Bill Gates. Sheryl Sandberg. Oprah Winfrey. Larry Page.
These big names can improve your English and change your life.
By looking at the advice they’ve given—and then taking it.
Whether in life or business, the words of successful and innovative people can be deeply inspiring.
They can motivate you, make you think and get you to ask questions.
You may even hear people say quotes like these in daily conversation or at meetings.
So let’s take a closer look at 15 powerful quotes from successful business people around the world to help you learn new phrases and get inspired!
15 English Quotes That Will Inspire Your Personal and Business Life
Before we start getting inspired with these quotes, check out FluentU.
1. “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”
Who said it: Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance
“It’s about” is a way to highlight the importance of something. For example, “It’s about doing a good job” means what’s important is to do a good job.
“Make it happen” is an expression that means to get things done or to do the work. For example, “If you want to get a promotion, then just make it happen” means if getting a promotion is your goal, then you must work now to get a promotion.
The full quote means that ideas themselves are not important. The important thing is that you take action so that the ideas actually come true.
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2. “Always deliver more than expected.”
Who said it: Larry Page, co-founder of Google
The verb “deliver” has two meanings:
- To bring/move something to the place it needs to be.
Amazon delivers packages in two days for all orders placed by Prime members.
- To do something you say you will.
Our manager always promises to provide feedback but he never delivers. We haven’t received feedback in five months!
In the quote above by Larry Page, “deliver” means to do what you say you will do. So if you do more than what is expected, it means that you do extra work. The final product or results will then be better than how people thought they would be.
3. “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Who said it: Coco Chanel, founder of Chanel
“Think for yourself” means your thoughts should be your own—not what someone else has said or told you to think.
By adding the phrase “aloud” at the end, the quote means it is brave to have your own thoughts and to say them to others.
But don’t just say anything to your coworkers and your boss: you need to find the right way to say what you think and get your ideas across clearly and concisely!
For that, the resource that we would most recommend is Creativa.
Creativa provides premium, highly produced videos for learning English and business communication skills. Creativa provides entertaining videos, useful but unexpected tips, and goes beyond just English to teach you body language and intonation. Creativa is a new product from the FluentU team.
Here’s a sample video from Creativa’s Mastering Business Video Calls in English course, which has tips for expressing yourself effectively:
4. “What would you do if you were not afraid?”
Who said it: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
“What would you do if” is a way to ask about a possible scenario which may or may not ever happen.
For example, “What would you do if your boss fired you?” is another question that helps you think about possibility.
The quote implies (suggests) that fear often stops us from doing things we want to do. We become afraid of failure or a negative outcome. The question by Sandberg is asked to make us think about what it would be like to not have any fear—and what we might accomplish!
5. “Nothing will work unless you do.”
Who said it: Maya Angelou, author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
“It will work” is a way of saying “It will happen” or “It is possible.”
For example, “Our plan will work once the CEO agrees” means that after the CEO agrees, the plan will happen.
This quote by Angelou means that you must do work for something to happen.
6. “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”
Who said it: Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx
“To be intimidated” means to be afraid of something, usually because it seems too strong, big or impossible
For example, “I am intimidated by the CEO because I’m just a clerk” means that since I’m in a lower position, the CEO may seem a bit scary.
If you are going to “ensure” something, you are going to guarantee it.
For example, “I ensure that you will get a raise by the end of the quarter” means you are promising a raise within three months.
The quote by Blakely means that you should not feel like you are unqualified to do something. Your unique experiences can help you find new solutions and methods—which are different from everyone else.
7. “Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”
Who said it: Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post
“To run” something means to control or lead it. For example, “He runs the business” means he is the boss or the one in control of the company.
When you are fearless, then you are not afraid. For example, the sentence “He will do anything because he is fearless” means that he is not afraid, so he will do anything.
This quote compares muscles to being fearless. When we exercise our weak muscles, they become strong. Likewise, if we practice being fearless, then it only gets easier to be less afraid.
8. “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
Who said it: Andre Gide, author and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature
“To lose sight” means your ability to see gets worse and worse. If you completely lose sight of something, as in this quote, it means you can’t see it any longer.
The phrase can also mean to become unfocused. For example, “He lost sight of the original plan” means that he has forgotten what he set out to do, and is now doing something else. In this situation, it has a negative meaning.
If you give your consent, then you agree to something. For example, “I gave my consent to hire him” means that you agreed to hire him.
So the quote above means you have to be ready to move forward even when you may not know what is going to happen. You have to leave behind what you know. This quote applies to business because if you want to “discover new lands” (do something that no one else has done yet; start a new business), you must leave “the shore” (the known). It may be scary at times, but in the end you will find or do something new, and it might be amazing!
9. “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”
Who said it: Oprah Winfrey, founder of Harpo Productions and the Oprah Winfrey Network
This quote means that you should be around people who are going to encourage you to do better. You should spend time with people who want to see you succeed.
10. “Sweating the details is more important than anything else.”
Who said it: Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico
“To sweat” something means to worry about it. This is because when we worry, we often sweat. For example, the informal phrase “Don’t sweat it” means don’t worry about it.
“Sweating the details” means to take care of all the small details rather than overlook them.
This quote by Nooyi means that in order to be successful or to grow a company, you need to look after all of the small details. It’s those small things that will make or break you.
11. “You shouldn’t blindly accept a leader’s advice. You’ve got to question leaders on occasion.”
Who said it: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
“To be blind” means to not be able to see. However, to do something blindly means to do it without thinking or preparing.
This quote says we should question advice that people give us—even if they are a leader. We should think for ourselves and then make a decision, rather than just accepting what another person tells us simply because they are “important.”
So that means it’s okay if you don’t agree with one of these 15 quotes!
12. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Who said it: Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
Everyone has an idea as to how we should live and what we should do. This quote explains that we have only one short life, so we should not spend our time trying to be like other people. We should find our own life and do what makes us happy.
13. “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”
Who said it: Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group
“To give up” means to stop trying. For example, “I didn’t succeed at getting any new clients this month, so I’m going to give up” is a way of saying that you will stop trying to get new clients.
The quote by Ma means that we should always keep trying. He warns us that some days will be difficult, but if we keep up the hard work, then eventually things will be really good.
14. “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”
Who said it: Anne Sweeney, former president of Disney Channel
In this case, “terms” are rules or ways of doing things. For example, “We will do the project according to Jeff’s terms” means we will do the project the way Jeff tells us to do it.
The phrase “Define success on your own terms” means that there is not one definition for the word “success.” Success has a different meaning for different people. For some people success might mean having lots of money, while for others it may mean building a product people love.
The quote tells us that we should decide what success means to us on a personal level, and then work towards achieving it so we can be happy and proud of our accomplishments.
15. “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Who said it: Warren Buffet, founder of Berkshire Hathaway
This quote means that we have all been helped by people in the past—even if we never knew them. Someone before us did something which helps us now. The quote uses the metaphor of planting a tree to explain this concept.
When a person planted a seed, they could not see the beautiful tree it would become, nor the people who would sit in its refreshing shade. But over many years, the seed grew into a big tree that others can enjoy. Likewise, the things we do today could help someone else in the future.
We hope these quotes have helped you learn more English, challenged the way you think, and encouraged you to be a better person—both in business and your personal life!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. You'll have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
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