Successful people reveal their best advice received

I came across this article when I was looking for some inspiration. It seemed too great not to share.

Originally published at

Bill Gates – Keep things simple

For career advice the Microsoft cofounder looked to fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, who is renowned for keeping things simple. Gates tries to mirror the business magnate’s adage, which he believes is a special form of genius. He doesn’t unnecessarily complicate things, especially finances or budgets, by having a sturdy plan in place.

Mark Zuckerberg – The biggest risk is not taking any risks

The best advice the Facebook founder received came from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel. Peter told him that the riskiest thing he could do was not to take risks at all. Zuckerberg lives by the rule that the only guaranteed way to fail is by not taking risks. Or by not making mistakes and learning from them.

Warren Buffett – Exercise humility and restraint

The business magnate gained what he considers the best piece of advice from Berkshire Hathaway board member Thomas Murphy. Buffett was told to remember that he could tell someone to go to hell tomorrow but to keep his mouth shut today and wait to see if he felt the same way the next day. He lives by not making rash decisions but taking the time to keep things simple and think logically.

Oprah Winfrey – When you know better, you do better

As one of the world’s most famous mentors, Winfrey looked up to writer Maya Angelou, who she said she had a ‘mother-sister-friend relationship’ with. Winfrey took on many life lessons Angelou taught but the one that stuck to her most was, ‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.’ Winfrey took this on board and is constantly learning and bettering herself.

Amancio Ortega – Never stop innovating

As founder and chairman of the Inditex fashion group, best known for Zara, Ortega rose to success through continually being innovative. He believes success is never guaranteed and has worked on the basis that you have to continually keep pushing forward and developing. Ortega now passes on the advice and says to be innovative you shouldn’t just focus on the results or bigger picture. 

Mark Cuban – There are no shortcuts

The investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks got a piece of advice in high school from his father that he continues to live by today: “Do the work and out-work, out-think and out-sell your expectations because there aren’t any shortcuts.” The idea behind the advice is that hard work is the answer to success.

Brian Chesky – Build something people love, not something people sort of like

The advice given to the Airbnb chief executive officer and cofounder was to create something that 100 people love, not something one million people ‘kind’ of like. The advice was given to him by Paul Graham, who runs the Y Combinator programme, which helps start-ups get off the ground. Chesky used the advice to develop Airbnb by creating a product where the individual was the focus, not hundreds of people.

JK Rowling – Embrace failure

The bestselling Harry Potter author stumbled across her lesson for success through learned experience. Before her success, Rowling was a single mother living off welfare who wrote about her famous wizard in coffee shops. When pitching her story to publishers, Rowling received plenty of rejections. Now, as one of the wealthiest women in the world, Rowling attributes her success to her failings because it was through those adversities she gained valuable knowledge about herself and relationships.

Carlos Slim Helu – Don’t run from a crisis

Dubbed the Warren Buffett of Mexico, business magnate Helu’s business philosophy stems from the advice that when people run from a crisis you should go in head on. Helu isn’t afraid to delve into an industry/niche that seems to be going downhill. Instead he does his research beforehand so he knows he has the ability to turn things around, and therefore can face a crisis head on.

Suze Orman – With success comes unhelpful criticism; ignore it

Success for the motivational speaker, author and CNBC host has made her a target of nasty criticism, which she deals with by remembering a piece of advice she was given. At first these attacks made Orman angry but she eventually learnt to ignore them after a teacher from India told her, “The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking.”

Richard Parsons – It’s a small business and long life

The former Citigroup chairman was told, “Just remember, it’s a small business and a long life. You’re going to see all these people again.” The advice came from Steve Ross, former CEO of Time Warner. The sentiment was that it’s important to be mindful of how you work and treat people within the business because you never know where or in what situation you’ll meet those people again.

Mary Barra – Work hard and pursue what you love

Like many people, the best advice General Motors CEO Mary Barra received was from her parents. They encouraged her to work hard and pursue her love of math. According to Barra, one of the things that distinguishes those who truly make a difference is passion and hard work. She is a strong believer in hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Sheryl Sandberg – All that matters is growth

When Facebook chief operating officer Sandberg was thinking that she wouldn’t accept an offer to be Google’s general manager, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt told her, “Stop being an idiot; all that matters is growth.” It’s the best advice Sandberg got because she believes that technology is a growth industry and therefore a good one to be part of. As with anything, Sandberg sees the positives in growth and development.

Mohamed El-Erian – Have an open mind

The former CEO of PIMCO remembers getting sage advice from his father when he was younger which has stuck with him ever since. He asked his father why they had four newspapers and his dad’s response was, “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.” It’s about having an open mind by educating yourself and learning as much as possible to have your own opinion.

Terry J. Lundgren – Do well to progress

The former Macy’s CEO was given some advice by Gene Ross, the man who recruited him for Federated Department Stores early on in his career. Ross told Lundgren that he wasn’t going to be in the role he was in forever. He said, “There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. 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.”

Shafqat Islam – Don’t be afraid to hear ‘no’

As CEO and cofounder of global marketing company NewsCred, the advice Islam keeps in mind is “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.” He believes hearing ‘no’ means you’re doing something disruptive and groundbreaking, and ultimately pushing the boundaries. It’s about going against the grain or trend and working without limited possibilities.

Maureen Chiquet – Listen

Sometimes the best advice is the most simple. For the former global CEO of Chanel, the greatest piece of advice was to listen. When Mickey Drexler was the chief executive officer of Gap he told Chiquet, “I’m going to give you some important advice. You’re a terrific merchant. But you’ve gotta learn to listen.” It’s important advice for everyone. Part of good communication is listening and to be good at what you do, you must listen and take what you’ve heard on board.

Lloyd Blankfein – Don’t be quick to give your opinions

There are two pieces of advice the former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs received which he considers the best he’s ever got. Blankfein was told by his boss at Goldman in the 1980s that, “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.” The advice was about leadership and to allow people to share their thoughts and opinions first before sharing your own.

Rick Goings – Be nice to everyone

Tupperware Brands’ Executive Chairman Rick Goings’ favorite piece of wisdom is to be nice to everyone, especially when going for a job interview. The notion behind it is that you never know who is watching and listening. By being nice to everyone you create positive energy and vibes. Goings said, “How you treat others means the world.”

Ursula Burns – Stuff happens

Like many others on this list, Burns’ best advice came from her mother. The chairwoman of telecoms company VEON now passes this advice on to employees. Her mother told her that “Stuff happens to you, and then there’s stuff that you happen to.” Burns’ mentality is that when stuff happens to you, you can talk about it and maybe cry, but if you’re still talking about it the same way two years on then you’re allowing that stuff to control you. It’s about dealing with situations there and then.

Ben Silbermann – Don’t take too much advice

For the Pinterest cofounder the best piece of advice he received was not to take on or listen to too much advice. For Silbermann, most people who have a lot of advice to give generalize what they did. He believes that each path is different and unique with varied learning opportunities that can’t be advised on but simply experienced.

George Stephanopoulos – Relax

As a prominent American TV host, Stephanopoulos has learned to relax and understand that almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow. The advice he now shares with young people chasing success is all around the fact that worry and stress can lessen with time. Something that seems stressful and painfully frustrating one day can be turned around another.

Richard Branson – Never look back in regret, move onto the next thing

We all know mothers know best. Unlike most people, Branson actually listened to his mother and took her advice of never looking back and having regrets but moving onto the next project straight away. The Virgin Group founder doesn’t dwell on failures, instead he puts his energy into another project. He never looks at a setback as a bad experience but a learning curve. 

Stewart Butterfield – Have an ‘experimental attitude’

The co-founder of Flickr and chief executive of Slack, now passes on the advice he received and learned to young people starting out in their career. He believes that although some people know exactly what they want to do from a very young age. The odds on that happening are low. He suggests having an experimental attitude and not pigeonholing yourself.

Steve Jobs – Don’t just follow your passion

‘Follow your passion’ is a common piece of advice thrown around when talking about becoming successful. Jobs’ advice was to not just follow your passion but something larger than yourself. His advice was based on the idea that giving something back to your community can be greater than your passion and more purposeful.

The Apple co-founder lived by the notion of using his passion to be part of history and making something that other people cared about.

Michael Bloomberg – Never stop learning

To continuously be learning is advice Bloomberg lives by. He is passionate about forever being a student. He believes there’s nothing more powerful than an open, inquiring mind wanting to soak up knowledge. According to the business magnate, politician and philanthropist, there are too many people in the world who stop learning. So always be open to learning new things.

Eric Schmidt – Say yes to more things

Former Google executive chairman Schmidt believes people should find more ways to say yes to things. For example, saying yes to meet new friends or learning something new. Schmidt embraces the advice and stands by the belief that saying yes is how you get a new job. Even get your spouse and even your kids. It’s about being open to possibilities and opportunities and not turning down chances for change and success.

Arianna Huffington – Don’t work too hard

As a young woman the now Huffington Post president and editor-in-chief overworked herself and burnt herself out trying to pursue her dream.

Later listening to her mother’s advice helped her see that by continuously doing the same thing and expecting different results was not realistic. Her mom told her “Darling, just change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don’t replay the bad, scary movie.” It’s about initiating the change yourself right now.

Tory Burch – Follow your instincts

When setting up her own business, Burch listened to advice from former Urban Outfitters CEO Glen Senk. He told the fashion entrepreneur to follow her instincts and take risks. At the time Burch had been told by other people to take a more traditional way of launching her business as a wholesaler, rather than a retail concept. Listening to Senk paid off and helped propel Burch to the successful position she’s in today.

Maynard Webb – Search for what you’re intended to do

Friend and eBay coach Gay Hendricks gave former Yahoo! chairman and bestselling author Webb his most valued piece of advice. Hendricks told Webb that “Your 50s are a decade of creativity or stagnation, so be searching for what you are intended to do.” For Webb it’s about searching for your passion and what drives you to keep on keeping on.

Jeff Weiner – You can do anything

A day didn’t go by without Weiner’s father telling him he could do anything he put his mind to. The LinkedIn CEO admitted that his dad gave him the advice so much that he stopped hearing it. But decades later, Weiner fully appreciated the importance of the advice and the impact it had on him. It’s those words that helped Weiner achieve success and is something he now preaches himself.

Well, there you have it. Over 30 of the world’s most successful people sharing some advice with you.

Once you’ve been inspired – check out some of my etoro posts, investing or read up my Top 5 Books.


2 thoughts on “Successful people reveal their best advice received”

  1. Thanks for sharing, these are some very useful tips. Which one do you think is the best advice?

    • I think Bloomberg’s ‘Never stop learning’ – there’s always something out there to learn! Doesn’t matter what, at least you’ll know something you didn’t know yesterday!


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