Inspirational Quotations for Adult Students

Quotations that Motivate

When balancing school, work, and life becomes difficult for the adult student in your life, offer an inspirational quotation to keep him or her going. We have words of wisdom from Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and many others.

01
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"It’s not that I’m so smart..." -- Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein - Apic - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) American physicist (German born) sticking his tongue out. The picture was taken on March 14, 1951 and distributed for his 72nd birthday. (Photo by Apic/Getty Images). Apic - Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer."

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is said to be the author of this quote that inspires persistence, but we don't have a date or a source.

Stay with your studies. Success is very often right around the corner.

02
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"The important thing is to not stop questioning.." -- Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein - Fred Stein Archive - Archive Photos - Getty Images
Portrait of German-born American physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), 1946. (Photo by Fred Stein Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images). Fred Stein Archive - Archive Photos - Getty Images

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

This quote, also attributed to Albert Einstein, appeared in an article by William Miller in the May 2, 1955 edition of LIFE magazine.

Related: The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner on the loss of curiosity and our ability to ask the right questions.

03
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"The one real object of education..." -- Bishop Mandell Creighton

Mandell Creighton - Print Collector - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
Mandell Creighton (1843-1901), English historian and ecclesiastic, 1893. From The Cabinet Portrait Gallery, fourth series, Cassell and Company Limited (London, Paris and Melbourne, 1893). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images). Print Collector - Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"The one real object of education is to have a man in the condition of continually asking questions."

This quote, which also encourages questioning, is attributed to Bishop Mandell Creighton, a British historian who lived 1843-1901.

04
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"All men who have turned out worth anything..." -- Sir Walter Scott

Walter Scott - Print Collector - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
'Walter Scott', (1923). Published in The Outline of Literature, by John Drinkwater, London, 1923. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images). Print Collector - Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education."

Sir Walter Scott wrote that in a letter to J.G. Lockhart in 1830.

Take control of your own destiny.

05
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"Beholding the bright countenance of truth..." -- John Milton

John Milton - Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images
Engraved portrait of British poet and politician John Milton (1608 - 1674), mid 17th century. His influential epic poem 'Paradise Lost' was first published in 1667. Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images

"Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies."

This is from John Milton in "The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates."

Wishing you delightful studies filled with the "bright countenance of truth."

06
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"O! this learning..." -- William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare - Culture Club - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
William Shakespeare. Portrait of the English author, playwright. April 1564-May 3 1616 (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images). Culture Club - Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"O! this learning, what a thing it is."

This wonderful exclamation is from William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."

O! indeed.

07
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"Education is not filling a pail..." -- Yeats or Heraclitus?

William Butler Yeats - Print Collector - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
William Butler Yeats, Irish poet and playwright, c1930s. Yeats (1865-1939) in later life. Yeats won the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images). William Butler Yeats - Print Collector - Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire."

You will find this quote attributed with variations to both William Butler Yeats and Heraclitus. The pail is sometimes a bucket. The "lighting of a fire" is sometimes the "igniting of a flame."

The form most often attributed to Heraclitus goes like this, "Education has nothing to do with filling a pail, rather it has everything to do with igniting a flame."

We don't have a source for either, which is the problem. Heraclitus, however, was a Greek philosopher who lived about 500 BCE. Yeats was born in 1865. My bet is on Heraclitus as the correct source.

08
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"...the education of adults of every age?" -- Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm - Hulton Archive - Archive Photos - Getty Images
circa 1955: Profile headshot of German-born psychoanalyst and writer Erich Fromm in a jacket and tie. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images). Hulton Archive - Archive Photos - Getty Images

"Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?

Erich Fromm was a psychoanalyst, humanist, and social psychologist who lived 1900-1980. More information about him is available at the International Fromm Society.

09
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"...you, too, can be president of the United States." -- George W. Bush

George W. Bush - Hulton Archive - Getty Images
US President George W. Bush poses for a portrait in this undated photo January 31, 2001 at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy of the White House/Newsmakers). Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States."

This is from George W. Bush's now famous commencement address at his alma mater, Yale University, on May 21, 2001.

10
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"It is the mark of an educated mind..." -- Aristotle

Aristotle - Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images
Illustration of a sculptural bust of Greek philosopher & teacher Aristotle (384 - 322 BC). (Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images). Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images

 "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

Aristotle said that. He lived 384BCE to 322BCE.

With an open mind, you can consider new ideas without making them your own. They flow in, are entertained, and they flow out. You decide whether or not the thought is worthy of acceptance.

As a writer, I am acutely aware that not everything in print is accurate or correct. Be discriminating as you learn.

11
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"Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind..." -- Malcolm S. Forbes

Malcolm Forbes - Yvonne Hemsey - Hulton Archives - Getty Images
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 8: Malcolm Forbes poses for a photograph October 8, 1981 aboard his yacht 'The Highlander' docked in New York City. (Photo by Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images). Yvonne Hemsey - Hulton Archives - Getty Images

"Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one."

Malcolm S. Forbes lived 1919-1990. He published Forbes Magazine from 1957 until his death. This quotation is said to have come from his magazine, but I do not have the specific issue.

I love the idea that the opposite of an empty mind is not a full one, but one that is open.

12
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"Man's mind, once stretched..." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes - Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images
circa 1870: American writer and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 - 1894). (Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images). Stock Montage - Archive Photos - Getty Images

 "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

This quotation from Oliver Wendell Holmes is especially lovely because it creates the image that an open mind doesn't have anything to do with the size of a brain. An open mind is limitless.

13
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"The highest result of education..." — Helen Keller

Helen Keller in 1904 - Topical Press Agency - Hulton Archives - Getty Images
1904: Helen Keller (1880-1968)at her graduation from Radcliffe College. Blind, deaf and mute from the age of one, she was taught to read Braille, speak and lipread with her fingers by teacher Anne Sullivan. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images). Topical Press Agency - Hulton Archives - Getty Images

"The highest result of education is tolerance."

This is from Helen Keller's 1903 essay, Optimism. She continues:

"Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage, the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principal of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think."

The emphasis is mine. In my mind, Keller is saying that an open mind is a tolerant mind, a discriminating mind that can see the best in people, even when it is different.

Keller lived 1880 to 1968.

14
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"When the student is ready..." -- Buddhist Proverb

Buddhist monk in prayer at Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India. Shanna Baker - Photolibrary - Getty Images

 "When the student is ready, the master appears."

Related from the teacher's point of view: 5 Principles of Teaching Adults

15
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"Always walk through life..." -- Vernon Howard

Vernon Howard - New Life Foundation
Vernon Howard - New Life Foundation. Vernon Howard - New Life Foundation

 "Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will."

Vernon Howard (1918-1992) was an American author and the founder of the New Life Foundation, a spiritual organization.

I include this quotation with the others about open minds because walking through the world ready for new learning indicates that your mind is open. Your teacher is sure to appear!