So I’m switching things up a bit for this post, as this format is something new to me and this blog.
I wanted to use ChatGPT to help me create some new content, but I didn’t want to just spit out boring, raw facts and information. So here’s how I set up this post.
- I asked ChatGPT for a list of the most influential people in the 21st century.
- ChatGPT returned a list of 10 people and included a description of who each person was.
- I then asked ChatGPT to give me a few of the most important quotes from each person.
- ChatGPT gave me two quotes from each person in the list.
- I was curious, so I asked ChatGPT how it selected those examples as the most important quotes. Here’s the response I received:
- “The quotes I provided were selected based on a combination of factors, including their popularity, the impact they have had on people and society, and their relevance to the individual’s work or activism. These quotes are widely recognized and have been frequently cited and shared, both online and offline, by individuals who find inspiration and motivation in their words. However, it’s important to note that these are not necessarily the only important quotes from each person, and different people may have their own favorite or meaningful quotes from these individuals.”
Anyway, here are the quotes from 10 of the most influential people in the 21st century. After each quote I provide my thoughts on the quote and other ideas that came to mind.
20 Quotes from 10 Influential Figures in the 21st Century
Bill Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft and a philanthropist who has contributed billions of dollars towards global health initiatives.
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”Bill Gates
This quote brings to mind many other quotes that are widely distributed. We tend to learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. It’s certainly possible to learn a lot from the times we’ve succeeded, but there’s less incentive for us to do so. We assume that because we won we did everything perfectly. Successes feed our ego. And that can spread into other areas of our lives.
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”Bill Gates
It’s funny to think about what it means to be lazy. Are you unmotivated? Or are you frustrated easily by inefficient processes? Are you just resourceful, so you enjoy finding quick ways to do things?
In the business world (and elsewhere) lazy people get a bad rap. However, if you can balance that laziness with the desire and dedication to get things done — you can actually be a very valuable contributor.
Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and other innovative companies that are pushing the boundaries of technology.
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”Elon Musk
I love this quote. It makes me think of people who often talking about wanting to do things, but take no action on it. I’ve had people in my life talk about new careers they’d like to start or fitness goals that they want to achieve — yet they take no action to make those things a reality.
My only thought is that the thing they’re saying simply isn’t enough of a priority to them. Because if it was they would find the time and make it happen. Yet they choose to make comfort or familiarity the priority rather than achieving their goals.
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”Elon Musk
Feedback. Coaching. Criticism. Whatever you want to call it, having a reliable, brutally honest, and objective source of feedback is invaluable if you’re trying to improve at something. I think there’s a trend in our culture to try to sugar coat feedback or to soften our criticism so we don’t hurt other people’s feelings. Yet when we do this, we’re doing the other person a disservice.
In my own life, I value the people so much who have been willing to openly express criticism of me and my work. My bosses, mentors, and coaches who have been brutally honest with me have provoked the most growth by far.
Barack Obama was the first African-American president of the United States, who championed policies around healthcare, climate change, and social justice.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”Barack Obama
I think Barack Obama was speaking more at a societal level than an individual level in this quote. But I think it’s important to apply this same principle at the individual level within our own lives. One of my favorite books is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Lefi Babin because it really drilled into my head that accountability is one of the most important traits a person can have. Because when you accept that the outcomes in your life are 100% your fault and your responsibility, you allow yourself to change your environment and circumstances. Otherwise, you’re left waiting for some one else to magically appear and make the change for you.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”Barack Obama
As a society we’ve developed a strange tendency to enjoy watching other people struggle and succeed — to distract ourselves from the fact that we’re doing very little on our own. Think about how much time we spend on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube watching people complete difficult challenges or build something unique. If we spent that time focusing on doing things on our own — we’d be lightyears ahead of where we are now.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban and became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”Malala Yousafazai
As a writer, I love this quote. Because I truly believe in the power of words to impact the world in a major way. However, I think the focus on books here is equally, if not more important. The more access to information we have, the more difficult it is for ignorance to spread. The most compelling argument should win.
Malala lived in a world controlled by the Pakistani Taliban, where girls were banned from attending school. Without Malala’s work as a blogger, where she revealed the oppression of women under the Taliban, the world may never have learned of the reality of her life in Pakistan.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”Malala Yousafzai
This quote also focuses on the importance of accountability. All it takes to change the world (hopefully for the better) is one person deciding to make a difference in another person’s life — either directly or through broadcasting their words or ideas around the world.
If you take accountability for the change you want to see in the world, you can change the world. Maybe you won’t become famous or incredibly wealthy, but you can lift everyone up around you just by smiling and saying hello — even if you’re only making their day 1% better, that improvement compounds over time.
Pope Francis is the leader of the Catholic Church who has emphasized issues of social justice and environmentalism.
“We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.”Pope Francis
A lot of the shitty things that happen in the world are due to ignorance. One of the biggest blind spots we have is that everyone in the world is working to achieve very similar things. I think we have a tendency to look at others and quickly assume that they are working against us. But in reality everyone is mostly fighting for themselves. So someone looking to feed themselves doesn’t want to steal food from you, they just need food to nourish themselves.
So maybe another lesson that can be drawn from this quote is that we shouldn’t take things personally. Because people generally aren’t trying to hurt you, they’re just trying to protect or gain for themselves.
“The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”Pope Francis
People can be totally captivated by extreme wealth in all forms. That’s why shows like MTV Cribs, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians are so popular. We’re amazed at how big someone’s house is, how they managed to acquire their wealth, and how they spend their time as a multi-millionaire.
We’re similarly fascinated by technological advancement. People have been programmed to want the latest and greatest technology. The latest iPhone may only be 1% better than the last version but there are hoards of people who insist on buying it the moment it comes out.
We’re fascinated by this wealth and improvement in society, yet we just accept the far larger mass of people who are suffering every day just to get enough to eat.
Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, which has revolutionized social media and how we communicate.
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”Mark Zuckerberg
This makes me think a lot about interviews I’ve heard with people at the end of their lives. They tend to regret the things they didn’t do far more than the things they did. I think minimizing future regret can actually be an effective framework for moving through life. And mainly because it encourages some level of risk-taking, in a way that focusing on winning as much possible doesn’t do.
This is an idea I need to embrace more in my own life. I’ve generally played things pretty safe in my life, but when I have decided to take risks I’m either rewarded with an amazing experience or a valuable learning experience.
“People don’t care about what you say, they care about what you build.”Mark Zuckerberg
Actions matter more than words. Duh. I love that this is coming from Mark Zuckerberg and that he uses “build” rather than “do”. It’s fun to talk about things you want to do, businesses you want to start, vacations you want to take…but that’s just pointless rambling if you never do those things.
Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, and space exploration company Blue Origin.
“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”Jeff Bezos
Can you imagine what the world would look like if Jeff Bezos wouldn’t have taken the risk to starting Amazon? It’s fairly obvious that some risk is required if you want to be rewarded in a meaningful way. Everyone in this post has taken some level of risk to achieve their level of status, fame, wealth, etc.
If you aspire to achieve great things, maybe you need to increase your willingness to take bigger risks.
“The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is, ‘why not?'”Jeff Bezos
People have a tendency to want to justify things before taking action. But that just requires additional energy to build a case for doing something. If you get the urge to do something, if you just ask yourself “why not?” you might be more likely to take action and achieve the result you were looking for.
Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany who has played a significant role in shaping European politics and policies.
“We Germans have always had to fear too much power in too few hands.”Angela Merkel
Shouldn’t we all? As with most things there’s a balance here too. We don’t want too much power in just a few people’s hands, but we also know that communism never works.
“We have to make sure that in Europe, and in Germany, we create jobs and prosperity.”Angela Merkel
This is something that leaders always promise and claim to work towards. The more prosperity we create either through business or through increased harmony in the world, the better the lives will be for everyone on earth.
As we create prosperity for new groups of people who previously were struggling, they can then contribute to growth in other areas of the world.
Xi Jinping is the president of China who has overseen the country’s economic growth and global influence since 2013.
“The Chinese Dream is about Chinese people’s yearning for a better life. It is the dream of the people and thus should be pursued by the people.”Xi Jinping
The two themes I see in these quotes is the value of taking risks and the desire to change the world for the better. The political leaders in this list tend to be focused on changing the world, and the business leaders tend to be focused on taking risks.
I think this quote just shows that regardless of if people are in the United States, Europe, or China — we all have a desire to live in a better world and pursue bigger and bigger achievements.
“To meet the challenges of our times, human beings must work together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit, based on the principles of equality and win-win cooperation.”Xi Jinping
It’s amazing what a group of people can achieve if they stop arguing about meaningless things for a period of time and focus on achieving something together. This can feel like an impossible goal, but by focusing on harmony within a group rather than individual achievement, we can set the bar higher and have a better chance of reaching our goals.
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate activist who has sparked a global movement demanding action on climate change.
“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”Greta Thunberg
While I think Greta Thunberg’s message is commendable, I don’t necessarily agree with it.
This makes me think of a quote I heard about the existence of God, which said that there’s really no downside to assuming that God exists. If he doesn’t you’ll have lived a better life anyway. And if he does, you’ll have pleased him.
I wonder if climate change/global warming is a similar thing. Whether it’s a serious problem or not, I guess it’s probably better that we consume less and do less damage to the earth.
Another thought that comes up here is that Greta is calling for people to feel fear…and then act. How can we make any rational decisions around climate change if we’re always acting from a place of fear. I feel like her messaging is trying to spark panic and frenzy, rather than allowing for objectively taking stock of the situation and acting accordingly.
“Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.”Greta Thunberg
Again, acting out of fear is never good. Which is probably why the climate change discussion is so polarizing. Both sides are fearful for something — either they are going to burn up when our planet turns to a fireball or they will be stripped of the lifestyle they want to live for the sake of protecting the planet.