Click the sections below to expand.

I Success & Motivation “Never feel like you’ve made it”

Motivation is nothing that you can give anybody. It’s something that you have to figure out for yourself. — Former Bears coach Mike Ditka

I was working as a server for an old friend when I told him I was going to open a restaurant. He goes, “Don’t do it. It’s terrible.” What if I had listened to him? We’ve gotten to where we are because I’m a risk taker. — Chef Stephanie Izard

Common and I were backstage at the New Regal Theater before he was about to go on. He asked me, “Do you think I should do a song with R. Kelly?” R. Kelly had just gotten huge. I was like, “Hell, yeah. You’ll blow up.” And Common was like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of. Then you can’t outtop that song. Or I could keep doing what I’m doing and rock with my loyal fans. They’ll put me on to other people, and I’ll grow like that rather than going for quick fame.” And I said, “Man, that makes sense. I’m gonna do the same thing.” — comedian Deon Cole

You can have a vision, but if you don’t know how to perpetuate and market it, and you aren’t strong enough to handle the slings and arrows that come your way, then a vision is all it’ll be. — Black Ensemble Theater founder Jackie Taylor

One thing [my mother] always stressed was that you have to be shark-like. When sharks stop moving, they’re dead. And sharks aren’t violent beasts by nature, but when they’re hungry, when they’re locked into something, you see that ferocity. — artist Hebru Brantley

Never feel like you’ve made it. That’s the most dangerous feeling you can ever have. You lose your edge. You lose your ambition. You stop trying. — fashion designer Cynthia Rowley

I manage an $18 billion operation. When you’re dealing with that much money, employees have to both respect and fear you. It can’t be done any other way. — Cook County treasurer Maria Pappas

I’ve always been disciplined. I like to be on time. If I have a job to do, I’m going to see it from its beginning to its conclusion. No excuses, no alibis. That’s how I run my life. — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White

If you’re bitter and jealous, you will not become successful. I’ve never seen an exception to that rule. — comedian Jeff Garlin

II Love & Relationships “Shut your goddamn mouth and listen”

I was in the bathtub when I thought of the name Black Ensemble Theater, after the Negro Ensemble Company in New York. Its mission would be to eradicate racism. I was married at the time, and my husband said, “Are you crazy? Most people don’t even know what ‘eradicate’ means.” I had to get out of that relationship. I can’t travel with a partner who can’t see what I’m trying to do. — Jackie Taylor

Someone recently told me the quickest way to lose a friend is to lend them money. If someone’s in need, I run into it — I’ve always loved the Robin Hood fable. But I’ve been burned. People have trouble repaying, or they choose not to: “He doesn’t need it.” What people don’t realize is it’s not about the money, it’s about the betrayal. — former media executive Larry Wert

A buddy asked me, “Would you rather be right or be loved?” I’d rather be loved. Why argue with somebody and wreck the relationship by wanting to be right all the time? You gotta serve something bigger than your righteousness. — ACTOR Jim Belushi

You can tell a lot about someone by how they break up with people. — author Veronica Roth

I believe that if you’re the kind of father you ought to be, your son — and I can’t speak to daughters, because I have none — will be a little afraid of you. He should be afraid of the consequences. That’s what respect is. — ESPN COMMENTATOR Michael Wilbon

There’s an expression: “You either laugh or you cry, so you might as well laugh.” My marriage failed spectacularly, like the Death Star explosion — the digitized remake where Lucas went back and made it even bigger. … I was completely ready to curl up in a ball in the corner and starve to death and never move until all was over. But I have this job, and my job is being funny. And I found that being forced to be funny made me feel better. — NPR host Peter Sagal

I have a lot of regrets about the sacrifices I inflicted on my wife and children when I was pursuing my career. I persuaded myself that it was important to do. Now I look back and realize there were actually more important things to do, and the fact that I didn’t make time for those things is a source of embarrassment and shame. — Political consultant David Axelrod

When it comes to women, I have no idea. The only thing I’ve learned that works — and I can only do it once in a while — is to gag it. Shut your goddamn mouth and listen. Women want to be heard. Everybody wants to be heard. So shut the fuck up. — Jim Belushi

I was so well loved as a child. My parents said to me, “You will make your own luck. We believe in you.” If you don’t have that well of love, the world is a terribly frightening place. That fear becomes such a factor in your life, it closes you down. — Chicago Shakespeare Theater founder Barbara Gaines

There is nothing more painful than being a parent, because it hurts so much to want to keep somebody from suffering while realizing that you don’t really have control all of the time. — Musician Jeff Tweedy

III Art & Artistry “Imagination is difficult and dangerous”

The best lesson I’ve ever learned was from my mentor at the Four Seasons, Fernand Gutierrez. If you looked up “French chef” in the dictionary, Fernand’s picture would be there — big guy, big mustache, toupee. Smoked four packs a day, drank like a fish, and was beyond passionate for cooking. His lesson was: You’ve got to be true to your craft. So no matter what you do — like if you’re learning Indian cuisine — you’ve got to respect how it evolved.— chef Carrie Nahabedian

A lot of people have a fantasy about creativity —that you just sit around and wait for the stars to align and the barometric pressure to be correct, then you’re struck by this bolt of lightning. I think it’s the other way around: You get yourself into a position to receive some inspiration by doing the work. You focus on the process. And that’s comforting to me. — JEFF TWEEDY

Imagination is difficult and dangerous. It requires courage to imagine beyond the limits of your comfort. — author Aleksandar Hemon

The choices I’ve made with my work — they’re the only ones I had. It’s all about being decisive. Instantly and repeatedly and innately. I don’t think about: Should I do it or shouldn’t I? I just do it. That’s true in my life, too. — late  photographer Victor Skrebneski

So many improv tenets follow life. Stay in the moment. Stop worrying about planning. Once I began doing the improv thing, I realized I can’t bother planning my life. I’ve just got to see what opportunities open. The things that happen are far more interesting than anything I could’ve planned. — improv instructor Charna Halpern

IV Failure & Adversity “Recognize that when you do fail, you are a loser”

I’ve had some tragedy in my life, so I chose to think about how lucky I am to have a family and to find love and to be able to do what I love for a profession. I made that choice to have the glass half full. It’s hard. Sometimes you really have to struggle to figure it out and push forward. But in the end, what are the choices? You either do that or you curl up into a ball. — Cynthia Rowley

When I got demoted [at Second City] after a year, I was crushed, but it made me reexamine myself. It was my first “What? They don’t like me?” Which made me think, Well, I guess I’m an actor. Because that had never really occurred to me. — ACTOR George Wendt

One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career was that I wouldn’t let something go. I thought, I’m gonna fix it. If I give it enough energy, enough focus, enough this and that … And that’s not always true. It took me a while to learn that sometimes the best thing to do is just say, “This is a bad idea; let’s move on.” — former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

There is no grace in failing. There’s only humility. — Jim Belushi

As a trial lawyer, you won’t always succeed. You just won’t. It is truly OK to fail. But recognize that when you do fail, you are a loser. And don’t pretend you’re not. — FORMER U.S. attorney Dan Webb

I was 22 when I said, OK, I better stop blaming my mother; stop whining and get over it. If you’re still using excuses after you’re grown, there’s something wrong with you. Blame helps nothing. — Jackie Taylor

V Wellness & Happiness “Play some good music, drink a little Merlot”

I don’t take naps. You have to keep moving. If you stop, you suddenly feel as if you shouldn’t do anything. … My mom used to say, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” — Loyola’s Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt

Advice to my younger self? Honestly, I’d tell Young V it’s OK to go on medication for your anxiety. I didn’t want to need it, but I missed out on enjoying some exciting times in my life because I was so anxious I couldn’t savor them. There’s no shame in trying something that helps you be present in your life. Also, get yourself an eyebrow pencil. God. — Veronica Roth

The best advice I ever got was from my husband: “In times of stress, take a deep breath and count to 10.” — Arts philanthropist Joan Harris

Make one person smile when you feel like hell, and you will feel better. It boomerangs back on you. — Barbara Gaines

There’s no part of your life where there’s no input, so running is a very good way to get away from that. People say, “Oh, I can’t spend that much time in my head.” No, you should! — Peter Sagal

When you’re writing one of the darker portions, it sort of gets to you a little bit — as it should if you are fully invested in it. At the end of the day, so that I don’t bring that upstairs to my family, I put on Donald O’Connor and “Make ’Em Laugh.” — author Gillian Flynn

The secret to a long life? Play some good music, drink a little Merlot, get some sleep, and have something to do tomorrow. — late historian Timuel Black

VI Religion & Spirituality “God has given mankind a stage”

Yentl changed my whole notion of religion. I was raised Lutheran and had gotten kicked out of confirmation class for asking too many questions. The thing I will never forget about Yentl is when the rabbi says, “We choose our students not just by their answers, but by their questions.” And I thought, Wow, here’s a religion where you can question everything. Now I’m a pretty religious Jew. — late Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis

Because of my faith, I’m a prisoner of hope. I can’t quit. — activist priest Michael Pfleger

On Apollo 8, we were on the dark side of the moon, which was 60 miles below us. As we kept on going around, we suddenly saw the Earth coming into view 240,000 miles away. I could put my thumb up to the window and everything I ever knew was behind it. Billions of people. Oceans. Mountains. Deserts. And I began to wonder, Where do I fit into what I see? Then I remembered an old saying, “I hope to go to heaven when I die,” and realized that I actually went to heaven when I was born. I arrived on a planet with the gravity to contain water and an atmosphere — the very essentials for life! I arrived on a planet orbiting a star at just the right distance to absorb that star’s energy without being too hot or too cold. So my philosophy is that God has given mankind a stage upon which to perform, and how the play will come out is up to us. — former astronaut Jim Lovell

Every day that I’m home, I go out on my balcony, look across Lake Michigan, and say a little prayer. Whatever the day is — if it’s raining, if it’s snowing, if there’s a thunderstorm — God made it. Be joyful. — SINGer Mavis Staples

I’m a fugitive from Sunday school and all that stuff, which didn’t take except for one thing: I am my brother’s keeper. — Joan Harris

VII Politics & Public Service “The tragic flaw among elected officials is ego”

When I was in the state Senate, I’d be walking down a hallway and staffers would throw themselves up against a wall to get out of my way. This deference you’re given is one of the small ways you start to think of yourself as somebody you’re not. When people are constantly calling you “Senator,” “General,” “Governor,” it’s very easy for that to go to your head. I’ve always said, “Keep your friends from before you ran for office. Those are your real friends.” — FORMER ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL Lisa Madigan

I had a big Washington period, working for particular causes or for the Reagan White House. That’s how I learned that whoever is your political opponent now may be an ally later. — socialite Sugar Rautbord

The higher you go in politics, if you’re not able to reveal who you are, you’re not going to succeed. I think Hillary Clinton learned that in the [2016] election. With Donald Trump, for all of his shortcomings, you never hear anybody say, “Gee, I wish he’d just speak his mind.” I said a long time ago that presidential campaigns are like MRIs for the soul. Whoever you are, people find out. And if you try to hide it, they know that, too. — David Axelrod

Harold Washington had this delicious personality that made everybody feel like they had his undivided attention. … One lesson he taught me by example was how to disagree without being disagreeable. I watched him during his first term, when he didn’t have control of the City Council, and the aldermen — the Vrdolyak 29 — were horrible to him, just dreadful. But he would joke with them behind the council chambers. He always had good humor and recognized that it wasn’t personal. — former Obama SENIOR adviser Valerie Jarrett

The tragic flaw among elected officials is ego. You need enough of it to put yourself out there, but too much of it is going to get you in trouble. — Lisa Madigan

VIII Race & Racism “If you live in the avenue of hate, you can’t think properly”

When I was young, my mother told me to go to the Detroit Public Library and check out Richard Wright’s Black Boy. … I read two-thirds of it at the library that day and finished it at home that night. Then I went back the next day and checked out everything Richard Wright had published. One of the most important books, which very few people have read, was his collection of essays titled White Man, Listen!, which included a major essay on Negro writing. After that, I read Margaret Walker, Langston Hughes, and so forth. And that gave me a kind of ammunition and fortified me against everything, because now I understood: If we can write and publish books, we are somebody. — poet Haki R. Madhubuti

Once, [my husband] David was picking me up from school at Roosevelt and some Black Panthers insulted me for being with a white guy. I was quite angry. The next day they beat me to the car and were chatting with him about political strategies and doctrine. When people begin to see each other as people, based on interests and concerns, the race thing usually diminishes. — publisher Hermene Hartman

I did a couple of plays in New York. … I didn’t like the attitude toward African Americans. Even though they were interested in me, they wanted to change my work. They wanted to take the Blackness out of it and make it more palatable to their audiences. … They were glorifying drugs and cocaine as what we did in the Black community. I said, “Y’all writing about some shit you don’t know. This is a tiny aspect of who we are and our culture.” They laughed and said, … “You’re not a civil rights activist, you’re an actress. So keep your mouth closed and act.” And I said, “Fuck. You.” — Jackie Taylor

My daddy was a Black nationalist, a Garveyite. But he never discouraged us from the idea of integration. He would say, “Learn how to bullshit. You want to be in a position to make money and demands in their language, in their style. Then you can come home and laugh about bullshitting.” — Timuel Black

I joined the military because that was my last option. … Eventually, I became a squad leader, and my whole squad was basically white men — all older than me and all from the South. So it was always a battle. But I learned in the military that if you live in the avenue of hate, you can’t think properly. — Haki R. Madhubuti

IX More Life Wisdom “You’ve got to feel it”

My grandfather used to say, “Your reputation and education are all you’ve really got. The rest of it is ephemeral.” — Penny Pritzker

You have to find your own moments of enlightenment. No one can proselytize or tell you what to do. — Author Sandra Cisneros

I’m a huge believer in listening. Life is just better if you listen to what other people say. I want to understand what’s going on and whether I might be mistaken in my view on some major issue. But listening does not come naturally to me. I am a classic type A, and the most classic symptom is interrupting other people. Because my mind works very quickly and I chug through facts, I’m in meetings all the time thinking, Holy shit, would you please get to the point? But I just let them say what they want to say. — Dan Webb

I was flattered when The Lazarus Project was nominated for a National Book Award. … I took the call in my basement, which was flooding. I was carrying a large pump, had twisted my back, and was standing in water up to my ankles in terrible pain. And they’re saying, “Congratulations.” There’s always life, no matter what level you are on. — Aleksandar Hemon

I’m a sucker for gadgets, but there’s nothing you need beyond a paring knife, a cutting board, a fork, and a spatula. — Former Chicago dining editor Penny Pollack

My mom was a single parent. She was not a book-learning person but was a genius when it came to common sense. We lived on the wrong side of town in Savannah, Georgia, and she’d tell me, “Son, if somebody hits you once, you hit them twice.” — Former White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson

If you try to get into any music intellectually, you’re missing the boat. This goes for classical music, anything. You’ve got to feel it. — Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis

I’d always rather be made a fool of by being too kind than the other way around. — Veronica Roth

I’d rather have audiences pissed off about what they saw than walk out unaffected and oblivious. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well deliberately try to not please a few. — Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls

The people you love are the kind people, the ones who treat you with delight when they see you. These days, instead of struggling to be the most amazing, leave-my-name-in-the-sands-of-time person, I’m trying to be that guy. — Peter Sagal

Near the end of his life, my dad told me that only a handful of the things he worried about in his life came true. On one hand, I was really blown away by the beautiful simplicity of that and how helpful it is. On the other hand, I was pissed off that he waited until he was 83 to tell me. — Jeff Tweedy