A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“How do you tell a proper joke about eating?"/"In jest.” (9/23)
“What did the cauliflower bank robber say to the broccoli getaway driver?"/"Floret.” (9/23)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (9/23)
“I woke up this morning to a robber in my house searching for money. I joined him” (9/23)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (9/23)
More new entries...

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Entry from March 17, 2015
“If you can’t find the key to success, pick the lock”

"If you can’t find the key to success, pick the lock” is a jocular saying that has been printed on many posters. “Thomas Edison says hard work is the key to success. So that’s the key, eh? We prefer to pick the lock” was cited in 1930. “If you can’t find the key to success and should pick the lock, it would be hard to find a judge who will sentence you for it” was cited in 1953.

“The key to success is hard work. That’s why a lot of people would rather pick the lock” was published in the syndicated newspaper comic strip “Little Liz” in 1958. “If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock” was credited in 1979 to “Claude McDonald,” who is sometimes confused with British diplomat Claude Maxwell MacDonald (1852-1915).

Other sayings about the “key to success” include “I found the key to success, only to discover that the door was never locked,” “I looked for the key to success and then found it’s a combination lock,” “Just when you find the key to the market, they change the locks” and “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”


Google News Archive
1 August 1930, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “Red Squad Might Pick Up Some Civil War Spies” by Graham Wyer, Sports sec., pg. 1, col. 2:
Thomas Edison says hard work is the key to success. So that’s the key, eh? We prefer to pick the lock.

24 August 1953, San Antonio (TX) Express, “Miss Judy Said” by Mattie Terrell Couch, pg. 12A, col. 2:
If you can’t find the key to success and should pick the lock, it would be hard to find a judge who will sentence you for it.

24 April 1958, Greensboro (NC) Record, “Little Liz” comic strip, pg. A9, col. 2:
The key to success is hard work. That’s why a lot of people would rather pick the lock.

Google News Archive
6 October 1979, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “The Aces...On Bridge"by Ira Corn Jr., pt. 3, pg. 4, col. 1:
If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock.
Claude McDonald

Google Books
Principles of Leisure Counseling
By Larry C. Loesch and Paul T. Wheeler
Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media
1982
Pg. 8:
lf hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock.
Claude McDonald

Google Books
14,000 Quips & Quotes:
For Speakers, Writers, Editors, Preachers, and Teachers

By E. C. McKenzie
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House
1990, ©1980
Pg. 483:
If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock.

Google Books
20,000 Quips & Quotes
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
1995, ©1968
Pg. 451:
Because hard work is the key to success, many men prefer to pick the lock.

Google Books
The Quotable A**hole:
More Than 1,200 Bitter Barbs, Cutting Comments, and Caustic Comebacks for Aspiring and Armchair A**holes Alike

By Eric Grzymkowski
Avon, MA: Adams Media
2011
Pg. 211:
If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock. —Claude McDonald, British diplomat

Twitter
Bliss Magazine
‏@pureblissmag
“If you can’t find the key to #success, pick the lock.” - Author Unknown
7:17 AM - 10 Mar 2015

Twitter
FranklinCovey
‏@franklincovey
“If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock.” - Claude McDonald #QOTD
10:20 AM - 17 Mar 2015

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Tuesday, March 17, 2015 • Permalink