26 Life-Changing Quotes From the World’s Most Powerful People

Photo by George Martinez

Sometimes, all it takes is one quote to change your life. I’ve read more than 1,000 profiles since I started writing The Profile, a weekly newsletter featuring the best long-form articles of interesting people and companies.

Below I’ve compiled some of the most memorable quotes that I often refer back to. Regardless of where you are in your life or career, there’s something for everyone here.

ON VULNERABILITY:

“The strongest thing a man can do is cry. To expose your feelings, to be vulnerable in front of the world. That’s real strength.” — Jay-Z, rapper and businessman

“Expressing emotion when you’ve gone through extreme pain is not weakness. It is humanity.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

“I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again. I think that’s part of the human challenge: You either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve.” — Brad Pitt, actor and film producer

ON RELATIONSHIPS:

“Every single day of my life, I just feel lucky. Lucky in my career. Lucky enough to have found the perfect partner. Sometimes in life, it doesn’t happen on your schedule, but you find the person that you were always supposed to be with.” — George Clooney, actor, director & producer

“[Love] is the one thing in life that I think is the biggest determinant of happiness, and it’s the thing you have the least control over.” — Amal Clooney, international human rights lawyer

“I felt like a door had been opened to a person who made me want to be my best self. . . . I find myself just wanting to be better by simply being around her because of the standard she holds.” — Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit

“You’re right, but you’re wrong, too. Welcome to life as a couple.” — Esther Perel, relationship psychotherapist

ON SELF-ESTEEM:

“‘I’m a shepherd and I’m a warrior,’ he says when I ask about the two sides of his personality. ‘I come and go between those two. I’m a nomad, and nomads are the most real people. You can’t pretend.’”  Hamdi Ulukaya, founder & CEO of Chobani

“I feel like mentally, I’m 100%, but it’s still hard to see a life outside of just being in a wheelchair. It’s about learning to treat yourself as a whole person even though your body is broken down.” — Anthony Zhang, founder of EnvoyNow

“I didn’t give a s — -. I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.” Michael Phelps, 23-time Olympic gold medalist

ON AMBITION:

“Your dreams always have to be big. And mine were huge.” — Quincy Jones, record producer & actor

“You have to work really, really hard to put yourself in a position to get lucky.” — Daniel Schwartz, CEO of Burger King

“I don’t think that wanting to win is at all in contradiction with our mission.” — John Zimmer, Lyft president

“Don’t be afraid of your ambition, your dreams, or even your anger. Those are powerful forces.” — Hillary Clinton, American politician

ON LONELINESS:

“It is lonely at the top. But not for everyone. It’s lonely at the top for those who were lonely at the bottom.” — From profile on Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and Neuralink

“That I had made mistakes, on that we can all agree. But swimming in that sea of Aloneness was terrifying.” — Monica Lewinsky, activist

“Isolation changes you; it makes you angry. You start to forget about the world outside — it’s not relevant or relatable anymore.” — Chelsea Manning, former U.S. army soldier

“There are probably a lot of young dudes who hear my story and think it could never happen to them. That they’re untouchable. Man…Nobody is untouchable. Nobody in this life is immune to pain.” — Lamar Odom, retired professional basketball player

ON UNCERTAINTY:

“‘It’s fundamentally about uncertainty,’ he says. ‘And therefore anyone who meets this definition is an entrepreneur.’ — Eric Ries, author of ‘The Lean Startup’

“We are very comfortable in very high-risk environments with absolutely no guarantee of success. I don’t mean existing in that environment for days, weeks or months. I mean year after year.” — Tyler Winklevoss, co-founder & CEO of Gemini

“I wanted to take a huge bet on myself. If we win, I win the most. But the reason I do that is because if we lose, I lose the most.” — Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital

ON SELF-REFLECTION:

“I believe that the biggest problem that humanity faces is an ego sensitivity to finding out whether one is right or wrong and identifying what one’s strengths and weaknesses are.” — Ray Dalio, founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates

“The hardest person to protect yourself from is yourself.” — Eric Roberts, actor

“When people you trust tell you the truth about yourself? Moments like those? Man, that is where you grow.” — Jay Wright, head basketball coach at Villanova University

“I am not fearful of the darkness. If anything, I am intrigued by it, because I think it explains human nature and people better.” Charlize Theron, actress & film producer

ON REFUSING TO QUIT:

From Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s speech to the players in the L.A. Lakers locker room during a rough year:

“Thank you, boys, for having me,” Johnson says to the room. “I really didn’t know what to say to you today, because you guys are already successful. So instead, let me just tell you what’s worked for me, and maybe some of it might work for you.”

For the next 40 minutes, Johnson delivers a heartfelt, extemporaneous speech cataloging his lifetime of failures. How he was arrested multiple times as a teenager. How he failed to get drafted into the NFL, his dream crushed at 22. How he made it big in wrestling, but then quit to star in movies and struggled, and two years later wondered, “What the fuck did I do with my career?” He says he carries these failures close. “You gotta keep that shit in the front of your mind. When shit goes bad or sideways, when you get booed out of the building, it should form you. It should drive you.”

At one point, Johnson looks around the room at the hungry young faces looking back at him. “You guys are on the come-up,” he tells them. “You’re on the rise. But at some point, you gotta be fucking tired of not being number one. You gotta play angry. I’m cool and calm when I step on a set. But when it comes to business and when it comes to executing” — he raps his fist against the wall — “every day my back is up against this motherfucker. And when my back is against this motherfucker” — he raps again — “I don’t give a fuck who’s in front of me. I won’t stop.”

That night, the Lakers win by nine.

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