20 Ron Swanson Quotes That Apply to Business

Fans of the television series “Parks and Recreation” will appreciate how easy it is to take the quotes made by the director of Pawnee Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson, and use them as inspirations. While some are side-splittingly funny, others really do have some great applications for the business world. Although there are hundreds of them out there, we’ve taken those that are the most applicable to the business world to include in our list. Here are 20 Ron Swanson quotes that apply to business.

20. “If any of you need anything at all, too bad.”

This is a quote that Ron Swanson made to warn his subordinates that he doesn’t like to be asked for advice. In business, some of us are fortunate enough to have bosses who are happy to give us advice on how to proceed. However, there are supervisors and directors like Ron Swanson who don’t want to be bothered by staff and they prefer that you get the information that you need from somebody else. It’s good to identify this preference quickly and if you have a boss who doesn’t like to give advice, don’t ask because you’ll just irritate him or her.

19. “Deal with your problems yourselves, like adults”

This quote came right after Ron’s famous “If any of you need anything at all, too bad,” quote. He, like many other leaders in organizations, expect their staff members to act like adults and deal with their own problems. It is important to act like adults when we’re on the job. Whenever possible we should deal with our own problems, just so long as it doesn’t lead to mistakes being made about important decisions that affect the company or others who you work with.

18. “The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am.”

While it’s a good idea to know a little bit about co-workers and their personalities, Ron had a point. Sometimes knowing too much about other people’s business can make it harder to work with them. It’s not a good idea to share your entire life story with the people that you work with. A few personal things to help them get to know you better is recommended, but when it comes to business, having too much information about other people can muddy the waters and it can affect the entire work environment. Don’t share too much with co-workers and avoid digging around for gossip about others for a more productive work environment and less gossip and hard feelings.

17. “There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk. Which is water that’s lying about being milk.”

This quote is especially relevant for business. Honesty is vital in business because it signals that you’re a person who can be trusted. If you’ve earned a reputation for being a liar then those you work with and others who may be clients or customers are going to be wary of working with you. Most of us shy away from someone who is known to be dishonest.

16. “Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait…I worry what you heard was, “Give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was, give m all the bacon and eggs you have. Do you understand?”

This quote has a lot of meaning for business because it deals with listening carefully and forming an understanding of exactly what you have been told. Some of us have a tendency to only hear part of what a person in business is telling us. This can lead to misunderstandings. Ron is clarifying his demand and pointing out common misunderstandings to make sure that the person he is talking to has a clear understanding of what he is saying. Clarification is a good thing because it can help us to avoid making mistakes based on faulty assumptions.

15. “I’d wish you the best of luck but I believe luck is a concept created by the weak to explain their failures.”

It’s clear that Ron Swanson doesn’t believe in luck. Although he has a cynical view of people and the world in general, there is something of value in his statement. In most cases, we don’t need luck when we approach business from a solid point of view that includes a foundation of knowledge, skills, and a can-do attitude. Swanson is basically saying that we make our own luck and that in business anything that happens is nothing more than the result of cause and effect.

14. “Crying: Acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.”

Swanson is saying that there is a time and a place to cry. It’s not on the job. He has a good point here. While we are all humans and everyone has emotions, the workplace isn’t the right place to exhibit them. This is an environment where we must focus on the tasks at hand and not be distracted by our personal feelings. If someone hurts your feelings on the job, it’s better to suck it up and carry on instead of having a meltdown or putting on an emotional display in front of everyone else.

13. “There are only three ways to motivate people: money, fear, and hunger.”

As a leader, it’s important to know how to motivate those who report to you at work. Ron Swanson seemed to have his own notion of what it takes, and although he isn’t wrong, it goes much deeper than this. People are certainly motivated to act for money, out of fear, or if they’re hungry, but there are also more positive approaches to take to the problem of motivation.

12. “Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons.”

As a director, Ron Swanson certainly has a high opinion of his own abilities, and while this is a good thing, in his case, it would probably be more effective if he were a little less arrogant about it. This shows us what not to do in business. It’s great to show self-confidence, but setting yourself as the supreme authority is a sure-fire way to make people resentful or roll their eyes. Insinuating that your subordinates are not as mature, or not as strong is not the best approach to take. It’s like setting yourself up on a pedestal and telling everyone they need to be just like you to be of merit at the company. This is the totally wrong approach, but sadly, there are real bosses who act like Ron Swanson and they believe that they are god-like.

11. “Great job, everyone.” The reception will be held in each of our individual houses, alone.”

When you work for a company it’s great to receive acknowledgement for a job well-done. The truth of the matter is that there are going to be times in your career when you excel on a project, but you won’t receive acknowledgement for your contributions. Sometimes a superior will take credit and leave your name completely out of it when it’s time to acknowledge its success. You know you did a good job, but the celebration will be one that is solely yours. Don’t expect to receive praise for doing your job. It’s what is expected of you and you are compensated with a paycheck for your time and effort.

10. “I’m a simple man.” I like pretty, dark-haired women, and breakfast food.”

Ron Swanson held it to the basics when describing himself to others. This is actually a good way to approach self-disclosure in the business world. When the company brings everyone together for an ice-breaker or to get to know one another better at a retreat or other workshop, it’s best to keep it simple. Becoming too familiar with co-workers can get messy. It can lead to gossip or wasting time on the job talking about personal issues. Keep it simple and let them know a few benign details about you.

9. “One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.”

The first part of Ron’s quote allows for one terrible outburst every three months. It’s a quarterly thing, but it’s not recommended. The second part of the quote is the most applicable to business. “Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.” In the business world, there can be casualties in a competitive environment. It’s always best to operate in a way that doesn’t cause harm to the innocent in the workplace. Give everyone the respect that they are due and avoid making decisions that will not be in the best interest of the team whenever possible.

8. “That is a canvas sheet, the most versatile object known to man. It can be used to make tents, backpacks, shoes, stretchers, sails, tarpaulins, and I suppose, in the most dire of circumstances, it can be a surface on which to make art.”

Recognize the value of something when you’re in business. Don’t get stuck in a rut and when you can streamline and use a system, process, or physical goods for multiple purposes, maximize its versatility. See the possibilities in everything.

7. “Straight down the middle. No hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.”

In many instances, the straight-forward approach is the best in business. A lot of time gets wasted by making things more complicated than they need to be. Streamlining without a lot of fanfare can take you where you need to be a lot faster.

6. “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Don’t teach a man to fish…and feed yourself. He’s a grown man. And fishing’s not that hard.”

While it’s good to help others when you can, take care of your own business first in a professional setting. A lot of time gets wasted helping others to do their jobs. Unless you’re really needed, focus on your own priorities. Some workers use the act of “helping” as a way to get out of their own responsibilities.

5. “The free market is a jungle, it’s beautiful and brutal and should be left alone. When a business fails it dies and a new better business takes its place. Just let business be business and government be government.”

What he says about business failure is definitely true. When one fails, another takes its place, so be aware that there is competition out there and let it motivate you to be better than the rest of them with the services or goods you provide in some way.

4. “Capitalism is the only way, Leslie. It’s what moves our country forward. It’s what makes America great, and England okay, and France terrible.”

In business, it’s good to have a working knowledge of the system that you’re operating within. Swanson’s views are more like wishful thinking. Be aware that businesses must conform to regulations established by the government.

3. “The government should not prop up a failed business. That would be like giving food to a mortally wounded animal instead of slitting its throat and properly utilizing its meat and pelt.”

It’s important to know when to keep swinging to bail out a failing business, or when to fold up. Most new businesses fail within a few years of startup and sometimes it’s better to start fresh. Depending on why a business fails, you could be putting good money back into a venture that doesn’t stand a chance of succeeding when it could be funneled into something that could succeed.

2. “Sting like a bee. Do not float like a butterfly. That’s ridiculous.”

It’s good to have an accurate assessment of the situation that you’re in when you’re in business. You can’t always be nice. Sometimes you have to be firm and not back down. Although he takes a harsh stance on this principle, sometimes it does apply.

1. “I once worked with a man for three years and never got to know his name. Best friend I ever had.”

Most of the time upper management is more concerned with the results that you provide instead of how well you can dazzle them with your words. This is an admonishment to keep it professional, stick to the facts, and avoid going overboard sharing personal details about your life and your personal opinions.



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