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Most Inspiring Phrases & Quotes Used in and About Tech

Here are some favourite sayings from the world of work and technology.

I’m not one for the motivational quotes collection, but I cannot escape noticing that some phrases and sayings come up again and again in articles about technology on the web. 

They can be inspiring and quite entertaining, but I don’t really keep track of where I first encountered them. Perhaps in movies about tech companies too and in social media posts, as some quotes are recycled to fit in with the times.

1. "Be so good they can't ignore you."

Comedian Steve Martin has been credited with quoting this in many articles online. He came up with an advice in a 2007 episode of the Charlie Rose Show, when talking about Martin’s memoir, “Born Standing Up.” His advice has been quoted time and again in blog posts and articles on various aspects of work performance.

Just recently in 2012, Cal Newport published parts of the quote as a book title, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, debunking the myth of following your passion. Alternatively, people are recycling Steve Martin's quote and are coming up with things from “Create so much they can’t ignore you,” and “Be so prolific they can’t ignore you,” even “Be so stupid they can’t ignore you.” 

2. "Real artists ship."

This old saying at Apple Computer has been discussed and used in relation to SaaS product launch strategies. Steve Jobs was initially referring to how equally important it was for the production team to actually produce software that delivers. He was quoted saying this when his team was about two years away from shipping the Mac.

3. "I think, therefore I am."

In Latin, the actual phrase is “Cogito, ergo sum” and originally translates to “Je pense, donc je suis” in French. Descartes’s philosophical musing about human existence is still used today and in various ways. 

Some people in web development say “I web, therefore I am,” or “I code, therefore I am.” There’s so many variations of this saying in today’s internet landscape and people don’t seem to be running out of ideas on how to recycle it: 

  • I subscribe, therefore I am? 
  • I teach, therefore I am.
  • I tech, therefore I am. 
  • I update, therefore I am. 
  • I blog, therefore I am.
  • [Your version goes here.

4. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I’ve adopted this advice in learning coding and in web designing. It’s how my unconscious works when presented with a new way of doing things, in contrast to the difficult, long, and boring route I have been taught about something. Or when encountering some new, shiny app. 

Especially with software or computer programs that will let you configure all sorts of things in all sorts of ways, but that does not mean you should actually do it.

Don’t quite remember where I first read this on, but I’ve come across other variations online, like “Just because you can do it yourself, doesn’t mean you should.” This advice is a healthy boundary, preventing you from doing things you might regret. 

The sister of Facebook founder, Randi Zuckerberg, was quoted by the Independent as saying, “Just because you can document every waking moment doesn’t mean you should.”

5. "You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies."

I remember where I first heard (or saw) this quote. It was from the trailer for the Social Network (2010) film, and I just assumed that the quote was from Mark Zuckerberg. I didn’t watch the film. So like the rest of us who missed out on the #1 box office movie then, we’ll never know who really said it.

6. "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

Obviously Picasso hadn't tried one of the current desktop computers or laptops. He was probably referring to the old computers that only knows how to do calculations. The kind of attitude towards computers is still very present among today’s users of the modern computer, especially when a computer stops working or has some sort of bug in the system. 

When I see memes of people kicking and destroying a computer, I can’t think of any better caption than this quote from Pablo Picasso.

7. "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."

There is just no way that this saying does not come from information technology. So many things in tech are in the “not broken” category, yet they don’t work as expected by the users. First there should be enough evidence that something is broken before anybody would do anything to try to improve it.

8. "Think outside the box."

“Thinking outside the box” it turns out, is a metaphor that promotes an unconventional way of thinking, a new perspective. The phrase could have originated from the management consultants in the 70s and 80s as a way to challenge their clients to solve the nine dots puzzle. 

The phrase often comes up in design thinking exercises and resources. It has now become the conventional way of thinking when you're working on a creative brief. 

9. "Silver bullet."

The phrase “silver bullet” means that a solution to a problem is close to being a miracle. Like a real bullet, a silver bullet solution to a problem cuts through everything and immediately solves the problem. 

In tech, data is often thought of as the miraculous solution to all problems. This is debatable, and data is very powerful, but it probably does not have that kind of power.

10. "It’s not rocket science."

This phrase is somewhat strange to hear, especially in countries that don’t make rockets. Something that is not rocket science is something that is easy to understand by the average Joe, not what only a select few can work on. 

People have used this phrase to describe tech-related concepts and to show support to those making a career transition to technology (meaning: it’s not beyond you).

11. "Start from scratch."

Also a common phrase used in tech. There are some things that apparently everyone needs not to start from scratch. "To start from scratch" means to start something without any preparation or any advantage, such as without a plan or an example. 

Some things like building a website, coding an app, writing a resume, or a research paper, are examples of exactly those things that you’re not supposed to start from scratch.

12. "Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value."

Albert Einstein has plenty of other quotes that are related to technology, but this one feels very dear to me. In today’s connected economies, people are always looking for ways to add value through their services or products. 

In job interviews too, when applying for work in a tech company or a startup, recruiters would probably want to know how a candidate can add value to the company.

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Most Inspiring Phrases & Quotes Used in and About Tech
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