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Effort, in physical terms, is the amount of work involved in performing an activity; in general use it is also synonymous with Endeavor, which implies a deliberate exertion, and to use more energy than usual in an activity.


  • In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result. Chance is not. Gifts, powers, material, intellectual, and spiritual possessions are the fruits of effort; they are thoughts completed, objects accomplished, visions realized.
    • James Allen, As A Man Thinketh, Visions and Ideals (1902)
  • Inscribe all human effort with one word,
    Artistry’s haunting curse, the Incomplete!
    • Robert Browning (1812–1889), British poet. The Ring and the Book, Bk. 11, l. 1560 (1868–1869)
  • Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
    Or what's a heaven for?
    • Robert Browning, "Andrea Del Sarto," The Complete Poetic and Dramatic Works of Robert Browning (1895), p. 346
  • To rank the effort above the prize may be called love.
  • Beautiful objects are wrought by study through effort, but ugly things are reaped automatically without toil.
    • Democritus (ca. 4th century BCE). Tr. Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Complete Translation of the Fragments in Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (1948)
  • Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
    But he with a chuckle replied
    "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
    wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
    he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
    his face. If he worried he hid it.
    He started to sing as he tackled the thing
    That couldn't be done, and he did it.
    • Edgar Albert Guest, "It Couldn't Be Done," stanza 1, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest (1934), p. 285
  • The mode in which the inevitable comes to pass is through effort.
  • Genius is often only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it — so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.
    • Elbert Hubbard, as quoted from Electrical Review (c. 1895) without further attribution in The Search for the North Pole (1896) by Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, p. 520, this was later published as part of various works by Hubbard, including FRA Magazine : A Journal of Affirmation (1915), and An American Bible (1918) edited by Alice Hubbard.
  • What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
  • If there is effort, there is always accomplishment.
    • Jigoro Kano, as quoted in Black Belt : Judo Skills and Techniques (2006) by Neil Ohlenkamp, p. 36
  • He has called on the best that was in us. There was no such thing as half-trying. Whether it was running a race or catching a football, competing in school—we were to try. And we were to try harder than anyone else. We might not be the best, and none of us were, but we were to make the effort to be the best. “After you have done the best you can,” he used to say, “the hell with it.”
  • The smallest effort is not lost,
    Each wavelet on the ocean tost
    Aids in the ebb-tide or the flow;
    Each rain-drop makes some floweret blow;
    Each struggle lessens human woe.
    • Charles Mackay, The Old and the New, Voices from the Crowd, and Town Lyrics (1857)
  • Give
    Me leisure, all the time Maecenas found
    For Horace and his Virgil, and I'll try
    To build a masterpiece destined to live
    And save my name from ashes. When the ground
    Is poor, the ox works listlessly; rich soil
    Tires, but there's satisfaction then in toil.
    • Martial, Epigrammata, translated by James Michie
  • To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals — this alone is worth the struggle.
    • William Osler, as quoted in Wisdom for the Soul (2006) by Larry Chang, p. 678
  • The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.
  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, address at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.—“Citizenship in a Republic,” The Strenuous Life (vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), chapter 21, p. 510 (1926)
  • Do not attempt to accomplish greater results by a greater effort of your little understanding, but by a greater understanding of your little effort. The greater your understanding of the power within yourself, the less effort you need to make in order to achieve.
  • Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
    • George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905-1906), Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense
  • These ceremonies and the National Statuary Hall will teach the youth of the land in succeeding generations as they come and go that the chief end of human effort in a sublunary view should be usefulness to mankind, and that all true fame which should be perpetuated by public pictures, statues, and monuments, is to be acquired only by noble deeds and high achievements and the establishment of a character founded upon the principles of truth, uprightness, and inflexible integrity.
    • Alexander H. Stephens, remarks in the House, February 15, 1881, upon Vermont’s presentation of a statue of Jacob Collamer to Statuary Hall. — Congressional Record, vol. 11, p. 1611