In this article we feature some of the most Successful people in from the entertainment, personal development, fashion, law & internet world as they share with you some of the Best Advice They Ever Got from their loved ones and role models in business and their life.
I wish I read this advice earlier, I’d probably be doing a hell of a lot better for myself. Don’t sleep on this post, there’s a lot of success gems in here.
Classic Success Advice
Back in 1990, I was a systems engineer at IBM in Detroit. I had a manager who told me that aside from my technical knowledge, my sense of humor was my saving grace. I was sometimes arrogant because I was very technical. It became a problem when I was working within a marketing division, and the culture was hostile to the technical culture. I was advised to use my dry sense of humor to help diffuse that atmosphere. In business there are times when you disagree, and sometimes it turns out that you’re just plain wrong. Humor takes away tension and helps you realize you’re wrong.
I go back to things my dad said: “Your career is long and the business world is small. Always act with integrity. Never take the last dollar off the table.” In my dealings to sell Bebo [to AOL], this advice was critical. You can always do a slightly better deal, but that incremental dollar or windfall is not worth creating an imbalance that affects the relationship. You have to have the intuition to know when to say, “I’m going to make sure that we walk away feeling like we’ve both done well.”
It was my dad who gave me the best advice of my 45-year career: “Get sales up, and keep expenses down.” That sounds simplistic, but it’s the way my father got 4% margins in his food business when his competitors made 1% or 2%. The goal is to get revenues moving and to keep expenses from rising at the same rate so that margins expand. We accomplished that after we bought Snapple in 1997. We returned to our roots by winning back the local delis and pizza parlors that first made the brand a success. Margins exploded, and so did the value of Snapple. It was a textbook example of my father’s advice in practice.
President and CEO, Walt Disney
My father wrote in my sixth-grade yearbook quoting Hamlet – Polonius to his son, Laertes: “To thine own self be true.” I was 12 years old, but it had a powerful impression on me then, and I’ve often thought of it since.
Thomas S. Murphy
Former CEO, Capital Cities/ABC
I got two pieces of advice I have always remembered. The first was from my father, Charles E. Murphy, who was a justice of the New York State Supreme Court. It was a point about ethics. He said, “Doing the wrong thing is not worth the loss of one night’s good sleep.”
The other came from Benjamin Selekman, a Harvard Business School professor who taught labor relations. The last thing he said, at his last lecture to my class, was, “Here is something to remember for the rest of your life: Don’t spend your time on things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time thinking about what you can.”
Actress; creator and star of 30 Rock
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.
Mayor of New York City, founder of Bloomberg LP
I can’t remember who told me this, but I certainly didn’t grow up knowing it, so I must have gotten this advice at Salomon Brothers in the 1970s. The advice was, first, always ask for the order, and second, when the customer says yes, stop talking. I have watched more people make great presentations, whether they’re trying to sell to their family or in business or in government, and never get to the point of what they’re trying to get out of it. And too many times when the customer says yes, the person who got that answer just doesn’t stop talking. Worst advice? The worst advice that people can take is to react before they’ve had a chance to think. I think we all say things and wish we hadn’t said them. Ready, shoot, aim is not the smartest policy.
In 1979, when I was 19, I had all these people giving me conflicting advice. Jim Rohn, a personal-development speaker, said, ‘Tony, think about it this way. If your worst enemy drops sugar in your coffee, what’s going to happen to you? Nothing. But what if your best friend drops strychnine in your coffee? You’re dead. You have to stand guard at the door of your mind.” He was saying that the selection of [my friends and advisors] will matter more than anything else, and that you can’t take anybody’s approach as sacrosanct.
Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies
The best advice I ever got came from my mother, Estée Lauder: She believed that if you had something good to say, you should put it in writing. But if you had something bad to say, you should tell the person to his or her face.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I’m chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and several years ago, I was angry with one of my trustees. I wrote a letter and signed it. But then I decided not to send the letter, and left it on my desk over the weekend. The following Monday I was out of the office, when a temp saw the letter and mailed it. The trustee got very angry and resigned from the board. To this day, writing that letter is something that I regret.
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