Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. – Lyndon B. Johnson

Life is a place where we have to keep moving on. Taking the next step is essential at all times. However, sometimes people get sad and stuck on one particular thing. They don’t seem to move on or carry their lives. As a result, they even lose the future moments by staying in the past. For this reason, many motivational speakers guide us on moving ahead and forgetting the past. While it may be difficult, it is not entirely impossible which is why a person should try for sure to move on in life. Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”.

Lyndon Johnson

Who was Lyndon B. Johnson?

Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President of the United States who served between 1963 and 1969 and was also the Vice President of the State in the former term between 1961 and 1963. He has been an active politician with roles as a U.S Senator, U.S. Representative, and Senate Leader as well. Johnson was always focused on bringing peace to the United States by focusing on civil rights, public broadcasting, as well as the healthcare sector. Among his campaigns, “War on Poverty” was one of the most popular ones where he improved the living conditions for poor Americans. 

He also improved the Education System in America by enabling the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1968, he also announced the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite the fact that America was under pressure owing to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson took active steps to make sure that the future of the country was secure and safe. For this reason, his quote “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose” becomes even more important. 

Origin of this Quote

This quote’s origin lies in the transcript of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Thanksgiving message recorded and broadcasted from Washington. It was delivered on November 28, 1963. During this speech, the U.S president asked for prayers, strength, and help from the Nation. He said that we have a human duty to determine what the future of America will be. He talked about the death of a great leader but also talked about moving on as Yesterday cannot be recovered. However, the future could be determined. In short, his presidential speech was about not dwelling on the past but focusing on what is to come. 

This quote can also be found in Lyndon B. Johnson’s autobiography, published in 1964 by the New York Fleet Pub Corporation. It was written by Harry Provence in 1963 and talked about Johnson’s career and accomplishments.

Statue of Lyndon Johnson

Meaning of this Quote

The quote provides us with different aspects of life. We can evaluate the following learnings from this quote. 

What’s Gone is Gone

People are often stuck with their past. For this reason, they miss out a lot on the present and eventually miss out on making their future good too. Sometimes, it may be difficult for people to move on but the harmful consequences of being stuck in the past are way worse than the pain being caused due to bad memories. Lyndon B. Johnson clearly explains that yesterday isn’t something that we can recover from. 

In the modern world, this concept needs to be understood by a large majority. Relationships these days often end up on bad terms and people aren’t able to move on. Sometimes, this hinders their new relationships as they want things to go in a certain way. People want the same expectations and outcomes which they had from a previous relationship. A lot of them miss their exes as well. The ultimate result? Cheating and betrayal. Many people go back to their exes after being in a new relationship because they just aren’t out of their past. What they may not see is the fact that they terribly ruin their own lives in doing so as well as ruin the lives of others closer to them as well. 

Another example can be someone that loses a close one in the form of death. Yes! Hearing about a close one’s death is sad but if you stick to it, you aren’t doing anything good either. Life is about living realistically and the utter reality is that everyone has to go away someday. With the acceptance of randomness in life, one can always be prepared to deal with any kind of situation. 

A photo illustrating a sad woman

We can Always Prepare for Ahead

From this quote, Lyndon B. Johnsons also gives us the lesson that one should always be preparing for what’s coming. When he says “Tomorrow is ours to win or lose ”, he clearly means that our set of actions defines our lives. If we sit around and don’t do anything other than yearn for the past, we are most likely going to lose while if we stand up and do something, there are possible chances of success. We can also evaluate an important point that our core focus should be on what’s coming in our lives.

If we keep mourning what was gone, we would not be prepared for what’s coming next. This will again result in a bad happening that could trigger a depressing phase once again. To avoid this cycle, one needs to get out of it by keeping just one thing in mind what’s gone is gone and mourning won’t make it any better. However, if you do take care of what’s coming ahead, you will surely see a better time. 

Hard Work can Lead to Success, Eventually

While many get disheartened from a series of failures and problems in their life, there are others who don’t give up despite even the biggest of problems coming their way. Ultimately, the life of a person who does hard work pays off. Initially, it may seem difficult, but what gives the hard worker a good result is the fact that he does not get sad about what happened. He does not let himself down on a failure. Instead, he tries to overcome his failures by focusing on his future actions. He makes sure that he does not give up on what happened but keeps trying on what will happen to emerge successfully. 

On the other hand, a person who does not do hard work or who gives up in just a few tries is not the one who emerges successful. Success has a price of failure, hardships, bad pasts, and a lot more. Only a person who has the courage to stand back up after a hard time is the one who becomes successful, as suggested by this quote. 

An illustration of hard work


An important lesson that can be learned from this quote is unpredictability. Notice that there is no assurance of a successful tomorrow given in the quote, instead, it says that tomorrow is ours to “win or lose ”. This shows us that life is unpredictable and we should always be ready to embarrass it the way it comes at us. Even hard workers may fail and even the laziest workers may win. However, the probability of that happening is quite low. Generally, a person who keeps trying eventually does find the right way. Tomorrow can be won but there is no assurity. It all depends on how much we try as well as how much luck we have in what we are trying.  


We can conclude from this quote that life is always about moving on and accepting the randomness of it. We can’t always go according to our plan. We can’t mourn the wrongdoings of the past as it won’t matter. However, what we can do is shape up our future actions in order to win the situation that is coming ahead. This will allow us to be better individuals in our lives and focus on what matters, leaving behind all the things that don’t. Other motivational speakers and influencers such as Joe Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi also provide us with a unique perspective on life.