‘If You Can Make It In New York…’: The Meaning Behind The Famous Phrase

New York City has long had a reputation as a tough, competitive place to succeed. This idea led to the iconic saying ‘If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.’

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The phrase means that if someone can achieve success in New York City with all its challenges, they have the ability to make it anywhere. It speaks to New York’s status as a daunting proving ground.

Origin of the Quote

The famous phrase “If you can make it in New York…” has become synonymous with the city’s reputation for success and ambition. It is often used to convey the idea that if someone can succeed in New York, they can succeed anywhere. But where did this quote actually come from?

Commonly Attributed to Frank Sinatra

One popular belief is that the quote is commonly attributed to the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, known for his love of New York City, is said to have popularized the phrase during his career.

While there is no definitive evidence that Sinatra originated the quote, his association with the city and his iconic song “Theme from New York, New York” certainly helped solidify its connection to him.

Lyrics from ‘Theme from New York, New York’

Another possible origin of the quote can be traced back to the lyrics of the song “Theme from New York, New York.” The song, performed by Frank Sinatra and written by Fred Ebb and John Kander, includes the iconic line, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

This line perfectly captures the spirit of the city and the challenges one must overcome to succeed in New York.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the quote, it has undoubtedly become a symbol of the city’s determination and resilience. New York City is known for its fast-paced lifestyle, competitive industries, and endless opportunities.

Those who are able to thrive in this environment are often seen as possessing a unique level of skill and tenacity.

So, the next time you hear the phrase “If you can make it in New York…”, remember its connection to the city’s rich cultural history and the countless individuals who have pursued their dreams in the Big Apple.

New York as a Symbol of Achievement

When people talk about making it in New York, they are not just referring to finding success in the city, but also to the larger idea of achieving one’s dreams and ambitions. New York has long been seen as a symbol of opportunity and accomplishment, attracting individuals from all over the world who are eager to prove themselves in the city that never sleeps.

Reputation for Competition and Ambition

New York’s reputation for competition and ambition is well-deserved. The city is known for its fast-paced lifestyle, where everyone is constantly striving to be the best. From Wall Street to Broadway, from fashion to technology, New York is a hub of industries that demand excellence and innovation.

The competitive nature of New York can be seen in its world-renowned institutions and events. The city is home to some of the top universities, businesses, and cultural organizations, attracting the most talented individuals in their respective fields.

The competition is fierce, but it also breeds a culture of collaboration and creativity, where individuals push each other to reach new heights.

Furthermore, New York’s ambition is reflected in the countless success stories that have emerged from the city. From immigrant entrepreneurs who built empires to artists who found fame and fortune, New York has a long history of nurturing and rewarding ambition.

The city’s energy and spirit inspire individuals to dream big and work tirelessly to achieve their goals.

A Gateway to National Success

Being successful in New York often translates to success on a national level. The city serves as a gateway to opportunities that extend beyond its borders. Many industries, such as finance, media, and fashion, have their headquarters in New York, making it a crucial hub for national and international business.

For aspiring actors, musicians, and artists, New York offers a platform to showcase their talent to a global audience. Broadway, for example, is considered the pinnacle of success for theater performers, while the city’s vibrant art scene attracts collectors and enthusiasts from around the world.

Additionally, New York’s influence extends to politics and policy-making. The city has been a breeding ground for influential leaders who have gone on to shape the nation’s direction. From mayors to senators, New York has produced a long list of politicians who have made a significant impact on the country.

The Reality Behind the Perception

New York’s Access to Resources

When it comes to making it in New York, one of the key factors that sets the city apart is its unparalleled access to resources. From top-tier educational institutions to world-class cultural institutions and cutting-edge research centers, New York offers an abundance of opportunities for individuals to thrive and succeed in their chosen fields.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist, entrepreneur, or scientist, New York provides a fertile ground for innovation and growth. For example, the city is home to renowned universities such as Columbia University and New York University, which attract some of the brightest minds from around the world.

Moreover, New York’s vibrant and diverse population creates a unique ecosystem that fosters creativity and collaboration. The city is a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and perspectives, offering a rich tapestry of experiences that inspire individuals to push boundaries and think outside the box.

The constant influx of talent and ideas from all corners of the globe further enriches the city’s already thriving creative and entrepreneurial scene.

Additionally, New York’s well-developed infrastructure and extensive public transportation system make it easier for individuals to access resources and opportunities. Whether it’s attending networking events, accessing mentorship programs, or simply navigating the city to meet with potential collaborators, New York’s efficient transportation system ensures that individuals can make the most of what the city has to offer.

Differing Perspectives on New York’s ‘Toughness’

The phrase “If you can make it in New York…” often carries connotations of toughness and resilience. While it is true that New York can be a challenging and competitive environment, it is important to recognize that this perception varies depending on individual experiences and perspectives.

For some, the perceived toughness of New York stems from the fast-paced nature of the city, where success often requires individuals to work long hours and constantly push themselves to excel. The high level of competition can be both exhilarating and demanding, pushing individuals to their limits.

However, this intensity is not unique to New York and can be found in various other cities around the world.

On the other hand, many individuals find New York to be a city of opportunity and support. The city’s vibrant community and spirit of collaboration often lead to a sense of camaraderie and support among its residents.

New Yorkers are known for their resilience and willingness to help one another, creating a supportive network that can make navigating the challenges of the city a little easier.

It is also worth noting that the perception of toughness in New York is not limited to professional endeavors. The city’s diverse and bustling neighborhoods offer a unique blend of experiences, and individuals may face personal challenges as they adapt to the fast-paced lifestyle and cultural nuances.

However, these challenges are often seen as part of the city’s charm and contribute to the overall richness of life in New York.

Cultural Significance and Legacy

The phrase “If you can make it in New York…” holds a deep cultural significance and has become an iconic representation of the city itself. It captures the spirit and pride that is uniquely associated with New York.

The phrase signifies the challenges and opportunities that the city presents to those who aspire to succeed. It encapsulates the idea that if one can succeed in the competitive and fast-paced environment of New York, they can succeed anywhere.

Captures New York’s Spirit and Pride

New York City is known for its vibrant energy, diversity, and relentless pursuit of success. The phrase “If you can make it in New York…” captures this spirit and pride that is deeply ingrained in the city’s DNA.

It represents the determination and resilience of New Yorkers who are willing to work hard and overcome obstacles in order to achieve their goals. The phrase serves as a reminder of the city’s rich history and the countless success stories that have emerged from its streets.

Inspires Hope in Chasing Dreams

The phrase “If you can make it in New York…” also inspires hope in those who dream of pursuing their passions and achieving their goals. It symbolizes the idea that no dream is too big or too ambitious, and that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.

The phrase serves as a source of motivation for aspiring artists, entrepreneurs, and professionals, reminding them that New York City is a place where dreams can come true. It represents the belief that by pushing boundaries and taking risks, one can create a life of fulfillment and success.


Though often attributed to Frank Sinatra, the famous phrase extolling making it in New York continues to inspire ambition today. It captures both the gritty determination and starry-eyed optimism that the city has come to symbolize.

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