Inspiration for the year ahead
Powerful life mottos shared by my podcast guests
👋 Hey, I’m Lenny and welcome to a 🔒 subscriber-only edition 🔒 of my weekly newsletter. Each week I tackle reader questions about building product, driving growth, and accelerating your career.
Q: Do you have a favorite life motto that you come back to often and share with friends, either at work or in life?
At the end of each podcast conversation, I ask my guests a series of “lightning round” questions. A few months ago I added the question you see above. This has unexpectedly led to some of the most profound insights of the podcast. To kick off 2024 with a dose of inspiration, I’ve pulled together my favorite and most meaningful life mottos—the ones that have stuck with me most. As you read through this collection, pick one that strikes a chord and put it on a post-it on your monitor. The next time you find yourself in a place of stress or indecision—come back to it. If you do this one thing today, your 2024 will already be brighter.
1. “A positive mental attitude will be your key to success.”
“This changed my life, really. When I was in fourth grade, a teacher—and I don’t remember which teacher it was, which kills me—when I was having a bad day, the teacher said to me, ‘Listen, a positive mental attitude will be your key to success.’ And I don’t know why it’s stuck in my head, but it did. I have said that to myself 100,000 times.
I am a relentlessly positive—my wife says I’m an offensively positive—person. She’s like, ‘You know what? Some days you can have a bad day.’ And I said, ‘I just don’t. Because a positive mental attitude is my key to success.’ And it’s really the way I frame so much of my life, looking to the positive, looking to the good. And I do it for people whenever I can. And sometimes it frustrates people. But I really believe that most of life is the mindset that you bring to it. For me in fourth grade, ‘A positive mental attitude will be your key to success,’ for some reason, hit me at the right moment in the right way and has stayed with me ever since.” [Full clip]
—Matthew Dicks is a best-selling author, columnist, blogger, podcaster, playwright, and teacher. He wrote my all-time favorite book on storytelling, Storyworthy. He is an elementary school teacher by day and by night teaches storytelling and public speaking to individuals, corporations, universities, religious institutions, and school districts around the world. He’s taught storytelling at Yale, MIT, Harvard, and Purdue, along with Amazon, Salesforce, Slack, Lego, and others.
2. “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” —‘Invictus,’ William Ernest Henley
“I love this quote because he was going through issues with his legs and was going to potentially lose them, and then wrote this quote. The last two lines, ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,’ is literally my Twitter/X bio. It’s such a powerful reminder of freedom and responsibility.” [Full clip]
—Ebi Atawodi is a director of product management at YouTube, former head of product at Uber, and a former director of product at Netflix.
3. “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” —Albert Einstein
“It’s a great motto for people and also for companies. It’s something that guides me in my life.” [Full clip]
—Itamar Gilad, the author of Evidence-Guided: Creating High-Impact Products in the Face of Uncertainty. He’s also a product coach, author, and speaker with over two decades of experience in senior product roles at Google, Microsoft, and various startups.