How to Work Harder, Smarter, Better: Quotes from Famous People on Work

Updated on July 28, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Inspirational essays and articles, with a touch of humor, are a favorite topic for Ms. Giordano, a writer and public speaker.. .

Work Smarter and Better to Be Happier and More Successful.

We all have to work. An examination of the advice of famous people given in the following 35 quotations can help us work smarter, work better, and be happier and more successful in the process.

Harder. Smarter. Better.

Work smarter, not harder, to work better.
Work smarter, not harder, to work better. | Source

In all walks of life, the most important advice you will ever be given about work is to work hard. I wish I could tell you there was a way around that. There isn’t.

So first, I’ll deal with the necessity for hard work, and then I will look at how to make hard work be smarter work, better work, and more successful and enjoyable work.

I’ve culled out the 35 best quotes from famous people and distilled their wisdom into eight simple rules for maximizing the financial and emotional profit from hard work.

Let’s get to work.

What Is the Origin of the Quote “Work Smarter… Not Harder”?

The term “work smarter… not harder” originated in the 1930’s. Allen F. Morgenstern, an industrial engineer, the creator of the work simplification program, coined the term. The program’s intent was to increase the ability of people to produce more with less effort.

This was later picked up by the cartoon character Scrooge McDuck, created in 1947 by Carl Banks. Scrooge McDuck always told his three nephews, Hewey, Dewey, and Louis, “Work smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies.”

What do you think?

It is good to be both smart and tough, but if you had to choose one, would you say it is better to be

See results

Rule #1 Work Hard.

We all have to work so we might as well work hard. If we don’t work hard, we may be able to reduce the effort a little, but we lose most of the value of the work. You’ve probably heard the adage, “A job worth doing, is a job worth doing well.”

If we want to do a job well, we have to work hard. If we don’t put in enough effort to do it well, then it is just a waste of time. For instance, I am writing this piece about hard work. I can do a slap dash job and no one will read past the first paragraph, or I can put in the hours and the effort and produce something of value. The first is just a waste of effort (even minimal effort is effort); the second is something that will be of value to others and give me the satisfaction of a job well done.

Margaret Mead: Anthropologist, writer

I learned the value of hard work by working hard.

George Lucas: Hollywood producer, Director

Working hard is very important. You are not going to get anywhere without working extremely hard.

Mary Lou Retton: Olympic gold medal winner

Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing yourself to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.

Napoleon Hill: Motivational speaker, Writer

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.

George Bernard Shaw: Playwright

When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.

Swami Sivananda: Spiritual leader

Put your heart, mind, intellect, and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.

Rule 2: Recognize that Happiness Comes from Achievement, Not Idleness.

Happiness does not come from idleness; it is work that brings us happiness. Work fulfills a human need for achievement.

Think of work as a form of play. Many of the things some people do for work, others do for play. The only real difference between work and play is the attitude of the person doing it.

Dr. Samuel Johnson: Essayist (18th century)

Labor, if it were not necessary for existence, would be indispensable for the happiness of man.

James M. Barrie: Playwright

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.

Theodore Roosevelt: 26TH President of the United States

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: 32nd President of the United States

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

Henry Ford: Founder of the Ford Motor Company

There is joy in work… There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.

Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister of Great Britain

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it.

Mohandas Gandhi: Civil rights leader (India)

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.

Love. Work. Do.

Work is love made visible.
Work is love made visible. | Source

Rule 3: Love What You Do.

Fulfillment comes from loving what you do. If you hate your work, it will probably show in the final product. Every job, every task, every work project that we undertake will have some fun parts and some drudge parts, but you can only do good work if you can “find the joy” and focus on that.

For example, I am writing this piece about work. The fun is collecting the quotes, organizing them into rules, and finding the perfect illustrations. I feel a sense of satisfaction and joy as I see a hodge-podge of notes start to come together into a coherent article. The drudgery part is keeping my butt in the chair for hours. (Also, the proof-reading. I like creating, not editing. One day, I will get rich enough to hire an editor.)

Are you a waitress? Take joy in providing the best service possible and giving the diner the best experience possible. Are you a writer—find joy in your creativity. Do you have to do a household chore--let’s say cleaning the bathroom? Find joy in making that bathroom sparkle.

Aristotle: Philosopher (Ancient Greece)

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

Steve Jobs: CEO of Apple

The only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Kahlil Gibran: Artist, Poet, Writer

Work is love made visible.

Rule 4: Good Ideas and Talent Are Not Enough.

You may think that with good ideas and talent you can skate by. Sorry. Even the most talented and creative people have to put in the work in order to achieve something.


The most practical, beautiful, workable philosophy in the world won’t work – if you won’t.

Emile Zola: Novelist (French)

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.

Rule 5: Do Your Best…Then Do Better.

You can always do more than you think you can. When you reach your limits, reach further. Always push yourself to take it to the next level.

Tim Duncan: Professional basketball player

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.

Saint Francis of Assisi: Catholic saint

Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Bruce Lee: Martial arts expert, Actor

There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Mark Burnett: Television producer

There's nothing like biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing anyway.

Antonio Porchia: Poet (Argentina)

No one understands that you have given everything. You must give more.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Sail away from safe harbor; have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Sail away from safe harbor; have the courage to lose sight of the shore. | Source

Rule 6: Take Risks.

To accomplish great things you have to take great chances. It can be scary to try something new and face the risk of failure. Do it anyway.

Christopher Columbus: Explorer

You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Mark Twain: Author

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.

Rule 7: Set Deadlines.

We have all heard the old adage: “Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.”

It helps to set deadlines. The push to meet the deadline will help you stay focused and work better. Plus if the task is onerous, it is nice to know exactly when it will be over.

Abraham Lincoln: 16th President of the United States

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Napoleon Hill: Motivational speaker, Writer

A goal is a dream with a deadline.


Do a bunch by lunch…be a winner by dinner.

Rule 8: Know What You Want.

You will work smarter and better if you know what you want. Here’s another old adage: “Plan your work and work your plan.”

Set a goal. Figure out how you will reach that goal. Then work hard, work smart, work better.

W. Clement Stone Businessman, Philanthropist, Writer

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.

Napoleon Hill: Motivational speaker, Writer

What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

Earl Nightingale: Motivational speaker, Writer

We become what we think about.

Take Pride in Your Work.

He may not get rich, but he can be happy.
He may not get rich, but he can be happy. | Source

You Deserve a Break Today.

Take a moment to feel good about a job well done. It can be a small achievement or a great achievement. You don’t have to find the cure for cancer or successfully negotiate world peace to take pride in your work.

Remember to appreciate all the little things you do. And, especially remember to appreciate all the little things others do.

Hard work will not necessarily bring wealth. As someone said, “If hard work makes wealth and happiness, than ditch diggers should be happy millionaires."

Hard work will bring you satisfaction and happiness. The ditch digger may not get rich, but he can be happy.

Here's a poll again, with a little twist this time.

Would you rather be ...

See results

For More Information:

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

This book really got me focused on my approach to work. Author Charles Duhigg introduced me to the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics--as well as the experiences of CEOs, educators, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters--to explain how the most productive people, companies, and organizations don’t merely act differently, they view the world in profoundly different ways.I found this book not only useful, but very entertaining because of the anecdotes included.


Here are a few more quotes on the subject of work.

© 2014 Catherine Giordano

I'd love to hear from you about your work and your feelings about it.

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    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 9 months ago from Orlando Florida

      Madamxtra: So happy you were inspired by my collection of quotes. I too find that whatever I need, it somehow turns up.

    • Madamxtra profile image

      Madamxtra 9 months ago from Milky Way Galaxy

      Thank you for the Quotes. That inspiration was exactly what I need at this precise moment…SMILE!!!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Wendy L. Henderson: Thank you for letting me know that you find my hubs entertaining and motivating. It is always my objective to inform, entertain, and inspire with a hub of this type. I reread them myself to give my self a little boost of motivation.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 2 years ago from PA

      I love reading your hubs. They are always very entertaining. I'm now more motivated then I was when I first started reading.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      letstalkabouteduc Thank you so much for your praise of my hub where I use quotes from famous people to provide inspirational messages. last year instead of New Year's resolutions I decided to take a few quotes from the quote-collection hubs I have done , print them out , frame them , and hand it over my desk. On of the quotes I chose was "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best." Thank you for letting me know that you think I have done my best with this hub.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 2 years ago from Bend, OR

      Catherine, you should be proud of this inspiring work. It's very motivational. I think most of us would say we don't feel appreciated at work by our bosses, co-workers, clients, and costumers. As a teacher, what I appreciated most was receiving a simple message written by a parent thanking me in a specific way. I've kept them all. They mean more to me than money, gift cards, and those 20 or so mugs I received through the years. Therefore, Catherine, I want to say how much I appreciated this hub and how you expertly organized your thoughts for our benefit.

    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 2 years ago

      You are very welcome.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Julie K, Henerson. I'm glad you liked the quotes, I appreciate the up vote.

    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 2 years ago

      This is a very nice collection of quotes. Furthermore, I like the way you have arranged this article. Voted up.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Wow! I am reeling from so much praise. I'm so glad you liked the quotes about work. I put a lot of effort into finding just the right quotes and organizing them in the best way. Keep smiling. You are my gift because your comment made my day

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      You are a gift that has been given to me from hubpages. While reading this hub, it was like my own heart was writing. I find myself nodding 'yes' to every word and smiling.

      I voted up and across and will pin your marvelous hub to my pinterest board and share all over the place.

      Thank you for filling my mind and my soul with knowledge of truth and light. May peace and supreme joy go with you. ~ Audrey

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Iris-Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed my quotes about working. James's Barrie's quote applied to me also. Most of the time, writing doesn't feel like work before I enjoy doing it so much.

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I like that you used so many quotes. There were several I hadn't heard and that resonated with me in the moment. I'm with James Barrie, the only things that are work are the things I don't want to be doing. I find that I am almost tireless in my efforts toward everything else. I also found "do a bunch by lunch, be a winner by dinner" funny and true. The more I do early the better I feel about myself and the more I accomplish (it helps that I'm a morning person).

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Writer Fox, I love the idea of not being afraid to lose sight of the shore. The quotes are not hard to find. There are dozens and dozens of compilations of quotes on the internet. What I do that is unique is take these lists and organize them into "rules.". Unfortunately if people do a search for work quotes, I'll be on page 20. But as Ghandhi says, "satisfaction lies in the effort" Thank you for telling me I did a good job.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you MsDora. The Gandhi quote is a great one. I'm so glad you liked it.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      This is an inspiring collection of quotations. I loved the one from Christopher Columbus. I don't know how you found all of these but I really enjoyed reading them. Voted up!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great quotes! I'm taking Gandhi's with me as a favorite. Thank you.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks Ven for voting up. I agree that working smarter means you need to have brain and body working in harmony. I hope you found the quotes from famous people inspiring. Be tougher than the smarties; be smarter than the toughies. (Smart stands for brain; tough stands for body.)

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very beautifully written with quotes of so many great personalities.

      Work smarter with some real, hard and concrete efforts. Brain is more important here whereas body should also coordinate with your mind.

      Thanks for sharing such a great hub. Voted up.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Kim, I'm glad you enjoyed reading my collection of quotes on working. You can still work at teaching, although now you do it on HubPages instead of in the classroom. One of the wonderful things about HP is it allows you to work smarter by sharing what you know with others. Thank you for your comments and votes.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Another awesome hub presented in a fun and reader-friendly way. Before I retired from teaching, teaching was my identity. It has been tough letting go of that identity; but having more personal, creative time has been also rewarding. V+++