"The Best Advice I Ever Got"

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Fortune Magazine had an eye-grabbing cover story in the May 12th, 2008 print edition called, "The Best Advice I Ever Got". It’s a simple compilation of celebrated people from all walks of life (business, Hollywood, military and more) reflecting on key insights that have stuck with them.

I loved this one:

"In graduate school at Stanford University, I had about ten different ideas of things I wanted to do, and one of them was to look at the link structure of the web. My advisor, Terry Winograd, picked that one out and said, ‘Well, that one seems like a really good idea.’ So I give him credit for that."

In case you could not figure it out, that was Larry Page – Co-Founder and President of Google.

I also really liked what Tina Fey (Actress, Creator of 30 Rock and former Saturday Night Live writer/cast member) had to say:

"About 15 years ago, I saw an Oprah show where she said, ‘Always be the only person who can sign your checks.’ At the time, I had no money. I was at Second City in Chicago. I came to New York in 1997 to work on Saturday Night Live. I realized I have no head for business. And it would have been very easy for me to let someone take control of my money – for me to say, ‘Here, sign my checks…whatever.’ But that line from Oprah has always been a reminder. Today, as much as it makes me super sleepy, I have to pay a lot of attention when my business manager talks to me about money. He talks to me about taxes, and I get really, really sleepy. But I listen."

In this well-assembled piece, you have the expected sage wisdom that super-performers took from their parents, family members and friends, but it always amazes me to read where inspiration comes from (Oprah?) and why it sticks in people’s minds (my advisor picked one out for me?).

My parents and family upbringing certainly instilled in me the concept of integrity (or, as some have called it: "doing the right thing when nobody is looking), sharing, helping others, and my passion for education. I don’t think there’s much better advice beyond that which has impacted me more.

Some additional top pieces of advice that have stuck with me come from places like my self-defense instructor, Tony Blauer, who always encouraged his students to "use what works and discard the rest." While it’s a well-known adage from Bruce Lee, it’s much different when you’re living it live, versus reading it. He also always encouraged and coached me to move towards the threat, instead of away from it.

Another best piece of advice that I read (and has stuck with me) comes from the materials of Dan Sullivan – The Strategic Coach. While I have never met Dan, his books and CDs really helped me define the Entrepreneur I wanted to be. The best advice I ever got from his materials was to work on your strengths and pass off the stuff you’re not great at to those who are… even if it costs you money. That small nugget of advice enables me to spend more and more time each day working on the stuff I am truly unique at.

What was the best advice you ever got?


  1. best advice ever: “duck”
    Actually the best advice I ever got is from my dad: ” You never have too many spare cords for your bow”, refering to the fact that the important thing is life is to learn all you can from everyday even. From reparing a table to understanding world politic, because you never know what knowledge you might need someday.

  2. You want good advice? Consider this, given to me by an officer of the Norwegian army when I was sent into the forest with a map and a compass. Naturally, I was concerned about getting lost. His advice? “If you ever find that the map and ground disagree, always remember that the ground is right.” Very good advice for people who put too much trust in maps of any kind.

  3. I used to buy a lot of books as a kid. One day the old shopkeeper said “John Carson, sounds like a great explorer’s name.” I always remembered that, and have been exploring life ever since.

  4. Mitch,this was a great post and very timely for me as i have been really ramping up my own business getting ready to make the transition from someone writing my paycheck tome writing my own.
    The best advice Ive ever gotten was “To mind my own business, and be weary of the good opinion of others”
    Taken out of context this might seem a bit rude, but taking care of my business is very important signifying being responsible for all that is developing around me and for the experience I am having.
    Being wary of the good opinion of others is to have a faith based knowing that you can achieve what it is that you set your mind to, no matter how many people are naysayers.
    Thank you for the post Mitch
    Keith Burtis

  5. Mitch:
    From my always wise Father: “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
    Your Tony Blauer quote is one I use with my VO students all the time and it reminded me to do a blog on it. Thanks.
    Best always,
    – Peter

  6. i read this a few weeks ago on a plane. i generally liked the article, but thought that Page’s thing was a cop-out. His “best advice” is barely worth printing, because nobody can really use it to help THEM at all.

  7. @julien – I think there’s tons of lessons in his comment: get a mentor, listen to people, sometimes people can say things that can help push you in a different direction and more… just my own take.

  8. This is a great post and a good reminder to reflect on all the good advice I’ve gotten over the years.
    One great piece of advice I got from my dad was to see the world. Not only have I had great personal experiences from all my travels, but I find it has helped me become a more empathetic person and work better with different personalities.
    I have not climbed the corporate ladder as quickly as my counterparts who stayed home but if I can count the number of people my age and older who told me “I wish I had traveled more” before house/marriage/kids, I would be a very rich woman!

  9. Hey Mitch – loved your presentation in Kelowna. best advice – “Do what you can .. as long as you can .. when you can.. and the rest is none of your business.”

  10. Great post. Thought the article was great, although there were a few responses that weren’t as inspiring as the others. But overall, I loved the concept and your post has inspired me to blog on this topic myself.

  11. That was a great article. I’d love to see an updated version with some key figures like Obama or even up and coming sports stars.
    At ThirdAge.com we are currently running a contest to find the best advice from users across the World. Tell us your best advice and you could win $250. You can enter the contest here on ThirdAge.com

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