10 Chinese Proverbs to Help Motivate You at Work

This article offers 10 proverbs from the past that are still applicable today and may be utilized to help you stay on course for professional success.

You need ongoing inspiration whether you are just beginning to make significant changes in your life or are far down the way. Encouragement to prevent your aspirations from fading away. Inspiration to prevent you from paying attention to doubters. Inspiration to keep you going through setbacks, difficulties, and laborious effort.

These proverbs originated in China and have stood the test of time for thousands of years. Some of them seem to have been penned yesterday since they are so relevant to contemporary life. They still read very well in English, even though they have more impact when read in their native tongue.

There are several proverbs that inspire us in many aspects of life. You can check out this Chinese Proverb which was sourced by a Chinese ancient. Thus, the interpretations of 10 of our favorite Chinese proverbs are given here.  Enjoy these, and perhaps they inspire you.


1. “Teachers open the door; you enter by yourself”

What does it mean?

The saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” may have been used to describe this. In essence, you cannot make someone do or be anything they do not want to. In the end, it is up to their choice and will to bring it about.

How can it help you succeed?

This can prevent you from losing sleep or being unduly hostile when someone does not accomplish what you thought they would, which is important when it comes to managing and encouraging personnel.

How do you put that into practice?

Spend some time getting to know your staff and discovering what makes them tick. Do not hold out the hopeless notion that they will comply with your every request.

2. “Dig the well before you are thirsty”

What does it mean?

Even when things are going well, you should always prepare for the worse since you will not have time to do so after it occurs. Sun Tzu also said, “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”

How it may help you achieve success

Being well-prepared is crucial for success. Being the one who is most prepared for an escalation or crisis is frequently the finest opportunity to shine or establish your value.

How to use it in practice

Plan for at least a quarter of the day. You should always be known as the one who is well-prepared, whether it is for a critical meeting that will take place later this week, a project that might define your quarter or a team project that will need the participation of crucial stakeholders. Nobody enjoys spending time in a meeting that has no agenda! Make good use of your idle time.

3. “A small hole not mended in time will become a big hole much more difficult to mend”

Why it matters

The longer you wait to identify, address, or remedy a problem, the more expensive and ineffective the solution will be. The “cost of quality” essentially refers to this.

How it may help you achieve success

You will discover that you have significantly fewer “disasters” than those who don’t if you get into the habit of spotting and addressing problems as soon as they arise. The lower the number of catastrophes you experience, the more time you can devote to making good contributions, and the greater your likelihood of success.

How to use it in practice

Putting #2 (excellent preparation) into practice can help you avoid issues or identify them early. In addition, you should be prepared to resolve a problem as soon as you come across it, uncomfortable though that may be. Be prepared to share this with leadership and other stakeholders.

4. “When the wind of change blows, some build walls, while others build windmills”

Why it matters

Change is seen as an opportunity by the more successful individuals while it is an impediment by the less successful.

How it may help you achieve success

You have a competitive advantage over your rivals if you seize the opportunity to transform the landscape early. The tolerant bird stands a greater chance of catching the worm.

How to use it in practice

Accept change and recognize that it is both inevitable and the key to all future achievement. You should stop talking about how much better things used to be as soon as you or your coworkers start to “hem and haw” about it. Instead, take some time to consider the reasons why things have changed and attempt to see the potential.

5. “Man’s schemes are inferior to those made by heaven”

Its significance

The adage “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” is another phrase you may have heard. It is important to recognize that, despite your excellent planning skills (ranked #2 on this list), failure may occasionally be unavoidable. A component of success is failure.

How it may help you achieve success

You may go forward with rectifying your failure or switching to a project that has a greater chance of succeeding as soon as you recognize and acknowledges that something has failed. Gladwell’s “Outliers” teaches us that big triumphs frequently come about, at least in part, by accident. Knowing this will speed up your ability to bounce back from failure.

How to use it in practice

Detach yourself from the project or activity when it becomes clear that it has failed and move on. Holding on to something that has no chance of success is a time-consuming waste of effort.

6. “The spectators see more of the game than the players”

Why it matters

This lesson in perspective is essential. People who are impartial or removed from an activity frequently perceive or provide things that individuals who are near to it cannot. It is beneficial to seek out these “foreign” perspectives.

How it may help you achieve success

You can discover errors that you overlooked or chances that you were unable to spot. You will stop having tunnel vision and maintain a broader perspective on things.

Ways to put it into practice

Create or join a genius team. If you are unable to accomplish this, make sure you appreciate and accept the advice you get from others. Ask for outside input frequently and early. They have a viewpoint or understanding that you are unable to comprehend right now. You will miss a lot if you base your decisions only on what you can see and understand.

7. “Good medicine tastes bitter”

Its significance

In order to achieve success, there must be some suffering or “bitterness” along the way. You may be familiar with the adage “no pain, no gain.”

How it may help you achieve success

Expecting difficulty will make it easier for you to cope with it. The more you can manage, the better you will be at handling it. The more you can manage, the more success you’ll be able to achieve.

The best ways to use it

Accept the slog. Possess pride in exerting more effort than others. The biggest competitive edge, in the opinion of some of the most successful athletes, is their love of the grind. A “more productive grind” than your rivals is also possible if you work smarter, despite what it might seem like.

The best ways to use it

Accept the grind. Possess pride in exerting more effort than others. The biggest competitive edge, in the opinion of some of the most successful athletes, is their love of the grind. A “more productive grind” than your rivals is also possible if you work smarter, despite what it might seem like.

8. “It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”

Meaning of it

You can learn considerably more from experience than you ever did studying the topic. There is nothing like on-the-job learning.

Why it can help you succeed

Not only will experience in an actual field make you better than someone who only studied it, but most decision-makers will also appreciate it more too.

How you may practice it

Take on extra tasks that expose you to functions you have familiarity with. Go out of your own comfort zone often. Never stay comfy for too long otherwise you will hit your own ceiling very fast.

9. “Three monks have no water to drink”

What it signifies

A project is headed for failure when there are too many individuals trying to lead it. You may have also heard this as “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

How it can make you successful

Understanding when to take a step back or convey to someone else that they need to do so can dramatically boost the likelihood of success in any endeavor.

How to use it in practice

Learn to put your pride aside and be humble. You do not have to be the alpha dog all the time, and you should not either.

10. “A bad workman always blames his tools”

Why it matters

The hallmark of a mediocre performance is making up justifications and assigning blame.

How it may help you achieve success

When you take responsibility for your actions (or forgive those who have), you are more likely to win over and influence your peers and superiors than when you assign blame.

How to use it in practice

When something does not work out, don’t be scared to admit it and take responsibility for it. It is a rare chance to demonstrate your honesty and increase people’s faith in your word.