A great piece of advice can lead you to greener pastures in life and guide you to becoming a better version of yourself.
So let me ask you a question: Have you ever received a bit of advice so significant that you still apply it up to this day? Who was it from and what made it unforgettable?
We wanted to hear the answer to this vital question from successful individuals across a variety of industries, and to impart that knowledge so that you too can stay compassionate, driven, motivated, and focused on achieving your own goals.
Here are the best advice they’ve ever received, as shared by successful people.
Clinical/Community Psychologist and Psychoanalyst | Author
“Make your student life fun”
Just out of the U.S. Army—having enlisted in large part because of a very generous G.I. Bill in the mid-1980s—I was wandering aimlessly back in small Southern California beach town I grew up in.
I enrolled without a sense of goal or purpose at Orange Coast College (OCC), the community college that I’d begun and quit prior to enlisting. I had a vague notion that maybe, just maybe, I’d become some kind of creative writer, having been in a raucous punk band in high school and really loving the process of composing songs. There was no “Punk Rock 101” at OCC.
I signed up for the general course work that would eventually lead to an Associate’s Degree and allow me to transfer into the Cal State University system, but I was uninspired. By mid-semester, I was doing about as “well” as I’d done in high school: a solid C average.
But oddly enough, my mother told me that, “on a whim,” she’d taken a class called, “How to Survive in College,” taught by a woman named Char Mecke. It was a half semester class, and I was just hitting the mid-way point in my first post-military attempt at a college education. I enrolled.
In that class, Char Mecke said something completely and irrevocably changed the way that I experience school—which I’d always loved as a social event, but never took seriously as an educational endeavor—but, most importantly, how I experience myself as a student. She said: “Make it fun.“
And, to tell the truth, I had little use at that time for the word fun. It had always seemed so vapid, innocuous, insipid and uninspiring. But somehow that advice got under my defenses and began, immediately, to transform the way I saw myself as a student.
And, with a few suggestions for doing so (making it fun) from Char Mecke, I began to manifest that transformation in the ways that I:
- Went to class (with an open mind and heart seeking ways to relate to and explore subjects I’d never considered),
- Read my assigned reading (highlighting, taking notes and citing meaningful passages),
- Prepared for and took exams, and
- Engaged (crafting notebooks with artwork and insights), crafted and composed my written assignments
The notebooks became journals wherein I documented not only my education but also my work life, then my social and my love life—filling the pages with photos, tickets, mementos, and scraps from every experience and encounter.
They help me to think clearly and allow an outlet for difficult and uncomfortable emotion, the help me to assess and align my goals with my accomplishments and, I can admit it: it’s a very important and fun process.
At the start of the second half of my first full semester of college, I received that advice that I would carry with me throughout the rest of my college life. I would take it through undergrad in the UC system, and, as I was becoming interested in psychology I would take it into a volunteer position working with developmentally disabled individuals.
That experience primed me for the next few years of working in in-patient adolescent psychiatry. “Fun” was not exactly the right word for that work, but by then I was beginning to fall in love with the field of health care—especially mental health.
The advice Professor Mecke gave me carried me into grad school where I received a Masters degree in psychology and then a doctorate, Ph.D., in a dual track—community and clinical psychology—program.
By then it had become so much more than fun, it was much more about having a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. I moved to New York City, entered psychoanalytic candidacy at an intensive program on the Upper West Side, and became a fully-fledged psychoanalyst.
Currently, I maintain a full-time practice as an analyst and couples therapist, supervise students and candidates, publish academic articles, and am having an immense amount of fun writing commercially as a self-help author.
A whole career founded on a tidbit of wisdom that, on the first pass, seemed like a disposable expression of silliness? Why not? I now have piles of those journals in my office both detailing years of “making it fun” and making manifest the process itself.
Throughout the years, I’ve found that I do better—I think more clearly, am more emotionally attuned, and am generally more successful—when I maintain those journal diligently than when I don’t.
But really, I just wanted to maintain that C average and write and sing—OK, maybe scream—punk rock songs. But that advice, the same advice that I now give to my grammar and middle school girls now, “make it fun,” continues to transform my life and my experience of myself within it in ways that I cannot possibly prepare for.
Thank you, Char Mecke—and thanks mom for suggesting that I attend that class.
Founder, The Entrepreneur’s Wordsmith LLC | International Bestselling Ghostwriter | TEDx Speaker
“Everything you need to know to be successful will be caught, not taught”
My first ghostwriting client, a serial technology entrepreneur, said, “Everything you need to know to be successful will be caught, not taught.”
Since founding my business in 2011, I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars to join premium masterminds run by successful entrepreneurs, but the fact is, my client was right: The most profitable success lessons I’ve learned came not from an instructor, professor, or teacher, but from experts quietly going about their business.
For example, I “caught” how to sell a high-ticket service from an entrepreneur who sold me on her high-ticket service. And I “caught” how to negotiate with a prospect by watching a business owner negotiate with me. In both cases, these “teachers” were simply being themselves, not showing up to teach me their trade’s tricks.
Every day, the world’s greatest show us how to follow in their footsteps, whether they intend for us to follow or not. All you have to do is “catch” on! So who has already achieved the goal you’ve set for yourself? Who is living the life you’ve seen yourself living someday? Don’t ask to pick their brain; ask to watch them work!
Author | TED Speaker
“Everything turns out for the best”
Ever since I was taken to see my first Broadway show at the age of seven, I wanted to be a scenic designer, the person who created those pretty stage backgrounds.
In later years, I was an apprentice for several seasons in summer stock in order to learn my craft. And, finally, years later, I got into Yale Drama School, the country’s most prestigious theater school at the time.
It was a three-year Master’s degree program. I was kicked out after the first year. I was basically told I had no talent. I was devastated. I called my mother in tears. Her advice was that “everything turns out for the best.”
It wasn’t very comforting at the time, but she was right, everything did turn out well. In fact, better than I could have expected at the time.
I went on to get in the scenic design union and became a designer at CBS-television where I was a designer for such national shows as Captain Kangaroo, Merv Griffin, and Captain Kangaroo.
Mom was right, after all. Everything did turn out for the best. It’s advice that helped me not only get through the Yale experience but many other trying times in my life as well.
Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)
“Results are more important than style”
Many years ago as a young general manager, I worked for a division of a ‘Fortune 100’ company. At an informal get-together, one of my bosses (a Senior VP of Operations) recounted a short list of the principles that he utilized in managing his people.
One of those principles stuck in my mind and became an important part of my personal leadership philosophy: “Results are more important than style.“
As leaders of business teams, most managers generally have multiple talents that have helped to make them successful; so it is likely, that as a group, they’ve developed numerous ways to successfully manage different types of business situations.
But too many leaders attempt to impose a ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy upon their subordinates, and that stifles creativity and innovation while frustrating younger employees who may see more progressive ways of approaching new business issues.
Some of those frustrated “junior” employees may decide to move on to organizations that will listen to their proposals — leaving behind their colleagues who simply follow orders without question.
In a competitive economic environment, losing motivated, creative employees likely puts an organization onto a path that leads to mediocrity. So while it wasn’t always feasible for me to utilize every good idea developed by my subordinates, I always encouraged the creative thinkers who worked for me. And I firmly believe that they often gave my unit a solid competitive edge!
Global Principle Safety Consultant | Author
“Make the day, don’t let the day make you”
The best advice I’ve ever received was a piece of throw-away conversation between the CFO and me. I was walking in from the parking lot to my office to start my day when I notice the CFO beside me.
He asked how I was doing, and I responded with my typically glib, “So far so good…but it’s early”. It was something I had said a thousand times if I said it once, and it usually drew a half-hearted chuckle out of whomever I was with, but not this time.
The CFO looked at me, now very serious and said, “Make the day, don’t let the day make you.” The idea stuck with me and gnawed at me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and it’s implications.
What if the difference between having a bad day and having a good day was a choice? I finally figured that I had nothing to lose by trying so I did.
At first, it was hard, my entire nervous system was programmed to react with resentment, disappointment, and even anger at any setback, and I would have to reprogram it. Little by little, I started forcing myself to become optimistic and see the silver lining in life’s hardships.
Tragedies will befall us all from time to time—that is an immutable law of life—but we don’t have to carry those tragedies around with us for the rest of our lives. People will disappoint us, even betray us, but we don’t have to carry a grudge like it is our full-time job. It may sound trite, but forgiveness truly IS a gift we give ourselves, unfortunately, I came to that realization late in life.
We can’t always control the bad things that come into our lives but we always have a choice as to how we react to them. If we’re driving to work and someone cuts us off we can choose to either stay cool and move on, or we can let a complete stranger “make our day” for us—that’s just insanity! Why would we give control of our lives over to a stranger who drives poorly?
But perhaps what I love most about this advice is that it reminds us that we aren’t just hapless victims of circumstance, that we have a choice of whether or life is filled with misery and regret or brimming with joy and happiness.
Optimism is a choice. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be” or something to that effect. Science has found that Lincoln’s assessment is generally correct.
So my advice to others is: Decide to be happy, in the grand scheme of things life is too short not to grab every bit of happiness we can find.
Chief Operating Officer, ORPHANetwork
“Life is like a donut, don’t stare at the hole”
Some of the best advice I have ever received has come from the most unexpected conversations. One day I was visiting a well known published author in his home. His basement was this expansive library, it even had a desk in the center. All the books were categorized just like a library.
As we walked through the library together and I admired his collection and his career, I asked him what advice would he give to me? At the time, I had just become an executive at a multi-million dollar global non-profit and I thought he would bring some profound wisdom that would match his writings.
He smiled and said to me. Life is like a donut, don’t stare at the hole. I laughed out loud and made an inappropriate comment about Forrest Gump and was solemn when I realized he was serious.
We live in a world of consumption. Dress for the job you want. Drive to impress. Live in the best neighborhood. Send your children to get the best education possible. It is easy to continually focus on what we don’t have, or have yet to obtain. Rather, we can focus on the donut itself. What we do have.
I find myself looking at the gaps in my life. Sometimes they are income gaps, other times career gaps, maybe friendship gaps or event gaps, life goal gaps. But when I am able to pause and get another perspective, it is really humbling to realize what I do have.
My career has taken me to more than 14 foreign countries and almost every state in the United States of America. I have four children and a beautiful wife and great friends and good memories.
Rather than focusing on the gaps, I can focus on what I have and be grateful. The perspective of the donut, focus on what is there rather than what isn’t.
Founder & CEO, Cheekd
“Be prepared for a journey”
Nine years into the entrepreneurial hustle, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is being on a mission where nothing can stop you. It will take twice as long as you’d hoped, cost exceedingly more than you’d ever budgeted and will be more challenging than anything you’ll ever try but if you give it your all and refuse to give up, you can trust it will be the ride of a lifetime.
I could be the poster child for the saying, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” No matter what, this has been the most rewarding journey of my life and in the end, I’m going to have a magical story to tell.
My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to be brave and follow your instincts. You can’t cheat the grind, but if you give it your all, you can trust that the payoff will be worth it.
“Surround yourself with the right people”
As a trained architect, I had no idea what I was getting into building a business. After coming up with the idea, I walked around in circles for over a year trying to figure out how to build my business and two guys came on board to help me (I couldn’t have made a worse choice of a team in my life).
They both had the same skill set, are no longer involved in my business and they owned nearly 20% equity. If I’d known what I know now that “team is everything“.
I just wish someone had told me the importance of having the right team surrounding me. The technical aspect of my business has been one of the bigger challenges I’ve faced and it’s the one thing I definitely would have approached differently from day one. I needed a CTO.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”
My father always told me a kid, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and that statement has proven so true after all these years.
One of the most fruitful tools in building my business over the past eight years is in the power of networking and taking every advantage possible to meet new people.
Efficiently communicating and never dismissing a single soul–you never know who you’re talking to, who they might know or how they’d be able to contribute.
Co-owner and COO, My Slumber Yard
“You don’t need to concern yourself with or try to please every single consumer out there”
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received came from my old business professor who still to this day acts as a mentor of sorts to me.
He told me to forget about the entire market in which my company operates. Instead, he told me to pick a lucrative sub-segment or niche of the industry and focus all my efforts on that.
By doing so, he told me my content and services would have a better chance of standing out in the marketplace and gaining traction.
Well, it turns out he was right on. Instead of focusing on mainstream or “sexy” consumer products, my business partner and I decided to pivot and focus on products like mattresses and home appliances that are not as exciting or exhilarating.
These sub-segments have proven to be quite fruitful. There’s less competition and our content seems to catch-on much quicker as a result. Overall, his advice is a big reason why I’ve been able to grow my business to well over seven figures.
I believe this piece of advice can be helpful to other entrepreneurs as well. The core principle is that you don’t need to concern yourself with or try to please every single consumer out there.
That’s going to be an uphill battle that you might not ever win.
Instead, pick off a segment of consumers and focus on making your product or service the best for those particular customers. For example, if you’re developing an app, no need to try to make it attractive for both women and men of all ages.
Instead, you’ll probably have more success if you focus on females in the 18-30 age range, for example. By employing this strategy, I think entrepreneurs will also have a much clearer vision of what they need to accomplish.
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
“Give yourself permission to say no”
I started a global branding and marketing firm 18 years ago and like most small business owners and entrepreneurs there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give, it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise or just relax.
What I have come to appreciate and realize in my 50s is that “me time” is not a luxury or pampering like it was in my youth, now it is maintenance! I think that respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do for self-care because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either.
Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), getting a massage, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself.
You have to learn to disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams.
I have found that building relationships are what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.
Founder, The Sterling Report
Early in my career, I had the good fortune to attend an event where Wayne Dyer was the keynote speaker. I was never much into the new age stuff that was his primary focus, but there were a few things that stuck with me from that day.
A specific point he made has been helpful on many occasions and I’ve shared it countless times over the years.
“Stress does not exist without your participation”
It’s an easy thing to say, but can be much harder to put into practice.
The general idea is that stress isn’t something out there in the world that’s making its way into our lives. If you are feeling stressed, that’s on you. You are choosing to react to a set of circumstances in a certain way. You could just as easily choose to react to those same circumstances in a different way that doesn’t cause you any stress.
This doesn’t mean that I never feel stress. Stress is a natural reaction that has some roots in biology. Our bodies identify risks (sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously) and send signals through the hormones cortisol and adrenaline to help us stay alive.
When we were living in caves and a big lion got close to us, it was helpful to have some chemical help to get us out of those situations through our fight or flight response.
Today, stress rarely comes from life-threatening situations and those same hormones cause all sorts of mental and physical problems if they’re present too often, or for too long. Using the power of choice to keep those hormones in check is critical if you want to have a happy and healthy life.
Founder, Belmonte Digital Marketing
“You must enroll others in the possibility of you and your capabilities”
The best advice I’ve ever received is that, in order to be successful, you must first and foremost enroll others in the possibility of you and your capabilities.
I spent a lot of years thinking that my credentials were the only thing that could convince people I was worth their time, so I waited until I felt “good enough” to share with people what I was up to because I was so afraid that they would discover I failed.
However, when I was told my mentor that sharing my experiences and dreams with others gives them a reason to believe in me and an expectation to live up to. Since my integrity is crucial to me, I realized that by sharing my work with others in an authentic way, I allowed people in my life to stand for my success.
Plus, when I share my experiences, I create a meaningful and impactful relationship with everyone in my life, so they are more likely to share with me as well!
Connecting with people on this deeper level and being held accountable for my own success has transformed my business and my life in huge ways, which would have never happened without that advice.
CPA & Owner, Money Done Right
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; just go for it”
My first job out of college was as a tax preparer at a local accounting firm. A few months in, my boss asked me to ghostwrite a piece for him on the latest tax law changes and submit it to the editor of a local business journal.
“Wait, what? You realize that I just got this job, right? I’m 21 years old, and a few months ago I was a college student. I’m not qualified to put together this piece and give it straight to the editor!”
Here’s what he told me: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; just go for it.“
So that’s what I did; I was not afraid; I just went for it. And what do you know? Later that month, my piece was published essentially as I had submitted it, with some stylistic edits here and there. Even though I wasn’t credited for the piece, I felt so proud!
Years later, I discovered that my boss and the editor were good friends, and my boss did actually end up taking a quick look at the article before it was published. But I think the lesson he was teaching me was that I shouldn’t be scared to make mistakes, even professionally.
Maybe I’m speculating here, but I think he understood that for the past 16 years of my life — from kindergarten to my senior year of college — I had been taught to be deathly afraid of making mistakes, and he wanted to break me of that mentality.
And this advice to not be afraid of making mistakes and just go for it has stuck with me throughout my career.
See, I recently did something that I never would have done if I was afraid of making mistakes: I quit my “good” accounting job to work on my personal finance blog full-time.
I knew full well that this decision could set me back career-wise if things didn’t work out. But you know what? Things did work out. I’m making more money as an entrepreneur than I ever did in the corporate world, and the future couldn’t be brighter.
“Do what you do best, outsource the rest”
Begin outsourcing before you think you can afford it. Do what you do best, outsource the rest. And you must keep time in mind.
Sure, you can design a website well but will you do it faster than someone else could? Instead of believing you can do everything well, rather, paint a target around the arrow. This means to realize what you’re good at and build everything you do around that.
Despite what many of us were taught in school, you don’t have to be good at everything. Straight A’s in the real world is virtually impossible and even if you could do that, you’ll have wasted an incredible amount of time.
To advance society, we need to find what we’re best at and get on with it. Think of business as a collective of people (it is) and not just you. That’s how you’ll go far. Do what you do best, outsource the rest.
CTO, Gunner Technology
“Perfect is the enemy of done”
In a former life, I was a composition major (along with my other major in Computer Science) and my favorite Music professor and thesis advisor gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever received: “Perfect is the enemy of done.“
I often struggled with finishing my pieces, not due to procrastination, but due to an overwhelming feeling that they were never good enough. The trouble (and this is also from that same professor) is that you acquire taste way, way earlier than you acquire talent. So you know that your piece isn’t perfect, but you don’t know how to get it to perfect yet.
This plays out in the technology sphere constantly. We’ve worked with innumerable clients who were never ready to launch because they were never 100% satisfied with the product. But at some point, you have to launch your idea or risk getting stuck in development hell.
We’ve seen so many teams spin the gears with constant redesigns and shifts in direction, endless lists of “must have” enhancements and a constantly moving Minimum Viable Product – it’s a nightmare.
The companies that succeed are the companies that launch. And the companies that launch are the ones who have an idea of a product in mind that, while not perfect, people will want to use. You can always update your product later (and update it based on real feedback from users, which is much more valuable). But at some point, you just have to launch the damn thing.
Owner & Lead Consultant, Womack Consulting Group
“Give more than you expect to receive”
The best advice that I ever received has been the root of my success in my personal and professional life: Give more than you expect to receive.
In life, we often seek out situations that are beneficial to us and that will help to push us forward. However, I have taken a different approach and seek ways to help others become successful.
I find joy in supporting others and providing them with the tools to achieve their goals. In the course of doing so, I have achieved more success for myself than I ever imagined.
Leaders create leaders and when you focus on building up other people, they, in turn, will support you and help to build your brand organically. Even when people chose not to reciprocate, I feel good knowing that I have helped someone along their journey.
It doesn’t hurt that I have monetized my assistance through books, consulting, and coaching which allows me to indulge in my gift of giving while also ensuring my bills are paid.
David E. Nielson
Founder & CEO, DNA Worldwide, LLC
“Get some sleep”
A good night’s sleep is important to a good day’s work. Sleep deprivation is a chronic issue for many people. We are inundated with a variety of stresses in our lives which can keep us up at night, tossing and turning. Lack of sleep will cause poor work quality, errors, irritability, poor communication, forgetfulness and more.
People will just avoid wanting to work with you and your personal and professional relationships will suffer. Your professional reputation will be at risk and you won’t be given the opportunity to participate in or complete keen work projects.
Don’t make major decisions or work on important projects when you are over-tired. Sometimes it’s best to ‘wait till tomorrow’, a technique from Colin Powell’s book It Worked for Me. I know it does work for me, too. A new dawn will often have you seeing things in a better light.
Practice a good night-time routine. Recognize your stressors and learn how to manage them. There are a lot of sleep techniques and relaxation ideas out there. Have a good night and sleep tight!
Nicholas G. Muscat
Entrepreneur | Investor | Businessman | Owner, Aussiemoneyman
“Everything you do is marketing and hence you need to learn to sell”
The best advice I have received to date would have to be being told that everything you do is marketing and hence you need to learn to sell. This understanding and subsequent action of learning to sell have taken me to new heights.
For example, my day to day business dealings whether it be my partnerships, affiliations, sales, eCommerce stores or even my personal brand, these all require marketing skills, but this extends much further into our daily dealings.
Marketing is simply effective communication that produces results. With this definition, it is much easier to understand how marketing may just be the most important skill you ever learn and thus why this simple piece of information sits up at the top of my list of the best advice.
Founder & CEO, Custify
“Leave your comfort zone”
The best advice that I received (and pursued) so far during my career was to leave my comfort zone of being a rather low-level technical employee and start learning everything around product management, marketing and the other business aspects of a company.
Without this advice, I would have never been able to start my own business down the road, and it helped me so much to get a full picture of what it means to run a company early on. I can encourage everyone to look beyond their horizon and be willing to leave the day-to-day comfort zone, it will open up many new possibilities in the future.
“Your network is your net worth”
This is probably one of the best advice that I heed until today. Over the years, I have invested in money, skills, and businesses, but the best investment made so far was investing in relationships.
We run a logistic and transportation company. The network I have built over the years has landed my business many huge deals from the people I know. It could be anyone – a friend from high school, a friend of a relative or a friend of a friend. Nothing beats having warm referrals coming up to you because you are someone familiar and reliable.
I have realized that aside from all the hustling and hard work, we sometimes depend a lot on opportunities that arise from our own network.
Founder, Singapore Forklifts
“Value begets value”
My former boss once told me this and it has really stuck with me. No matter what you are doing, think of the value you can offer first before thinking about getting anything in return.
In fact, successful companies today start off by bringing value to people before monetization. Facebook started with building a community and bringing people together. Google’s mission was to organize information and make them universally accessible and useful.
I find this appealing to almost anything at any point in life. When finding a job, think of what you can offer to the table before thinking about your own salary. When starting a business, think of what value you can bring to your customers before thinking about profitability.
Cybersecurity Expert | Founder, gobestvpn.com
“Everyone needs a coach”
Growing up I followed Bill Gates a lot. This is one of the quotes that helped me, or at least I think it did. Survivorship bias and all that.
“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.”
This changed my entire perception of life. I listened. I recognized that everyone has a voice, some unique and valuable insight – especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry where only the most brilliant minds are gathered.
During my formative years, I would make sure to listen to my direct boss and manager but I also recognize the value that my colleagues bring with their unique voice as well.
For many software engineers, Google is a top 1% goal. This is a success on its own but at the moment I’m pursuing my own goal and having an amazing time. Isn’t that what real success is? Pursuing one’s vision and enjoying the journey.
Owner, Excel Exposure
“Play now and pay later, or pay now and play later”
The best advice I ever received was from my step-dad growing up. He was a hot-tar roofer and by no means had it easy. He instilled in me from very early that you either ‘play now and pay later, or pay now and play later‘.
He knew that his biggest mistake in life was not paying attention in school or applying himself when he was younger. So I made sure to go towards the extreme ends of preparing myself for real life and it has paid off unbelievably well!
“The best sales technique ever is having a great product”
Some years ago I had one my first sales call. It was with the CEO of a notorious company. I was a bit nervous, so I told him:
“Look, I know you’re an experienced seller, you’ll probably spot every advanced sales technique if I use them. So… I’ll just be authentic.”
He replied: “Angelo, the best sales technique ever is having a great product.”
And his words stuck with me since then. Too many entrepreneurs focus on marketing. When truly marketing gets way more natural when you focus on your customers and delivering the best solutions possible to their problems.
The advice that drove me through my Olympic campaign, national trials and is there with me even in business now is the one I took from Lance Armstrong’s book when I was a teenager.
“Pain is just a temporary, quitting lasts forever”
For me, it always worked as a modified version of “never give up”. If I decide that something is important and has to be done it doesn’t matter what boarders around are or how tough it is at the moment. If I want to succeed I’ve to go through and stay strong.
“Don’t compare yourself to others in tough times”
I got this advice from a friend/mentor, who is in his 40’s, and a TEDx speaker.
He said it’s quite damaging to compare yourself to others, who are doing good, while you are going through tough phases. Not only it hits your confidence, but you also end up taking a bad decision; as you sometimes blindly follow the path others have taken.
Thus, it’s better to work on the uniqueness of the problem that has created a tough time in your life and take a step accordingly.
Owner, Breyer Home Buyers
The best advice we got was to build a lead generating asset. While most people in our industry send letters, cold call, and do Google AdWords, we focus on Search Engine Optimization to generate leads for our business.
SEO won’t produce leads for your business immediately, but over time your organic lead flow will increase, which will drastically improve your ROI on your business.
Focusing on a strategy like this allows you to step away from the marketing as your focus naturally ebbs and flows, or if you go on vacation, and your lead machine still produces leads without your involvement.
CEO and Owner, SEO for the Poor and Determined
“After every storm, there comes the sun again”
“Posle kise izadje sunce.” That is the best advice I ever received. And it came from my mother. Its literal meaning is, “After every storm, there comes the sun again“.
Life is a roller-coaster, ups, and downs; peaks and valleys. Smart and successful folks are those who don’t get too haughty when everything is going their way. and who don’t get depressed when things have taken a turn for the worse. It’s just another dark valley.
But look, already on the horizon there is a shiny peak bathing in sunlight. If you want to be successful, you need to know how to wait out the storm.
Founder and CEO, GetVOIP
“Look at me. Do you want this to be you?”
The best business advice I ever received was from a former mentor who had achieved all of the business success I had ever dreamed of–but, his personal life was in shambles. It might sound cliché, but it was a classic moment of, “Look at me. Do you want this to be you?“.
He didn’t say it to scare me away – and, that’s not at all what his advice was. Rather, he emphasized embracing the entrepreneur’s struggle with balancing the personal and professional life – constantly putting in the effort at home to ensure that I never lost sight of life’s true priorities.
While I cherish my business’ success, I will never prioritize it over family, and I’m so very grateful for that lesson learned, unfortunately at a former mentor’s expense.
Co-founder & CEO, Fantastic Services
“Never give up”
I started my entrepreneurial journey almost 10 years ago with the launch of Fantastic Services. For this period of time I’ve learned the hard way the do’s and don’ts of the businesses. Up to this day, the best advice I’ve ever got was to ‘never give up’.
No matter how trivial this sounds, it’s very important to keep on going even in the darkest hour. The road could get lonely and full of obstacles that you will need to overcome in order to truly make it. And believe me, there is no shortcut.
I’ve seen many entrepreneurs with great ideas that never work on them because they are afraid of competing with the big players. So whenever you are facing troubles, remember why you started in the first place, remember your goals and dreams. This will help you find the strength to get back on track and succeed.
Owner, Best Online Traffic School
“Are you receiving an education or a degree?”
Many years ago, while I was a sophomore in college, I received a remarkable piece of advice from my uncle. We usually don’t talk much but we were stuck in the car together for an hour so we had to converse and he started asking me about school. The thing that always stayed with me from that conversation was when he asked, “Are you receiving education or a degree?”
Until then, I hadn’t given my educational journey much reflection. This made me deeply reconsider what society deemed as vital (the degree) versus the thirst for knowledge (the education). To sum it up, don’t focus on paper accomplishments but rather the journey and positive impact it can have on your life.
CEO & Co-Founder, Hotshot Technologies, Inc.
My favorite life lesson quote is from Clayton Christensen, one of my heroes – he’s incredibly smart and has been a true promoter of disruptive innovation. It is a quote from his book, How Will You Measure Your Life:
“It’s easier to hold your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold them 98% of the time”
That quote is a more recent example of a life lesson I learned when I was a boy working on a ranch in Idaho. That life lesson was about the farmhand who said to his prospective farmer boss, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”
It is based on a story of a farmhand looking for work, the farmer takes a risk and hires the young man with the strange saying, and when the first big storm hits the farm in the middle of the night the farmer wakes up to make sure everything is properly secured to avoid any damage from the storm.
He tries to awaken the farmhand, but he just rolls over and stays asleep. The farmer runs out and looks around the place and sees everything prepared for the storm. This farmhand acted like a storm was coming every night, so prepared appropriately and slept soundly every night.
I have used this story as motivation to take advantage of every opportunity I have, to essentially be prepared for any storm that may occur. I’ve tried to do my best in every venture I’ve undertaken, with plenty of failures, but I keep motivating myself to be an innovator.
Co-Founder, Managing Partner, Goodegg Investments
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was to fail faster. Back when I worked in the game design industry, I started my first job by spending weeks and weeks writing a detailed design doc, without ever building a proof of concept to see if the game was even any fun.
In business, as in game design, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the “it has to be perfect” mentality, which delays our ability to serve our clients and makes it all about us.
When we operate from the fail faster mentality instead, it takes the pressure off, we can get out of our own way, and best of all, we have fun with it. It shifts the entire mindset from creating a perfect product to experimenting and trying new ideas. Operating with a fail faster mentality has been a complete game changer for our business.
Hamiz Mushtaq Awan
Founding Partner, Plutus21
This will sound crazy but the best piece of advice I got was from watching Batman – The Dark Knight Rises. In the scene when Batman is trying to escape Bane’s prison, I found the inspiration that changed the course of my business. The quote that moved me the most was:
Doctor: ‘How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible, without the most powerful impulse of the spirit? The fear of death.’
I feel the common advice about keeping your options open has killed more startups than anything else. What entrepreneurs do not realize is that unless you have a true fear of failure, you can never truly succeed.
The worst-case scenario for skilled, college graduates doing startups is that if they fail, they will become more hireable and get a comfortable corporate job.
That safety net drags them down and holds back their potential. You have to burn all your bridges and put yourself in a vulnerable position to achieve great things. Why are so many of the most successful entrepreneur’s misfits who dropped out of college and left promising careers?
Like Batman, you have to make the climb without the rope there to save you if you fall. That is the only way to make it out of prison. Normalizing failure, as many people do today, is not the path to achieving peak success. Find something you are passionate about and risk everything for it.
“Life is short”
The best advice I have ever received: “Life is short.” That may seem too plain and simple, but the truth behind that advice is far beyond what many people can comprehend.
Many people chase fame and fortune, but once they get there they are never satisfied. They think if they just had a little bit more, then they will be happy.
The fact of the matter is life is too short to take anything for granted. We can always work hard to get where we want to go, as it is good to have dreams, but it is also important to be grateful for everything you have in the present moment.
As an entrepreneur, it is tempting to want to work a lot of hours because I want to see my company succeed, but then I am reminded of why I co-founded Calendar in the first place: to have more time to spend with what truly matters — friends and family.
The point of the productivity tool is to help others realize this, too, and to get back to prioritizing those that will be there for them through thick and thin. Life is short. Those three words can truly change how we all decide to look at how and with whom we spend our time.
Founder, That Shirt
When it comes to the best advice I have ever received that has made me successful throughout my journey was taught to me by my father. When it comes to mistakes he told me to value the time, effort and process of error to be able to collect on the reward.
Instead of viewing a mistake as an issue, I was taught to embrace it and it has pulled me through many challenges over the years. Once you have changed your thought process of looking at something, things can become clearer.
#1 Best Selling and Award Winning Author
When I was training to be a pro wrestler, my trainer told me, “The ass you kick on the way up, is the ass you kiss on the way down.“
This refers to the idea of when in life, you’re climbing your way to the top, you will be passing by someone that either let you get there or help you. Either way, don’t forget to show proper respect or appreciation as you gain more success to those that assisted you or had your back because they will always remember how you treated them.
It’s Manners 101: Don’t be a jerk… EVER. People will never forget how someone treats them – good or bad – and those interactions will ultimately shape that person’s viewpoint, which can be extremely hard to alter.
You have to work as a team in everything you do. Sometimes, someone will always get more praise (or “shine” as we call it) than others. Still, it doesn’t mean the person in the limelight should get blinded by their success.
Writer | Head Coach & CEO, LUXICoach.com
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for”
The best advice I’ve ever received is very simple: Do something today that your future self will thank you for.
I use it as a touchstone to keep me focused on high-return activities, to take action to continue to strengthen my foundation, invest in my future, or pave the way for my children.
That might mean learning something new, reconciling something that’s been bothering me, putting more money away, taking risks when I’m getting comfortable, reinvesting in my health, or building a strong connection with my family.
To me, it means doing the best you can right now and doing better when you know better. It’s planting the seed with no promise that you’ll get to sit under the tree, but being inspired by knowing that someone will, and when they do, they will likely send up a little prayer of gratitude.
CEO, Saddleback Leather
“Ask more questions”
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was this. “Dave, you should ask more questions.” Here are the reasons why it was so great. It helped me personally because people saw that I was interested in them personally.
I also learned about my friends more than I had before. It helped me in my business to learn more about it and to make better decisions. A lot of my people have great ideas, but don’t present them unless asked.
Executive Performance Coach
“Trust your gut, even when it makes no sense”
The best advice I ever received was from a mentor of mine who was a concentration camp survivor and psychiatrist. He told me, “Trust your gut, even when it makes no sense.“
Don’t be talked out of it, don’t try to rationalize it, and don’t try to make sense of it. His advice was to just pay attention and honor it, and it will serve you well in every area of your life…and he was right.
From the person I married over 10 years ago, to the business deals I decide to take or decline, I always think critically about the decisions that I make, but I also “listen to my gut.”
As an entrepreneur who works with executives in tech and finance both in NYC and San Francisco, I’ve been so fortunate. Both personally and professionally, this advice has been a cornerstone of my decision-making, and I’m happy to pass it along to individuals today.
Director of Communications, Accessibility Partners, LLC
It’s hard to ignore those nagging voices in your head that hold you back. I’ve spent much of high school, then college, and even into my first job second-guessing so many of my decisions. I’d ask co-workers to over-proof things that should have been automatic on my end, and even if they were acceptable, I’d still panic for the next iteration.
After years of professional self-doubt and personal anxiety, I had a therapist tell me:
“You can talk back louder to the voices in your head that say ‘you can’t.’”
It changed my life. Despite the tongue-in-cheek reference to voices, it made me realize I can be louder than my detractors, even if the biggest enemy to my success is a lack of confidence. Volume and realizing my own voice had worth changed the trajectory of my life.
I coupled that with a five-year review comment from my boss. When I outlined my anxieties and fear in the workplace, she shared three words of advice: “I trust you.” She followed up with what that trust meant, and then the real advice came: I had used her trust in me to ultimately then trust myself.
Realizing I was no longer entry-level at this point and way past anything probationary, I valued her trust in me, which I then fostered into self-confidence. While it never reached the hubris level, I was able to clear her inbox from my need for feedback and just own my work output.
Head of Operations & Client Relations, Prepaid Financial Services
“Keep trying again and again”
It was my sister who told me to persevere and not to give up so easily. It could have been so easy to give up at the start as we were our first client away from shutting up shop. Yesterday, 11 years after our amazing journey began, we announced another 50 new jobs in top roles. We are growing so fast that we will need our new people to start right away.
I was employee No.1 and it is incredible to have witnessed the growth of the business and what has been achieved in 25 different countries. If you believe in something and you want to make a success of it, you have to keep trying again and again.
We became one of the most respected names in our industry in the world by continuing to be brave. You have got to give it all you have got as you might never get another chance. Success comes from hard work and perseverance.
Business and Marketing Strategist, Sapiens Media Coaching
“Perfectionism kills success”
This is the best piece of advice I have ever received.
I have been battling the “all or nothing” mindset that prompts setting impossibly high standards for years. Being obsessed with perfectionism means that I struggle to delegate; I find it difficult to rest as “the job is never done” – and the job is never done because to me it’s never perfect.
I don’t take many risks and if I can’t do it perfectly then I am inclined to think it’s not even worth trying. I personally believe that perfectionism can be more of a vice than virtue as it can prevent us and our business from growing.
So, whenever the “all or nothing” mindset kicks in ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “What could you be missing out on?”
Related: Why Done Is Better Than Perfect?
Head of Marketing at Amphibian Press | Certified Book Launch Coach
“Inch forward, every single day, and you’ll get there”
I’ve received a lot of great advice in the last several years in publishing. But the best thing anyone ever told me was, “Inch forward, every single day, and you’ll get there.“
My mentor Tim Grahl told me that and it changed everything. I was suddenly allowed to do one small thing every day to move in the direction of my dreams and reach my goals and that counted.
I didn’t have to beat myself up for not doing these incredible things on a daily basis. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget what you’re doing it all for. Tim changed my life and my business.
Branch Manager/Mortgage Consultant, Residential Home Funding Corp.
“Treat every single person you deal with as if he or she matters more than anyone else on earth”
There are so many formal ideas regarding business advice and success, but those have not made the biggest impact on my life’s journey and me. The advice that truly inspired my vision and drive were offered humbly within the walls of my childhood home.
From the time I was a young boy, the patriarch of our family, my grandfather, Charlie, was revered and respected for his incredible insight and his humble advice.
When he spoke, he spoke from his heart and I relished every valuable word and this advice, his advice, has been the foundation of my personal and professional life, “Treat every single person you deal with as if he or she matters more than anyone else on earth. Be it family, friend, customer, colleague or client, give that person the very best that you have to give in that moment.”
I have lived by these simple words of wisdom and recommend them to anyone with dreams, drive and the desire to make an impact.
Researcher | Consultant | Marketing Communications Professional
“You’re better than this”
– all of my friends.
As a female entrepreneur, I used to not be confident. I thought I needed to partner in order to succeed, and that people would not take me seriously because I am young and female. This was the limiting narrative that leads me down the track of creating mediocre businesses with mediocre people.
As it turns out, everyone close to me kept saying to break free. The second I did I was immediately better off. Without any real plan, one day I just had enough. That same day I started a new, and immediately more successful business alone. That lead to becoming one of the first female venture capitalists, and now, I’ve got my hands in a portfolio of successful businesses.
I figured out that the key was simply this: if you think something is holding you back, it is. Whether it’s a mindset or other people, there is no time like the present to break free. You’ll be better off.
Guitar Virtuoso | Licensed Therapist
“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable”
This is the advice I was given, and to me, this is the key to reaching one’s Promised Land. This small quote opened my eyes to the reason why I had failed in several previous endeavors. It’s very true that we are all creatures of habit.
Human nature is to avoid pain and to run to pleasure. We all get intimidated when a step to reaching our dreams does not resound with our natural strengths. At this point, we either become comfortable with being uncomfortable, or we escape by avoiding, giving up, or compromising and taking a short cut.
I have been guilty of avoiding, shutting down, or even procrastinating. I’ve found myself checking social media, email, and taking a nap rather than tackling “that thing” that is standing in my way.
All of this behavior of escape/avoidance obviously gets us nowhere. Anxiety and fear of the unknown are normal! But true courage is embracing that feeling of uncomfortable-ness and completing the task at hand.
As a musician/artist and also a Licensed Professional Counselor, I ended up being my own therapist. I really had to examine my own self-talk. I realized that when I became uncomfortable, I spawned a negative mindset by catastrophizing (thinking the worst possible conclusion) or by predicting the future (believing I knew how things are going to turn out).
This type of mindset usually leads to bad decisions or even no decisions at all. When I embraced the feeling of being uncomfortable and acknowledged that it was an opportunity to grow and get a few steps closer to my dream, I was able to achieve many great things.
I have a successful counseling practice, I just released my debut album, I recently performed in front of 20,000 people, I speak at conferences, and I have even mended broken relationships.
These are all things that would never have been possible had I given in to the temptation to just “be comfortable”. So to me, the advice to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable” has truly changed my life.
Lead Singer & Songwriter, Across The Board
“Keep creating—never stop”
As an indie musician, the process of finding listeners, fans and eventually superfans for one’s music can be challenging and relies on independent work above and beyond the primary process of writing/recording/performing your music. It can be challenging, if not daunting, to navigate the process of music marketing, promotion and fanbase building by yourself.
In the early days of the formation of our band, Across The Board, we were mostly focused on creating high-quality music that would appeal to people, and yet, fit the genre we consider our own.
We were confused as to whether we should create music that we feel people would like to hear, or if we should create music we would like to play—or if these two trajectories were not in fact mutually exclusive.
We spent a great deal of time researching the “moves” of other successful indie artists and signed bands alike—trying to see what exactly they did to achieve the results they had. There did not seem to be much of a common thread.
A great deal of unmeasurable and unplannable events seemed to be at the heart of their success—a viral video on YouTube, a chance meeting with a famous celebrity, a share or a tweet by a famous influencer—events difficult to reproduce since there were so many subjective components to the “sharing” of third-party art and music with an influencer’s fan base.
Short of paying these individuals to share our music, which seemed to defeat the purpose of creating an organic genuine fanbase of listeners, we couldn’t seem to find the algorithm for “making it”.
Out of sheer frustration and angst, we turned to a friend, the recently deceased Mike Taylor (Beard Guy) from the Canadian band “Walk Off The Earth”, for pearls of wisdom.
He had but one—“Keep creating—never stop”. He suggested that the sheer process of continuing to create original music, covers, music videos, vlogs, and reaching out on all social media platforms with our own content—content we believed in—would help us organically find fans that also believed in our music.
Writing and producing the music we love, the music we enjoy playing and listening to and doing this often and unrelenting, was his advice.
We stopped trying to “fit in”, or take advantage of trends, and simply started creating projects that brought us joy and that we were proud of. It was then, that we started to see significant growth in our fanbase, interest in our music, awards and accolades and nominations for awards.
As with anything in life—do what makes you happy. Be the best version of yourself—don’t try to emulate someone else. Be unique, be genuine, and do this often.
Mindset Mentor and Spiritual Life Coach
“Money doesn’t solve money problems”
I was working as a stripper in an upmarket gentleman’s club. My client one evening was a very successful businessman, owner of a $3.2 billion dollar empire. He paid for my time as we drank and chatted.
At one point, the conversation turned to the usual: ‘How did someone like you end up working doing this?’. Though it was only part of the reason I chose the profession, a story of financial hardship was generally enough to satisfy a client and stop them asking more personal questions.
I ended up with a lot of debt when one of my early relationships ended, I explained. He nodded sympathetically, ‘So you contracted an STD? Sexually Transmitted Debt.’ I laughed, and then as an afterthought added, ‘That was some time ago though. It’s probably not fair of me to keep blaming my current financial problems on my past.’
He looked at me earnestly. ‘Money doesn’t solve money problems‘, he said.
This was the most important piece of business advice I ever received. I realized that just ‘making more money’ wasn’t going to be enough for me to be successful in business or in life. I had to improve my mindset, modify my behaviors, and commit to overcoming my own limiting habits and excuses.
Otherwise, I’d continue to sabotage the money that came my way and stay stuck in the struggle cycle of living pay to pay. And so I did. I committed to the inner work. I ended my sabotaging behaviors around money.
“Mind your own business”
The best advice I have ever received– “Mind your own business.”
This was a life-changing moment for me because as a serial entrepreneur with a heart, it seemed like I should be doing more, helping more, and expand more. But my mentor stopped me in my track of derailment by just saying those four words.
I took it to heart and reflected. Giving without the balance of receiving is a recipe for a burnout future. The advice led me to re-affirm my mission and motivation of why I started Self-ish Lifestyle in the first place.
The act of ‘minding my own business’ to my best capability rippled outwards organically which allowed me to help, expand, and do more for the community–but it starts with me.
Energy Industry Analyst, EnergyRates.ca
“When it is time to sow, sow and when it is time to harvest, you will harvest”
A valuable popular saying that really fits the business world is ‘When it is time to sow, sow and when it is time to harvest, you will harvest.‘ This means we should work hard and take every opportunity, but also learn that things take time and we must learn how to wait.
Sometimes, when working on something, we can get too anxious and focus too much on results. However, the greatest ideas are usually long-term plans, so it’s very significant learning how to plan things some years from now. If you’re doing the right thing, the positive results you’re looking for will come.
Of course, thinking in the long term is quite an exercise. It requires patience and an optimistic attitude. Do your best and plan how you want things to be in the small, medium and long terms. Always have in mind that the stuff you’re currently working on might only have an impact some years from now.
Depending on your project, it could even take a decade. Withal, the best way to face your long-term plans is seeing them as a road rather than an espresso machine that you push, and the results start to appear.
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