Flashback – Five of the Most Inspiring Quotes of 2016

by Tom Koulopoulos

We all fall down, but often a few simple words can be enough to motivate you to get back up.

Trying to create a list of the most inspiring quotes from 2016 is risky business. There are thousands of great things said that could easily qualify. And the temptation is always to go with the quotes from the most popular people, as though that lends some sort of added weight to the words said. But as the year has unfolded I’ve come across many quotes from sometimes lesser known people whose words have struck me with great impact.

Perhaps it’s because of the frame of mind I was in at the time, or the context within which I heard them, for example Sheryl Sandberg’s powerful commencement address at UC Berkley came at a time when I was also dealing with loss. In other cases it’s their pure simplicity that cuts directly to the essence of perennial themes that run through every life. I often take note of these quotes and keep a diary of them to help inspire me.

These quotes all remind me of something I’d tell my kids when they were learning how to ride a bike, “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, only that you keep getting back up. If you do that I promise you’ll learn.” That’s life, and these are the quotes that, as the saying goes, have enabled me to fall seven times and get up eight!

So, in the hopes that these might do the same, here are my five most inspiring quotes of 2016 that have motivated me to get back up.

1. “Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get,”
Michael Phelps

Anyone can talk about how important it is to dream but how in the world can you argue with the most decorated olympian of all time with 28 medals. Here’s the thing about dreaming however, by itself it does nothing more than create regrets. We are all dreamers in the same way that we are all creative and inquisitive. Sure some of us lean more towards the abstract but none of us lack the ability to dream. It’s what stands in-between the dream and the goal that we want to avoid.

2. “Hard days are the best because that’s when champions are made,”
Women’s Olympic Gold gymnastics Gabby Douglas

None of us go to bed or wake up in the morning saying, “Lord, give me a really hard day to contend with!” We mostly look for harmony and tranquility in our lives. Yet finding the elusiveness of both of those states often means going through the hard work of seeing ourselves and our situation accurately and then dealing with it rather than shirking from it. Gabby’s quote reminds me that we need to be grateful for the hard days, sit in their pain–even the agony and come away from it with the knowledge that we dug deep to deal with it.

3. “We aren’t born woke. Something wakes us up.”
Activist Deray McKesson

One of life’s greatest realizations is that we encounter moments that are turning points in our lives, moments when we suddenly wake up and realize that everything we thought was “out there” is really “in here.” The reality is we rarely if ever do it on our own. Events spur us to act, they give us the opportunity to change and grow. The key is to internally these events so that we see ourselves in such a way that we do in fact wake up rather than stay in the slumber of our insecurities.

4. “You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are–and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook
Class of 2016 University of California at Berkeley

Few speeches are more powerful than Sheryl’s commencement address at UC Berkeley. The world can throw some utterly horrid things our way, and often when we least expect or welcome them. The first reaction is always that we can’t handle it; it’s human. Yet, however long the struggle, we somehow find the resilience we thought was impossible to achieve. The lesson here is to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve the loss while continuing to slowly move forward. It may be by inches or centimeters but every step forward is reassurance that you have the resilience you need to get through it.

5. “Don’t let other people box you into their system of rules. They will tend to produce mediocre results for you. Make your own rules, hack the system and change the world.”
Wayne Chang Director of product strategy at Twitter

We can debate how far to go with breaking the rules, but outside of the fundamental moral and ethical values that we each know to be true, the fact is that nearly every rule outlives its usefulness because the world changes as do we. You can led that curve, watch it, or follow it. All I can say is that in my experience it is always those who bend the rules just enough to cause the rest of us to see the change and its value who become the leaders and the people we respect to lead the way into the future. And when we arrive, with a new set of rules, we look back wondering why we didn’t question the old ones more than we did, as we simultaneously embark on repeating the cycle.

So, there you have it! If you’re feeling knocked down I hope this picked you up a bit, If you’re feeling on top of the world keep the list handy. There is no top, only a journey of ongoing falling down and getting back up again. Number eight and counting….

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This article was originally published on Inc.

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Thomas KoulopoulosTom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.

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