Mad Men: 10 Don Draper Quotes To Live By

Don Draper on Mad Men, played perfectly by Jon Hamm, is an extremely captivating character for more reasons than one. He is basically the ideal man in the 1960s that all men want to be and all women want to be with. He exudes the mystery, charm, and class that many people aspire to have, he has the sensual suave of James Bond, he has a squeaky clean picturesque family, and he is an extremely successful businessman. Seems like he would be the happiest man on earth, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. While on the outside, Don Draper seems like the kind of person everyone on the planet would aspire to be (or be with), on the inside, he is harboring a lot of cynicism and unhappiness. Because his character is so interesting, let's take a look at his 10 most inspirational quotes on Mad Men.

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"You want respect? Go out and get it for yourself."

Don said this quote in season 4 episode 8, and although it's a simple concept, it carries a lot of weight. Respect has to be earned and it takes time to get the smallest bit of it. Nobody knows this quite like Donald Draper who had to work incredibly hard in order to make something out of his name.

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From Dick Whitman, a child of a prostitute who had no love or care in his life, to Don Draper, a beloved sought-after creative director in a Manhattan advertising firm, it's safe to say Draper worked hard to get to where ended up.


"Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is."

Nobody is as familiar with change as Don Draper, and because he has experienced so much change throughout his life, we can understand his wisdom when it comes to the topic. He is saying that change is not always something to be feared and it is not always something to be wished for. In life, things are going to change whether you like it or not and that's just the way the world works! It's better to accept it than to fear it.


"People will show you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be."

The reality is, we only want to see people in the light that we want to see them in. This was especially the case in the 1960s when racial segregation and gender segregation were at an all-time high and people would commonly resort to stereotypes towards different races and genders based on who society "wants them to be".

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If for example Peggy comes up with a brilliant idea at the advertising firm and they choose to dismiss her because she is a woman, this would be a common scenario of people only seeing Peggy as they want to see her. In this case, it would be a submissive woman who shouldn't be taking on such intense roles in the workplace.


“We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.” 

Don says this in the season 4 episode, "The Summer Man", and it carries a lot of weight. It plays into the idea that we all want what we can't have. Basically, we as human beings are never satisfied regardless of how much we might have. When Don finally gets what he wants, whatever it may be, he ends up not wanting it anymore. He will eventually have to learn to appreciate life while in the moment, without constantly (and greedily) looking for more, and the finale suggests he finally learns to accomplish this as we can sense by the last shot of the show.


"I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I've already been."

This quote is said by Don in the season 3 episode, "Out of Town". Don is implying how you can't escape your problems by moving away or traveling far from your issues. It doesn't matter if you're at the other side of the world, you won't be able to escape your problems because at the end of the day, your mind and your conscious doesn't alter based on where you have placed yourself in the world. In order to stop yourself from "ending up where you've already been", you must address whatever issues you have head-on before finding comfort and peace within yourself. It takes time, but it is worth the process in order to finally heal and enjoy life.


"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation."

These are the wise words by Donald Draper that ultimately suggest how you have the power to make a change. Making a big change in the world can start with one person, simply by speaking their mind. If society has one point of view on things and you disagree with it, allow yourself to respectfully change the conversation if you think it is morally upright. You have the power to use your voice, so don't be afraid to make the change if you feel it necessary. There is no need to sit around and feel sorry for a cause when you have the ability to take action.


"What you call love was invented by guys like me... to sell Nylons."

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This quote is pretty hilarious, while at the same time frightening. It is suggesting that "love" was created by the advertising industry in order to sell products, such as Nylons. The same theory exists by those who believe holidays such as Valentine's Day were only invented to sell Hallmark Cards. It is scary to think how much of this world has been created in order to sell products, whatever that product may be, but it shows how dismissive a man like Don is to, you know, human emotion. But hey, his stoic nature is what makes us love him so much! At times his mysterious facade is wildly frustrating because we just can't seem to read him! Does he really feel this way about love? We might never know!


"I'm glad this is an environment where you feel free to fail".

Ouch! Harsh much, Don? We wouldn't want him to be our boss if he felt so comfortable throwing out sarcastic lines like this one, but it is part of what makes Don Draper's character so great. He is blunt and upfront when it comes to pretty much anything work-related because he is constantly striving to get the job done. He wants to deliver the best of the best, regardless of who he might hurt in the process because that is just the kind of man Don is.


"I have a life and it only goes in one direction. Forward."

Don is not the kind of man who harbors on the past because to Don, the past is way too painful. He is a forward thinking man, constantly striving to better his life and improve it in any way possible regardless of the consequences that might derive from it.

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This is one of the reasons he might be so unhappy at times because he can't always be in the present while he is constantly looking ahead. Luckily, this forward type of thinking finally leads him to envision one of the most successful ads of all time, the famous "I'd like to buy the world a coke" commercial.


...Nostalgia: It's delicate but potent... In Greek, 'nostalgia' literally means 'the pain from an old wound.' It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards... it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called the wheel, it's called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels - around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved."

This comes from the season 1 episode, "The Wheel", and it speaks of the power of the past rather than the sought-after future. Everyone, especially Don, is constantly looking forward. He and so many others are always wondering how they can improve their futures when they don't realize how true power comes from the past. The past is able to offer nostalgia and unveil all of your happiest memories. It isn't until Don begins to admit to his past and accept it that he is finally able to properly move forward like he always wanted to.  

What are your favorite quotes from Don Draper? Let us know!

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