Forbes Book of Business Quotations: 14,173 Thoughts on the Business of Life

Forbes Book of Business Quotations: 14,173 Thoughts on the Business of Life

by Ted Goodman


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Now including thousands of new quotations, this bestselling compilation of business wit and wisdom is the ultimate desk reference for speakers, writers, CEOs, managers, and employees alike.

This handsome collection, featuring nearly 2,000 new quotations, new topics, and a fresh new look, is a trove of enlightening and useful witticisms about the world of business, drawn from across the centuries and all corners of the globe. It features a wide range of germane wisdom from such contemporary luminaries as Katherine Graham, Susan Sontag, Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan, Fran Lebowitz, Gore Vidal, and Donald Trump alongside timeless quotes from Ovid, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gertrude Stein, Mahatma Gandhi, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, John D. Rockefeller, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, and thousands of others—not to mention hundreds of quotes from the Forbes men themselves. Fully indexed for easy use as a speaker’s or writer’s reference, this inspiring volume comes straight from the most trusted and widely read business magazine of all time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781579124847
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 09/28/2005
Pages: 992
Product dimensions: 7.19(w) x 8.19(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Ted Goodman is the general editor of the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals at Columbia University in New York City. He is the author of Fire! The 100 Most Devastating Fires Through the Ages and the Heroes Who Fought Them, and the editor of Writing the Rails: Train Adventures by the World’s Best-Loved Writers.

Read an Excerpt



The moving motive in establishing Forbes Magazine, in 1917, was ardent desire to promulgate humaneness in business, then woefully lacking.

Too many individual and corporate employers were merely mercenarily--minded, obsessed only with determination to roll up profits regardless of the suicidal consequences of their shortsighted conduct.

They were without consciousness of their civic, social, patriotic responsibilities.

This writer warned, a third-of-a-century ago, that unless employers altered their tactics, unless they exhibited more consideration for their workers, the time would come when "Politicians will step in and do the job in a way that employers will not like."

That had happened with a vengeance!

Every issue of Forbes, since its inception, has appeared under the masthead: "With all thy getting, get understanding."

Not only so, but we have devoted, all through the years, a full page to "Thoughts on the Business of Life," reflections by ancient and modern sages calculated to inspire a philosophic mode of life, broad sympathies, charity towards all.

Having assiduously sought all these years to pursue this objective, I would--having already passed the Biblical span of three-score-years-and-ten--pass on contented if I could conscientiously feel that we have rendered at least a little service to our day and generation, that we have done something towards bequeathing a better world for my four sons and an increasing number of grandchildren.

This volume is a humble contribution to furthering human, humane Understanding.

I'm convinced, despite all the woes, wars, strife, bloodshed afflicting mankind at this moment, that Robert Burns was truly prophetic when he wrote:

"It's comin' yet for a' that, That Man to Man, the world o'er. Shall be brothers for a' that."

I have faith that the time will eventually come when employees and employers, as well as humankind, will realize that they serve themselves best when they serve others most.



Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Ability has nothing to do with opportunity.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Is it in destroying and pulling down that skill is displayed? The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand, is more than equal to the task.
Edmund Burke

Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way, ought to give us ground to presume ability.
Edmund Burke

Behind an able man there are always other able men.
Chinese Proverb

Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.

Capacity never lacks opportunity. It cannot remain undiscovered because it is sought by too many anxious to use it.
Bourke Cockran

I will not be concerned at other men's not knowing me; I will be concerned at my own want of ability.

The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability that he has.

People are always ready to admit a man's ability after he gets there.
Bob Edwards

What I need is someone who will make me do what I can.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.
English Proverb

Almost any idea is good if a man has ability and is willing to work hard. The best idea is worthless if the creator is a loafer and ineffective.
William Feather

The ultimate high: A man's abilities equaling his opinion of 'em.
Malcolm Forbes

The tools to him who has the ability to handle them.
French Proverb

There are few, if any, jobs in which ability alone is sufficient. Needed, also, are loyalty, sincerity, enthusiasm and team play.
William B. Given, Jr.

The man who occupies the first place seldom plays the principal part.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When ability exceeds ambition, or ambition exceeds ability, the likelihood of success is limited.
Ralph Half

Ability is useless unless it's used.
Robert Half

Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.
George Herbert

It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.
Elbert Hubbard

A human being feels able and competent only so long as he is permitted to contribute as much as, or more, than he has contributed to him.
L. Ron Hubbard

There is nothing of permanent value (putting aside a few human affections), nothing that satisfies quiet reflection, except the sense of having worked according to one's capacity and light to make things clear and get rid of cant and shams of all sorts.
Thomas H. Huxley

A man with ability and the desire to accomplish something can do anything.
Donald Kircher

Abilities wither under faultfinding, blossom under encouragement.
Donald A. Laird

Latent abilities are like clay. It can be mud on shoes, brick in a building or a statue that will inspire all who see it. The clay is the same. The result is dependent on how it is used.
James F. Lincoln

We should be on our guard against the temptation to argue directly from skill to capacity, and to assume when a man displays skill in some feat, his capacity is therefore considerable.
Tom H. Pear

In private matters everyone is equal before the law. In public matters, when it is a question of putting power and responsibility into the hands of one man rather than another, what counts is not rank or money, but the ability to do the job well.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work.
John G. Pollard

Ability and necessity dwell near each other.

Ability wins us the esteem of the true men; luck that of the people.
Francois de la Rochefoucauld

The art of using moderate abilities to advantage often brings greater results than actual brilliance.
Francois de la Rochefoucauld

It is a great ability to be able to conceal one's ability.
Francois de la Rochefoucauld

It is always pleasant to be urged to do something on the ground that one can do it well.
George Santayana

A man's ability cannot possibly be of one sort and his soul of another. If his soul be well-ordered, serious and restrained, his ability also is sound and sober. Conversely, when the one degenerates, the other is contaminated.

The young man of native ability, (with) the will to work and good personality will, in the long run, get the equivalent of a college education in the tasks he will set for himself. If he has ability and determination, he will find ways to learn and to get ahead.
Edward G. Suebert

To think we are able is almost to be so; to determine upon attainment is frequently attainment itself; earnest resolution has often seemed to have about it almost a savor of omnipotence.
Samuel Smiles

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.
Baruch Spinoza

The fine points that are uncovered in our work as a result of close study, diligent care, constant application and always trying to improve our methods represent the best and most valuable knowledge we get in business--and the sum total of that attentive attitude is what we call skill.
Roderick Stevens

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.
Publilius Syrus

Not because of an extraordinary talent did he succeed, but because he had a capacity of a level for business and not above it.

The abilities of man must fall short on one side or the other, like too scanty a blanket when you are abed.
William J. Temple

Forget yourself in your work. If your employer sees that you are more concerned about your own interests than about his, that you are fussy about getting credit of every little or big thing you do, then you are apt to be passed by when a responsible job has to be filled.... Don't worry about how big an increase in your salary you can contrive to get. Don't let your mind dwell on money at all, if you can help it. Throw yourself, body, soul, and spirit, into whatever you are doing.... The truth is that in every organization, no matter how large or how small, someone is taking notice of any employee who shows special ability.
Harry B. Thayer

They are able because they think they are able.

Men are often capable of greater things than they perform. They are sent into the world with bills of credit, and seldom draw to their full extent.
Horace Walpole

Ability is a poor man's wealth.
Matthew Wren


To tax and to please, no more than to love and be wise, is not given to men.
Edmund Burke

The absurd is sin without God.
Albert Camus

In a world where everything is ridiculous, nothing can be ridiculed. You cannot unmask a mask.
G. K. Chesterton

No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.
Winston Churchill

There is no opinion so absurd but that some philosopher will express it.

He who hath not a dram of folly in his mixture hath pounds of much worse matter.
Charles Caleb Colton

There is no fact that cannot be vulgarized and presented in a ludicrous light.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

No man is quite sane. Each has a vein of folly in his composition--a slight determination of blood to the head, to make sure of holding him hard to some one point which he has taken to heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The magnificent and the ridiculous are so close that they touch.
Le Bovier de Fontenelle

Life is a jest, and
All things show it;
I thought so once,
But now I know it.
John Gay

Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.
Vaclav Havel

The privilege of absurdity, to which no other living creature is subject, but man only.
Thomas Hobbes

It is not in the world of ideas that life is lived. Life is lived for better or worse in life, and to a man in life, his life can be no more absurd than it can be the opposite of absurd, whatever that opposite may be.
Archibald MacLeish

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.
Dorothy Parker

Life is full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, because they are true.
Luigi Pirandello

To pardon those absurdities in ourselves which we cannot suffer in others, is neither better nor worse than to be more willing to be fools ourselves than to have others so.
Alexander Pope

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