The #1 Most Motivating Quote of All Time

Posted by Franklin McGuire on

I'll never forget the day that my grandfather Frank McGuire (who is also my namesake) looked at me across the dinner table at a family vacation and quoted my favorite quote to me. Listening to him say these words perfectly accurately, word for word, just blew me away. I had no idea he even knew this quote, which has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. 

To give you a little background on my grandfather, or "Pap," as we call him, I'll tell you that he grew up in a small farming town in North Carolina before winning a scholarship to college, where he played "college ball," as we call it here in the South. He served in the Army afterward, during which time he got married and had my dad and my aunt, and then left the service to take a "dream job" at a major chemicals plant. Here's the crazy thing: As a young dad with a wife, two kids, and bills to pay, he worked at that plant for exactly a month before deciding that he hated the job. He walked in to his boss one morning, told him to stuff it, and walked away from all that security, money, and safety. He didn't have anything in the hopper. Nothing waiting in the wings. He ended up selling vacuums for a while, but then he got in on the ground floor of a textiles company, where he ultimately ended up helping them go public, becoming very successful himself in the process. 

So why did he do it? Why did he quit the dream job? Why do any of us walk away from certain security and choose instead to walk toward uncertain opportunity, deciding to embrace the thrill of the dangerous over the mediocrity of the simple? Well, Pap would tell you it's just for one simple reason: 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Teddy Roosevelt nailed it, and when Pap quoted this entire passage to me, word for word and totally out of the blue, I realized that he had nailed it, too.

As I get older, I also want to internalize this. Ultimately, we must all dare mighty deeds, for we know not when the end comes, but we know that when it does, if we have always chosen the great enthusiasms and worthy causes over the cold and timid world of fear and apathy, then we will meet that end with a pride of purpose, knowing that our place shall not be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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  • This has also been my favorite quote for many years and I’ve tried to pass the spirit of it on to my sons. Most people live a life of mediocrity, of just trying to fit in and get through another day. Your days are numbered, so make them count. And now it is time for me to start taking my own advice…and Teddy’s.

    Rodney on

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