The Top 20 Courage Quotes of All Time (and 5 You’ve Never Seen Before) 

[Scroll down if you’d like to skip the compelling story about why our favorite quotes are some of the most important possessions we will ever have in our lives]

Last year was the year of the humble brag and the inevitable downfall...

From as early as I can remember, I was dreaming up stories. Part of it was to escape a childhood where I felt muzzled by shyness and low self-worth, but I truly loved how words – like perfectly interlocking puzzle pieces – fit together in such a way that it created a reaction deep inside someone other than me. For decades, I wrote: mainly for others, in speeches and dedications, and in countless blog posts and Instagram captions. 

Then, last year, after decades of writing in obscurity, an incredibly surprising book deal with a “Big Five” publisher came my way. 

While the contract was being negotiated by my new, impressive New York City literary agent, I fantasized about the days ahead. I could see myself all writer-ly, decked out in jeans with ripped knees and Birkenstocks, sitting with an espresso at a cafe table in the sunshine, pouring my ample wisdom into my MacBook.  

When the ink on the contract was dry, I humble-bragged about the opportunity to family and friends.  

First came the inevitable high fives and the hugs. The go-get-em-tiger emails. The positive support was palpable.  

But my few author friends responded to the news … well … somewhat differently

I kept on receiving this all-knowing glance reminiscent of when – with two boisterous kids under the age of two at home – I would get a visit from a friend to proclaim that they were pregnant for the first time. Their fresh-faced naiveté was so cute and endearing. And they had NO IDEA what they were about to get themselves into. Yes, my author friends of all stripes – fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, reverse-harem-romance-fiction – all gave me that same look. Then they shared their secret, second lives. 

While others were busy watching Netflix, they were sitting in terror at their desks, sweating as they contemplated that blank page that somehow magically re-appeared every single morning.  

And, my friend, that is EXACTLY what happened to me. 

Each morning at 5:30, I would glance in hatred at my phone alarm. I’d trudge downstairs in the dark and squeeze into my designated writer’s office no larger than a coat closet. Actually, it used to be a coat closet. And there I would sit, not knowing what the hell to do. 

My confidence sank. 

And then I had an idea. I would make the coat closet office into an inspiration zone. 

I salvaged the tiny round lamp I had bought on clearance from Target. I populated the closet’s thick wooden shelves with my beloved, multi-hued courage books from my collection. And, most importantly, I printed out sheet after sheet of courage quotes. I scotch-taped them to the walls. 

And there I would sit each morning. Yes, in terror. But with each passing day, I would look at one of the quotes and, inspired, begin to write.

Really great quotes are works of art. 

I know what you’re thinking. Hear me out here. 

How many books were published last year, do you think? 

The latest estimate of books published worldwide is about 2,000,000. With an average of 273 pages per book, hundreds of thousands of authors brought a whopping 546,000,000 pages full of freshly-written text into the world just last year. 

Why is it that, every once in a while, of all that immense amount of ideas, one sentence sticks? 

The quotes that are economical yet expansive. Like cities buried inside a raindrop. Like a salve, we squeeze out onto our sometimes dry and cracked lives. They somehow rise above the millions of pages of text to enter the lexicon of our lives. 

The very best of them deserve key places in our hearts and minds. They are Bottecelis. 

In my year that began with the humble brag and tumbled into the abyss, there were countless quotes that I relied on … that gave me the inspiration I needed. I hope that they help you. 

Here are my Top 20: 

My Top 20 

  1.  Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. - Anais Nin
  1.  I have been absolutely TERRIFIED every moment of my life -- and I've never let it keep me from a single thing I wanted to do. - Georgia O'Keefe
  1.  Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure. - Rainer Maria Rilke 
  2.  You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this ... I can take the next thing that comes along.” - Eleanor Roosevelt 
  1.  Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. - August Wilson
  2.  Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. - Steven Pressfield 
  3.  I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that I why I succeed. - Michael Jordan 
  1.  One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. - Maya Angelou
  1.  We must let go of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. - Joseph Campbell
  1.  The terrorists thought they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life but this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died; strength, power and courage were born. - Malala Yousafzi
  1.  If we did the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves. - Thomas A. Edison
  1.  At the root of most fear is what other people will think of us. - Ryan Holiday 
  1.  The secret is to leap widely and strangely over the deep, not knowing what's down there, but pretty certain in some small crevice there must be a small purple flower. - Dick Allen 
  1.  Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. - Winston Churchill 
  1.  There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. - Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  1.  Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. - Steve Jobs 
  1.  The only way that you'll actually wake up and have some freedom is if you have the capacity and courage to stay with vulnerability and discomfort. - Tara Brach 
  1.  Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. - Dale Carnegie 
  1.  Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions. - Hafiz 
  2.  When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. - Paulo Coehlo 

And Five You May Have Never Heard Before

  1.  So write.… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherf*cker - Cheryl Strayed 
  2.  You don’t need a better computer to become a writer. You don’t need a better guitar to become a musician. You don’t need a better camera to become a photographer. What you need is to get to work. - James Clear
  3.  If we must have milestones—mine will be measured by how much joy I have collected at the end of each day and how often in this life I have truly, deeply, opened. - Janne Robinson 
  4.  I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass. - Shonda Rimes 
  5.  Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. - Suzy Kassem 

And One More, Just Because 

Lift up your hearts. Each new hour holds new chances. For new beginnings. - Maya Angelou

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