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Passion, People and Principles

The Best Advice I Ever Received

post # 170 — August 24, 2006 — a Careers post

Get over it. Let it go. Move on.


What was the best advice you ever received?


Carl A. Singer said:

There are several short lists of advice that make sense — one just has to remember (when & which) to apply same during the heat of the moment. That’s key.

Here are two such lists that I’ve used in presentations.

The first from Jack Welch — when I was a GE I was so far from Corporate HQ that I would have needed three days rations and a bus ticket to get to corporate leadership — nonetheless these are good points.

General Electric Company – Jack Welch’s Six Rules

1. Control your destiny or someone else will.

2. Face reality as it is, not as it was or you wish it were.

3. Be candid with everyone.

4. Don’t manage, lead.

5. Change before you have to.

6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

Although I never heard these when we were officemates on the Army Staff (both much younger at the time), this list of rules is attributed to General Colin Powell:

Colin Powell’s Rules

1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.

2. Get mad, then get over it.

3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position

that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

4. It can be done!

5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

7. You can’t make someone else’s choices.

You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.

8. Check small things.

9. Share credit.

10. Remain calm. Be kind.

11. Have a vision. Be demanding.

12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.

13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

I was reading a project management article on my commute in this morning — everything in it made lots of sense, and nothing seemed new or earth shattering — I think the value (to me) was that organized and put key thoughts together in a useful package. Maybe that’s what these rules are all about — they don’t tell us anything we don’t already know — they communicate them in a useful form that, hopefully, we’ll be able to apply when appropriate to do so.


posted on August 24, 2006

Karen Love said:

If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you better!

along with my next favorite t shirt advice:

Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!

posted on August 24, 2006

James Cherkoff said:

“If you don’t control money, money controls you.”

posted on August 24, 2006

Leo J Bottary said:

Read David Maister’s blog.

posted on August 24, 2006

Johnnie Moore said:

I can’t remember, but I bet it was prefixed with “I wonder if…” “What if…” or “Maybe..” I respond better to advice which credits me with judgement, acknowledges the possibilty of choice and gets that the right answer will depend on subleties of context.

I don’t take well to advice phrased as an imperative. Except when I’m in imminent danger of being run over, for instance. Then I’d settle for a hard shove rather than support in creative thinking!

posted on August 24, 2006

Mike Myatt said:

Success in business and in life is about aligning your actions with your priorities and maintaining focus. To that end: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

You may be interested in reading a recent blog post entitled: “Passion Equals Purpose“.

posted on August 24, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Leo, Bill – “Aw, shucks! Lil’ ol’ me?”


posted on August 24, 2006

Bill Peper said:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On a secular basis, two pieces of advice have influenced me significantly during my career. The first was my boss’s first rule of fundraising, “be memorable.” The ability to develop relationships so that people will return your calls out of friendship is critical to success in many fields. The second important piece of career advice came from David Maister regarding the importance of scheduling my “non-billable” to accomplish one’s goals. I read dozens of books each year because I do not waste a lot of time on activities that provide little lasting benefit.

posted on August 24, 2006

John Clough said:

If you say youre going to do something, then do it.

posted on August 25, 2006

Tom Collins said:

Excellent managers focus on opportunities rather than problems. Pursue the right opportunities and most problems take care of themselves. Granted there are problems that need to be solved. But they are distractions from the main objective of capitalizing on opportunities. So choose your problems wisely and get them behind you quickly so you can focus on what you are being paid to do¾identify opportunities and pursue them. I had an experience early in my adulthood that drove this concept home in a way I will never forget. I was still at Price Waterhouse and had been married for a couple of years. I was talking to my father-in-law. He was working in his garden one early summer day. As he always did, he was wearing a suit and tie. He was a classic old-time southern gentleman and successful businessman with snow white hair. The suit and tie had become his uniform for all occasions. He was also one of those people who never got dirty. While not particularly careful at the dinner table, nothing ever spilled or splattered on him¾sauces, gravy, soup, wine, ketchup, etc. It was as if he was Tefloned from head to foot and that was before Teflon had been invented. I was telling him how difficult it was to live on a budget. He thought for awhile and then replied by saying, “Yes I know. I tried that for a while. Then I decided that I would just earn more than I spent.” That is what I have done ever since. That is what law firms and other businesses should be doing! *******

posted on August 25, 2006

Doug Fletcher said:

As we all know, life is full of choices. Someone once told me, “You can do anything but you can’t do everything!” I’m the type that often wants to do everything – which we all know is impossible. This simple piece of advice helps keep me focused and to prioritize what is truly important. In this vein, I really like the one above “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

posted on August 25, 2006

Jeff Risley said:

“Just remember, wherever you go, there you are.”

In other words, if you think change is needed in a situation, think about changing yourself first before changing everything around you.

posted on August 26, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Jeff, thank you so much. I don’t want to choke off other contributions to this theme of “The Best Advice I ever received”, so I’m going to start a new post based on your specific contribution, and hope others will carry on adding here.

BTW, Jeff, does a 59-year old mangement consultant (me) want to be on Facebook (professionally)? Your blogpost on that was fascinating!

posted on August 26, 2006

Fiona Torrance said:

My father’s advice to me as a child was: “What will be will be and what is meant for you will never pass you by.” This advice carries me through my toughest challenges. He also said that if you are going to make a change that affects others, make sure that you inform all those who are affected by the change.

posted on August 26, 2006

Andrew Lumsden said:

When you are standing on thin ice, don’t stamp your foot.

posted on August 27, 2006

Fred Wiersma said:

  1. “Follow your heart, use your mind, live your dream” – whenever I’m off purpose, this gets me back.
  2. “Never tell your manager what they don’t need to worry about” – a variant is: it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. Both suggest to me to take responsibility myself.

posted on August 30, 2006

Peter Macmillan said:

On my first day as a fresh-faced antitrust investigator, my supervisor gave me the following wise advice:

“Always remember, there are two sides to every story … and then there’s the truth.”

This rule has served me well for many years and is some of the first advice that I pass on to all my new team members.


posted on August 30, 2006