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27 Work Ethic Quotes to Inspire Your Best Self

“A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink”

Woman working on a laptop
Photo courtesy of Brooke Cagle

The best companies are made up of employees with a strong work ethic. They know how to work hard, take risks, step up into leadership roles, and know when it’s time to rest and recharge in order to keep performing at their best level.

Do you want to improve your work ethic and feel more fulfilled at work? Want to ensure that you’re pushing yourself to be your best? Want to impress your boss and colleagues with your drive? Want to make a difference and inspire the next generation of working women?

We’ve compiled a list of work ethic quotes from some of the hardest working women out there to inspire you to be your best self and live up to your full potential. 

Read more: 38 Motivational Quotes from Successful Women We Admire

Work ethic quotes on success

1. “I never dreamt of success. I worked for it.”

—Estée Lauder, businesswoman

2. “There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success...but if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re’ll know that it was you and the people who love you that put you there.”

—Taylor Swift, singer and songwriter

3. “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint—and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

—Oprah Winfrey, media executive, talk show host, TV producer, and businesswoman

4. “Everyone talks about age, but it's not about age. It's about work ethic. Winning never gets old.”

—Lisa Leslie, former professional basketball player

5. “You can’t outwit fate by standing on the sidelines placing little sidebets about the outcome of life. Either you wade in and risk everything you have to play the game or you don’t play at all. And if you don’t play you can’t win.”

—Judith McNaught, author and first woman executive producer at a CBS radio station

6. “You get what you give. What you put into things is what you get out of them.” 

—Jennifer Lopez, singer, actress, and dancer

Read more: 50 Risk-Taking Quotes to Inspire Growth & Confidence

Work ethic quotes on taking initiative

7. "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

—Shirley Chisholm, politician, educator, author, and the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress

8. “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”

—Madame C.J. Walker, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist

9. “Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you.”

—Caroline Myss, writer

10. “Run to the fire, don’t hide from it.”

—Meg Whitman, business executive, political activist, and philanthropist

11. “Dreams are lovely but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change.” 

—Shonda Rhimes, television producer, screenwriter, and author

12. “Whenever I feel bad, I use that feeling to motivate me to work harder. I only allow myself one day to feel sorry for myself. When I’m not feeling my best I ask myself, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ I use the negativity to fuel the transformation into a better me.”

—Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, singer, songwriter, and actress

Read more: 31 Beyonce Quotes That’ll Make You Feel ***Flawless

13. “Don't let fear stop you. Don't give up because you are paralyzed by insecurity or overwhelmed by the odds, because in giving up, you give up hope. Understand that failure is a process in life, that only in trying can you enrich yourself and have the possibility of moving forward. The greatest obstacle in life is fear and giving up because of it.”

—Sonia Sotomayor, lawyer and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

14. “A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.” 

—Gina Carey, independent filmmaker and singer

Work ethic quotes on perseverance

15. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it.”

—Maya Angelou, poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist

16. “Keep working even when no one is watching.”

—Alex Morgan, professional soccer player

17. “We didn't have a lot when I was growing up, and it's the best thing that happened to me because I appreciate everything. I developed a strong work ethic, and I don't take anything for granted.” 

—Sarah Jessica Parker, actress and television producer

18. “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 we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

—Marie Curie, physicist, chemist, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields

19. “Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.”

—Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist

20. “Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep the faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” 

—Hillary Clinton, politician, diplomat, and former lawyer

21. “My father had a very simple view of life: you don’t get anything for nothing. Everything has to be earned, through work, persistence, and honesty.” 

—Grace Kelly, actress

More work ethic quotes

22. “I’ve been in so many spaces where I’m the first and only Black trans woman or trans woman period. I just want to work until there are fewer and fewer ‘first and only’s.”

—Raquel Willis, writer, editor, and transgender rights activist

Read more: Are You 'The Only' at Work? Here's How to Broaden Your Network

23. “You only do good work when you’re taking risks and pushing yourself.”

—Sally Hawkins, actress

24. “Only those who play win. Only those who risk win. History favors risk-takers. Forgets the timid. Everything else is commentary.”

—Iveta Cherneva, writer

25. “Instead of looking at the past, I put myself ahead 20 years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then.” 

—Diana Ross, singer and actress

26. “Integrate what you believe in every single area of your life. Take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else, too.”

—Meryl Streep, actress

27. “I take it extremely seriously to do absolutely the best work possible and the truest work possible, because I feel like that is what's going to resonate not only for myself but hopefully for an audience.”

—Sandra Oh, actress

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