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50 learning and development quotes to motivate and inspire

This collection of learning and development quotes serves as a reminder of the meaning and purpose behind this important work.
learning and development quotes
Credit: Blake Cale; Larry Armstrong / Wikimedia Commons

As organizations look toward learning and development leaders more than ever to help upskill workers, improve retention, navigate major transitions, and gain a competitive edge, it’s all too easy to get burned out. But it’s important to not forget the powerful, personal and professional impact of this work. 

This collection of learning and development quotes from influential business leaders, former presidents, philosophers, and others can serve as a reminder of the meaning and purpose behind all we do.

Learning and development quotes from historical figures

  1. “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X, civil rights activist.
  1. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi, leader of India’s nonviolent independence movement.
  1. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin, inventor and statesman.
  1. “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” — Aristotle, philosopher.
  1. “You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.” — Galileo Galilei, astronomer, physicist, and engineer.
  1. “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” — Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist.
  1. “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher and philologist.
  1. “Learn as if you were not reaching your goal and as though you were scared of missing it.” — Confucius, philosopher and politician.
  1. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States.
  1. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” — Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States.
  1. “Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or could not learn.” — Sir Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister.
  1. “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” — Abigail Adams, second First Lady of the United States.

Learning and development quotes from authors

  1. “One learns from books and example only that certain things can be done. Actual learning requires that you do those things.” — Frank Herbert, author.
  1.  “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.” — Mark Twain, author.
  1. “Self education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” — Isaac Asimov, author.
  1. “If knowledge is a power, then learning is a superpower.” — Jim Kwik, author and podcaster. 
  1. “Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” — Michael J. Gelb, management consultant and author.
  1. “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” — Peter Drucker, management consultant and author. 
  1. “Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.” — Warren Bennis, author and leadership scholar.
  1. “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” — E.M. Forster, author.
  1. “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.” — Doris Lessing, novelist.
  2. “Every enterprise is a learning and teaching institution. Training and development must be built into it on all levels—training and development that never stops.” — Peter Drucker, management consultant and author.

Learning and development quotes from scholars

  1. “You can’t teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it.” — Seymour Papert, mathematician and educator.
  1. “Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” — Will Durant, historian and philosopher.
  1. “Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.” — Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist and academic.
  1. “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.” — Mortimer Adler, philosopher and educator.
  1. “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” — Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist.
  1. “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti, philosopher, speaker, and writer.
  1. “Learning can emerge as spontaneous order at the edge of chaos.” — Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology.

Learning and development quotes from business leaders

  1. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” — Richard Branson, entrepreneur and business magnate.
  1. “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” — Jack Welch, former CEO of GE.
  1. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” — Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company.
  1. “The important thing is not your process. The important thing is your process for improving your process.” — Henrik Kniberg, co-founder of Hups. 
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Learning and development quotes from motivational speakers

  1. “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” — Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker.
  1. “Change is the end result of all true learning.” — Leo Buscaglia, author and motivational speaker.
  1. “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” ― William Arthur Ward, consultant and motivational speaker.
  2. “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” — Brian Tracy, motivational speaker.

Learning and development quotes from artists

  1.  “Learning never exhausts the mind.” — Leonardo da Vinci, painter, engineer, and architect.
  1. “I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it.” — Pablo Picasso, painter and sculptor.
  1. “Genius is eternal patience.” — Michelangelo, painter and sculptor.
  1. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss, cartoonist and author. 

Learning and development quotes from poets

  1. “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet and playwright.
  1. “Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats, poet and politician.
  1. “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” — Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist.
  1. “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” — Robert Frost, poet.

Learning and development quotes from entertainers

  1. “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” — Bruce Lee, actor and martial artist.
  1. “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins, musician.
  1. “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” — B.B. King, blues musician.
  1. “He who laughs most, learns best.” — John Cleese, actor and producer.
  1. “One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.” — Earl Nightingale, radio speaker and author.

Final thoughts

These training and development quotes can be used to inspire L&D teams, but also learners themselves. Consider ending team meetings with an encouraging quote, or include one in an e-blast about upcoming learning programs. Sometimes, motivating learners can be as easy as quoting a famous musician or author. 

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