Perry

"Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you're a janitor or taking your first summer job because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life."

If there's anyone who knows about work ethic it's Tyler Perry. The man has produced and directed well over 40 movies. Maybe not all of them are masterpieces, but nobody can deny that Perry is a hard-working filmmaker who gets the job done. Even if you are working a job you don't like, maybe even an internship or are still at school, having a good work ethic will not only guide you through it, but set the tone for the rest of your life, whether that's future job opportunities or pursuing your own passions.


Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."

The 32nd American president, Roosevelt is a name you'll probably see on a lot of lists on Famous Quotes. He has a lot to say about a lot of things — and working is one of them. We have all heard the "money cannot buy happiness" trope, but Roosevelt isn't saying just that. Yes, having money is great. But you'll feel even better knowing you earned it and worked for it. The joy of making money is finding creative solutions to projects or pushing yourself to pursue a career you never thought you had the courage to do.



"The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

This Chinese philosopher is often quoted to this day because of how simple yet eye-opening they are. I mean, when would this quote not be relevant? But when it comes to work, it's even more inspiring. You may not get that promotion right away or you may even get turned down for that dream job you applied for. But you must start small and work your way up. One way or another, the stones will lead to something bigger. It might not even be the same mountain peak you first envisioned. But you'll find yourself climbing to the top either way.


Abraham Lincoln

"Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle."

Here is an example of Lincoln being that "honest" thing people always talk about. It's a common saying that "things come to those who wait," meaning, "just be patient." But here, Honest Abe is saying that if you sit back and wait for things to happen, you will only be left with what the hard working people didn't want. That could be a project or client, or even a raise or promotion, and even a job or career. It's all about going for it if you want to see results. Don't just apply for a job. Create a sample or blog or reel — anything — to show them what you can do. Reach out to people. Network. Follow up. When it comes to work, sitting and around waiting is usually the worst thing you can do.


Dale Carnegie

"Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves."

Here's a quote that's true in more ways than one. On one hand, it's saying not to let work add up. Put a good effort into all the small tasks you do, even if it's just a simple spreadsheet or boring phone call. When they are done to the best of your ability, the larger project at hand will be a lot simpler to tackle, since there are no loose ends or weak portions of foundation.

On the other hand, it's saying that the amount of passion and effort you put in to small jobs will have an affect on you personally. You'll become that type of person who sees the importance and enjoys the challenge and process in everything you do, no matter how simple. By the time you get to larger tasks, you'll already be in the proper mindset to tackle it with ease — and may even see the enjoyment in finding creative or unique ways to tackle it. A lot of quotes at Famous Quotes can have more than one meaning. It's up to you to apply it to your own personal work situation.


Alan Wilson Watts

"This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play."

Watts was best known for bringing Zen and Budhist teachings to Western society. This lecturer said that these are not religions, but a way of life. So who better to learn the secret of life from than someone this enlightened and spiritual, right? According to Watts, the secret to life is finding joy in what you are doing and then getting immersed in that joy. This could be as simple as making your daily tasks a game or seeing if you can break your own record. Or it could be as deep as realizing that your work is more than just a task to get done, but a part of your life to enjoy. This could even mean changing career paths or changing the way you work entirely.

man in academic dress wearing mortar cap

Martin Luther King Jr.

"You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

Martin Luther King Jr. is not just a minister and spokesperson. He was an activist and leader in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. Similar to Confucius, MLK is saying to take things one step at a time. But instead of Confucius directing you to think of the creation that will come from the small pieces, MLK is saying to forget all those possibilities and just focus on the step at hand. It will naturally progress to the next step if you stay focused on what you are doing now. Don't start dreading what's to come until you're actually there — and then take it one step at a time. Don't start panicking about due dates. Just do what you need to get done and you won't have to worry.


Henry L. Doherty

"Plenty of men can do good work for a spurt and with immediate promotion in mind, but for promotion you want a man in whom good work has become a habit."

Doherty, an early financier, has a good point here. People often think about what their current work means for their future. Will this get me a promotion? Will this get me that job? Hell, will this client compliment the work once it's done? Instead, you should be focusing on using these tasks and opportunities to improve yourself. If you begin going above and beyond with your tasks, you will be seen as a natural fit for that high-paying job or that raise. And not only that, but there will probably be more to come in the future, too, as you continue to improve yourself and the work you do.


Jim Carrey

"I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That's the thing. You can't just visualize and go eat a sandwich."

Yeah, he's made some goofy faces in the past, but Carrey definitely has this serious side that's full of insight and realizations. A lot of people feel like thinking about what they want is enough. They picture themselves in a new position at work. Or they picture themselves getting praise for their presentation. But that's just the beginning. After you imagine the outcome you want, path out how you will get there. Create a calendar or even a board and fill it with all your goals — big and small, long and short — that will help you achieve that thing you visualized. It's not enough to just want something. You have to go for it once you realize what you want.


Ernest Hemingway

"If something is wrong, fix it now. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing."

Best known for his story, The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway is a man of many words. And a lot of them are worth reading, like this quote. This quote has two parts that are equally important when it comes to work. First, don't wait to fix something. If you see something being done wrong, tackle that right away. It will only get harder to solve as you continue forward on the wrong path. Those are the kind of setbacks that can be easily avoided.

But also, don't worry when you find out you've been filling out a spreadsheet all wrong. Yeah, it might suck. And yeah, there's more work now that you have to fix it. But if you spend time worrying it will only make it worse. Instead, start thinking about how you can not just fix it, but learn from the mistake, too.

Barack Obama on the phone

Barrack Obama

"The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don't wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope."

And that's really the most important lesson of all: Hope. It's not just about getting things done. It's not even about getting things done right. It's not just about focusing on one task at a time. And it's not just enjoying what you do. It's about hope. But you can't create hope if you don't try. You can only have hope — for a promotion, to make a difference, to nail that interview — if you go for it. And go for it with the thought that something amazing might come of it.

Maybe you're just taking calls all day — but maybe you will end up being the only kind voice someone hears that day. Maybe you're just writing a presentation — but maybe it will inspire your entire office. Maybe it will inspire you and you'll go for something even bigger. So go out and make something happen today, no matter how small.


Interested in more uplifting and motivational quotes? Check out Famous Quotes!