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Forbes Epigrams – 105 Thoughts on Life

B.C. ForbesThe following 105 epigrams–or wise, pithy statements–on life by B.C. Forbes were taken from the book “Forbes Epigrams: 1000 Thoughts on Life and Business” which is now in the public domain.

1. The most profitless thing to manufacture is excuses.

2. To fill your job, fill your mind.

3. Sturdy trees grow slowly.

4. The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down a failure.

5. Learn and you lead. Loaf and you lean.

6. Aspire then perspire.

7. He who has good health, good humor, and no debts is not poor.

8. Diamonds are chunks of coal that stuck to their job.

9. Think not of yourself as “the architect of your career ” but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiselling and scraping and polishing.

10. The longer you gaze on an obstacle the bigger it becomes.

11. You aspire to become a boss? Then need no bossing.

12. After all, you have to give full, fair value or you won’t last.

13. Don’t just float or you’ll sink.

14. You drift towards the rocks. You have to row to reach success.

15. Don’t talk about your abilities, demonstrate them.

16. There is no higher efficiency than doing the right thing in the right way.

17. Your boss may determine your salary, but you yourself determine your worth. To get more, make yourself worth more.

18. If you have ceased to smile, you have lost out in the game of life, no matter what your bank account may be.

19. The only hopeless failure is the person who has ceased to strive for success.

20. You can’t build a skyscraper on a faulty foundation. Attend to the foundation first.

21. When an unpleasant task lies ahead of you, get it behind you without delay.

22. A dose of adversity is often as needful as a dose of medicine.

23. Water that is stagnant becomes worthless. So do men.

24. If you do the best and the most you can today, don’t worry about tomorrow.

25. The raw material of success is thought.

26. Don’t intend; do.

27. The man without a savings account is usually a man of little account.

28. Look forward and press forward.

29. If you’re not garnering a proper amount of fruit, examine well your roots.

30. To avert pain later in life, take pains.

31. The promising man keeps his promise.

32. There’s a difference between living and being alive. Which are you doing?

33. Improvement begins with I.

34. In school you didn’t expect to advance unless you studied. How about now?

35. Golf without bunkers and hazards would be tame and monotonous. So would life.

36. It’s polite to apologize, but it’s more polite not to do anything calling for an apology.

37. The best investment for a young man is investment in his own education.

38. The man who sells his health for wealth makes a poor bargain.

39. Have a goal other than gold or you’ll end up a disappointed mortal.

40. No man is completely a failure as long as he retains faith that he will one day succeed.

41. Don’t wait for something to turn up. Go and turn it up.

42. Be your own efficiency expert by doing your job the best way it can be done.

43. Are you sure your troubles are not mostly self-created?

44. If you had no difficulties to triumph over you would have no triumph. Make this thought part of your mental equipment.

45. To get, give.

46. Organize, systematize, deputize, realize.

47. To become a top-notcher, keep in top-notch fettle mentally and physically.

48. The whole philosophy of life can be summed up in two words: be kind.

49. To make headway, improve your head.

50. The really big man never allows his head to get too big.

51. Improve your mind and your output will improve.

52. Purpose and perspiration are a winning team.

53. Any time is a good time to start carrying out a new idea.

54. Hustle, or you’ll get left behind.

55. Be sure to distinguish between having self-respect and having conceit. The first is indispensable. The second is contemptible.

56. Show nerve, not nerves.

57. Strength comes from struggle, weakness from ease.

58. Don’t worry so very much about what people think of you, but see to it that they ought to think well of you.

59. The real satisfaction comes from the struggle, not from the reward.

60. Unless you deposit wealth in your mind, you’ll never be truly rich.

61. It’s noble to succeed, but it’s nobler still to help the other fellow to succeed.

62. Have respect for others or you will not have the respect of others.

63. Getting on is largely a matter of getting up each time you are knocked down.

64. Every act is a boomerang.

65. It is better to err on the side of initiative than inactivity.

66. A recipe for happiness: give and forgive.

67. There’s only one letter of difference between 1-e-a-r-n-i-n-g and e-a-r-n-i-n-g.

68. The brain is capable of becoming just as big as you take the pains to make it. To grow, it must be fed and exercised.

69. Education that leads to knowledge is fine. Education that leads to action is better.

70. Good habits will in time make the going comfortable and easy.

71. If you’re sufficiently anxious to see and seize opportunities, you will have little time to note or talk about the shortcomings of others.

72. Any man can face one day’s trouble. It’s trying to carry tomorrow’s, too, that weighs us down.

73. Show me a happy person and you show me a busy one.

74. If you don’t have patience you are never likely to have much else.

75. Your income depends on your output.

76. Success usually is a plant of slow growth although its flowering may seem sudden.

77. Being a thoroughbred doesn’t depend upon your ancestors but upon you.

78. Do you make up a mental balance-sheet of yourself every night?

79. To get more don’t only work more but work more intelligently.

80. Impatience has prevented many a fellow from taking firm root in the soil of success. Don’t expect to reap the moment you sow.

81. Feel discouraged? Remember, the goal worth reaching isn’t reached easily.

82. To win and keep friends, be one.

83. One investment that pays good dividends is stick-to-itiveness.

84. Thinking costs nothing, yet creates everything.

85. Ability and reliability make a good team.

86. To score, set up a target.

87. I asked the president of the Central Union Trust Company of New York, George W. Davison, his formula for getting ahead. He replied in three short words: “Keep at it”.

88. If there be an elixir of life, it is laughter.

89. The thing the lack of which makes you so unhappy are you sure you would be happy if you had it?

90. In making your living, try to make yourself agreeable to others, and thus help to make the world go round more harmoniously.

91. To be well thought of, think of others.

92. Do; strive; seat; serve.

93. Good judgement is the raw material of success.

94. Life is like a bank: You get out of it what you put into it with interest added.

95. It doesn’t help a great deal to know more than others if you don’t put your knowledge to work.

96. Don’t stand still. Go after something worth going after.

97. Success is nothing but doing your full duty to the very best of your ability. Whatever rewards come are only trimmings.

98. Don’t sit down and take what comes; go after what you want.

99. Get your motives, your principles, your ambitions right, and nothing can utterly daunt you. Inward strength will succor and sustain you.

100. To rise above the crowd, crowd your days and hours with study, observation, effort and resolution.

101. Hope, of course but hustle, also.

102. Listen to the advice of wise people, then do your own thinking and follow your own judgment.

103. Our eyes are placed in front because it is more important to look ahead than look back.

104. It is poor policy to be so busy working as to be too busy to think.

105. Great achievement must be preceded by great preparation.


Fitch Gibbens once described epigrams as “wisdom sharpened to a point.” Apply the 105 Forbes epigrams above and use their wisdom to live your best life.

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  • sandy July 22, 2014, 9:19 am

    I enjoyed reading these Marelisa. It’s hard to believe a book with such wisdom is in the public domain. What a find. Look forward to more of this wisdom. One of these quotes jumped out at me. This is what I like about the power of quotes.

    Your site never fails. Thank you.

  • Marelisa July 22, 2014, 4:06 pm

    Hi Sandy: Aren’t they fantastic? I think people can’t go wrong in life if they just follow the wisdom contained in these epigrams. I’m glad you liked them. 🙂