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The 20 Best Hamlet Quotes That Apply To Business


William Shakespeare was one of the most famous bards in history, and he had a lot to say about wealth and power. In his still popular play Hamlet, he made hundreds of famous quotes that are still in use today and many of them contain sage advice that can be used to get ahead in the world. Here are the 20 best Hamlet quotes that apply to business.

20. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

This may be one of the most famous quotes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, but it is still applicable hundreds of years after his passing. Although it's tough to get ahead in big business today without lending or borrowing money, one could see how it still applies. An old rule of thumb warns against lending money when there is a high likelihood that a debt will not be repaid. It's also wise to avoid going too far into debt as the money must be paid back with interest. If you can achieve your business goals without borrowing or lending, you're further ahead because borrowed money will cost you in the long run, and lending what you have may leave you with a deficit.

19. “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

You must be true to your own values and what you know to be true and honest in your business dealings. You are known by the reputation you establish through your dealings with the people you work with and for. Your customers and others in the business world form opinions based on how you treat them, and the kind of work you perform. If you do your best and honor your word, it will help you to get ahead in business.

18. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

In business, it is important to keep an open mind, especially when dealing with customers and co-workers. We can miss a lot of great opportunities by being closed-minded and biased. It's good to work with other people who are different and who have fresh ideas about business. This can help us to realize that there is more than one way to come and a problem and often, the solutions that others come up with are even better than our own. Getting stuck in a rut and pre-judging based on our biases in business can hold us back from reaching our full potential.

17. “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?"

Those who assume leadership positions in the business world go through a series of ups and downs. For the average large company, there are good times and bad, times of smooth sailing and then the troubles come and it's up to you to lead the fight forward to identify issues and develop problem-solving strategies. Sometimes you have a team to help you do this but sometimes you're on your own in finding the answers. There are moments when you may wonder if it's worth the struggle, but when you come out on the other side victorious, little is sweeter.

16. "For who would bear the whips and scorns of time..."

In business, things are not always comfortable or easy whether you're in upper leadership or in an entry-level position. There are moments that can turn into days, weeks or even months where you feel like the job is giving you a pounding. Those who do not endure the strains of a high-stress job are fortunate, and few. Most of us have our moments when we feel that we've been beaten up and we may even become weary, but these times pass as we reach the goals we've set. Nobody said it was always going to be easy, but if we stay the course and do a good job, the rewards are satisfaction for a job well done.

15. "The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,..."

Oppression in the workplace is highly illegal, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. There are a lot of people in the business world who have been the victims of oppressors, or someone in the workplace that makes them feel uncomfortable or even bullied. It can come in the form of a person who makes snide remarks, who judges others all the time, or who lords their higher position over the rest of the crew. If you're a manager and you see this happening, it's important for the good of all to address the issue with the offender to help ensure that the work environment is as enjoyable as possible. If it's the owner of the company that puts others ill at ease, perhaps it's time to start looking for a new job. Life's too short to tolerate this kind of stress and debasement.

14. "The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?."

Sometimes it's better to work with the devil that you know than to keep moving from one job to another. It's rare to find a job that doesn't come with some discomforts or annoyances. Life happens to us all and sometimes things go wrong. People in the business world who form a pattern of leaving a job because of minor issues soon have a resume that reflects the pattern and it can make it difficult to secure employment from a solid company that is looking for stability. There are some good reasons for leaving a position, but if you're thin-skinned and are easily offended, it might be time to toughen up. Employers are looking for stability and longevity in new hires. What does your resume reflect?

13. "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all"

This is a powerful statement from Hamlet. Sometimes we must make difficult decisions in the business world. There have been many a leader who has lost sleep and fretted over hard choices. There are times when your conscience is in a state of conflict over which is the right thing to do, particularly when your decisions weigh the best interests of the business with those of the people who have worked there faithfully for years. There are lots of tough scenarios that can arise in business that makes you want to run and pass the choice off to someone else.

12. "And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard, their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!"

There are times when we are faced with situations that seem to have no good solution and when every tide and current seems to be turning in the wrong direction. If you're not on your game and focused it can be easy to lose your way. There are times when you have to steel yourself and take action, especially when inaction will only make the situation worse. These are periods of great learning and personal growth for those in leadership positions. If you go soft during a crisis, you might not receive a contract renewal in upper leadership positions. Regardless of how gut-wrenching the task, don't shrink away from your responsibilities.

11. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Have you ever stopped to think about just what your philosophy of business is? This is what dictates your behaviors in this arena and it will definitely have an impact on the degree of success that you achieve in your business dealings. Do you value honesty and integrity? Do you believe it's important to see a job through to completion and to pay attention to detail? Do you plan in advance? Introspection and examining our beliefs and core philosophy as it is right now can be helpful in finding growth areas where we can make improvements that will help us to become more successful in our present and future endeavors.

10. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”

Sometimes the craziest business strategies are the ones that lead to some of the most amazing results. It's important to be open to new things and to keep learning. If someone who is successful shares their business model with you and it seems off the wall, don't be too hasty to judge. As long as it's moral, ethical, and legal, sometimes there is a method to the madness that proves to be a winning formula.

9. “Listen to many, speak to a few.”

In business, it's good to listen when others speak and to listen more than you talk. By listening to the words of others you gain a sense of who they are by the words that they use. You gain a sense of who can be trusted, who possesses wisdom, and who is just trying to look and sound important. When you speak make sure that your words convey your intention clearly and with no ambiguity. Don't be guilty of telling stories or spreading rumors. Those who speak more than they listen tend to be less respected by others in the workplace.

8. “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. ”

This quote is a warning about wolves in sheep's clothing. In the business world, and particularly in high-competition environments there are those who are only out for what they can get and they will use unscrupulous means to achieve their goals. If your gut tells you not to trust someone, pay attention, and proceed with extreme caution.

7. “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

It's always advised to think before you speak. If you don't have your facts in order then it's better to remain silent until you know what you're talking about. Thoughtless words can create a mess that is hard to redeem in the business world. If you don't know the answer, be honest, then tell the person you'll research it, give them a timeline and share your knowledge when you know it's factual.

6. “When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!”

This is like saying "when it rains it pours." Be prepared for days when everything seems to go wrong. It's the nature of business. Sometimes you're on top of the world but there are also humbling moments when problems arise that seem insurmountable. It's usually helpful to take a deep breath, clear your head, and even go for a walk around the block. Just a few moments can help you return to the issues with a clear head. If problems are raining down one right after another deal with one at a time, then reward yourself when it's over. This is especially true for a lot of new entrepreneurs, so be prepared and stay strong.

5. “God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.”

Don't be two-faced. It will destroy your reputation. Avoid gossip and backbiting because every word that you speak will get passed around to others. It's better to say something to a person's face than behind their back, and when you do observe appropriate business protocols.

4. “Sweets to the sweet.”

It never hurts to be nice to people. These include the people you work for, your co-workers, customers, or if you're the boss, your subordinates. It makes people feel better about themselves and they're more likely to work harder and to be more productive. It's Shakespeare's way of saying you catch more bees with honey and you're likely to be treated more nicely by others if you do this for them.

3. “I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.”

In high leadership positions, there are times when you have to make decisions that cause inconvenience or loss to some. An example of this is a company that is floundering and must lay off half the work-force. You must decide who will stay and who will go. You can deliver the message professionally and with kindness, however. Another example is if a worker simply can't do the work required in the job. It's kinder, to be honest with the person than to ignore it and let them suffer further failure.

2. “If we are true to ourselves, we can not be false to anyone.”

When we're honest in all of our dealings then we can lay our heads down at night with a clear conscience. Being dishonest is not being true to our values and sense of morality (if you're honest and moral, to begin with). You can't lie to someone and feel good about it. This goes back to being true to yourself.

1. “Words, words, words.”

Words are powerful when they are used appropriately. It's important in business to be able to use words to communicate clearly with those around us. Our choice of words can have a big impact on our success or failure, or how others perceive us. Choose your words carefully and realize that every word you say can create an impression on the person you're communicating with.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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