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I Hate Quotes About ‘Success’ (Except For This One)

I Hate Quotes About 'Success' (Except For This One)Generic platitudes tend to annoy me. You know the kind I’m talking about — right?

Say you’ve just been through a bad breakup. It stings monumentally, and you keep hearing crap like this:

  • “It’ll all work out in the end.”
  • “Maybe it’s for the best.”
  • “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Blah. These phrases are so scripted into our culture, and I’m sure the people who use these phrases mean well — but I can’t help rolling my eyes a bit at these saccharine one-liners.

That’s precisely the reason why I also tend to strongly dislike the words “succeed” and “success”. They’re scripted into our modern culture as these super-essential buzzwords that better damn well wave hello from the “objectives” section of your résumé — lest your application be tossed into the circular filing cabinet.


But the definition of “success” varies for everyone, right?

I mean, success for you might mean reaching a certain income or job title. Success for someone else might mean finishing the work week without a migraine or without the kids coloring on the living room wall.

Success for me, these days, is all about how far this agoraphobic gal can push herself away from home.

So, when it comes to generic platitudes about success, that’s where I start to get really annoyed. My high school trigonometry teacher (in whose class I recall failing the midterm exam abysmally) would begin each day by writing out success-related quotations on the blackboard.

Stuff that went something like this:

  • “Success comes in a can, not a can’t!”
  • “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
  • “Success is counted sweetest by those who never succeed!”
  • “You always pass failure on the way to success.”
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again!”



I mean, I can see the guy’s good intentions — he obviously wanted to motivate a classroom full of dopey 11th-grade students whose eyes tended to glaze over after staring at triangles and cosines and formulas on the blackboard.

But it never worked on me. (One day, angry at my failing grades in that class, I even got up and erased the quote when the teacher left the classroom briefly. It felt like a gigantic act of rebellion in the tiny context of high school.)

But today, I actually found a success-related quote that I don’t mind.

And why?

Two reasons: first, it’s sort of an anti-success quote about success.

Second, I was introduced to it via this most excellent animated image posted to /r/funny:

If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

The quote (which I can’t find reliable attribution for, sadly) is this:

“If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.”

Now there’s something I can agree with. Create your own definition for success, and you’ll never be following anyone else’s script — only yours.

(Also, um, the bunny! He is chubby and cute and makes me giggle.)

And so, I hope you all find a way to make this weekend successful — by your definition alone.

Photo: SalFalko (Flickr)

Reddit hat tip: /u/PaperkutRob


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I Hate Quotes About ‘Success’ (Except For This One)

Summer Beretsky

Summer Beretsky enjoys writing about her experiences with anxiety, panic, and Paxil. She had her first panic attack as an undergrad at Lycoming College and plenty more while she worked toward her M.A. in Communication from the University of Delaware. She contributes to the World of Psychology blog here on PsychCentral and has written for the Los Angeles Times. You can follow her on Twitter @summerberetsky.

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APA Reference
Beretsky, S. (2014). I Hate Quotes About ‘Success’ (Except For This One). Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Feb 2014
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