Great wall of China with sun in the sky and foggy haze
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24 Top Chinese Proverbs About Success

Sometimes in life we find ourselves stuck in our heads thinking too much. We go round and round in circles and things become way more complicated than they need to be. It can be very hard to see the light through the mess in these situations. That’s where good quotes and Chinese proverbs come in handy.

Quotes and Chinese proverbs are great because they can help to keep things really simple. I often find that they make everything much clearer and help me to keep a focused mind.

When it comes to success, we need to keep things as clear and simple as possible so that we stay on the path towards where we want to go. Chinese proverbs about success can help you keep on the path you need to take and not get distracted by things going on in the world around you or your fast-paced mind.

So, without any more delay, here are some of the top Chinese proverbs about success that can help you to focus on what is important and clear your mind so you know which direction to take on your path to success.

Top Chinese proverbs about success

Chinese proverb about success - “To talk much 
and arrive 
nowhere is
 the same as 
climbing a 
tree to catch
 a fish.”
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“To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish.”

This Chinese proverb is great. It points to the idea that it’s very easy to talk a great deal about what you want to do, but action is really what is going to get you places. If you just talk about what you want but never take action, then you will not arrive where you talked about going.

This quote makes it clear that this is a bad plan, in the same way that climbing a tree to catch a fish would be a bad plan.

So be sure to take action on what you talk about. Better yet, cut down on how much you talk about doing something, and use the time you saved in actually going after what it is you want.

Chinese proverb about success - “If your mind is strong, all difficult things will become easy; if your mind is weak, all easy things will become difficult.”
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“If your mind is strong, all difficult things will become easy; if your mind is weak, all easy things will become difficult.”

It’s so easy in life to become distracted by the world around us. But if we have a directed, confident mind, then we tend not to fall in to the pit of these distractions.

In the same way, if we have things that go wrong in life and are not particularly confident in mind, then these things can feel like massive problems. But if we are confident in ourselves and our abilities to push through no matter what, then even big challenges don’t seem so bad.

So get a directed mind, have confidence in yourself, and know that you can step up to the plate when needed.

Chinese proverb about success - “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
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“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Starting on a new goal can often feel incredibly overwhelming. It’s very easy to think about how much you have to do, how difficult it will be, and how you might not even succeed. But if you get stuck in these thoughts then you will never make it anywhere.

Very often, once we start, things become much easier. Doors open to us, we realise we can come up with solutions to problems, and we realise we can make it to where we want to go.

But the crucial thing is that we have to start. Once we start, once we take that first step, things become much easier.

This Chinese prover about success is well-known for a very good reason – because it is simple yet very true.

Chinese proverb about success - “A man grows most tired while standing still.”
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“A man grows most tired while standing still.”

Do you ever get tired when you haven’t really done much? Doesn’t that feel incredibly odd? But then, sometimes, when you are really active and doing a lot, you can stay up all night and keep going and feel incredibly energised?

This is the idea that when we aren’t doing something that fuels us, when we don’t really have a reason to do whatever it is we are doing, when we aren’t growing as people, then we get tired.

In fact, taking this further, there are uncanny numbers that show the correlation between people who retire and then die soon after, and I feel a big part of it must be because they didn’t have something pushing them anymore.

However you look at it, it’s very important to have something that drives you and makes you want to take charge of life every day. As humans, we have a need to be constantly growing. If we are not growing we are dying. So find something that makes you want to grow and go after it, otherwise you will be tired with yourself and with your life.

Chinese proverb about success - “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”
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“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Sometimes we are scared to look like an idiot because we ask a question, but the answers to those questions can help us to get to where we want to go.

Why are we so scared of looking like we don’t know something? Much better to acknowledge we don’t know something and try and find out the answer, than act like we do know it but actually don’t. What are you going to do, waste time acting like you know the answer?

Further, you can save literal decades of your life if you apply this idea to something like a mentor relationship. The idea being that if you ask someone who has been where you want to go about their experiences, then you can learn from those experiences and save yourself a lot of time and trouble.

Don’t be scared to ask questions! The answers are there to help you.

Chinese saying on success - "Teachers open the door, you enter by yourself."
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“Teachers open the door, you enter by yourself.”

Do you ever feel like you need to learn just one more thing before you take action on something you want? You need to watch one more YouTube video or read one more article about something and then you will be ready?

And then you need just one more…

And just one more…

And so on.

Eventually, you have burned so much time getting more and more information, more and more education, but you’ve never actually taken a step towards what you want.

This is almost always driven by fear – fear of failure, fear of looking like an idiot, fear of not being good at something you really want to be good at, and so on.

But, at some point, in order to get what you want, you have to take action on that rather than just learning about it. Otherwise you definitely will not get what you want. You have to face the fear, ignore the fear, dance with the fear… Whatever you want. But you have to act regardless of the fear.

So stop thinking you need to learn more! Go take action!

Chinese saying on success - “All things are difficult before they are easy.”
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“All things are difficult before they are easy.”

It can be very easy to be scared of doing something new, or doing something that seems really far outside of our comfort zone or skill set. Sometimes this even causes us to not even start to do that thing at all.

But, the thing is, once we start doing that thing, it becomes easier. You can get good at almost anything in life through focused discipline, practise, and having a belief that you can learn to get good at it.

It’s so easy to think that people who are good at something were born that way. But we often don’t see the hours and hours of practise they went through to get good at that thing.

And the same level of talent is available to us if we are will to put in the time, effort, discipline and mindset in to the practise.

So make the things that seem difficult now easy by constantly practising!

Chinese saying on success 8 - "Dig the well before you are thirsty."
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“Dig the well before you are thirsty.”

Don’t wait until things get tough before you start to address them! It can be so easy to put things off in life because the possible negative result seems really far away, or, the reverse, the possible good result seems like something so distant.

For example, let’s say you want to be a film director (like I want to). It could feel like a MASSIVE undertaking, and seem so far away from your current state and position. Being that far away can make it feel like you can put off taking action on it because it might not be available to you any time soon.

But then you get years down the line and realise you have wasted years of your life because you didn’t go after that dream of yours. And you are certainly no closer. Then you become desperate (thirsty), and panic.

A better way of approaching things would be to go after what you want now (or act on the things you want to avoid now), rather than waiting until they become more desperate.

Chinese saying on success - “Control your emotions or they will control you.”
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“Control your emotions or they will control you.”

It’s so easy to have our emotions controlled by the world around us, by what is going on. This is living reactively. When you live reactively, you feel out of control, sometimes panicked, directionless, and generally like you aren’t controlling your life much.

What you want to aim for is to live proactively. Living proactively means you know what you want and you can direct your mind towards that. When situations come at you, when opportunities come at you, when things go wrong, etc, you know how to act because you’ve already determined what you want. You have confidence in what you are doing and in your decisions.

Living proactively means having control over your emotions. It leads to a happier, more directed life.

Chinese saying on success 10 - "When the wind 
of change blows, 
some build walls, 
while others 
build windmills."
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“When the wind of change blows, some build walls, while others build windmills.”

If something bad happens, the natural human reaction is to bunker down and take a defensive position. For example, when there are stock market fears, most people pulls their stocks out. But professionals like Warren Buffet know that when everyone else is panicking, you can take advantage.

It’s the same thing in other areas of life. When other people panic because things change, there are opportunities out there you can take advantage of.

Think of when people started streaming TV shows and movies. Most networks and movie outlets were not prepared for it. Netflix saw a gap in the market and set themselves up to be one of the main players while other, more established, companies panicked.

When other people are panicking when things change, rather than get defensive with them, try and find the opportunity and live positively.

Chinese proverb on success - “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
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“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

The power of positivity is a massive thing. It’s so easy to see the negative in things, and, likewise, not see the positive in things. As humans, we tend to lean towards negativity and pessimism as a safety measure. But when you learn to lean towards the positive, so much of life opens up for you.

If you can see the beauty in things around you, the opportunity around you, the potential around you, then you will be happier in your life and in everything you do.

So, rather than focusing on the negative (which will only get you negative outcomes and feel bad about life), focus on the positive. Put your energy in to felling good about things in life, and good things will come to you.

Chinese proverb on success - “Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”
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“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

Sometimes when you want something, it can feel likes it takes ages to achieve it. We tend to want things now instead of having to wait for them.

When you’re striving to achieve something in your life and all you see are the days going by without getting to where you want to get to, it can feel incredibly disheartening.

But you have to have faith that, through taking constant and consistent action, you will ultimately get to where you want to get to.

This slow growth is something that should not be feared but, instead, expected. If you don’t expect the growth to be slow, then you risk giving up, which amounts to standing still (or even going backwards).

And, as we learned above, if we aren’t growing, we are dying. That should be the real fear – not going after what we want (no matter how slow the process is) leads to spiritual death. That is what we should be afraid of.

So don’t worry if the things you want take time. Know that you are moving forwards and becoming the person you want to be.

Chinese proverb on success - “Often one finds one’s destiny just where one hides to avoid it.”
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“Often one finds one’s destiny just where one hides to avoid it.”

It can often feel very scary to go after the things we want in life. Maybe you want an “untraditional” career, you want to leave the comfort of your home town, or you want to quit your job and volunteer. Whatever it is, these ambitions can come with a lot of fear.

But if we don’t act through the fear and take steps towards the things we want to do, we stay where we are and often find things getting worse. Not going after the things we want leads to unhappiness, wasted time, and a general feeling of not knowing what your aim in life is.

Time soon passes you by, and you’ve got nowhere near where you wanted to go, and, ultimately, unless you take steps to change course, your destiny will end up in this other place – somewhere that perhaps didn’t mean much to you in the first place.

So if you want your destiny to be somewhere other than where it is now, take steps to go after it, otherwise you may end up with a life you actively did not want.

Chinese proverb on success - "The spectators see more of the game than the players."
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“The spectators see more of the game than the players.”

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you can’t seem to find the answer to a problem? You then spend ages thinking about it from every different angle to try and find a solution, only to find that you can’t come up with one or you don’t know which solution is best.

Very often, in these times, we benefit from asking someone outside of the situation. This can give us a clear route forwards because the person you have asked has nothing to do with the situation. They are an independent, unbiased person who can give direction.

Likewise, sometimes you benefit from stepping away from a situation and looking at it from a bird’s eye view yourself.

This is a top Chinese proverb about success because it reminds us that sometimes we need to seek outside help or be able to step away so we can come back with fresh eyes.

Chinese proverb on success -“The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”
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“The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”

It’s no wonder that top athletes practise the same thing over and over again. Basketball players practise making the same shot from the free throw line hundreds of times a week or even every day. Cheerleaders practise the exact same routine over and over again that they may be performing months down the line. Golfers go to driving ranges and hit the same shot repeatedly.

The reason behind this is that we have “muscle memory” – the process of doing something so often that it becomes second nature to do it again.

If you act like this with anything you want to get good at – literally anything at all – then when you have to step up and do it in a difficult situation, when the pressure is on, you will still be able to perform well.

Chinese saying about success - "Good medicine tastes bitter."
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“Good medicine tastes bitter.”

The idea that something that is good for you is often painful or hard to deal with is something that needs to be remembered. Often, as humans, we want things to be easy. It can be hard to take criticism, it can be hard to push through the pain of doing something new when you just don’t want to, it can be hard to do a bunch of work only to find out you need to do something else instead.

But in learning what works and what doesn’t we can improve our position in whatever we do.

We have to learn to like getting constructive criticism, we have to learn to know that when we do something that doesn’t work we are just getting closer to finding the way that does, we have to enjoy the learning process so that we come out the other side knowing more.

It can be hard to face these realisations, but they are there to help you if you have the right attitude.

Chinese saying about success 17 - “We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.”
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“We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.”

This is another great Chinese proverb that talks about how we should focus on the positives in life. It’s so easy to get caught up in what goes wrong rather than seeing what goes right. It can even be addictive to focus on the negative in life.

But when you focus on the positives, you will undoubtedly lead a happier life. More opportunities will be open to you, you will see the beauty in the world, and you will go through life with a level of optimism that will be infectious to other people.

So if you find yourself tending to focus on the negatives in life, try and pay attention to the positives instead and see how much happier you are.

Chinese saying about success - “He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.”
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“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.”

As humans, one of our most important needs is to feel like we are growing. We are not made to be stagnant – to sit around not achieving things, not developing who we are. We are not meant to do the same thing day in day out without moving forwards and becoming more. The fact is, if we aren’t growing then we are dying inside.

How often do you realise you do the same thing day after day, and feel like you aren’t really moving forwards or really doing anything with your life? How often do you feel like you don’t have an aim in life or feel like you don’t know what your life mission is? Does this make you feel a sense of loss?

As humans, we have a need to grow as people. In order to grow, we need to try new things. And some of the best things to try are big things where you dive in the deep end of something new and/or ambitious.  These big ambitions – these big journeys – help us to grow as people so that the world around us, our horizons and our dreams become more. Then we repeat, growing more and more every time.

This is an important proverb about success because it’s important to know that you have to take the journey in order to grow as a person. Until you take the journey, you will not grow. But once you take that journey, once you do that big, ambitious thing, you will never be the same. And that’s a good thing.

Chinese saying about success - “A bird does not sing because he has the answer to something, he sings because he has a song.”
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“A bird does not sing because he has the answer to something, he sings because he has a song.”

This is the idea that you need to have meaning in your life. If you have meaning in your life, an ambition you have, an aim in your life, something you want to go after or something that fuels you in any way, then you have a lot to live for.

When you have a mission in life, when you have a purpose, you go about your life in a different way than people without one.

People who have no purpose or meaning in their lives often talk a lot, but they don’t really have a lot to say. But when you have a mission, when you have an ambition in life, there is a confidence in who you are and a confidence in what you talk about that is infectious.

Be someone who has a lot to say rather than someone who talks a lot. Find your mission in life and go after your dreams. It will lead to a more fulfilling and happy life.

Chinese saying about success - "It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books."
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“It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.”

Similar to the proverb above, this is the idea that you need to actually step out in to the world and try whatever it is you want to do, rather than simply reading about it.

It is very easy to keep learning about something you want to do, to think that you need to learn more before you can do the thing you really want to do, and delay taking the step in to actually doing it.

But the reality is that, more often than not, the best way to learn something is by actually going and doing it.

When you step out of your comfort zone of learning more about a topic and you actually go and do it, the amount you learn is worth at least 100x more than what you learnt reading about it or watching videos about it.

I mean, can you read about playing tennis? Not really! You have to go play. Can you read about being a film director? Well, maybe, but until you go and do it, you will never figure out your “director’s voice”. Can you read about being a writer? Sure, you can learn the constructs of stories. But until you write, that will all be theory. You won’t be piecing together the puzzle of a story for yourself and figuring out how it really works. You can read about starting a business as much as you like, but until you are in the trenches making deals, meeting people, going through challenges, etc, you will never grow in that field and you will never develop the skills it takes to succeed. You can apply this to any area.

Sure, do the basic amount of research in to an area. Learn what you absolutely have to in order to get started. But then go and get started! You can always keep learning as you go, but make sure you go! It will elevate you far more than just reading and learning more without actually doing something.

Sure, it can be scary to put yourself out there. But if you don’t, you are just wasting time that could be spent getting better at the thing you want to do.

So go get better at it. Get out of the comfort zone of learning more. DO what it is you want to do and stop thinking you have to learn more before you start! Trust me – it will be worth the pain barrier you have to go through, because you will get better at whatever you want to do. And when you get better at it, you only get closer to your goals in that area.

Ancient Chinese proverb about success - “A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.”
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“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.”

It’s very easy to get caught up in other people’s opinions. Especially if you want to do something with your life that is unique in some way.

For example, if you want to start your own business, be an actor, or work for very low pay in a third world country, for example, you are going to be met with people’s opinions about how you shouldn’t do it. They will say things like, “but what about money?”, “what about security?”, “what if you fail?” Because, the fact is, most people are negative. They have their own fears that they project on to you.

You need to be able to ignore these negative responses and do what is important to you. You have to know why you are doing it and why it means something to you and act regardless of other people’s opinions.

Sure, there may be some valuable information in what they have to say. But learn to identify what is valuable and what is not. Use the information to help you where it is useful, and discard it where it is not.

It’s so important for you to stick to what you want to do, regardless of the naysayers, because this will lead to the life you want to have. If you do what everyone else wants you to do, you will never lead the life you want, and will find you are living what everyone else wants for you.

So stick to your ambitions and goals, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it.

Ancient Chinese proverb about success - “A bad workman always blames his tools.”
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“A bad workman always blames his tools.”

You must have heard this Chinese proverb about success a thousand times, but that doesn’t stop it being true.

If something goes wrong in whatever you are doing, don’t blame the tools you are using, the world around you, or other people. Just find a way to move on and keep going. Figure out what you could have done differently. Don’t get caught up in the negative thinking and just move forwards.

Ultimately, finding a better way to work will help you more than moaning about what didn’t work.

Ancient Chinese proverb about success - “The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.”
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“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.”

Do you ever find that you have loads of ideas that you want to try, things you want to go after, or things you want to be really good at? Life is full of opportunities, and you want to take advantage of all of them.

Maybe you have multiple career interests that you want to pursue or multiple companies you want to start. Perhaps you want to be a world class actor as well as a top photographer, for example.

This is great, and shows you have ambition. Wanting to do all these things is a sign of success being on your horizon.

But it’s crucial that, at least in the initial stages, you focus most of your time on just one thing. If you try and focus on more than one thing, you quickly find that you have too much to do across the different areas and that you don’t really make great progress in any of them.

The power of focus and immersion is amazing when it comes to growing something or getting better at something. If you can focus on just one thing for a period of time, you will get so much better at it and get so much further with it than if you try and focus on more than one thing.

It can be hard to do this, and you can feel like you aren’t doing enough. But you will see the benefits in time when the thing you are focusing on moves forwards and gets you closer to where you want to go. Then, once you get to a certain place with it, you are able to add other things that you can start to focus on. But start with one! It will help you in the long run.

Ancient Chinese proverb about success - “Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”
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“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”

This final Chinese proverb about success is one of the most crucial ones. This points to the idea that you cannot get the things that mean a lot to you without actually doing something about them.

It’s very easy to talk about what you want, watch others get the things they want, or take small steps towards what you want but never really commit fully.

You cannot stand on the beach and look out to what you want without actually going in the water after it. You cannot dip your toe in to the water and expect the results you want. You have to dive it, go in head-first, go in fully, and keep going until you get what you want.

So go after what you want with everything you have. Dive in. Go in deep, go in fully. Only then will you get the outcome you desire.

Chinese proverbs about success – Conclusion

Although these Chinese proverbs about success are old, they are absolutely timeless. They are so great for distilling down key factors for success or things would should think on.

Don’t write them off as quotes and then not apply them. Think about what they mean and start applying them to your life and to your actions.

Once you start following them – whether you are following your dream, going after your mission in life, or anything else – you will find that you get closer to the thing you want and you will feel more successful in doing so.

What is your favourite Chinese proverb about success? Let me know in the comments below!

Further Reading

If you enjoyed these Chinese proverbs about success, you may also like these no regrets quotes, which are about living life with no regrets.

You may also like to read how this Solomon Grundy poem can change your life in profound ways.

These unbelievably motivational and inspirational stories will make you go after your dreams.

If you want to know if you are going to be successful in life, check out these signs of success, and if you want a step-by-step guide to becoming successful in life, this post on how to get success in life is for you.

And if you don’t know exactly what to do with your life, that post is for you. This post will help you find your aim in life, and this one will help you to find your ambition in life. Don’t think you need a mission in life? This post tells you exactly why you need a mission in life.

Great wall of China with sun in the sky and foggy haze
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Disclaimer: Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or other professional advice. You should always seek the advice of a professional, qualified person.  

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