In our series, Real Entrepreneurs, we speak with startup founders and business veterans to find out what it takes to successfully launch and grow a business. (Spoiler alert: it ain’t easy!) To that point, we always ask if there is a particular quote or saying that these entrepreneurs use as personal motivation to keep them focused as they do daily battle in the business trenches. Here is a compilation of their answers, which contain famous quotes, advice from their family members and mantras they created for themselves, that we hope will give you that extra push when you need it the most.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Oliver Kray from Mypostcard.com: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” This Steve Jobs’ quote never fails to give me personal motivation.
“A stumbling block can be a stepping stone, depending on how you use it.”
Ian Stewart, President of the Done + Dusted Group: My dad said two things that I have always kept in my back pocket: “A stumbling block can be a stepping stone, depending on how you use it.” And “When the alligators are snapping at your butt, it’s tough to stay focused on the fact that you went in there to drain the swamp.” That inspires me to weigh the possibilities, define the goal, make a decision, sideline the irrelevant and stay focused.
“No one knows what they’re doing.”
Mina Park and Ricardo Marquez of Crispy Chicken: “No one knows what they’re doing.” It eliminates the imposter syndrome we all have and honestly lowers the playing field. Once you realize that everyone else is also trying to figure it out, it releases a lot of anxiety and stress you might run into.
“Find the pathway to win, not the excuse to fail.”
Byron Ashley, founder of Settebello Entertainment, “Find the pathway to win, not the excuse to fail.” I remind myself of this every morning before starting work. It’s easy to say “I called the studio and they just didn’t like my client. We’re a small business, my client isn’t a name, it wasn’t meant to be, but at least we tried.” It’s a lot tougher to find the way to get them to work with your client, but we spend our energy trying to make these unexpected outcomes happen.
“Impossible has many options.”
Jeff Frommer of MALKA Media: “Impossible has many options” is a life motto and a business motto that has proven to be very successful for us. Don’t tell me why you can’t do it. Tell me what you can do instead. I think if you have the right people in the room and you have the right knowledge and experience, you can tell anyone who comes to you with an impossible ask how they can get a version of that ask done.
“Today I will do what others WON’T, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others CAN’T.”
Aonghus Shortt, CEO and co-founder of FoodMarble: “Today I will do what others WON’T, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others CAN’T.” The great San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice said this and it gives me some much motivation.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Ana de Diego, founder and Executive Producer of Spark & Riot: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” — FDR. I grew up on boats, and the truth is, in the toughest seas you learn everything you need to know about yourself and those around you. You learn to be a leader and you also learn when to be led. You learn to work as a team. You learn how to make quick decisions and when to course-correct. You learn about timing. You learn about the importance of luck; being at the right time and place, and when to grab a line, adjust the sails and start cutting your own path.
“Trust the timing.”
Sean Brown, founder and CEO of GO VC: There are two sayings that I always circle back to, both for myself and other business owners that I meet with. The first is to “Trust the timing,” which comes up more often than you’d think. When I encounter a business or investment opportunity, there’s no guarantee that that same offer will still be on the table in a week or a month. I’d rather get the ball rolling now than have to backtrack and rebuild that momentum later. The second saying, which is almost the flip side of the first, is “You can’t be afraid to fail early.” No startup or investment is ever a sure thing, especially in the world we’re living in today. This isn’t a new idea for most entrepreneurs, but it’s an absolute must if you’re going to move forward as a business or a brand.
“Make the climb without the rope.”
Jason Griffin Reidel, CEO of gorjana jewelry.: “Make the climb without the rope.” You have everything you need to fulfill your destiny, you just have to be willing to take the leap of faith to get to the other side.
“Come from your heart.”
Hindi Zeidman, founder and CEO of The Ollie World: My dad, who passed away several years ago, has always been my source of inspiration in both life and in business. He taught me to always “come from your heart” in all that you do, especially in business. When you come from your heart, it changes the conversation, it changes the motivation, and it changes the process.
“Greatness starts with goodness.”
Michelle McBride, founder of GoodSport Nutrition: “Greatness starts with goodness.” It is the core belief of our company. It’s a guiding principle to inspire a more positive culture in sports and fitness and it’s the north star of our organization because we believe that when we succeed at keeping good at the forefront of everything we do, we will build a company that will achieve true greatness.
“Anything is possible.”
Randall Kaplan, serial entrepreneur: My motto is and has always been “Anything is possible.” If we set our mind to something, and work incredibly hard, and have the determination and ability to overcome obstacles and failures and make a plan to make sacrifices and achieve our goals, you can do anything. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been told hundreds of times throughout my life that “you can’t do that,” or “nobody’s going to want that,” or “nobody’s going to respond to you” – or my favorite one, “that’s impossible.” It’s almost never impossible – nearly every single time that people have told me these things they’ve been wrong. My goal isn’t to be right – it’s to follow my own path, believe in my ideas, and then do whatever’s necessary to make them happen. That’s the inspiration for and also the main lesson of my podcast “In Search of Excellence.”
“The sky is not the limit, it’s just the view.”
Jennifer Jacobs, founder of the J Method: Yes, it is something I have been saying for years: “The sky is not the limit, it’s just the view.” It’s a new vantage point to see yourself more clearly and to climb even higher. It’s a reminder that as long as we keep believing in ourselves and open up our minds to greater possibilities things can truly be limitless.
“Have no regrets.”
Caroline Gogolak, founder and CEO of Saint Art: “Have no regrets.” This is a personal quote that I have always told myself. Chip Wilson, the founder of lululemon, said it in a different way: “Balance is maximizing every moment in life.”
“Provide value, have fun.”
Ryan Urban, CEO and founder of Wunderkind: “Provide value, have fun” is my permanent mantra. There’s a next level to that, which is to massively contribute to society but enjoy yourself while you do it. Life is about enjoying what you do.
“Let’s punch today in the face.”
Steve Werner, co-founder of Lawn Buddy: Our staff would say that my favorite thing to say is, “Let’s punch today in the face.” While it can sound animalistic, it is a great reminder that every day we have to get up and give it everything we have. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so live life to the best of your ability today!
“Focus on helping one person and 10 of their friends will come knocking.”
Ryan Blaser, CEO and co-founder of Test My Home: “Focus on helping one person and 10 of their friends will come knocking.” No person ever became something until they had helped another. Business isn’t just about building a money empire. It’s about helping our friends and family live a better life and the rest of what you want follows.
“Create your own happiness.”
Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of Glosslab: I believe in the power of the following: 1. Create your own happiness. 2. Connect with your customers and employees often. 3. Be your own customer. 4. Practice gratitude. Continue to do this over and over.
“Every detail is vitally important.”
Sean Lupton-Smith, owner and founder of the Electric Bike Company: “Every detail is vitally important.” I have been accused of being knit-picky. I often drive my team crazy in my quest for perfection with respect to every single bike part and component, down to the smallest of screws. I can say with confidence that every part, every detail on every EBC bike, has been scrutinized and is of the highest quality.
“Take nobody’s word for it.”
Chris Masanto, founder of Petlab Co: “Nullius in Verba.” It means “Take nobody’s word for it.” This saying resonates because we try to always observe both the system and the assumptions in the system, in order to take action that the masses (or our competition) won’t take. This contrarian action/thinking leads us to outsized outcomes.
“I’m a fucking animal!”
Andrew Reiner, co-founder of Grapevine AI.: When I was younger, like 12, my dad and I used to long-distance run together. He was a consistent marathoner. Whenever I was tired or needed a break, my dad would look at me and make me scream, in Central Park or wherever we were, “I’m a fucking animal!” and keep going. Single-handedly the most motivating thing anyone has ever said to me.