Favorite Quotes

Here you’ll find some of my favorite quotes on topics such as communication, teamwork, leadership and others I think are relevant to business analysts and project professionals.

It marks a big step in your development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you could do alone.

— Andrew Carnegie

Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system. The alternative is to have the same thing expressed in two or more places. If you change one, you have to remember to change the others… It isn’t a question of whether you’ll remember: it’s a question of when you will forget.

— A. Hunt and D. Thomas on the “DRY principle” (don’t repeat yourself), The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

— Albert Einstein

When I have one week to solve a seemingly impossible problem, I spend six days defining the problem. Then, the solution becomes obvious.

— Albert Einstein

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.

— Andrew Carnegie

Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system… The alternative is to have the same thing expressed in two or more places. If you change one, you have to remember to change the others…It isn’t a question of whether you’ll remember: it’s a question of when you will forget.

— Andrew Hunt, David Thomas, The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Maste

It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision which the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness when only an approximation of the truth is possible.

— Aristotle

Business analysis is not a job; it is a profession. A person who does not feel passionate about this role will not excel.

— Barbara A. Carkenord, Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis

The shorter and the plainer the better.

— Beatrix Potter

Every system is basically the same. It takes data from somewhere, it does something to it, and then it puts it somewhere else.

— Ben Rinzler, Telling Stories: A Short Path to Writing Better Software Requirements

Energy and persistence conquer all things.

— Benjamin Franklin

Without requirements, there is no way to validate a program design; that is, no way to logically connect the program to the customer’s desires.

— Benjamin L. Kovitz

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

— C.S. Lewis

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

— Charles Darwin

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.

— Chinese Proverb

When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men’s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.

— Cicero

When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men’s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.

— Cicero

Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.

— Dale Carnegie

Don’t waste your time trying to control the uncontrollable, or trying to solve the unsolvable, or think about what could have been. Instead, think about what you can control and solve the problem you can solve with the wisdom you have gained from both your victories and your defeats in the past.

— David Mahoney

Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex, intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple, stupid behavior.

— Dee Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age

Words and pictures are intricately linked in journalism, advertising and educational contexts. Words printed under a photograph, the caption, signal the importance of the common sense representations portrayed in the image. Words beside a picture in an advertisement explain a product and its attributes clearly to a potential customer. Words spoken by an instructor give explanations and life to slides projected from the back of a darkened classroom. Words and images work together for most successful communications.

Good writing skills are an indicator of an organized mind which is capable of arranging information and argument in a systematic fashion and also helping (not making) other people understand things. It spills over into code, personal communications, instant messaging (for those long-distance collaborations), and even such esoteric concepts as professionalism and reliability.

— Dustin J. Mitchell, Signal vs. Noise

Software requirements are the necessary and sufficient properties of software that will ensure the solution achieves what it was designed to accomplish for its users and for the business.

— Ellen Gottesdiener, The Software Requirements Memory Jogger

If we perceive our role aright, we then see more clearly the proper criterion for success: a toolmaker succeeds as, and only as, the users of his tools succeed with his aid. However shining the blade, however jeweled the hilt, however perfect the heft, a sword is tested only by cutting.

— Fred Brooks

The hardest single part of building a software system is deciding precisely what to build.

— Fred Brooks

If we perceive our role aright, we then see more clearly the proper criterion for success: a toolmaker succeeds as, and only as, the users of his tools succeed with his aid. However shining the blade, however jeweled the hilt, however perfect the heft, a sword is tested only by cutting. The blacksmith is successful whose clients die of old age.

— Fred Brooks, The Mythical Man-Month

You have two ears and one mouth. I suggest that you use them in that proportion.

— G.K. Chesterton

The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

— George Bernard Shaw

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

— Hans Hofmann

A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.

— Henry David Thoreau

Don’t find fault, find a remedy.

— Henry Ford

The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.

— Hippocrates

One of the things that may get in the way of people being lifelong learners is that they’re not in touch with their passion. If you’re passionate about what it is you do, then you’re going to be looking for everything you can to get better at it.

— Jack Canfield

I recently visited an Eastern sage and asked him, ‘Is it possible to live for ever?’ ‘Certainly,’ he replied, ‘You must undertake to do two things.’ ‘What are they?’ ‘Firstly, you must never again make any false statements.’ ‘That’s simple enough. What is the second thing I must do?’ ‘Every day you must utter the statement ‘I will repeat this statement tomorrow.’ If you follow these instructions faithfully you are certain to live forever.’

— Jacqueline Harman, Letter to the Daily Telegraph, Oct. 8, 1985

Use familiar words—words that your readers will understand, and not words they will have to look up. No advice is more elementary, and no advice is more difficult to accept. When we feel an impulse to use a marvelously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away.

— James J. Kilpatrick

Success is neither magical or mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the fundamentals.

— Jim Rohn

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.

— John Dewey

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

— John Wooden

It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well.

— Mao Tse Tung

Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. I never write “metropolis” for seven cents when I can write “city” and get paid the same.
As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.

— Mark Twain

People think I can teach them style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style.

— Matthew Arnold

Clear writing leads to clear thinking. You don’t know what you know until you try to express it. Good writing is partly a matter of character. Instead of doing what’s easy for you, do what’s easy for your reader.

— Michael A. Covington, How to Write More Clearly, Think More Clearly, and Learn Complex Material More Easily

There are five fundamental qualities that make every team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring and pride. I like to think of each as a separate finger on the fist. Any one individually is important. But all of them together are unbeatable.

— Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K.)

The model that really matters is the one that people have in their minds. All other models and documentation exist only to get the right model into the right mind at the right time.

— Paul Oldfield

The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.

— Peter Drucker, Men, Ideals & Politics

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

— Peter Drucker

You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create.

— Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

[T]he bad leader is he who the people despise; the good leader is he who the people praise; the great leader is he who the people say, “We did it ourselves”

— Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

System thinking is a discipline of seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing relationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than “snapshots”.

— Peter Senge

Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we’.

— Phil Jackson

Never try to solve all the problems at once – make them line up for you one-by-one.

You can get a great deal done from almost any position in an organization if you focus on small wins and you don’t mind others getting the credit.

— Roger Saillant, Peter M. Senge / The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization

We accomplish what we understand. If we are to accomplish something together, we need to understand it together.

— Ron Jeffries

I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

— Rudyard Kipling

Do not accustom yourself to use big words for little matters. A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who instead of aiming a single stone at an object takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit.

— Samuel Johnson

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.

— St. Jerome

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

— Steve Jobs, BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998

Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.

— Steve Jobs, Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998

[Innovation] comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.

— Steve Jobs, BusinessWeek, Oct. 12, 2004

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

— Thomas Jefferson

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

— Truman Capote

Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.

— William Penn

Vigorous writing is concise. A centence should contain no unneccessary words, a paragraph no unneccessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no uneccessary lines and a machine no uneccessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all the sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

— William Strunk, The Elements of Style

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Whenever we can make 25 words do the work of 50, we halve the area in which looseness and disorganization can flourish.

— Wilson Follett

This paper by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read.

— Winston Churchill

Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.

— Winston Churchill