On Wednesday, the U.S. will observe a national holiday known as Veterans Day, “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” Wednesday also is the 130th anniversary of the birth of General George S. Patton Jr., the renowned WWII general elevated into legendary folk-hero status by the 1970 film, “Patton,” winner of seven Academy Awards.*

Not only was Patton one of history’s greatest battlefield generals, he also was one of military history’s greatest generator of motivational quotes. (Some of those quotes we omitted due to his colorful language, which he described in the following way: “When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty.”)

But here is something those who aspire to be a Pattonesque leader should note: The character in the movie was played by George C. Scott, whose script included many direct quotes from the general, but were delivered in a god-like voice the real general didn’t have. Patton was naturally timid and spent years purposely developing the physical presence and delivery he believed were critical to his being a powerful military general.

So, on this Veterans Day, to honor the men and women who have served in the military and to recognize the 130th anniversary of his birth, here are our Top 10 General George Patton Motivational Quotes for those who own and run a small business. (And, as we’ve said, those owners and managers should seek out a veteran for their next hire):

10. “A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied 10 minutes later.”

patton with men

Patton felt most at home when with his troops, praising them, encouraging them and, as recounted in history, sometimes dressing-down those he believed weren’t performing their duties or showing the kind of fighting spirit the general damanded. Some who served in the Third Army would remember for the rest of their lives their brief glimpse of “Old Blood and Guts” rolling by on his Jeep. (Photo: US Army)

SmallBusiness.com translation: Stay close to the people who really matter, because that’s where you’ll find the things that can be fixed easily. If you wait until you learn it from a consultant, you’ll be spending way more money for a far less satisfactory solution.

(Quotation source: The Unknown Patton (1983) by Charles M. Province, page 165)

9. “A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”


Patton spent a lifetime preparing for the short period of his life history remembers. Twenty years before WWII began, this is a photo of Patton competing in the fencing portion of the Modern Pentathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics. (Photo via: Wikimedia Commons)

SmallBusiness.com translation: Prepare, prepare, prepare. Those who make something look so easy to do have spent hours and hours mastering their craft.

(Quotation source: Letter dated March 3, 1944, later published in Patton’s 1947 memoir War As I Knew It. Similar expressions were also used in his famous “Speech to the Third Army” in June 1944. The phrase is similar to one attributed to Erwin Rommel, “Sweat saves blood, blood saves lives, and brains saves both,” and to an even older one by August Willich: “A drop of sweat on the drill ground will save many drops of blood on the battlefield” from The Army: Standing Army or National Army? [1866].)

8. “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.”


Patton awards the Silver Star to Pvt. Ernest A. Jenkins of the 761st Tank Battalion. (Photo: U.S. Federal Archives via MediaWiki Commons)

SmallBusiness.com translation: As much as you’d like to believe that technology, secret formulas, patents, location, planning or reading SmallBusiness.com will make you successful, success comes from the talent, creativity and commitment of you and your people, not things.

(Quotation source: Cavalry Journal, September 1933)

7. “Accept the challenges, so that you feel the exhilaration of victory.”

patton la parade 1945

Crowds in Los Angeles, welcoming Patton during his visit on June 9, 1945. (Photo via Wikipedia)

SmallBusiness.com translation: Ideas, plans, resources, luck. All of those are critical to the success of a business. But unless you are personally involved in the “doing” and not just the “investing in” and “suggesting to,” you’ll never fully experience the thrill of victory.

(Quotation source: There is is some controversy over the attribution of this quote to Patton. It is cited to Patton in Patton’s Principles : A Handbook for Managers Who Mean It! (1982) by Porter B. Williamson, as well as Leadership (1990) by William Safire and Leonard Safir, page 47, but is also claimed by Erwin Rommel from his Infanterie Greift An Infantry Attacks (1937), in World War II : The Definitive Visual History (2009) by Richard Holmes, page 128, and Timelines of History (2011) by DK Publishing, page 392. Our ruling here: In a tie between Patton and Rommel, the decision goes to Patton.)

6. “There are three ways that men get what they want; by planning, by working and by praying …”


(Portrait by Tom Lovell, via Patton Museum, Ft. Knox, Ky.)

Full Quotation: “There are three ways that men get what they want: by planning, by working, and by praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning, or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: That’s working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. It is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. Some people call that getting the breaks; I call it God. God has His part, or margin in everything, That’s where prayer comes in.”

SmallBusiness.com translation: Accept that some things are outside your control and find a source of inner strength that can see you through those times.

(Quotation source: “The True Story of the Patton Prayer“)

5. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

patton in sicily

(Photo: WW2Today.com)

SmallBusiness.com translation: Don’t start worshiping carved-in-granite “processes,” and never say, “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Try: “This is what we want to accomplish.”

(Quotation source: War As I Knew It (1947) by George S. Patton, “Reflections and Suggestions”)

4. “Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.”

patton in battle

(Photo: Society of the Third Infantry Division)

SmallBusiness.com translation: You’ll never win an argument with a customer or client. Perhaps you can convince them that you are right and they are wrong, but you’ll soon learn that you haven’t actually won.

(Quotation source: As quoted in Textbook of Phacoemulsification (1988) by William F. Maloney and Lincoln Grindle, page 79)

3. “Always do everything you ask of those you command.”

wounded soldier

Patton consoling wounded soldiers. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons.)

SmallBusiness.com translation: When you run a small business, employees work with you, not for you.

(Quotation source: As quoted in I Remember General Patton’s Principles (1984) by Porter B. Williamson, page 174.)

2. “Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so. They are not supermen.”


Some might argue Patton was a superman.

SmallBusiness.com translation: Focus on your strengths, don’t obsess over comparing yourself with the competition, as you’ll tend to focus on their strengths and your weaknesses.

(Quotation source: George S. Patton’s speech to the Third Army)

1. “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.”

patton aviator jacket

(Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps, via Wikimedia Commons)

SmallBusiness.com translation: Don’t make us slap you around, but that’s what we’re going to do if you don’t stop having endless planning meetings designed to convince yourself of doing something you know already you should do.

(Quotation source: As quoted in Pocket Patriot: Quotes from American Heroes (2005) edited by Kelly Nickell, page 157. [Versions of the same idea are attributed—but not sourced—to Thomas Paine and others. But as with his battlefield planning, Patton’s deep knowledge of history allowed him to borrow from those who came before, but always with a twist that made his execution of whatever he borrowed uniquely his own.])

*First published on SmallBusiness.com on Veteran’s Day, 2013, this post is now an annual tradition.


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