160 Denzel Washington Quotes on Ambition & Drive

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1. “I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.”
2. “Do what you have to do, to do what you want to do.”
3. “Don’t aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.”
4. “The chances you take, the people you meet, the people you love, the faith that you have. That’s what’s going to define you.”
5. “I think a role model is a mentor—someone you see on a daily basis, and you learn from them.”
6.“Be careful what you ask for because when you pray for rain, you have to deal with the mud as well.”
7. “If you have an enemy, then learn and know your enemy, don’t just be mad at him or her.”
8. “The time to worry about flying is when you’re on the ground. When you’re up in the air, it’s too late. No point in worrying about it then.”
9. “Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, or dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt by the heart.”
beautiful things in life are not seen, but felt by the heart.”
10. “If I am a cup maker, I’m interested in making the best cup I possibly can. My effort goes into that cup, not what people think about it.”
11. “My faith helps me understand that circumstances don’t dictate my happiness, my inner peace.”
12. “Man gives you the award, but God gives you the reward.”
13. “I’d be more frightened by not using whatever abilities I’d been given. I’d be more frightened by procrastination and laziness.”
14. “What it taught me was forgiveness. It taught me that when people present themselves in a certain way, there’s probably some back story, or issue, or reason for the way that they are. It’s not you, it’s them. And a lot of times, it’s about something that’s completely out of their control.”
15. “Success? I don’t know what that word means. I’m happy. But success, that goes back to what in somebody’s eyes success means. For me, success is . That’s a good day for me.”
16. “Old man’s gotta be the old man, fish has gotta be the fish. You gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what.”
17. “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big.”
18. “You only live once, so do what you feel passionate about.”
19. “There is a lot of joy to be found in reflecting upon your experiences as you work towards your dreams. Learn to laugh at your failures, smile at your wins, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.”
20. “Give other people’s opinions their right significance. Take advice if it is constructive, and learn from it. But do not build your life based around the opinions of others. yourself and trust your choices.”
21. “The only thing stopping you from achieving your dreams are the stories you keep telling yourself that you can’t. Don’t wait, act now. Regret nothing.”
22. “Never compromise on who you are. You are born with the capacity to achieve greatness, if you so desire. Learning to say no is a critical element to accessing that greatness. Your choices will define you—so make them the right ones.”
23. “In order to change your life, you must change your thoughts.”
24. “Life is a melting pot of knowledge and experience, both your own and that of everyone around you. Don’t be afraid to learn from others’ mistakes, and take bits of useful information or ideas that help you get better at what you do. Wisdom is there at your fingertips, use it.”
25. “Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”
26. “We live in a time when people give up too easily.”
27. “A man once told me that you step out of your door in the morning, and you are already in trouble. The only question is—are you on top of that trouble or not?”
28. “The greatest lesson I’ve learned in life is, ‘Who knows what’s good or bad?’ Things come along that you really want, and they turn out to be the worst thing in the world. And some of the worst tragedies that you can conceive turn out to be the best things, the exact medicine you need in that moment.”
29. “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.” 
30. “I never really had the classic struggle. I had faith.”
31. “I read the Bible every day.”
32. “Talent comes from God. If you have been given some, then value it, cultivate it, work and develop it.”
33. “Faith is the confidence, the assurance, the enforcing truth, the knowing.”
34. “Put God first in everything you do. Everything that I have is by the grace of God, I understand that. It’s a gift. I didn’t always stick with Him, but He stuck with me.”
35. “I pray that you all put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you gotta get on your knees in the morning to find them. And while you’re down there, thank God for grace, and mercy, and understanding. We all fall short of the glory, we all got plenty.” 
36. “I believe in God. I don’t fear man, I fear God.”
37. “I’ve always felt protected. That’s God’s honest truth.”
38. “I walk by faith, not by sight.”
39. “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”
40. “The lessons I learned in School have kept me on track.”
41. “I got on my knees, and sort of communicated with the spirits. When I came out, I was in charge. I couldn’t have acted that, I couldn’t have written that.”
42. “Religion, to me, is when man gets a hold of spirituality—‘My god is right, yours is wrong.’ Religion, to me, is the human condition—‘If you’re a Muslim, you can’t be a Christian.’ That, to me, is religion.”
43. “We’ve all received our share of good fortune, so that’s my definition of much. A single blessing is all the bounty in the world, and if you’ve been blessed at all, you’re meant to pass some of that on. You’re meant to set a positive example. That’s our responsibility.”
44. “If you don’t trust the pilot, don’t go.”
45. “I’ve worked in a factory. I was a garbage man. I worked in a post office. It’s not that long ago. I like to think that I’m just a regular guy.”
46. “In any profession, it gets to be a grind.”
47. “Where I think the most work needs to be done is behind the camera, not in front of it.”
48. “I haven’t been unemployed for 20 years. I’m an exception to the rule.”
49. “If you want to be a , you have to train.”
50. “Just because you are doing a lot more doesn’t mean you are getting a lot done. Don’t confuse movement with progress!”
51. “Goals, on the road to achievement, cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.”
52. “Faith will get you to a point. Luck will get you to a point. But to achieve the kind of success you dream about, you need to work. There are no shortcuts, you can’t cheat life, just get to work and don’t stop until you reach your highest potential.” 
53. “To protect , you gotta catch the wolf. And it takes a wolf to catch a wolf, you understand?” 
54. “The Bible says, ‘faith without works is nothing’ so destiny is great, fate is great, faith is great, but you still have to work at it. I don’t just sit at home and wait for it all to unfold.”
55. “What are you doing extra? That’s what counts. That’s when you’re working hard—when you’re going above and over what’s expected of you.”
56. “If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.”
57. “I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me—spiritually and financially.”
58. “Dreams are great. In fact, dreams are necessary in life, or no one would ever go anywhere! But a dream without a goal, and without action, has no opportunity to come true.”
59. “There are two kinds of pain in this world—the pain that hurts, the pain that alters.”
60. “I played Othello, but I didn’t sit around thinking how Laurence Olivier did it when he played it. That wouldn’t do me any good.”
61. “When I did A Soldier’s Story, I was very young and green, and thought I knew everything—now I know I know everything!”
62. “I like talking. I like acting.”
63. “One good thing about acting in film is that it’s good therapy.”
64. “My role 14 years ago in Richard III—that was the first time I played a bad guy and learned a lot about it—they have all the fun!”
65. “I just try to be honest and true to the character and play the part.” 
66. “I’ve been fortunate. I don’t pick scripts, scripts pick me.”
67. “I love research and being educated. It’s a great job, being able to step into all kinds of professions and into other people’s shoes.”
68. “We’ll all retire from life at some point. The great thing about acting is you don’t necessarily have to retire.”
69. “Sometimes when you’re the good guy, you’re sort of trapped. ‘Oh, he can’t say that.’ And even when you’re playing a real person, like a Steven Biko, you’re sort of stuck within those confines. So yeah, bad guys do have more fun.”
70. “As an actor in the theatre, you’re taught that you never play a bad guy. You have to love who you are. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m a bad guy.’ How do you play that?”
71. “I read a ton of scripts. I read a lot of scripts. And you read one, and first of all, you felt like you read it in 14 minutes, because you’re turning the pages so fast, you can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”
72. “Acting is like music, and you improvise. It’s like jazz, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s not a plan. You practice to music and you just play it.”
73. “That’s what I tell young actors, ‘You don’t have to compromise. Go, do some theatre, and wait for an appropriate role.’”
74. “Every day, sincerely and without phoniness, Lou demonstrated by his actions how very vital it is—more than anything else—to understand and appreciate the people who work with you. Do your job well, learn your job well, but always remember that the people you work with are your most valuable asset. Embrace them. Honor them. Respect them.”
75. “The last few years, I’ve been saying I was ready to quit. It wasn’t that interesting to me. Now that I’m directing, it’s all new again.”
76. “I’m not interested in being a celebrity; I’m interested in being a better actor and a better director.” 
77. “I have a new respect for filmmakers, that’s for sure, ’cause it’s not easy. If I’m allowed to, I’ll be directing for the rest of my life. I love the process.”
78. “As an actor, you’re a color of paint on someone else’s palette. But as a director, it’s your canvas, and you make the painting you want to make.”
79. “The only reason I’m acting in films, I direct, is to get the money to make them. Quite frankly, it’s not what I’m interested in doing.”
80. “So, you never know who you touch. You never know how or when you’ll have an impact, or how important your example can be to someone else.”
81. “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”
82. “True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you, sent beforehand, to indicate that it’s yours already.”
83. “There’s nothing good or bad, except by comparison.”
84. “When you do good, you get good! Fulfilment comes from serving others, not just hustling to serve yourself. On the path to success, there is always going to be an opportunity to help someone else be successful too. Take that opportunity, and be the kind of person who makes a difference in the lives of others.”
85. “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. Now, I’ve been blessed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in my life. I can’t take it with me, and neither can you. It’s not how much you have but what you do with what you have.”
86. “Hate—hatred for yourself, for other people—will confine you, but love can set you free.”
87. “A part of me still says, ‘Maybe, Denzel, you’re supposed to preach. Maybe you’re still compromising.’ I’ve had an opportunity to play great men, and through their words, to preach. I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good.”
88. “For whatever reason, God has blessed me with the ability, put me in a position to make these leaps and bounds. I’m fulfilling my part of the bargain, which is to give back and be a positive influence on others.”
89. “Bad guys need love too.”
90. “Acting is just a way of making a living, the family is life.”
91. “My ultimate life dream project is my kids—my family.”
92. “A wise woman knows the importance of speaking life into her man. If you love him, believe in him, , and be his peace.” 
93. “In marriage, if you’re a guy, learn two phrases—one is “yes, dear,” and the other is “honey, you’re right.” Be patient. Be good friends first, and stick together. You gotta work at it. It’s not all a honeymoon, it’s not all flowers and roses, but if you’re friends, and partners, and committed, you’ll be okay. And everybody’s got advice for you—don’t listen.”
94. “Just stick with your kids. There’s no set of rules on how to be a parent—no handbook. Just hang around your kids and ask them a lot of questions. You have to stay involved in your children’s lives and monitor everything they’re doing whether they like it or not. You’re not in the job of making them like it. You’re there to protect them in a world that can be troubling.”
95. “The secret to a happy marriage? Do whatever your wife tells you. ‘Yes, dear,’ and breathe.”
96. “I am not going to bury ! My son is going to bury me!”
97. “When my oldest boy was about 14, I started to talk to him about some of the mistakes I made in life, just to put a few dents in that shiny armor.”
98. “I’m a parent. I think we’re responsible for the problems that young people have. I believe that. I don’t blame them for any of it. I blame us for what we haven’t done as mothers and fathers, not sticking together as a unit.”
99. “My mother used to tell me, ‘You gotta smile more, because if you don’t smile, the way you look at people, they’ll think you’re mad at them.’”
100. “I’m not a film buff. I don’t watch a lot of movies.”
101. “It’s simple—you get a part, you play a part, you play it well. You do your work and you go home. And what is wonderful about movies is that once they’re done, they belong to the people. Once you make it, it’s what they see. That’s where my head is at.”
102. “When people protest and are upset with a movie, it becomes a big hit. They hated Passion of the Christ, it worked out pretty well for the box office. So let’s get that going.”
103. “Fundamentally, the most important thing is to get the film made for me, and to get as many people to see it as possible. And if I help that, then I know I help that, let’s put it that way. I do know that I help that. It is called show business.”
104. “When people say, ‘What do you want people to get from this movie?’ I say, ‘Well, it depends on what they bring to it.’ I don’t try to decide what people should get from it or why. I don’t do a part for those kinds of reasons.”
105. “Growing up, I didn’t watch movies.”
106. “People have said to me for a long time, ‘Man, you’re funny.’ I say, ‘Well, I’m quick,’ but being funny on purpose, take after take, that’s why I said for me it was new territory, and so by improvising something might come out that might be good. And it’s a film, so they can cut it if it isn’t.”
107. “I’ve always seen it to be a privilege to make movies. It’s a really expensive, creative medium.”
108. “I don’t look back, no. Maybe when I’m older. People say, ‘What’s your favorite film?’ I say, ‘My next one.’ I’m not interested in sitting around. I just don’t, never have.”
109. “There’s things that I can do as an actor that I couldn’t do in any other form of life, and I’ve got a strange personality. But film requires strange people, so I’ve got a nice comfy home.”
110. “A film is just like a muffin. You make it. You put it on the table. One person might say, ‘Oh, I don’t like it.’ One might say it’s the best muffin ever made. One might say it’s an awful muffin. It’s hard for me to say. It’s for me to make the muffin.”
111. “I get nervous when a picture goes beyond two hours.”
112. “There are films that I don’t like, and then someone will come up to me and say it’s their favorite movie. The movies belong to the people. You make them, and you put them out. For me, I love the process of making films. For me, my favorite film is always my next one.”
113. “When you make a movie, it’s always interesting, because you end up in places you never would as a normal visitor or tourist.”
114. “I wasn’t allowed to go to movies when I was a kid—my father was a minister. 101 Dalmatians and King of Kings, that was the extent of it.”
115. “I had a lot of success from the start. I never really was tested for long periods of time. I got my first professional job while I was a senior in college. I signed with the William Morris Agency before I graduated.”
116. “When I was a child I thought I saw an angel. It had wings and kinda looked . I opened the door so some light could come into the room, and it sort of faded away. My mother said it was probably my Guardian Angel.”
117. “My mother never gave up on me. I messed up in school so much they were sending me home, but my sent me right back.”
118. “I actually don’t hang out with any celebrities. My closest friends are old friends. And my real close friends, none of them are actors.” 
119. “I’m from around Tennessee. I ran away when I was 12 years old, and I ain’t never looked back.”
120. “In Los Angeles, everyone is a star.”
121. “You don’t know when you’re being watched. That’s one of the weird things about celebrities. It’s my least favorite part of acting—celebrity.”
122. “I don’t concern myself with awards. I’d been to the party enough times to know it really didn’t matter.”
123. “I work hard for the audience. It’s entertainment. I don’t need validation.”
124. “What’s a celebrity anyway? Paris Hilton’s a celebrity. I’m just a working actor.”
125. “Black or white good parts are hard to come by. A good actor with a good opportunity has a shot—without the opportunity, it doesn’t matter how good you are.”
126. “I think the bottom of the totem pole is African-American women or women of color. I think they get the least opportunities in Hollywood.”
127. “I’m very proud to be black, but black is not all I am. That’s my cultural historical background, my genetic makeup, but it’s not all of who I am nor is it the basis from which I answer every question.”
128. “There’s racism everywhere.”
129. “You don’t pick black actors or black directors because they are black, you pick them because they are good. If you lend somebody 50 million dollars, you want your money back. You don’t care if they are oppressed. You just want your money back.”
130. “Michelle Pfeiffer hasn’t been finding a lot of work recently because she doesn’t like what a woman her age is offered. That’s a . You get , who gets older and older, still playing opposite young ladies, but it doesn’t work the other way around.”
131. “I’m not in the loop—I don’t know any actors, really, just the ones I work with.”
132. “Dakota Fanning is a child, but she is a wonderful actor. I don’t know what a child actor is. She’s an actor who’s a child.”
133. “Meryl and Katharine Hepburn are probably the two greatest actresses of this and the last century.”
134. “I’ve worked with children all my life.”
135. “Some said America took a step forward electing a black president. In light of the unconstitutional expansion of powers, lack of transparency and fueling the fires of unrest clearly hasn’t been the case. Vote based on merits, not to fill a racial quota.” 
136. “There’s always got to be room for what you might call benign corruption. Nobody blames a man who steals food to feed his starving children, but on the other hand, somebody who picks up a badge and takes an oath to serve and protect—we do expect a certain level of essential honesty.” 
137. “The purpose of war is to serve a political end, but the true nature of war is to serve itself.”
138. “In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself.”
139. “Everybody has a job to do. There are people in Iraq, on both sides of this war who do what they do for religious reasons, and they feel with God on their side. Some people are good at annihilating people. Maybe that’s their gift.”
140. “You can’t break me, because you didn’t make me.” 
141. “Don’t tell me what they said about me, tell me why they were so comfortable to say it to you.”
142. “You can beat or jail me or even kill me, but I am not going to be what you want me to be!”
143. “Revenge is a meal best served cold.”
144. “Every punch that’s thrown is mine. Every punch that’s caught, I catch.”
145. “You have to grab moments when they happen. I like to improvise and ad-lib.”
146. “The poorest people are the sweetest people.”
147. “Any good piece of material like Shakespeare ought to be open to reinterpretation.”
148. “When you don’t understand something, you label it and condemn it.”
149. “Don’t get all sentimental on me, makes me think I’m gonna die.”
150. “Writing is a weapon, and it’s more powerful than a fist could ever be.”
151. “There’s a book called The Sociopath Next Door. I thought most sociopaths were violent. In fact, they aren’t. But almost all sociopaths want to win, no matter what.” 
152. “I’m a logic monster, if things don’t make sense I gotta make sense of them.”
153. “It is very important to transcend the places that hold us.”
154. “Money doesn’t buy happiness. Some people say it’s a heck of down payment, though.”
155. “I always think it’s not what we know that’s terrifying, it’s what we don’t know. That’s sort of pervasive with everything in life.”
156. “I think we’re fascinated by gangsters, and that whole lifestyle, and crossing the line. We get sort of stuck in our normal lives if you will, and you want to be bigger than life, and I think people somehow live through these sorts of characters.”
157. “If you don’t love your fellow man, women, person, then you don’t have anything. If you don’t treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated, that, to me, is the fundamental message.”
158. “You practice anything a long time, you get good at it. You tell a hundred lies a day, it sounds like the truth. Everyone everyone.”
159. “I think that if there can be considered racism, it’s to do with the lack of opportunities for writers and producers and the people behind the camera.”