5 Things Mother Teresa Never Said That Can Nevertheless Inspire the Hell Out of You

The soon-to-be saint is one of the most-misquoted women in history. On the bright side, the quotes still resonate.

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By Ray Hennessey

Manfredo Ferrari | Wikimedia Commons
Mother Teresa

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There are a lot of people peddling inspiration nowadays, but very rarely do we get some good entrepreneurial advice from a saint, or at least someone who is about to be named one.

Well, kind of.

A second miracle was confirmed by the Vatican over the weekend, lining up Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu -- better known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, or, better yet, Mother Teresa -- to be canonized by the Catholic Church in 2016.

The soon-to-be St. Teresa was known for her tireless work with the poor, notably in India, where she spent most of her life and where she established her religious order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Bl. Teresa is also one of the most misquoted people in history. Most of her famous "quotes" -- particularly the ones that have resonance to modern entrepreneurs and those who aspire to be -- are more paraphrases or cleaned-up versions, rather than her authentic written words. Some she didn't even come close to saying. But I kind of think Bl. Teresa would intercede on my behalf for forgiveness of the venial sin in reprinting these oft-repeated, misattributed statements.

For entrepreneurs, they're the answer to a good many prayers, so we can ignore the devils in the details, just this once:

'God doesn't require us to succeed. He only requires that you try.'

So many people don't follow a dream, or try to turn an idea into a product, because of a paralyzing fear. Entrepreneurship takes risk. Risk often leads to losses -- financial, emotional, spiritual. Failure is not only a possibility; it is a probability.

But there is joy, and education, in trying. Just attempting something new adds value to your life.

Related: Dance Your Ass Off When You Win

'Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.'

Passion is a double-edged sword for business leaders, and sharper for entrepreneurs. We think big, and get frustrated when the love of our job, our project, our company isn't shared by the rest of the world. But I often think that's our fault, not everyone else's. The great love and outsized passion we bring to our daily work doesn't have to be used on the large goals we have in front of us, but is more effectively channeled toward the smaller tasks in front of us. After all, innovation can happen in small, but no less meaningful, ways.

'I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.'

The word "ecosystem" is used a lot in entrepreneurship. That's a function of how collaborative the community is. When I spend time at coworking spaces like AlleyNYC, where we are an investor and partner, I love to see individual companies building products, but also collaborating with one another.

No one really operates alone, as lonely as entrepreneurship and company leadership may seem. All efforts in capitalism are interconnected, and we play a daily role in a system that includes customers, partners, employees, investors and competitors. Each action we make, large or small, has a ripple effect.

Related: Want True Equality for All? Support Entrepreneurship.

'I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things.'

If you are a true leader, you know the value of your team. You know that you always should put employees first. You know that culture is important. You know that, even if your name is the only one on the door, you got there through the help of the people around you.

I've argued that all entrepreneurship is "social" entrepreneurship because building a business has two main effects: solving a problem for a customer with a need, and giving someone else a job. When you hire employees, you change their lives, and you benefit from their talent and their time. If you hire well, you bring into your community people with experiences, backgrounds and skillsets that complement, rather than copy, your own. If you hire poorly, great things can't happen.

'I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.'

Of all the quotes in the Bl. Teresa apocrypha, this is my favorite. How many of us have doubted? All of us, hopefully, since doubt is a necessary condition for the faith we need to soldier on. Even in the darkest of moments, leaders find a way to win. It comes from a mindset that we can achieve anything if we just have faith in ourselves.

That's a key trait of entrepreneurs: they believe they are capable. It isn't ego. It certainly isn't hubris. Rather, it's a confidence in the gifts they can bring and share with the world. No matter how hard the work gets, no matter the strife and suffering that comes, the mission matters, and good business leaders and entrepreneurs can rely on their minds and skills to make something special happen.

Related: If the Brontosaurus Can Make a Comeback, So Can You

Ray Hennessey

Former Editorial Director at Entrepreneur Media

Ray Hennessey is the former editorial director of Entrepreneur.

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