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23 super-successful people share the best advice they ever received
The path to success isn't always straight. There are often bumps and turns and forks in the road. But a little bit of guidance and some hustle you can help you find your way.
In fact, many of the most successful leaders are where they are today because they took advice from people they trusted and they hustled.
Here we've compiled some of the best tips that executives have shared throughout the years.
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Berkshire Hathaway board of directors member Thomas Murphy told him:
"Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don't give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow."
Marissa Mayer, president and CEO, Yahoo!
"My friend Andre said to me, 'You know, Marissa, you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself to pick the right choice, and I've gotta be honest: That's not what I see here. I see a bunch of good choices, and there's the one that you pick and make great.' I think that's one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten."
Richard Branson, founder and chairman, Virgin Group
"My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve."
From an interview with The Good
Terry J. Lundgren, CEO, Macy's
Gene Ross, the man who recruited Lundgren at Bullock, told him:
"You're not going to do this forever. There's a finite amount of time you're going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. And if you do this really, really well, everybody will see that, and they'll move you onto the next thing. And you do that well, and then you'll move."
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
His boss at Goldman during the 1980s told him:
"First, it's good to solicit your people's opinions before you give them yours. And second, your people will be very influenced by how you carry yourself under stress."
From a 2009 interview with CNNMoney
Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO, Chanel
Mickey Drexler, CEO of Gap at the time, told Chiquet:
"I'm going to give you some important advice. You're a terrific merchant. But you've gotta learn to listen!"
From a 2008 blog post at Harvard Business Review
Shafqat Islam, CEO and cofounder, Newscred
"If you're not getting told 'no' enough times a day, you're probably not doing it right or you're probably not pushing yourself hard enough.
"I think that's a good piece of advice for anyone building a company because you hear 'no' so many times and I think that's normal, I think that's a good thing, that means you're trying to do something that's disruptive, that's groundbreaking."
From a 2012 interview with Business
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google
"Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids."
Tory Burch, cofounder and CEO, Tory Burch
"When I started my company, many people said I shouldn't launch it as a retail concept because it was too big a risk. They told me to launch as a wholesaler to test the waters — because that was the traditional way.
"But Glen Senk, [then] CEO of Urban Outfitters and a mentor of mine ... told me to follow my instincts and take the risk. I wanted to create a new way of looking at retail."
Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn
"As a child, I can't recall a day that went by without my dad telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. He said it so often, I stopped hearing it. Along with lines like 'eat your vegetables,' I just assumed it was one of those bromides that parents repeated endlessly to their kids.
"It wasn't until decades later that I fully appreciated the importance of those words and the impact they had on me."
Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox
Ursula Burns' most powerful advice, which she relates to employees, comes from her mother:
"Stuff happens to you, and then there's stuff that you happen to."
"Stuff that happens to you, please, let's talk about it for five minutes, and you can cry, and let's go through that, the healing process, but then it's kind of done. I can't hear about that two years from now."
Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO, Likeable Local
Several weeks into his first job as a salesperson for Radio Disney — where he was "failing miserably," Kerpen's mentor Peggy Iafrate said:
"How well are you listening to what your prospects have to say? How many questions are you asking them to better understand them? How are you showing them that you care about them more than you care about selling them?
"Remember this one thing: Shut up and listen."
Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post
"Whenever I'd complain or was upset about something in my own life, my mother had the same advice: 'Darling, just change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don't replay the bad, scary movie.'
"We don't have to wait until we move or change jobs to change our lives. Nor do we have to wait for large-scale, upstream change. We can initiate change right now. There are endless starting points."
Brian Chesky, CEO and cofounder, Airbnb
When Airbnb was going through Paul Graham's Y Combinator program, the legendary programmer and startup mentor told Chesky:
"Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like."
From a 2013 interview with Pando Daily
Bill Gates, cofounder and chairman, Microsoft
"I've gotten a lot of great advice from Warren [Buffett]. I'd say one of the most interesting is how he keeps things simple.
"You look at his calendar, it's pretty simple. You talk to him about a case where he thinks a business is attractive, and he knows a few basic numbers and facts about it. And [if] it gets less complicated, he feels like then it's something he'll choose to invest in. He picks the things that he's got a model of, a model that really is predictive and that's going to continue to work over a long-term period. And so his ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it's so amazing that he can do that. It's a special form of genius."
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
When Sandberg was thinking she wouldn't accept an offer to be Google's general manager, Eric Schmidt told her, "Stop being an idiot; all that matters is growth."
Source: All Things D
Richard Parsons, former chairman, Citigroup
Steve Ross, the former CEO of Time Warner, told him:
"Just remember, it's a small business and a long life. You're going to see all these people again."
From the 2008 HACR Roundtable
Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors Company
"The best advice I ever received came from my parents, who encouraged me to work hard and pursue my early love of math. This was great advice for two reasons.
"First, it led me to do something I really loved. In my experience, in work and in life, there are lots of smart, talented people out there. But talent alone is never enough. One of the things that distinguishes those who truly make a difference is passion and hard work. There is truth in the expression that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. And the passion that drives hard work comes from doing something you really love.
"The second reason this was great advice is that it steered me toward a career in engineering at a time when few women were pursuing work in science, technology, engineering or math – fields that, collectively, we now call STEM."
Mohamed El-Erian, former CEO, PIMCO
"I remember asking my father, 'Why do we need four newspapers?' He said to me, 'Unless you read different points of view, your mind will eventually close, and you'll become a prisoner to a certain point of view that you'll never question.'"
From a 2009 interview with CNN Money
Kenneth Burdick, president and COO, WellCare Health Plans
Burdick received this message from various successful people he has met:
"Surround yourself with good people. And part of that is surrounding yourself with people who think differently than you. Surrounding yourself with people who have different experiences than you. In business, it's all about the team."
From the 2008 HACR Roundtable
Jennifer Hyman, CEO and cofounder, Rent The Runway
"Just do it. There's no benefit to saying, 'I'm just doing this because it will get me to this new place,' or 'I'm just going to go into this analyst program because it will prep me for X.'
"If you're passionate about something, go for it, because people are great at what they love and when they're the happiest."
From a 2011 interview with The Huffington
Maynard Webb, chairman, Yahoo!
"I reflected back to a conversation I had with my dear friend Gay Hendricks, who was a trusted advisor and one of my coaches at eBay. Some years before, when I was thinking about leaving eBay, he offered some sage advice: 'Your 50s are a decade of creativity or stagnation — so be searching for what you are intended to do.'
"Gay certainly was a case study of that advice. He was running an organization that helped people have better lives, had written dozens of books with his wife and even appeared on Oprah. Now at 69 years old, he has started writing detective novels and is producing his first movie. Amazing."
Ben Silbermann, cofounder, Pinterest
"Don't take too much advice. Most people who have a lot of advice to give — with a few exceptions — generalize whatever they did. ...
"Every company carves its own path, and [founders] are under pressure to make their startups look like the last successful company everyone remembers."
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