10 proverbs to inspire success

10 proverbs to inspire success

Giving wise, sage advice in a business environment without sounding cheesy or contrived is often a formidable task. Luckily, over the years, smarter people than ourselves have gifted us with sayings, slogans or mantras that summarise all the difficult advice that we sometimes struggle to formulate. We have chosen 10 proverbs to inspire a change in your professional life. 


Proverbs are essentially snippets of wisdom passed down to us by the great minds of the past, with each one proving that even ancient, traditional ways of thinking are relevant in a modern context. This week in the Illumin8 blog we decode the often cryptic messages behind some of the world's most profound proverbs. Sometimes an analogy can speak a thousand words...



1. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together - African Proverb

Team work makes the dream work. Ambition and an eagerness to succeed are of course vital, but no one can climb the ladder to the top without at least one leg-up. Trust the people around you.


2. Don’t sail out farther than you can row back - Danish Proverb

Know your limits. This may seem like advice to potentially curtail ambition and enthusiasm, but in reality it's warning us to walk before you can run. Getting to the top takes time.


3. There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out - Russian Proverb

Questions lead to answers. A self-explanatory statement that people ignore every day. Don’t suffer in silence when a simple question or actively searching for answers could unlock a problem. Be inquisitive.


4. Good advice is often annoying, bad advice never is - French Proverb

You’re not always going to hear what you want to hear. If you are surrounded by ‘yes men’ unwilling to dish out a few tough pills to swallow how can you ever truly remedy your faults?


5. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime - Chinese Proverb

Skipping fundamental educational steps to attain short term success will stunt progression and development in the long run. Equally, If you are in a position to impart wisdom or advice, others will reap the rewards down the line.


6. A large chair does not make a king - Sudanese Proverb

It’s easy to say you are a leader without actually possessing any of the attributes of a true leader. Your title doesn’t define you, it’s how you use your position to influence others.


7. It’s not enough to learn how to ride, you must also learn how to fall - Mexican Proverb

Accept the fact that at some point the road will get bumpy. Learning from the mistakes that arise and responding to defeat ensure that success will always stem from failure.


8. He who always thinks it is too soon is sure to come too late - German Proverb

It’s often true that people wait, wait and wait and miss a big opportunity that won’t come around again. Don’t spend your life wondering and waiting when a new experience is always around the corner.


9. Some men go through a forest and see no firewood - English Proverb

Ingenuity isn’t easy to teach. Sometimes you either have it or you don’t. But making an effort to think outside the box and attacking a problem with a new set of eyes is where the next big idea comes from.


10. It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness - Chinese Proverb

Everyone likes to grumble and groan when it’s raining, and it seems like the world is against you. But those who accept defeat and let negativity endure are never going to find solutions.


If there is one thing we can learn, it is that there is much that we can apply to our work ethic and mentality on a day to day basis.