53 Quotations on Perseverance You Won’t Get at a Motivational Seminar


September 25, 2016 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Well, maybe a few of them you will.

But when I look for quotations, or do a search on a phrase (as happened last week with “plateau”) I’m often doing it not for motivation in my work life, but as inspiration for a story I’m working on around a particular theme. It gets me thinking. I try to find the quirky and humorous insights, and some of the darker threads, as well. I also strive for an equal number of quotations from men and women. In the world we live in, that takes some doing.

In addition to the regular quotation sites, I also peruse Goodreads, which gives my lists a literary bent. Though please please PLEASE Goodreads, do something about people who type EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE OF THEIR BOOK in as a separate quotation and then use 50 tags for each one. This sort of desperation marketing seems to be particularly common with people who write motivational books. If you ever want to prove that every word you write is not pure gold, use this technique.

At any rate, after an afternoon of sift and save, these are the quotations I like best.

If you’re having a writing block – or any other kind of block – perhaps one of these will, in fact, motivate or inspire – or at least hit home.


Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent.  Steve Martin, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Steve Martin as King Tut

Steve Martin as King Tut. You know you wanna watch it…


There is no faster way to harden my determination than to assume I will fail at it.  Marie Brennan, The Tropic of Serpents


In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm. … In the real world, all rests on perseverance.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


There was another thing bigger than the tiredness -and this was the strong crew purpose.  Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter


Me and Call have always liked to get where we started for, even if it don’t make a damn bit of sense.  Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove


A 41-inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee – a lot more. Jayne Mansfield

Sophia Loren apparently waiting for Jayne Mansfield to have a wardrobe malfunction...

Sophia Loren apparently waiting for Jayne Mansfield to have a wardrobe malfunction…


We will either find a way or make one. Hannibal


Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.  Catherine of Siena


Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.  Robert Strauss


Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end.  Christina Rossetti


If we walk far enough, says Dorothy, we shall sometime come to someplace.  L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often depressed.  Mary Shelley


Let me tell your something. I’m from Chicago. I don’t break.  Barack Obama


Well, maybe just once he did... Courtesy The Chicago Citizen

Well, maybe just once he did… Courtesy The Chicago Citizen


They outnumbered me, and I was worsted and under their feet; but, as yet, I was not dead.  Charlotte Brontë, Villette


Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better.  Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


You don’t have to be strong to survive a bad situation; you simply need a plan.  Shannon L. Alder


The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable. This is invaluable for an artist.   Steven Pressfield


Maybe someday, if I succeed at something, I’ll stop saying, It isn’t fair about everything else.  Lois Lowry, A Summer to Die


If you are going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill


Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. Marie Curie

Marie Curie

Marie Curie. This must be a posed picture for the press; unless it was a lab coat, she rarely wore white in the lab.


Perseverance – a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success. Ambrose Bierce


I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.  Madeleine K. Albright, Madam Secretary: A Memoir


To bathe a cat takes brute force, perseverance, courage of conviction – and a cat. The last ingredient is usually hardest to come by. Stephen Baker


I believe that I am very lucky to have close friends who are faithful. From my friends, I have learned the importance of perseverance. Julia Cameron


It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Albert Einstein


I need a teacher quite as much as Helen. I know the education of this child will be the distinguishing event of my life, if I have the brains and perseverance to accomplish it. Anne Sullivan


Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.  Henri Cartier-Bresson


Mercado do Bolhão, Portugal. We are definitely past the first ten thousand.


When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself. Isak Dinesen


The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t. Henry Ward Beecher


Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure. George Eliot


All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.  Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho


When you’re tired, sleep. Don’t watch stupid tv or play games on your phone. Sleep, and then get up early, and do the stuff you hope you’ll be known for after you die.  Maggie Stiefvater


I promise I shall never give up, and that I’ll die yelling and laughing, and that until then I’ll rush around this world I insist is holy and pull at everyone’s lapel and make them confess to me and to all.  Jack Kerouac


The drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.  Mary McLeod Bethune


Mary McLeod Bethune with girls from the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona, circa 1905.

Mary McLeod Bethune with girls from the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona, circa 1905.


By perseverance the snail reached the ark. Charles Spurgeon


Hardships make or break people.  Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind


A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. Robert Benchley


You go on. You set one foot in front of the other, and if a thin voice cries out, somewhere behind you, you pretend not to hear, and keep going. Geraldine Brooks, March


Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.  Martin Luther


They are girls to whom things happen, and they take it hard. But I bear myself as more than a silly girl. I am the daughter of a water goddess. I am a woman with water in her veins and power in her breeding. I am a woman who makes things happen, and I am not defeated yet. I am not defeated by a boy with a newly won crown, and no man will ever walk away from me certain that he won’t walk back.  Philippa Gregory, The White Queen


Few of us would regret the years it takes to complete an education or master a crucial skill. So why complain about the perseverance needed to become a well-balanced and truly compassionate human being?  Matthieu Ricard


Unattiributed photograph of Matthieu Ricard found on the TED WordPress blog.

Unattributed photograph of Matthieu Ricard found on the TED blog.


The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next. Mignon McLaughlin


Entrepreneurship: you put one dumb foot in front of the other while the world throws bricks at your head.  Peter Thiel


There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  Beverly Sills


Only a weakling gives up when he’s becalmed! A strong man sails by ash breeze!  Jean Lee Latham, Carry On Mr. Bowditch


You rarely win, but sometimes you do.  Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.


I’ve written for the waste basket so often that we’ve become friends. He writes too, but it’s mostly garbage.  Ryan Lilly


Perseverance and audacity generally win.  Madame Dorothée De Luzy

Madame de Luzy of the Comedie Francais: Yet Another Actress with a Bust

Madame de Luzy of the Comédie-Française: Yet Another Actress with a Bust


What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? I wish I knew… Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can…  Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


You got up off the bathroom floor. That’s a start. Now, just stay off the floor  Sarah Spann, Wildflowers Come Back


If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.  R.A. Salvatore



Of course, in fairness, I must remind you of this: that we writers are the most lily-livered of all craftsmen. We expect more, for the most peewee efforts, than any other people.  Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write


Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while, a long while, it will be true.  John Steinbeck, East of Eden



John Steinbeck

What are your favorite quotations about perseverance and determination? Feel free to add to my list in the comments.

3 thoughts on “53 Quotations on Perseverance You Won’t Get at a Motivational Seminar

  1. elainemansfield says:

    Thank you for these, Paula. What a gift. I will bring out one a day–although, as with a good book, I’ve already read ahead. Favorite photo is Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield with the quote. They were big stars when I was a kid and women were full and round. Sophia Loren filled out later. Or maybe the Obama photo and quip is the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are brilliant, Paula. Than you for sharing. Some of them are going to be printed out and taped by my laptop. :-)


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