Catalyst Quotes

Compiled by Alex Pena ~ ‘Catalyst’: “to spark, to ignite, energize, mobilize; something that accelerates a reaction (DDI)." Thought-provoking & motivational quotes and stories for you to read, reflect on and move forward in making creative and positive changes in your life.

Archive for the category “Leadership”

“It Comes Down to People. Believe in Them.”


“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking, we can get on with creating the future.”    (James Bertrand)




“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)




“If you wish others to believe in you, you must convince them that you believe in them.”    (Harvey McKay)




“The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated.”    (William James)




“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)




“They call it coaching, but it is teaching.  You do not just tell them … you show them the reasons.”    (Vince Lombardi)




“Everything in business comes down to PEOPLE.  Where in business can we escape the impact of human care, human creativity, human commitment, human frustration, and human despair?  There is no reason for anything in business to exist if it does not serve the needs of people.”    (Bruce Cryer)




Short Course in Leadership:

1. Make a list of things done to you that you abhorred.  Don’t do them to others, ever.
2. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.”    (Dee Hock)




“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”    (Peter Drucker)




“Let’s make a dent in the universe.”    (Steve Jobs)



“The Future Starts Today / Autograph Your Work”


“Leadership is not magnetic personality – that can just as well be a glib tongue.  It is not making friends and influencing people – that is flattery.  Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.  (Peter Drucker)




“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.  You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”    (Theodore M. Hesburgh)




There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it’s what we do with them that’s important.”    (Ruth Ross)




“What we think or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence.  The only thing of consequence is what we do.”    (John Ruskin)




“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.  Autograph your work with excellence.”    (Unknown)




“If you can dream it, you can do it.”    (Walt Disney)




“I didn’t get where I am by thinking about it or dreaming about it.  I got there by doing it.”    (Estée Lauder)




“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”    (Pope John Paul II)



“Leadership / Be Afraid and Do It Anyway”


“A monumental question for leaders in any organization to consider is:  How much greatness are we willing to grant people?”     (The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander)




“Leaders focus on the soft stuff. People.  Values.  Character.  Commitment.  A Cause.
All of the stuff that was supposed to be too ‘goo-goo’ to count in business.  Yet, it’s the stuff that real leaders take care of first.  And forever.
That’s why leadership is an art, not a science.  If leadership were just about hitting your numbers, about driving the troops to meet their quotas, then leadership would just be a math problem.  But leadership is a human mystery.”    (Tom Peters)




“The most effective way to teach anyone what we would like them to know is through behavior, not words. …  People of action, those who make a difference in life, those whom we most admire, all seem to know the truth of the ancient wisdom (of Emerson),  ‘What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say.’

Be a doer.  And in the process, you will do more to teach others ….”    (Wayne W. Dyer, Wisdom of the Ages)




We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”    (e. e. cummings)




Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about a baseball team on a losing streak.  On the road for a doubleheader, the team visited a town that was home to a famous faith healer. While the guys were warming up, the manager disappeared.  He came back an hour later with a big handful of bats.  ‘Guys, these bats were blessed and healed by the guru.  Our problems are over.’

According to the story, the team snapped out of their streak and won a bunch of games.  Some people wonder, ‘Did the faith healer really touch the bats, or was the manager making it up?’  Huh?   Does it matter?     (Seth Godin)




We all have possibilities we don’t know about.  We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”    (Dale Carnegie)




“Trust yourself.   You know more than you think you do.”    (Dr. Spock)




“Be afraid and do it anyway.”    (Rachel Muir)



“What Can I Do Today to Make a Difference? / Visualize the Impossible”



“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”     (Maya Angelou)




“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”     (Ralph Waldo Emerson)




“If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me – your spouse, your child, your neighbor, your boss, your worker, your friend – you first need to understand me.  And you can’t do that with technique alone.  If I sense you’re using some technique, I sense duplicity, manipulation.  I wonder why you’re using it, what your motives are.  And I don’t feel safe enough to open myself up to you.” (Stephen R. Covey, Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People)




“You cannot build a team or organization that believes in different things from you. You can’t make them into something you’re not.  Leadership isn’t just a job; it is a commitment to other people’s excellence.

As an illustration, think of the movie, ‘Remember the Titans.’  One of the highlights of that film was the heated exchange between the white captain and one of the black players, who had experienced firsthand the captain’s lack of acceptance and support.  When the captain confronted the player for deliberately missing a play, the player retorted, ‘attitude reflects leadership, captain.’

We must remember that, unfortunately, too many managers and supervisors who are responsible for developing others haven’t learned the basics of good leadership and development, even for themselves.  They are trying to build organizations or provide services based on a different value system.  It doesn’t work.  Employees quickly observe the disconnect between words and deeds.”    (Don Ritz)




“The final meditation on followership from Ira Chaleff’s book, “The Courageous Follower” is:   ‘Courage always exists in the present.   What can I do today?’

I am convinced that if more people would assume responsibility for asking themselves each and every day, “what can I do today to make a difference?” that our organizations would experience radical transformation.

Most of your peers are playing it safe.  They don’t want to stand up, stand out, and risk rejection or challenge.  They are content with doing just enough to get by, and by their own behavior our leaders encourage the perpetuation of this pattern.

We can do better, and because we can, we should.  Without courage, this is all just rhetoric.  Courage has to start today, and it has to start with you.

You have a lot more power than you think.  People are watching.”    (Brett L. Simmons)




“Ordinary people believe only in the possible.  Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible.  And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible.”     (Cherie Carter-Scott)






“We Did it Ourselves”


“You don’t have to say everything to be a light.  Sometimes a fire built on a hill will bring interested people to your campfire.”    (Shannon L. Alder)



“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”    (William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts)



“Heretics must believe. More than anyone else in an organization, it’s the person who’s challenging the status quo, the one who is daring to be great, who is truly present and not just punching a clock who must have confidence in her beliefs.
Can you imagine Steve Jobs showing up for the paycheck?  It’s nice to get paid.  It’s essential to believe.”    (Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us)



“Never follow somebody else’s path; it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone… the path follows you and rolls up behind you as you walk, forcing the next person to find their own way. … If you do not choose to lead, you will forever be led by others.  Find what scares you, and do it.  And you can make a difference, if you choose to do so.”    (J. Michael Straczynski)



“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”    (Adlai E. Stevenson II)



“If you’re not reaching back to help anyone then you’re not building a legacy.”   (Germany Kent)



“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”    (Helen Keller)



“Don’t walk in front of me…
I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me…
I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend.”    (Albert Camus)



How often in life we complete a task that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we started it.”    (Robert Brault, Round Up the Usual Subjects)



“To lead people, walk beside them …
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
The next best, the people honor and praise.
The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate …
When the best leader’s work is done the people say,
We did it ourselves!”    (Lao Tzu)




“Set the Tone Every Day” / “If Not You, Who?”



“To lead the people, walk beside them.”   (Lao Tzu)




“Set the tone every day.  You may think you can’t change the corporate culture, but you’re actually helping to build it with everything you do and every word you utter.  Your people look to you as a model.  So pay attention to the signals you send about what you value and believe in.”   (Lost & Found, the story of how one man discovered the secrets of leadership, Lyle Sussman, Ph.D., Sam Deep, & Alex Stiber)




“Really believe in your heart of hearts that your fundamental purpose, the reason for being, is to enlarge the lives of others.  Your life will be enlarged also.  And all of the other things we have been taught to concentrate on will take care of themselves.”   (Pete Thigpen, Executive Reserves)




“Every single person you meet has a ‘sign’ around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’  If you can do that, you’ll be a success, not only in business but in life as well.”   (Mary Kay Ash)




“Perhaps the ten most important two-letter words ever put together:  ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’”   (Unknown Author)




“If not you, who?

If not now, when?”   (Abraham Maslow)



“Don’t Let Them Scare You”


“To stay focused in life:

  • You can’t know everyone
  • You can’t do everything
  • You can’t go everywhere

We have to pick and choose between good and a little bit better.”   (John C. Maxwell)



“The number #1 reason to focus –

You will care more about the things that aren’t working yet, you’ll push through the dip, you’ll expend effort and expose yourself to fear.

When you have a lot of balls in the air, it’s easy to just ignore the ones that make you uncomfortable or that might fall.

Success comes from doing the hard part.  When the hard part is all you’ve got, you’re more likely to do it.

And this is precisely why it’s difficult to focus.  Because focusing means acknowledging that you just signed up for the hard part.”   (Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog, 6.6.14)



“Champions have the courage to keep turning the pages because they know a better chapter lies ahead.”   (Paula White)



“Don’t just accept whatever comes your way in life.  You were born to win; you were born for greatness; you were created to be a champion in life.”   (Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now)



“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”   (Pema Chodron)



“There was a time in the life of every hero, champion, master, and tycoon when they said to themselves, ‘I will not wait any longer.’

And no matter how near or far away their dream then seemed, they began to take action, every day, no matter what.

No matter what.

And that’s how they got their gig.  Seriously, you should see all the openings in the world today for ‘Rockin’, cool, spiritual beings now inhabiting organic matter to exemplify the infinite possibilities for those who dream and take action.  Pay is out of this world, negotiable, and you choose the currencies. Apply Within.’   (signed) The Universe”    (Mike Dooley, ‘Notes From the Universe’ 6.3.14)



“The first and great commandment is:   ‘Don’t let them scare you.’”   (Elmer Davis)


“Difficult? Done Immediately / Impossible? Takes a Little Longer”


“What would I do if I knew I could not fail?

If I believed, would the wind always fill up my sail?

How far would I go, what could I achieve

Trusting the hero in me?

What would I do today if I were brave?”   (‘If I Were Brave’ –  Words and music by Jana Stanfield and Jimmy Scott)



“The quest for leadership is first an inner quest to discover who you are.

Through self-development comes the confidence needed to lead.

Learning to lead is about discovering what you care about and value.  About what inspires you

About what challenges you.  About what gives you power and competence. 

About what encourages you.  When you discover these things about yourself, you’ll know what it takes to lead in those qualities out of others.”   (The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner)



“A leader defines for the team what kind of moment they’re in. 

Is this a moment of transition?  Is this a dangerous moment? 

Your job as conductor (leader) is to get the orchestra (team) to act together — powerfully.

So what do you do?  You can’t be calling out to people, ‘Act now! Act now!’

That creates disorder.  Instead, you say, ‘Here’s where we’re headed.'”   (Roger Nierenberg, Conductor)



“Ordinary people believe only in the possible.  Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible.”   (Cherie Carter-Scott)



“Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude.”   (Zig Ziglar)



“The difficult can be done immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.”   (The Army Corp of Engineers)


“Always Follow Your Heart, Unless …”


“The deeper I go into myself the more I realize that I am my own enemy.”   (Floriano Martins)



“How much evil throughout history could have been avoided had people exercised their moral acuity with convictional courage and said to the powers that be, ‘No, I will not.  This is wrong, and I don’t care if you fire me, shoot me, pass me over for promotion, or call my mother, I will not participate in this unsavory activity.’  Wouldn’t world history be rewritten if just a few people had actually acted like individual free agents rather than mindless lemmings?”   (Joel Salatin, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front)



“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”   (Steve Jobs)



“It doesn’t matter what other people think.  The only opinion that really matters is yours.  We are all the writers of our lives.  We can make our stories comedies or tragedies.  Tales of horror, or of inspiration.  Your attitude and your fortitude and courage are what determine your destiny, Nick.… Life is hard and it sucks for all.  Every person you meet is waging his or her own war against a callous universe that is plotting against them.  And we are all battle-weary.  But in the midst of our hell, there is always something we can hold on to, whether it’s a dream of the future or a memory of the past, or a warm hand that soothes us.  We just have to take a moment during the fight to remember that we’re not alone, and that we’re not just fighting for ourselves.  We’re fighting for the people we love.” [Acheron]   (Sherrilyn Kenyon, Inferno)



“The problem with hit radio.

When you only listen to the top 40, you’re letting the crowd decide what you hear.

And if you consume nothing but the most liked, the most upvoted, the most viral, the most popular, you’ve abdicated responsibility for your incoming. Most people only read bestselling books.  That’s what makes them bestsellers, after all.

The web keeps pushing the top 40 on us.  It defaults to ‘sort by popular,’ surfacing the hits, over and over.

Mass markets and math being what they are, it’s likely that many of the ideas and products you consume in your life are in fact, consumed because they’re the most popular.  It takes a conscious effort to seek out the thing that’s a little less obvious, the choice that’s a little more risky.

Popular is not the same important, or often, not the same as good.”   (Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog, 5.28.14)



“Always follow your heart unless it’s been broken, then you must lead it.  Back into love.  Did you know that hearts are never too big to mend, too small to rebound, or too tired to love?” (signed)  The Universe.”     (Mike Dooley, Notes from The Universe, 5.22.14)


“What Starts Here Changes the World”


Today’s Catalyst Quotes features part of the Commencement Speech given at The University of Texas in Austin (my alma mater) by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.  This is only an excerpt of the speech; however this small part does not convey the full meaning of his speech. He imparts ten lessons that he learned from basic SEAL training with hopes that they would be of value to the graduating class as they move forward in life.  I encourage everyone to click on the link or cut and paste and watch the complete speech.   


“The University’s slogan is, ‘What starts here changes the world.’

I have to admit—I kinda like it.  ‘What starts here changes the world.’

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.

That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their life time.  That’s a lot of folks.

But, if every one of you changed the lives of just ten people—and each one of those folks changed the lives of another ten people — just ten — then in five generations — 125 years — the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

800 million people — think of it — over twice the population of the United States.  Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—8 billion people.

If you think it’s hard to change the lives of ten people — change their lives forever — you’re wrong.  I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the ten soldiers in his squad are saved from close-in ambush.

In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a non-commissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn’t right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500 pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.

But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn — were also saved.  And their children’s children—were saved.

Generations were saved by one decision—by one person.

But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is … what will the world look like after you change it?


To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life.   Moments away starting to change the world — for the better.

It will not be easy.

But, YOU are the class of 2014 — the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.

Start each day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you through life.

Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and — what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.”   (Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, at the University-wide Commencement at The University of Texas at Austin on May 17, 2014)

Link to Commencement Address:


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