If you’re young and your career is in its early days, you’ve likely been privy to plenty of career truisms and clichés.
But if “follow your passion,” “give 110%,” and “be true to yourself” just aren’t cutting it for you anymore, perhaps advice like, “don’t work too hard” and “relax” are more up your alley.
These successful people have offered some of the best — and oftentimes unconventional — advice for people in their 20s:
Warren Buffett: Exercise humility and restraint.
In a 2010 interview with Yahoo, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said the best advice he ever received was from Berkshire Hathaway board-of-directors member Thomas Murphy. He told Buffett:
“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.”
During this year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, Buffett also told a curious seventh-grader that the key to making friends and getting along with coworkers is learning to change your behavior as you mature by emulating those you admire and adopting the qualities they possess.
Maya Angelou: Make your own path.
In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer Maya Angelou:
My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for 65 years. She said, ‘If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to you place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a new path.’
Richard Branson: Never look back in regret — move on to the next thing.
Richard Branson’s mother taught him that.
“The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me,” The Virgin Group founder and chairman told The Good Entrepreneur. “I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”
J.K. Rowling: Embrace failure.
“I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling recently told Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” show. “It would’ve really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, ‘You will fail. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.'”
Before Rowling became one of the wealthiest women in the world, she was a single mom living off welfare in the UK. She began writing about her now famous character, the young wizard Harry Potter, in Edinburgh cafes, and received “loads” of rejections from book publishers when she first sent out the manuscript, The Guardian reports.
“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” Rowling said during a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech.
She went on to say that she considered her early failure a “gift” that was “painfully won,” since she gained valuable knowledge about herself and her relationships through the adversity.
Eric Schmidt: Say yes to more things.
In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt as advising:
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.”
Marissa Mayer: Pick something and make it great.
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.
Steve Jobs: Don’t just follow your passion but something larger than yourself.
In a recent Business Insider article, Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” referenced Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, who recalled an exchange he had with Jobs shortly before he passed. Jobs reportedly told Isaacson:
Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.
Suze Orman: With success comes unhelpful criticism — ignore it.
In a LinkedIn article about the best advice she ever received, motivational speaker, author, and CNBC host Suze Orman wrote that success has often made her a target of nasty criticism “entirely disconnected from facts.” At first these attacks made her angry, but she eventually learned to ignore them.
“A wise teacher from India shared this insight: The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking,” she wrote.
“The sad fact is that we all have to navigate our way around the dogs in our career: external critics, competitors, horrible bosses, or colleagues who undermine. Based on my experience, I would advise you to prepare for the yapping to increase along with your success.”
Bill Gates: Keep things simple.
In a 2009 interview with CNBC, Microsoft cofounder and chairman Bill Gates admired Warren Buffett’s ability to keep 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.
Arianna Huffington: Don’t work too hard.
In a LinkedIn post last year, The Huffington Post president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington revealed that she’s often asked if young people pursuing their dreams should burn the candle at both ends?
“This couldn’t be less true,” she writes. “And for far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.”
She says she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.”
Stewart Butterfield: Have an ‘experimental attitude.’
Stewart Butterfield, the cofounder of Flickr and chief executive of Slack, one of the fastest-growing business apps of all time, recently shared his best advice for young people with Adam Bryant of The New York Times:
“Some people will know exactly what they want to do at a very young age, but the odds are low,” he said. “I feel like people in their early- to mid-20s are very earnest. They’re very serious, and they want to feel like they’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age rather than just trying to figure stuff out. So I try to push them toward a more experimental attitude.”
George Stephanopoulos: Relax.
“Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow,” “Good Morning America” coanchor George Stephanopoulos told personal finance website NerdWallet.
“Down the road, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.”
Maria Malcolm Beck: Remember that you won’t end up where you start.
Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of Bluemercury, said in an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times that she always reminds students that “nobody ends up in the first job they choose out of college, so just find something that is interesting to you, because you tend to excel at things you’re interested in. But just go do it. You have nothing to lose.”
Her other piece of advice: Go into tech. “If you look at all the skill sets companies need, they involve a comfort level with technology,” she told Bryant.
T.J. Miller: Work harder than anyone else around you.
T.J. Miller, comedian and star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” told personal finance website NerdWallet this is truly the formula to success. “It worked for me, and I have mediocre talent and a horse jaw.”
Alexa von Tobel: Get up, dress up, and show up.
What Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest and the author of New York Times bestseller “Financially Fearless,” means is that it’s important to wake up excited for what’s coming, dress the part, and always show up ready to go.
“As a new hire, you will likely find yourself in tons of new situations, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate them,” she wrote in an article for Business Insider.
“Remember that your manager is strapped for time, so know when to ask questions. Are you unsure of the objectives for an assignment? Asking her to clarify is crucial, since it’s pretty hard to make the mark if you don’t know where it even lies.
“On the flip side, avoid bombarding your manager with petty questions that could be answered by your peers or a quick Google search.”
Mark Bartels: Map out a timeline for yourself when you start a new job.
“We talk about budgets; we talk about planning your finances; but what a lot of people don’t do is plan out the next 12 to 18 or 24 months of their careers,” StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels tells Business Insider.
He says that lack of planning can be costly, both professionally and existentially, while having an agenda provides a metric for evaluating your success.
Hermione Way: Start your own business.
“There has never been an easier time to start a business,” Hermione Way, founder of WayMedia and star of Bravo’s “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” told personal finance website NerdWallet.
“There are so many free online tools. Just start, and if you fail you can always go and get a normal job, but you will learn so much along the way it will be a great experience.”
John Chen: Being a ‘superstar’ can hurt your career.
“Most employees think that the best way to show value to their boss and get promoted is to aggressively claim credit and ownership over everything they do,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a LinkedIn post earlier this year.
“While it’s important to be recognized for what you do and the value you add, grabbing the glory is going to turn off your coworkers.” It can also turn off your boss, he warns.
“Trying too hard to show you’re a superstar tells me that you only care about what’s best for you, and not the company as a whole.”
Salli Setta: Never eat lunch alone.
The benefit of always having lunch plans with someone are two-fold: You can get information that will help you “think about your job differently,” and you also get on your companion’s radar.
“It isn’t about saying ‘hi, what are we going to talk about, let’s talk about sports,'” Setta says. “It’s about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind” and going in armed with “a couple of things that you want to ask, and a couple of things you want to share.”
Deepak Chopra: Embrace the wisdom of uncertainty.
In a LinkedIn post last year, Deepak Chopra, popular author and founder of The Chopra Foundation said he wished he embraced the wisdom of uncertainty at a younger age.
“At the outset of my medical career, I had the security of knowing exactly where I was headed,” he wrote. “Yet what I didn’t count on was the uncertainty of life, and what uncertainty can do to a person.”
“If only I knew then, as I know now, that there is wisdom in uncertainty — it opens a door to the unknown, and only from the unknown can life be renewed constantly,” he wrote.
Cynthia Tidwell: Be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks.
Cynthia Tidwell, CEO of insurance company Royal Neighbors of America, told Business Insider her favorite piece of advice for young people is be patient enough to learn, but impatient enough to take risks. “I encourage taking risks,” she said. “What is the worst thing that can happen? You can go back and do what you were doing before.”
Brian Chesky: Don’t listen to your parents.
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said in an interview with The New York Times’ Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn’t listen to their parents.
“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world,” he told Bryant. “I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.”
David Melancon: Ask 3 important questions at the end of every interview.
When a hiring manager turns the tables at the end of an interview and asks, “do you have any questions for me?” David Melancon, CEO of btr., a corporate-rankings platform that focuses on holistic performance, says there are three questions far more important for you to ask than what the salary is or what the job requirements are.
The questions are:
1. What qualities will a person in this role need to be successful in your company culture — as an individual and as a worker?
2. What’s the company’s position on education and development, including student-loan reimbursement and tuition assistance?
3. How does the company keep employees excited, innovative, and motivated?
Diane von Furstenberg: Keep it real.
“In order to trust yourself, you have to have a relationship with yourself,” she told Bryant. “In order to have a relationship with yourself, you have to be hard on yourself, and not be delusional.”
Rick Goings: Be nice to everyone.
Rick Goings, CEO of home-products company Tupperware Brands, which brought in $2.6 billion in revenue last year, shared his favorite pearls of wisdom for young people with Business Insider. One of them was be nice to everyone when you go on a job interview.
“I like to check with the driver, our receptionist, and my assistants on how the candidate interacted with them. How you treat others means the world!”
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