7 Mark Twain quotes to make your career

ManagementMost good managers and leaders are adherents of Mark Twain, to some degree, whether they know it or not.

It’s quite possible you may only know him as a famous figure from the past, and have never even read one of his novels or musings.

But that’s OK. You probably follow him (and agree with him) anyway.

His wit and insights have endured, trickling down through the generations and shaping our collective psyche.

Twain was not one to be deceived by false appearances. And that’s why his work has kept him in good standing for so long – he called ‘em as he saw ‘em – which should be every leaders’ mission.

Twain could have easily been the first big-time management guru, had he wanted to be marketed that way. But he didn’t, which is why if you search any list of  top management gurus, he won’t be on it.

Seems a shame, really.

I Dare You
Mark Twain quotes

That said, here are seven Mark Twain quotes every leader can live – and grow – by.

“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”

Now there’s an all-time favorite, and not (just) because it picks on bankers. Of course it’s much easier to be helpful and forward looking when things are humming along smoothly and everyone is upbeat anyway. The challenge is to provide that same level of hopeful guidance when the going gets tough. That’s the leadership trait that builds a loyal following.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Gandhi said the same thing a little differently: “Learn as if you were to live forever.” Leaders love to learn, though it is true that they don’t always like how they are being taught.

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”

Trust your instincts and pay attention to your gut, especially in an age where “knowledge” is as abundant as the air molecules we breathe. Everyone has advice on everything, so watch what you inhale.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”

Tackling fear has always been what sets leaders apart. The leaders people can really trust are the ones who run toward the flames.

“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”

Who wouldn’t want to start and the end, with a lifetime of knowledge and experience, and work it backwards. It also speaks to growing and learning from our own mistakes.

“When in doubt, tell the truth.”

No thinking-outside-the-box or upside down logic here. Not a bit. Instead, leaders with high trust levels give employees unvarnished information about performance and explain the rationale behind decisions.

“Supposing is good, but finding out is better.”

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Action focused on results is what gets things done. Doers make it happen.

Do you have a favorite Mark Twain quote? Please share it in the comments section.

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  1. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
    Mark Twain

  2. “I left home at age 18, thinking my old man was an idiot, and returned at age 24, surprised at how much he had learned.” (May not be exact, but captures the essence).

  3. It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

    i like this one the best

  4. Pete Tresca says:

    Not sure if i have it down right “to be silent and thought a fool, is better than to open ones’ mouth and remove all doubt”.

  5. Julio & Pete just hit the daily-double. !!

  6. I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I don’t know. – Mark Twain (1835-1910)

  7. Mark Twain is one of my favorite guys, here’s a couple more that are on my favorites list:
    Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example
    Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

  8. After writing an 8 page letter to someone, he added this comment: ‘I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time” – speaking of the hard work of editing.

  9. “Never argue with stupid people, they will bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience”

  10. “PRACTICAL JOKER: A vulgar mind, a puerile (childish) wit, a cruel disposition, and the spirit of treachery!”
    I review this whenever I am tempted to “get back” at a practical joker, or teaser.

  11. “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

  12. Denise Voll says:

    “Be good, and you’ll be lonesome.” Mark Twain

  13. fred holzmer says:

    “whiskey’s for drinking, and water’s for fightin…”

  14. I believe it was Mark Twain that gave the definition of politics:
    Poly means many
    Tics are blood sucking insects

  15. “Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment.”
    I’ve heard that was a Mark Twain quote, but have never been able to verify it. But I love it, and it sounds like him.

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