One Piece, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, has some pretty deep moments. You get the sense that, as is the case generally with fiction writing, the characters are delivering little pieces of their author’s philosophical manifesto.
If there it is a theme that runs through the series it is determination. The character of Luffy is a paragon of single-mindedness. He is an embodiment of someone who is solely focused on what psychologist Abraham Maslow described as “self-actualization”. You can clearly see this in Luffy’s quotes.
Self-Actualization is described as “when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential.”
Who could be described being “engaged in achieving their full potential” more than Luffy?
I’ve gone through and picked out a bunch of my favorite quotes from various characters from One Piece, and organised them into themes. I’ve also presented my own thoughts on these quotes and contrasted them with other quotes from people from real life.
Let’s get into it!
One Piece Quotes About Purpose
Luffy makes an insightful observation here. Money, fame, power, none of these are really ends in themselves. They are means of achieving freedom. The more money you have, the more choices you have. The more freedom you have.
Which begs the question: why do we want freedom?
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the self-actualization I started off this article by talking about, is a human need. He argues that whatever you can be, you must be.
This isn’t a “nice to have”, “or that sounds fun” kind of thing. It’s a need in a similar way to food, shelter and security. If you don’t achieve your potential, the gap between where you are and where deep down you know you could be will burn a hole in your sense of wellbeing.
But it’s hard to self-actualise if you don’t have the freedom to pursue whatever it is you feel you need to pursue.
Luffy is not so much interested in being the boss, as achieving his ultimate potential as the greatest adventurer on the oceans.
This reminds me of a quote from folk-icon Bob Dylan,
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between he does what he wants to do.”
Nobody tells the Pirate King what to do – not in the world of One Piece, not nowhere.
This simple Luffy quote actually strikes on a deep truth. Life is about fun. As John Lennon says,
“Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans”
So you may as well have fun.
It’s no use being on an “adventure” if you’re not enjoying the process.
Isn’t this true of any great project? Who knows if you’ll make it to the destination, to the goal. But even if you do, and you’ve hated every moment leading up to it, was it worth it? And if you don’t reach it, what then?
And anyway, enjoying the process means you’re that much more likely to succeed.
You need to find a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic goals.
As legendary American Football coach Bill Walsh famously said that when you look after the fundamentals, “The score looks after itself”.
So you can have a goal of winning the Superbowl, but your measure of success is not whether you actually win the Superbowl or not. It is whether or not you executed all the actions that you said would give you the greatest chance of winning the Superbowl.
Did you do the exercises? Did you put in the training hours? Did you do the work to get your head in the right space?
If yes, then no matter the outcome, you were successful.
And making it fun along the way certainly helps.
I once came across a start up company that had a motto that I liked “If it’s not a “”F*** yeah!”” it’s a “”no””.
Luffy would agree. He won’t accept an adventure on any terms but his own.
I’m also reminded of the famous Fish Shop in San Francisco that became an international sensation when researchers into the science of well-functioning teams highlighted their extremely positive work culture.
Now, remember we are talking about working in a fish shop here. You are working with ice, smelly fish, heavy boxes and slippery floors. And yet, this little fish shop found a way to have fun, by energetically throwing the fish around the shop, by calling out to each other, by joking around with the customers.
They decided to have fun.
For Luffy, that is a decision that he makes every day and guards with his pirate ferocity.
One Piece Quotes About Friendship
One Piece demonstrates time and again throughout its unfolding narrative that it values friendship, and I’ve put together a full post of One Piece quotes about friendship here.
This dedication to friendship and unity is demonstrated most clearly in the central character of Luffy, who regularly lays his life on the line for his comrades.
In fact, this is so second nature to him that he believes that, naturally, his friends would feel just the same way about him:
This is in the context of a conversation with Bibi, who is doing everything to save Alabasta. But luffy demands more. He demands that his band of people put their lives on the line for one another. What is a life in the context of saving another?
Wouldn’t we all want that courage? Wouldn’t we all want that connection?
Luffy shows us in the next quote both that he has decided clearly on what he wants to concentrate on and what he does not. For all the things that he has decided not to concentrate on, he assembles a team, a band of comrades.
This quote was spoken in the context of an argument with Aaron. It was in response to barbed comment from Aaron who told Luffy he was “a stupid, weak and foolish person who couldn’t do anything on his own.”
Luffy, rather than denying this or trying to rebuff the comment, acknowledges the criticism openly. He acknowledges that no man is an ocean, accepts that he needs help, and expresses gratitude.
The way he expresses this is especially interesting. He not only “acknowledges” that he needs help to get by in life. He says that he has “confidence” in his inability.
This suggests he has clearly thought about what his strengths and weaknesses are, and what he is and isn’t willing to put his energy into improving.
This is gratitude for a larger community and family is something you hear a lot in Japan and a lot in One Piece!
Luffy also clearly exhibits a huge amount of trust in his companions. In this conversation with Rucchi, he shows both a dedication to protecting his friends from a terrible foe, but also an ability to trust they will look after themselves while Luffy is otherwise engaged.
Luffy has a deep respect for his team.
Isn’t that what we all want from our leaders?
It’s not just the character of Luffy that exhibits outstanding faith and love in the One Piece band of pirates. This quote from Nami shows her own dedication to the group.
It also points at the truism that life is not just about winning for yourself. It is also about being part of a group, of service to others, and connected with a larger purpose.
Indeed, Angela Duckworth in her research into what makes people stick with big projects or missions for the long haul identified “purpose” as one of the four factors that best predicted those that would fail from those that would not. The “purpose” was more related to the “bigger purpose” that a person’s work refers to in society.
Luffy’s band of pirates see themselves as being part of something bigger than just themselves.
One Piece Quotes About Strength
One piece has a lot of references to strength and weakness. And it has quite a bit to say about what defines these characteristics.
Here are a few.
The Japanese word 心 kokoro is hard to translate. In English it can be rendered alternatively as either heart or mind. It is interesting to see where different languages and cultures draw the lines between what they consider separate or unified concepts.
Whatever the best translation, Zoro here tells us that strength is more about kokoro than anything else. Yes, it is physical strength. Yes, it is the technique that supports the strength. But above all it is heart and mind that defines strength.
Sport is an obvious example where we see that the difference between top performers and others is their state of mind.
The ancient stoics saw the physical body and the mental body as such a continuum that their universities were also gymnasiums.
Which is all to say, if you want to be as strong as Zoro, you’ve got to work out more than just your biceps and abs.
This quote brings home the implications of strength and weakness in a much more unforgiving arena than the sports stadium. In all-out conflict, if you’re not strong, you won’t last. It’s only when bravery meets mental and physical training that great soldiers, or at least soldiers that have a chance of surviving, are born.
Worth remembering on the battlefield of life.
To take the line of thinking above to it’s brutal essence we have this powerfully succinct truism from Don Quixote.
It has been said that death is the true leveller. But it has been argued by Canadian philosopher and ex-palliative carer Stephen Jenkinson that death is by no means equal at all. The wealthy die with the best care, the mentally weak die differently to the mentally strong. Each death is unique.
This quote from Doctor Hiriluk is intriguing. It suggests that we do not truly die until our memory fades.
I’m reminded here of one of my favorite Tom Waits lyrics.
“A long dead soldier looks out
From the frame
No one remembers his war
No one remembers his name”-Tom Waits
The passage of time is relentless. Your rank is forgotten, your name is forgotten, your army is forgotten, your war is forgotten, your nation is forgotten.
Just like the forgotten King found on the stone tablet in the desert that read “here lies the greatest king the world has ever known”.
But is it when we are forgotten that we truly die? This begs the question, what is death? But that’s a whole longer conversation. Let’s move on to happier topics, like luck.
One Piece Quotes About Luck
This is similar to the phrase, “you make your own luck”.
As the McDonald’s CEO credited with launching McDonalds said:
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”-Ray Kroc
Or to take a quote from one of America’s preeminent thinkers:
“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
As with luck, as with miracles. If you want a miracle, you better get to work.
One Piece Quotes About Dreams
References to dreams and dreaming are fairly common in One Piece. Indeed, the central theme that propels the entire narrative along is Luffy’s dream of becoming the pirate king of the entire world.
To take a couple of these quotes:
Take a moment to think deeply on this quote and it packs a punch. You can reduce it down to it’s last three words, “dreams never end”.
Isn’t that simultaneously invigorating and awesome, in the original sense of the word, concept. All those dreams that you held when you were a child, teenager, a young adult
This quote from Gol D. Roger is intriguing.
I find it interesting that the first thing mentioned in the statement is the “will to be succeeded”. The “Succeed” here is as in “succeeding to the throne” or “she is my successor in taking over the company”.
Gol suggests that the urge to have someone to continue our work is right up there with “human dreams”.
And what is meant here by “the answer to freedom”.
In many ways, freedom does present a question to us. The question of “So, what are you going to do?”
It is a well documented fact that a plethora of choice can lead to paralysis.
So, really, the answer we need is not so much to “freedom” itself, but to choice.
The answer, I believe, is to “kill off your options”, in the way that “decide” etymologically means to literally “kill off” your options.
Mostly, this choice is arbitrary. It’s not the result of a systematic listing of the pluses and minuses as a gut feeling that is followed by a commitment. The question is less about whether or not you are making the right decision, as it is about whether you have wholly made the decision.
The “answer to freedom” is to ruthlessly kill your options.
One Piece Quotes About Overcoming
No dream is complete without challenges to overcome.
To quote a Tom Waits lyric again,
“A little trouble makes it worth the going”.
Or if you want to have a big adventure, a lot of trouble.
Overcoming adversity is a consistent theme in One Piece.
Nefertari Cobra tells us here that regret and loss are part of life. Trying to deny their existence is only a path to even greater frustration.
It’s better to accept these forces into our life. Embrace them even.
The ancient Stoics said that we should live life like a great game, umpired by the gods. We are presented with setbacks, losses, things we start but are unable to complete. These are tests. Tests of our character, our resolve, or very being.
Given such, we can even find a way to be thankful for these challenges. In this way, they are alchemised into opportunities. This is summed up in the often said, rarely fully embraced, aphorism “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.
Nefertari urges us to “stand on the wars” that we have lost, or won. As Brian Johnson says, “You win, or you learn”. Nothing more, nothing less.
Here we see Shanks explicitly linking this ability to overcome to manliness.
Whether or not it is healthy to link the ability to overcome adversity to gender is debatable, but if we take the larger point of “knowing victory and defeat” as being a part of maturity, or self-actualization, more generally then it is a useful concept for everyone.
It’s okay to cry. But dust yourself and keep on going afterwards, knowing that your tears make you stronger.
One Piece Oda in this Bellemere quote seems to open up the possibility of “strength” being an ungendered term, while simultaneously negating it somewhat by saying “even girls must become strong”.
But he has Bellemere offer us some timeless pearls of wisdom. She essentially gives us the Monty Python “Always look on the bright side of life” message here.
She urges us to smile in every situation. This makes me think of Amy Cuddy’s iconic Ted Talk on how your body language actually affects your emotional state. She argues that, rather than there being a one way street where your mental state leads to physical changes such as slouching, frowning or rubbing your temples, there is a two way relationship where how you hold yourself affects your mental state.
Physicality and mentality are a loop.
The other message from this Bellemere quote is that if you can stick at it through the hard times, there are inevitably better times approaching. To put it in a word, you have to hope.
Hope is everything.
One Piece Quotes About Uncertainty
We’ll end our exploration of some of the wisdom found in One Piece quotes with a couple of quotes on uncertainty.
The first is from Silvers Rayleigh.
The Japanese word 戸惑う can mean “confused” or “unsure” or “uncertain”. But I’ve translated it here as “lost”.
You could interpret the idea “To be lost is life itself” in a negative or a positive light.
Personally, I think the idea that life really is just a process of “muddling through” or “trial and error” is liberating. Noone is born into life with a map. Yes, you can try to emulate other people’s processes, approaches or systems. But, ultimately, what works for one person won’t work perfectly for another. Each person’s circumstances, abilities, environment, and time is different.
To quote a Taoist idea “you can never step in the same river twice”.
So, we are essentially “lost” in the world.
What do you do when you are lost? You step one foot in front of the other, try to put some systems in place to keep you going in one direction, and just keep going. And you hold onto hope.
As long as you’re moving, you haven’t failed.
Indeed, for Luffy, the unknown or the mysterious is an integral part of what makes it all worthwhile.
He doesn’t even want to know the answers, as is made clear in this conversation:
If you have all the answers, then the questions are no fun. And for Luffy:
For Luffy, fun means plunging headlong into the darkness. It means stepping boldly into the unknown.
It’s the process of discovery, not the discovery itself.
One Note Quotes – In Conlusion
So, hopefully some of these quotes are helpful to you in your life, whatever point in your journeys you may be at.
Next time you are at a difficult point, it might be helpful to think about “what would Luffy do” in this situation?
Maybe there is a way for us all to find a way to be our own “pirate hero”.
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