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."
"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?