Soft Skills

26 minute read

51 Motivational Quotes For Students Who Need Inspiration

Lauren Holliday

Lauren Holliday

The struggle is real -- especially for students and recent grads.

I know because once upon a time I was a college student, and it wasn’t exactly fun. You have to juggle working with interning with studying with going to class and attempting to have a social life.

Then, you graduate, and you still find yourself poor and underemployed. It can suck. But eventually, if you keep on fighting through the suckiness, you’ll get past the crappy stage and into the prospering phase. I know this because I’ve made it past that hump. And if I can do it, you can do it.

One thing that got me through the bad times was motivational quotes. My thinking is that they can help you too. That’s why I collected a massive list of encouraging quotes for work, for school, and for life! I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Want to learn more?

Take your soft skills to the next level with our comprehensive (and free) ebook!

Motivational quotes by famous people

1. Michael Jordan

motivational quote michael jordan

I love this inspirational quote by Michael Jordan because it's easy to forget that the more you do, the more you fail. As they say: "You win some. You lose most."

If you're not failing, then you're either not doing enough, and/or you're not challenging yourself enough.

Not only that, when you graduate and step into the real world, you won't have a syllabus or an academic calendar that tells you exactly what you can expect for every day of the year. That's a big deal. That fact alone is why you're going to fail a lot at first. Just remember it's a learning experience, and the more you practice, the more you'll succeed.

2. Seth Godin

motivational quote seth godin

Seth Godin reminds us that the majority of people will try to shoot down our dreams. They'll poke holes in your work, your dreams and your ideas -- especially when you have little experience and are just starting out. Keep an open mind and listen to their suggestions, but don't let them deplete you or even stop you. 

As one of my mentors always says: "You only need one yes." One day, you'll get that "yes," and you'll be so glad you didn't listen to the naysayers. 

3. Oprah Winfrey

motivational quote oprah winfrey

Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life becuase you become what you believe. 

When you think of Oprah Winfrey, you probably think of a freakin' superhero. I don't blame you. She is an incredibly influential and successful woman and the queen of a multimedia empire. How could anyone but a superhero do that, right?
Wrong. Winfrey reminds us that she was an ordinary person who dared to dream of extraordinary things. You can do the same. You should do the same!

4. Tupac Shakur

motivational quote tupac shakur

So many of us overanalyze failures -- or what feels like failures -- over and over again in our heads. This is not good because then we begin to believe we are a failure. 

In this quote, Tupac Shakur is telling us that just because something ends -- a job, a relationship, whatever -- life still goes on. You have the power to forget about it, and move the eff on. 

5. Martin Luther King

motivational quote martin luther king (mlk)

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in life, you're going to face A LOT of disappointments. You may not get that dream job you wanted or your boyfriend might dump you or you might not get that dream job and your boyfriend might dump you simultaneously.

Whatever the disappointment is, you must remain hopeful because, after all, hope is what keeps us alive.

6. Peter Thiel

Traditions are like cliches. They are everywhere. They may sometimes even be correct, but often they are justified by nothing except constant repetition.

At the beginning of Peter Thiel's commencement speech, we learn he almost didn't become the founder of PayPal. Instead, he almost became a lawyer, but when he didn't get a coveted clerkship, he decided to give up being a lawyer, and instead, he founded PayPal. 

This is what Thiel had to say about it: 

“Looking back at my ambition to become a lawyer, it looks less like a plan for the future and more like an alibi for the present. It was a way to explain to anyone who would ask—to my parents, to my peers, and most of all to myself—that there was no need to worry. I was perfectly on track. But it turned out in retrospect that my biggest problem was taking the track without thinking really hard about where it was going.”

Some of you may be considering graduate school simply because you have no idea what the hell you want to do with your life. Most of the time -- unless you want to be a doctor or a lawyer -- more school isn't the answer. Figuring out what you're good at and what you enjoy doing is. 

7. Tina Fey

motivational quote tina fey

There will always be assholes in the workplace, which is why Tina Fey's quote is so important. You don't want jerks to get away with holding you back, but you also don't want them to make you miserable. What a quandary, right? 

Fey's suggestion? Ignore them and reallocate all that pent up energy you would've spent hating them to positive energy you use to outperform them. 

8. Desmond Tutu

motivational quote desmond tutu

If you're neutral in situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

At work, you'll inevitably notice a lot of "yes men." Yes men just do as they're told. They don't ruffle feathers. And they never speak up -- even when they know something a superior is doing is wrong and hurting the business. 

Please don't ever be one of these people, who either doesn't speak up or doesn't support someone who does speak up, when you know they're actually right. 

Why? I want a steady paycheck you say, and so you'd rather not tell your boss he's wrong. I get it. I do. But there's safety in numbers. If you know something is wrong, speak up and/or stand up for the people who aren't afraid to speak up. Your voice can make a difference. 

9. Dharmesh Shah

motivational quote darmesh shah

Success is making the people who believed in you look brilliant.

There are going to be people who believe in you and those who won't. When you find a mentor or a boss or even a friend -- anyone who believes for you, sticks up for you, gives you a job or a reference when you're inexperienced -- TLDR: Don't make them regret it. They took a chance on you, so you owe them your everything to be a success.

10. Ray Allen

motivational quote ray allen

Don’t ever put yourself in the position to wish you could hop in a time machine.

Ray Allen really moved me in his "Letter to My Younger Self." His father was in the military because they moved a lot, and the kids made fun of him because he "talked like a white boy." 

At the time, he felt pretty alone, so he focused all of his energy into basketball. Still to this day, he pretty much is alone, he admits. But, today, he's at peace with his life and happy. 

When you're younger, life is all about fitting in, but when you're older, life is all about standing out. Standing out is how you land jobs, how you get paid more and how you make it to the top. So don't steer away from standing out. Embrace it.

11. Ira Glass

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I remember my first eBook, my first email campaign, and my first blog post, unfortunately. It's unfortunate because they all sucked. But here I am seven years later successfully doing these things without wanting to cry every time I do. 

You have to be persistent. Great athletes don't become great players overnight. They persist. They keep going back to the court or the field. You know why? Because they love what they do.

Find something you love to do, and then don't stop doing it. Keep practicing.

12. Tim Cook

You don't have to choose between doing good and doing well.

I wasted two years of my life pursuing business school, regardless of the fact that I sucked (and despised) at math. Business classes were all math all the time, and it made me delay doing my passion -- writing.

One day, I remember calling my father crying. I told him I couldn't take it anymore. I needed to study something I was good at -- writing. I was told him I thought I wanted to apply to journalism school. I'll never forget what he said to me:

"Lauren, do what you love, and the money will follow." 

Don't tell him I said this... But he was right. 

How many of you enrolled in a major that you're not good at or don't enjoy? Just stop. Take a moment to figure out where you are excelling in life, and think about giving that an honest try. You can and should make money doing what you love because then you will do great work.

13. Dr. Seuss

motivational quote dr. seuss

You have to be odd to be No. 1.

This quote pretty much speaks for itself. (And Dr. Seuss was never a man of many words) 

14. Steve Jobs

I saved the best for last: Steve Jobs

"I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle."

Don’t settle, but also, don’t take Jobs’ quote the wrong way. It takes time to find the perfect career if there is such a thing. You have to take on less exciting gigs before you make it to Oz. If you don’t then you may never get there.

Keep testing different career paths and skill sets by freelancing. Apply to jobs for interview experience, but if it’s a job you won’t be happy at, or don’t feel right about (assuming you’re making money freelancing), then don’t accept the offer — even if it is for more money.

Don’t settle for a full-time job you hate. Hack freelancing until you know what it is that you want out of a career, which may not turn out to be an actual full-time, in-office gig.

Funny Inspirational Quotes

15. You can, and you should

motivational quote michael scott the office

16. Be a unicorn

motivational unicorn quote

Be a unicorn in a field of horses.

17. Handle it

motivational quote coffee gangsta rap

Want to learn more?

Take your soft skills to the next level with our comprehensive (and free) ebook!

18. Find an enemy

motivational quote legally blonde

Try to live everyday like Elle Woods after Warner told her she wasn't smart enough for law school.

For the weirdos who haven't seen Legally Blonde (and you should), Elle Woods applies (and gets into) Harvard after her ex-boyfriend, Warner, breaks up with her. 

What Elle didn't know was that Warner had dumped her for a new, "more serious" girlfriend. Just when she was about to pack up and move home, devastated, she got mad.

By the end of the movie, she had won her first real law case and graduated as valedictorian of her class. 

Yes, this is a movie, but it also has a little nugget of wise advice in it: Find an enemy.

That's what DJ Khaled does anyways. And as it turns out, so do a lot of successful people

19. Swag < Gas

Quote about swag

Want to know a funny thing about rich people?

You'd never know they're rich unless you were close to them. That's because rich people don't typically buy fancy cars -- if they even own a car. They don't make it rain on everyone in the club. They work. And they work a lot. And they save a lot -- that is, after all, how they got rich in the first place.

If you have massive dreams -- like to own a football team someday -- you have to plan and save for that far, far in advance. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk

Nobody -- unless they were a trust fund baby -- ever bought the Rams when they go skiing for a week when they're 24.

Motivational quotes about work

20. You can fail at anything

Motivational quote about failure

Some of you may be choosing a career you're not excited about -- in fact, a lot of you may be. Whether you're trying to please your parents or trying to keep a steady paycheck, remember that nothing in life is guaranteed.

You can work at the same job for 49 years, and one day, they could just fire you; give you one week of severance pay, and send you on your way. They may not even want to. Maybe the company got acquired or the company is not making enough money and needs to cut staff. 

In life, you just never really know so take a logical chance on something you actually enjoy doing.

21. Accomplish something

Quotes about accomplishment

22. Hustle, hustle real hard

"If you can work 40 hours a week and be satisfied with what you have, more power to you. I definitely plan to work less than 40 hours a week during retirement. However, if you are complaining about life and why you don’t have enough money and only work 40 hours a week, you need to get your head checked. We live in a very competitive society and anybody who wants to be better than average can’t work 40 hours and expect to be more than they’re not."

Do people really only work 40 hours per week or less? That's a question that sends Financial Samurai into a rant that I can't help but agree with. 

It's a great article. Read it.

23. Do a good job

Do a good job motivational quote
The only way to get a promotion is to do your job well for a consistent period of time. Wash, rinse and repeat. 

24. Your shoes don't matter

Inspirational quote about accomplishment

25. Don't be normal

"Most importantly, if you can at all avoid it, don't be normal. Strive, burn and do everything you can to avoid being the industry standard. Even the highest industry standard. Be greater than anything anyone else has ever dreamed of you. Don't settle for pats on the back, salary increases, a nod-and-a-smile. Instead, rage against the tepidness of the mundane with every fiber of whatever makes you, you. Change this place."

26. Mediocre - meh

Don't be mediocre quote

You did not wake up to mediocre.

Did you?

27. You have the power to do more

Change-maker quote

I urge each and every one of you to seek out projects that leave the world a better place than you found it. We used to design ways to get to the moon; now we design ways to never have to get out of bed. You have the power to change that.

Motivational quotes about success

28. Profit

Motivational quote about success

Profit is the reward for correctly understanding an aspect of reality ahead of your peers.

29. Understand the Law of Averages

The odds are never going to be in your favor, but if you keep playing you’re gonna win.

30. Consistency is key

Lifelong learning quote

No matter which career you choose, in today's overly competitive market, you have to be a serial learner. Serial learners are naturally curious. They're great at Google. And they find blogs and influencers to follow and read on the reg. 

31. Rejection is good

Motivation after rejection

32. Know what you want

There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.

33. Build your own solution

Inspirational quote about making a change

Never bring your boss -- or anyone for that matter -- a problem without a potential solution. People will think you're a Negative Nancy and only see problems in things. Always offer a solution(s). 

Take Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, for example. He didn't just hate taxi cabs and complain about it. He went out and designed his own solution. 

34. Practice

Motivational quote about practicing

35. Persist

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Just because you have a college education does not make you entitled to success. You must have grit, persistance and determination.  

36. Don't give up

Never give up quote

This quote actually reminds me of a quote by Will Smith:

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there's two things: You're getting off first, or I'm going to die. It's really that simple, right?"

It really is that simple. The harder you hustle, the more you win, and the more you win, the more you get. 

Motivational quotes about life

37. Learn

Motivational learning quote

You must learn how to learn. No one trains people anymore. You have to figure stuff out on your own. You want to be "problem solver." Bosses love problem solvers because they find solutions to their problems without bothering their bosses every two seconds. 

Be proactive. Figure out what your boss needs to get done, then get it done... right. This isn't as difficult as it may seem. Just get really good at Googling, and make friends with a lot of people smarter than you. 

Want to learn more?

Take your soft skills to the next level with our comprehensive (and free) ebook!

38. Don't be vanilla

Don't be vanilla quote

The world wants you to be vanilla.

39. You are who you're around

"The most frequent life advice I give people is, be really careful who your friends are. Your friends should be better than you. Your friends should take you to new levels. A lot of people will just hang out with the same friends, and they don’t see that their friends are pulling them down. My mother used to tell me if you hang around with dogs, you become a dog. You’ve got to know when to find new friends."

For a long time, I tried to fit in with the wrong people -- "the cool kids." Today, those cool kids are still where they were in high school. They don't have careers. They're still waitressing. They're still partying until four in the morning. 

If I kept hanging around with them, I'd be where they are -- nowhere. 

So, yeah, choose your friends wisely. 

40. Anything is possible

Anything is possible motivational quote

41. You have power

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

The most common example of this mistake is job interviews.

When you walk into a job interview, remember the interview is a two-way conversation. You need to make sure they're also a good fit for you. 

I won't go into the intricacies of negotiation, but you definitely should learn more about it here and here

42. Your twenties are the defining decade

Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do.

“Our twenties are the defining decade of adulthood. Eighty percent of life’s most defining moments take place by about age 35. Two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our twenties than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do.”

The above is no one's opinion. It is cold, hard facts.

Your twenties set the stage for the rest of your life. How well you do in your twenties is directly correlated to how well you'll do in your thirties and forties. If you don't take them seriously, you will wake up one day, and regret it.

Consider skipping that third Spring Weekend in a row, and consider taking on an internship or working as a volunteer. Whatever you do, don't forget to gain identity capital, aka professional work experience. 

43. Trust

Not getting what you want quote

Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.

It's hard to trust that everything happens for a reason when you don't get something you worked really hard for or wanted really badly. I know this because I haven't gotten a lot of things I've wanted in life. But as it turned out, things always worked out perfectly -- usually even better.

44. Don't settle

It's death to settle for things in life.

45. Change your life

Change your life quote

Nobody owes you anything. Remember that, and you'll be golden. 

46. Make good decisions

The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the decisions we make. We literally make millions of decisions that add up to the consequences that are our lives.

47. Your life is up to you

Get better inspirational quote

If you want better, go get better.

48. Love > Like

“Like is watered-down love. Like is mediocre. Like is a wishy-washy emotion of the content. Athletes don’t do it for the like of the sport. Artists don’t suffer for the like of art. There is no “I like NY shirt,” and Romeo didn’t just like Juliet. LOVE. Now that’s the powerful stuff. Love changes things -- upset things -- conquers things. Love is at the root of everything good that has ever happened and will ever happen.”

49. No = good

Motivational rejection quote

50. Turn bad into good

Broken heart quote

Take your broken heart, and make it into art.

Life is going to break your heart nine ways to Sunday. Don't let it break you though. Mope for a day, or even just an hour, and then drop all of your emotions into something productive.

Whether that's writing or learning Excel, it doesn't matter. Just find something to distract yourself from your broken heart. It works. 

51. Just keep swimming

Enthusiasm is common inspiring quote

How bad do you want to be successful?

I'll leave you with this motivational video. I hope it motivates you as much as it motivates me. Good luck!

Gain the soft skills you need to succeed

Start learning for free with GoSkills courses

Start free trial
Lauren Holliday

Lauren Holliday

Lauren Holliday is a full stack marketer, serial learner, and writer. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, The Economist, TIME, and more.