I’ve been reading a series of contributions from key influencers on LinkedIn under the title “the best advice I ever got”. It’s quite addictive once you get started reading them. The format is simple. The author writes a short piece on the most influential advice they ever received and comment on how it has shaped their life and career in a positive way. Forbes also collated a selection of what the ten top influencers had to say.
Having read through quite a few now I’ve added some condensed extracts below so you can get a feel for the type of advice given.
Beth Comstock: CMO at GE
665,974 views 4,134 Likers,1,513 Comments
Advice given: “You have to wallow in it,” he said. “Take time to get to know people. Understand where they are coming from, what is important to them. Make sure they are with you.”
Impact: Time to think and time to connect with people are as important as getting everything done. Sometimes you have to go slow before you go fast.
Martha Stewart: Founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
533,925 views, 3,685 Likers, 2,067 Comments
The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father when I was 12 years old and willing to listen. He told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose.
Impact: I’ll never forget the favour my father did me when he instilled in me the tenacity I needed to build a career based on what I love most.
Richard Branson. Influencer: Founder at Virgin Group
253,732 views, 2,872 Likers, 1,317 Comments
The best advice I ever received? Simple: Have no regrets. Who gave me the advice? Mum’s the word.
Impact: When I was a child, she inspired me to take risks in all manner of business ventures. Most of them didn’t work out (notably growing Christmas trees and breeding budgerigars!) but the lessons learned were invaluable.
Jordy LeiserInfluencer: Co-Founder and CEO at StellaService
64,599 views. 1,309 Likers, 250 Comments
The best advice I ever received was not really advice but more of an approach to living. It applies to several aspects of life: careers, relationships, sports; health and wellness, and probably many others.
“The harder you work, the luckier you get”.
Impact: Serendipity fits with my approach in that it’s possible to put yourself in a position to benefit from an unexpected occurrence if you work hard and make the right choices.
At this moment in time I’ve probably read through about 50 of these over the last two weeks. Some commonality between them all is that the advice given created a powerful resonance for that person. That ability to evoke long lasting memories and emotions we keep with us. It subsequently changed the way they thought and acted (which goes back to a previous blog post of mine on the importance of recognising paradigm shift moments).
So we are now exposed to thousands of examples of advice, proverbs, inspirational stories in our lives. It is hard to now look through your own LinkedIn or Facebook news feed without someone having referenced or shared a cliched (yes, I’m a cynic at times!) quotation of some sort. There are far more outlets in which we can now share and connect our thoughts which for me makes it interesting in how one key piece of advice can really influence and change your life.
What wasn’t a surprise was that out of the stories I have read so far, no one has said “my Careers Adviser gave me the best ever piece of advice”. I’m fairly confident as I carry on reading that not one will say that either. This shouldn’t be construed as any sort of failure on the part of practitioners or the process of careers guidance in general. Like I said, we are exposed to tens of thousands of pieces of advice through various channels so the work we do represents a minuscule part of the total. It is also important to note that a large portion of the “best advice ever given” came from somebody who knew that person really well such as family or friends. Just think about how the effect of the exact same message could change if it came from someone you didn’t like or respect.
What we also have to appreciate and acknowledge is the professional space in which we work. No careers practitioner is hired to exclusively trot out sagely words of wisdom. Guidance is as much about the process as what is said. I also think there is an arbitrary nature to the notion of having to describe and evidence “the best ever piece of advice” I ever got. Why not then have the second best piece of advice and the third and so on? Over time it is often hard to recall what words have had what effect and influence so perhaps we clutch on to the most memorable depending on what synapses were firing at the time.
In summary, if nothing else, have a read through some of the stories. Quite a few of them created some resonance with me and there is value to be had reading through them. Finally, in the spirit of these stories I wanted to share some (indirect) advice that created lasting resonance and influence on my life. It wasn’t given to me by family or friends but rather from the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” [sic] starring Will Smith (I’m not normally one for spread thickly sentiment, but we don’t always get to choose what creates those paradigm shifts, however it is a great film).
In the 2006 film Will Smith’s character – whilst fighting homelessness and trying to make it as an intern stockbroker – says the following to his young son.
I remember hearing that the first time and missing the next 10 minutes of the film because it just made me stop and think. I thought about it at random times for weeks afterwards as well. Eight years on and it still influences how I approach challenges in my life but also in how I approach my practice. I didn’t take from it the fact we can always achieve everything we want. Sometimes we are presented with barriers that mean some things are just not possible or worth pursuing in life and career. I just feel we should always feel empowered to make those decisions for ourselves and not by somebody else. It’s something I’ll keep telling my little boy when he is old enough to understand.