45 Inspirational Quotes That Will Change Your Professional Life

by Don Yaeger


For the past 25 years, I’ve compiled meaningful quotes I come across that are especially impactful not only in my personal pursuit of greatness, but to those that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

I have always marveled at the ability some people have to say something profound in just a few words and I’ve long found myself pulling these quotes up – or using them in conversation – to help think through a moment.

My hope is that as you read over some of these you will feel compelled and inspired to implement them into your daily practices as well.

The first five quotes listed below are my personal all-time favorites.  Check out the complete list, and leave me a comment below with your favorites!

  1. Make each day your masterpiece. – John Wooden
  2. Every saint has a past… every sinner has a future. – Oscar Wilde
  3. To retain the loyalty of those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent. – Stephen R. Covey
  4. The role of most leaders is to get the people to think more of the leader but the role of the exceptional leader is to get the people to think more of themselves. – Booker T. Washington
  5. People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar
  6. In life, adversity only visits the strong.  It stays forever with the weak.  We have to decide whether we’re going to be strong or weak. – Dale Brown Continue reading 45 Inspirational Quotes That Will Change Your Professional Life

Paralympic Champion Follows Her Dreams With Unstoppable Determination


by Don Yaeger

Mallory Weggemann competes in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)

One of America’s most inspiring athletes is about to compete for the gold in Rio and once again live up to the words her father would say to her when he tucked her in each night in her childhood. “You’re the best, you can make a difference, you can change the world.”

Of course, the Summer Olympics ended last month but the Paralympics kicked off last week, and American swimmer Mallory Weggemann is set to shine. Yet as remarkable as her abilities in the pool are, what makes Mallory truly special is her incredible story of determination. Her story is a challenge to each of us as we consider the ways that we handle disappointments and setbacks in our own lives.

Mallory was a stand-out varsity swimmer in high school but never set her sights on making a career of it. Instead she always imagined her future would look quite typical: a career, a family, a quiet life in suburbia. But on January 21, 2008, that future was forever changed when she walked into a clinic for a routine procedure… and she never walked out.

Continue reading Paralympic Champion Follows Her Dreams With Unstoppable Determination

3 Team-First Lessons From America’s Most Entertaining Sports Bench

by Don Yeager

Monmouth HawksPlayers on the Monmouth Hawks bench react during the game against the USC Trojans at HP Field House. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

First, a Monmouth Hawk basketball player slam-dunks a basket on the court and the crowd’s attention immediately turns to…the bench! There, two backup players lift another player—who forms a basketball hoop with his arms—by the waist, allowing a fourth bench player to dunk an imaginary basketball through the makeshift hoop. The Monmouth bench collapses from the dunk, and the crowd goes wild.

This circus of team support (and ridiculous fun) is Monmouth basketball: The greatest sideshow in all of sports. (Just watch this video!) Already this season the Hawks have upset the UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but it is the Hawks’ choreographed bench celebrations that have become viral sensations…and a great lesson in supporting roles.

Lee Williams, my Greatness partner and a part of my writing team, spoke with the Monmouth Hawks a couple of weeks ago and walked away with three great takeaways:

1. Great teammates know their role and celebrate it.

The mini-celebrations began organically during the Hawks season-opening overtime win against the Bruins. After the win, the Hawks’ bench collectively realized just how powerful their support had been. Additionally, the public response to Monmouth’s stunts was so popular that the players decided to replicate them to generate enthusiasm…and help the team win.

And win they have. Thanks to a culture of support, the Hawks are off to their best regular season in years.

The lesson is crystal clear for any team desiring to be great: Every team member has a role and it is important to keep them all enthusiastically engaged—from the starting-five to the bottom of the depth chart.

Continue reading 3 Team-First Lessons From America’s Most Entertaining Sports Bench

Cal Ripken: Building A Legacy One Baseball Diamond At A Time

by Don Yaeger

Cal Ripken

Former Major League Baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The 2015 MLB Playoffs are a battle of legacies, and one of the biggest match-ups so far involved the Chicago Cubs—a club seeking to escape a history of post-season disappointment—and the historically successful St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs won the series against its heated rival and are on to the National League Championship Series.

But away from the bright lights and TV cameras, Cal Ripken, Jr., former Baltimore Oriole and Hall-Of-Famer, is building an even greater legacy by creating a future for children, one baseball diamond at a time. And during this amazing time in the baseball season, Ripken reached an incredible milestone, cutting the ribbon on his 50th baseball diamond.

Ripken’s career has a theme of longevity. Not only does he hold the MLB record for most consecutive games started, but he’s always thinking and acting strategically with his projects—he set a goal four-plus years ago to build 50 fields in five years. The goal was set when Ripken saw a pressing need in places he hadn’t previously noticed.

“For many years after my retirement we’ve enjoyed teaching the game of baseball to young people, but we discovered that in some cities there were no safe places for these programs to exist,” said Ripken. “I realized that if we built these beautiful, synthetic fields in places that needed them, then our efforts were going to be an important contribution to the local children and communities.”

Motivated by the opportunity to make a difference, Ripken and his team spared no expense in providing big-league amenities for “the world’s finest youth baseball complexes”—all complete with synthetic turf, batting cages, lighted fields and training areas.

Continue reading Cal Ripken: Building A Legacy One Baseball Diamond At A Time

Do Unto Others: The Only Leadership Advice You’ll Ever Need

by Don Yaeger

LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 27:  Running back Walter Payton #34 of the Chicago Bears is honored during pre-game ceremonies in his last regular season game on December 27, 1987 against the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The Bears won 6-3.   (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Walter Payton
Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is this weekend. There have been many inspiring speeches delivered at the HOF over the years, but the greatest of all time occurred in 1993 when 12-year-old Jarrett Payton quietly stepped to the podium and, in a high-pitched voice, introduced his heroic father Walter “Sweetness” Payton.

Payton (in my opinion) is the greatest football player who ever lived, and the epitome of a service-directed life. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985 and broke Jim Brown’s all-time record for career rushing yards—but it’s what he did off the field that made him so special.

“My father told me when I was young that it was your responsibility, once you’ve had some success, to reach back and bring someone with you,” Walter Payton said to me.

And these were words by which he lived. Like the greatest companies in sports and business, Payton knew his audience; he often noted that many Bears fans were blue-collar workers and could only afford to attend one game a year. He decided that if they saw him in that one game, he’d give his all for them. Payton viewed his football games as a gift to whoever may be cheering for him.

“Someone gave to you, and that is why it is your job to give back,” Payton would say to me as we were writing his autobiography.

Continue reading Do Unto Others: The Only Leadership Advice You’ll Ever Need

Three ‘Team-First’ Lessons From One Of This Weekend’s Hall-Of-Famers

By Don Yaeger

Many of us have been asked to take on a new role on our professional teams in the past. Change is the nature of today’s workforce but, if we are being honest, is usually met with resistance on our part—especially if the move could be perceived as a demotion.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz—part of arguably one of the most dominant starting rotations in Major League Baseball history—volunteered for the ultimate job change. A few years after his team won the 1995 World Series, they were seeking another competitive advantage in order to find new success. Smoltz answered the call and moved from starting pitcher to closer, a move some might have considered a professional step backwards. But three years later, after settling in and becoming a dominant force in the bullpen, Smoltz moved back to starter again because that’s what the team needed at that point.

“The hardest thing I ever did was changing positions as a pitcher; it’s like playing right handed and learning how to play left handed,” Smoltz said to me recently in an interview. “But I wanted to win in the worst way, even if I had to sacrifice in order for our team to improve.”

Continue reading Three ‘Team-First’ Lessons From One Of This Weekend’s Hall-Of-Famers

Lombardi Time

by Don Yaeger

As the NFL Playoffs continue to take us further from the regular season routine and closer to Super Bowl dreams, I can’t help but tap into my appreciation for the iconic figure who won the very first Super Bowl in NFL history.  Back in January of 1967, Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi captured the trophy (which would eventually bear his name) in a 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.  The endless wit and wisdom he displayed over the course of his career fueled my desire to learn more about the man who is, arguably, the league’s Greatest coach.  His quotes were memorable to say the least.

“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, then you will be fired with enthusiasm,” is one of the nuggets that always brings a smile to my face.  That line alone encourages me to approach my daily life—both at work and at home–with passion.

When it comes to the green and gold, there’s no shortage of football passion.  The current Packers are flirting with winning their fifth Super Bowl title in franchise history, and their star players have become household names with TV commercials and product endorsement deals.  But no matter the popularity of fan favorites like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, or Greg Jennings, historic Lambeau Field will always spark stories of Coach Lombardi ahead of anyone else.  In fact, the philosophy of the Hall of Fame coach is part of the very structure of the stadium–literally.

This past summer, the franchise christened the Vince Lombardi clock tower on the north side of Lambeau Field.  But as reporter Michelle Tafoya pointed out in a recent game broadcast, the Packers set the time on the clock tower ahead 15 minutes.

“We felt it was a unique and fitting tribute to Coach Lombardi,” said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy.

While it went unnoticed to many outside of the franchise, true “Cheese Heads”  appreciated the constant reminder of Coach Lombardi.  You see, from 1959-1967 the Packers went by “Lombardi Time,” wherein the legendary coach demanded all players and staff members to show up 15 minutes early for everything.  To him, punctuality poured the foundation for Greatness.

“I remember we had a rookie show up seven minutes early and Coach Lombardi said to him ‘You are eight minutes late’,” remembered Murphy.

Lombardi placed such value on time that players were disciplined if they were tardy.  At the time, Lombardi’s level of authority allowed him to distinguish himself from his peers.  It’s a philosophy that has been adopted by current coaching Greats, like Tom Coughlin, who has won two Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.  (Although I should note that Coughlin only demanded his players to arrive five minutes prior to scheduled events, meetings and practices.)

As fan after fan enters the Green Bay stadium, they either acknowledge the constant tribute to Coach Lombardi, or they arrive at their seats ahead of schedule—sometimes, they do both.  It’s amazing how the Packers have managed to honor their history by allowing it to tick-tock so visibly in front of their organization.

The lesson here is in the habit:  The Great leaders develop a discipline for achieving success.  Just as Lombardi placed a high value on time, we must find a discipline for Greatness and then make it an emphasis in our daily, weekly, monthly routines.  A simple change in how you manage your time can help you clock in with top results.

Do you have any clock tower-like habits that effect your organization?  Have you ever seen a leader with a habit like Lombardi’s 15-minute rule?  What pattern can you develop or adopt today that could—in time—make you Great?

Be Perfect on EVERY Play

by Don Yaeger

Decisions are the frequent fabric of our daily design.  Studies show the average person makes at least five decisions per minute.  Given the ideal goal is eight hours of sleep each night–although since becoming a father to young Will and Maddie, that appears  to be more fantasy than a realistic goal– the average person is awake for 16 hours.  By those parameters, the average person makes 4,800 decisions daily.  But even that total seems severely underestimated.

In sports and in business, the greatest leaders are those who make the best decisions in the most crucial of situations.  They are the ones who focus their energy on turning tough decisions into winning decisions.

The University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban incorporates that philosophy and uses it as nourishment… Literally.  Saban is so intent on saving his energy and attention for the major decisions, that he eats the same lunch meal each day in order to take one of his 4,800 decisions, literally, “off his plate.”

“A salad of iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped with turkey slices and fat-free Honey Dijon dressing” means that he doesn’t have to take time away from his day to study a menu and decide on lunch.  Instead he can add that time to the laundry list of NCAA items a national champion head coach has to handle.

But the lesson on Saban doesn’t end there.  In a recent ESPN interview the Crimson Tide coach talked about his demanding style, the expectations he puts on his players, and his team’s chances of winning this year’s national title.

“You coach against perfection, not your opponent and you’ll find you win quite a few,” was the response from Saban that quickly caught my attention.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach– and my mentor– John Wooden used a similar motto 40 years ago.  “Don’t focus on your opponent.  Focus instead on what you are capable of doing,” was one of Wooden’s many golden lessons.

Both coaches built teams of great respect and success.  Both believed that perfection should be the demand at all times.  Both believed that success didn’t begin with simply trying to beat everyone else, but rather in trying to be so well-prepared that the opposition didn’t stand a chance.

Saban believes that if you focus on your personal performance on each play, you will find that the scoreboard is in your favor more times than not.  Just as he eliminated his own lunch options to avoid seemingly insignificant decisions, so too has Saban eliminated the distractions of championship predictions by challenging his players to focus solely on where they will be at the end of each play.  If his team perfects how they execute each play, then the sum of perfection will most likely equal victory.

Too many of us are focused strictly on the end result when each play deserves that same kind of attention.  We should all strive to be extraordinary and that starts with a focus on our own capabilities instead of those of our opponents.  The myriad of distractions, predictions, and feigned finish lines only create room for disappointment, failure and lack of preparation.

What “play” do you have in front of you today that deserves your full attention?  Are there current decisions in your life that should require more of your focus?

Join the conversation today.

Committing to Great Change

by Don Yaeger

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview many of the world’s top athletes and champions.  While their greatness had more to do with their inner characteristics than their ability to touch their toes, I’d be out-of-touch if I completely overlooked the physical conditioning of the great ones.  To this day, Michael Jordan looks like he could put a jersey on and make an NBA roster.  Michael Phelps’ superior physique was ideal for making historic Olympic splashes but his discipline in achieving strong health and endurance can’t be ignored.

And neither will mine.  During a recent trip to San Diego for SUCCESS Publisher Darren Hardy’s High Performance Forum, I sat next to Jeff Smith, an entrepreneur from England. Over discussions about the challenge of living life often on the road, I shared with Jeff that I had a desire to lose some weight. He suggested a call with a personal trainer named Dan Forbes…  Several remarkable conversations later, the Englishman convinced me into what could be one of my greatest challenges yet.  I intend to lose 25 pounds by January 1st.

While it’s not an insurmountable goal, it definitely isn’t a piece of cake–which under the circumstances, is a good thing.  But this goal will not be littered with a mountain of exercise techniques and nutritional “do’s & don’ts”…  Instead Forbes challenged me to change one habit at a time, each for a 2-week period.  The concept is that when a person is loaded with a big list of changes to make all at once, very rarely do they have the endurance to achieve their goal.

Forbes said if “you commit to breaking one habit for a period of two weeks, your chance for successfully breaking that one habit is around 85 percent.”  He went on to explain that the success rate drops significantly when you add more to an already life-changing restriction.  “Try and break two habits at the same time and the success rate is 30 percent,” he continued.  “Try breaking three habits at the same time and you have no chance at all.”

The eye-opening lesson here simply focuses on how you create winning habits in your personal life and business life.  Changing or creating a habit one-at-time ensures greater accuracy in reaching your goal.

If only the lesson stopped there… Forbes then challenged me to ” go public” with my goal.  The logic behind making it part of my platform is to make me directly accountable for its success or failure.  No one likes to talk about their own failures, and now that my goal is public, failure will not be an option.

What have you been wanting to change that can actually be broken down into singular commitments over a period of time?   What habits of yours are preventing you from going from good to great?

Join the conversation today.

Also, be sure to visit my new and improved website!  www.donyaeger.com

Are You in Their Head?

by Don Yaeger

College football has once again intercepted a powerful life lesson in the quest for greatness.  This week, the value comes with one glance at the Top 5 Associated Press rankings.  Alabama is the top rated team in college football followed by LSU, Oregon, Florida State and Georgia.  It’s a list of football powerhouses that are the dreaded matchup for every other team on their respective schedules.  Just imagine the kaleidoscope of emotions that run through opponent’s minds when they line up against the firepower and winning tradition of the Crimson Tide.  In many cases, these NCAA treasures have beaten their opponents before they’ve ever stepped on the field.

During the 1990s, Hall of Fame head coach Bobby Bowden spearheaded a football dynasty at Florida State that featured size, speed, skill and intimidation.  The latter wasn’t achieved by bullying teams with late hits and excessive trash talk… Instead FSU weakened the opposition simply by the way they carried themselves to the field.

Recently, college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit reflected on their dominance.  He said that when the Seminoles walked out of the tunnel “9 of the 11 teams that they used to play during that era wanted to go back into the locker room.”  Bowden would lead his players out of the tunnel at Doak Campbell Stadium arm-in-arm, helmets carried workmanlike, and with a focus that made even the most prepared teams have second thoughts.  They were already in the other team’s heads before they even reached the 50-yard line.

Lots of companies and businesses prove themselves as winners long before the first words or marketing pitches are ever spoken.  In some cases it’s not about being the best company or even having the best product.  Sometimes it is how the sales team navigates a meeting.

Opposing teams knew FSU’s product…  They knew of the goosebumps felt when a National Champion head coach led his team confidently onto the field.  They knew of the crowd that would erupt in support.

Years ago, I interviewed a college head coach who made it a priority not only to practice their gameplan, but also to practice his team’s entrance.  He specifically worked with his team on how to get off the bus before a game. He wanted his players to have an air of confidence that would start setting the tone for success.

How do you carry yourself?  Has anyone ever carried themselves so well into a meeting with you that it left you impressed?

Join the conversation today.