Quotes for teens on life lessons

Quote for teens on secret to success and choosing a career

The secret to success isn’t just doing what you love.
It’s finding something you are interested in, and then working to be good at it."

-- Truth Be Told Quotes

It’s great if you can find the perfect job that lights your interest and comes to you naturally. But realistically, few people have their dream job on day one.

Getting to do what you love in the future starts with finding a balance between your abilities, your interests, and your work ethic. Find something you have the ability to be good at, are interested in doing, and are willing to work for.

It’s like you have adjustment levels… if your ability is low, turn up the work ethic to get better at it. If the work isn’t interesting right now, know that slogging through the boring stuff is turning up your abilities. Eventually you’ll find the sweet spot where ability and interest make it easy to work hard.

Activities for this quote

Teaching resources

Bring this quote into your classroom with a lesson guide and activities that are ready to use.

Quote Overview / Description

Quote about the secret to success

Young people often hear quotes like, “If you love what you do you won’t work a day in your life” or “You can be anything you want to be.” These quotes are nice in concept, but in reality, there’s a lot of hard work that needs to happen before you get the job you love. This quote reminds teens to take into account that a job aligned with their interests is important, but so is a growth mindset and putting in the work that is needed to reach their goals.

Interest + Ability + Work Ethic

The secret to choosing the right career is finding a sweet spot between three factors: interest + ability + willingness to work at it.

Success Factor 1: Interest

  • What sorts of things do you like to do without someone making you do them? Plenty of careers are rooted in areas that teens find compelling: computers, cars, discussing/arguing a viewpoint, music, knowing how things work, helping people, caring for animals, organizing, selling products or ideas. And of course there are subject areas like math, science, language, medicine, engineering, or law that some students will feel drawn to.
  • Teens can ask themselves, "What are the internal and external influences that are driving my career choice?" Are their goals driven by internal influences (their own interests and desires) or by parents, cultural expectations, peers? It's a lot easier to work hard at something in which you have a genuine interest.

Success Factor 2: Ability

  • For each person, some skills come easily and some require a lot of effort. Consider abilities like working well with others, creativity, working with your hands, studying, fixing things, communicating, seeing the bigger picture, selling ideas, leading people, solving puzzles, etc. What are the skills that come naturally and which ones can realistically be improved with a growth mindset?

Success Factor 3: Willingness to work at it

  • What type of tasks are you willing to work hard at? How hard will you push yourself in physical tasks, hands-on learning, classroom learning, competing, a long period before success?
  • In some cases, recognizing the ways in which one is willing to work hard can help a teen focus an interest and an ability into a career path more suited to them. Someone who enjoys physical labor or hands-on learning may follow a different path in the same industry as someone who prefers classroom learning.

See the Career Planning Worksheet for more on finding the balance between interest, ability, and work ethic.

Discussion questions / Writing Prompts

Questions to prompt discussion, journaling, essays for high school health class and social emotional development lessons:

  1. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? Have you changed your mind? Why? How do your reasons relate to your interest, abilities, and work ethic?
  2. For the career options you are considering, what characteristics and abilities are needed for success? How strong are your abilities, work ethic, and interest in each key characteristic. How does this formula help you evaluate your options?
  3. Is there anything that you are really good at, but wouldn’t want as a career? Why?
  4. Is there something you’d really like to get better at so you can make it a career?
  5. What are the main factors that are influencing you to choose a career / job? Internal drivers? Family? Money? Flexibility? Impact?
  6. Take an activity in your life and think about how it would be different if you dialed up one of the three factors for success (ability, work ethic, interest).
  7. Has anyone ever told you to reach for the stars? Was it good advice?


Activities and worksheets for teen SEL / high school health and wellness lessons:

  1. Career Planning Worksheet- Students identify interests, abilities, things they are willing to work at, then identify steps to take now to reach their goals.

Curriculum Topics

High School Health Class / Social Emotional Development Core Curriculum Alignment:

  • Goal setting
  • Self-awareness and control
  • Internal and external influences
  • Growth Mindset


  • Taking personal responsibility for your own future
  • Be aware of what influences your choices (family, culture, popularity, money)
  • Awareness of the difference between wants and needs
  • Setting long-term and short-term goals
  • You can work at becoming more able at different subjects and tasks

Character Traits/Values

  • Perseverance
  • Self-Awareness, Self-concept

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Quote for life on secret to success

The quote and opening paragraph of this page are an excerpt from the Book, Truth Be Told Quotes: Teen Edition. Presented with permission from the author, Colleen Doyle Bryant. ©LoveWell Press. Find the print and ebook versions of Truth Be Told Quotes on the Shop page.

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Colleen Doyle Bryant

Colleen Doyle Bryant is the author of five books and more than 50 learning resources about making good choices for the right reasons. Her Talking with Trees series for elementary students and Truth Be Told Quotes series for teens are used in curriculums around the world. Rooted in Decency, Colleen's latest release for an adult audience, explores what happened to common decency and how we can get to a place of more cooperation and kindness. Learn more at ColleenDoyleBryant.com.

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