27 Executives Share The Advice That Made Them Successful

Eric Schmidt

Photo: Jay Yarow, Business Insider

In her upcoming book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg talks about the invaluable mentors who have helped her succeed — including Larry Summers, Mark Zuckerberg, and others.We can all learn something from those around us, no matter how vastly different their worldview, if we’re open to it. That’s how the world’s most successful people got to where they are today.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt — who also gave Sandberg her best advice — says that you have to “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.”

We’ve compiled Schmidt’s advice and more from the world’s top executives.

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google

'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.'

From Katie Couric's book 'The Best Advice I Ever Got,' excerpted by The Daily Beast

Shafqat Islam, CEO and co-founder, Newscred

'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.

'I think that's a good piece of advice for anyone building a company because you hear 'no' so many times and I think that's normal, I think that's a good thing, that means you're trying to do something that's disruptive, that's ground breaking.'

From a 2012 interview with Business Insider

Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat

'For any business there are three levels of leadership. One is getting somebody to do what you want them to do. The second is getting people to think what you want them to think; then you don't have to tell them what to do because they will figure it out.'

'But the best is getting people to believe what you want them to believe, and if people really fundamentally believe what you want them to believe, they will walk through walls.'

From a 2012 interview with The New York Times

Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO, Chanel

Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

'As a child, I can't recall a day that went by without my dad telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. He said it so often, I stopped hearing it. Along with lines like 'eat your vegetables, I just assumed it was one of those bromides that parents repeated endlessly to their kids.

'It wasn't until decades later that I fully appreciated the importance of those words and the impact they had on me.'

From a 2012 post at LinkedIn

Ursula Burns, CEO, Xerox

Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder, Airbnb

When Airbnb was going through Paul Graham's Y Combinator program, the legendary programmer and startup mentor told Chesky:

'Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like.'

From a 2013 interview with Pando Daily

Tory Burch, co-founder and creative director, Tory Burch

Terry J. Lundgren, CEO, Macy's

Gene Ross, the man who recruited Lundgren at Bullock, told him:

'You're not going to do this forever. There's a finite amount of time you're going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. And 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.'

From a 2009 interview with The New York Times

Richard Branson, founder and chairman, Virgin Group

'My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses -- so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.'

From an interview with The Good Entrepreneur

Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs

His boss at Goldman during the 1980s told him:

'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.'

From a 2009 interview with CNNMoney

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway director Thomas Murphy told him:

'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.'

From a 2010 interview with Yahoo!

Larry Page, co-founder, Google

'In graduate school at Stanford University, I had about 10 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.'

From a 2009 interview with CNN Money

Maria Bartiromo, anchor, CNBC

'My mum says, 'You have to have alligator skin. You can't believe the good stuff, and you certainly can't believe the bad stuff' and that's something I've come to accept.

'So when I see someone say anything nice about me in a magazine or anywhere, I probably won't read it, because I don't want to be in a place where I start believing my own press releases.'

From a 2010 interview with Business Insider

Bill Gates, chairman, Microsoft

'Warren Buffett has taught me a lot of things, but he got me thinking very early on that at some point I'd have the opportunity and responsibility to give the wealth back.

'And so, literally decades before the foundation got started I was reading about philanthropists from the past … what they'd done and how it worked.'

From a 2012 interview with ABC News

Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks

'Jim Sinegal, the founder of Costco, gave me fantastic advice because we were going down the wrong track. We brought him in to look at our plan and he said, 'You know, I don't want to be rude but this is exactly the wrong thing to do.' This was my idea, and he was right.

'His advice was the cost of losing your core customers and trying to get them back post-recession would be much greater than trying to find new customers, so we completely shifted.'

From a 2011 interview with The Entrepreneurs' organisation

Jim Rogers, chairman, Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests

'Buy low and sell high. When I went to Wall Street. Actually all the old guys used to say 'Figure out the money and you'll figure out what's going on.''

From a 2012 interview with Business Insider

Richard Parsons, former chairman, Citigroup

Steve Ross, the former CEO of Time Warner, told him:

'Just remember, it's a small business and a long life. You're going to see all these people again.'

From the 2008 HACR Roundtable

Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder, Rent The Runway

'Just do it. There's no benefit to saying, 'I'm just doing this because it will get me to this new place,' or 'I'm just going to go into this analyst program because it will prep me for X.'

'If you're passionate about something, go for it, because people are great at what they love and when they're the happiest.'

From a 2011 interview with The Huffington Post

Edward Rust Jr., chairman and CEO, State Farm

Joe Uva, former CEO, Univision

Uva's boss early on in his career at McCann Erickson told him:

'Always have the courage of your convictions. Always state what's on your mind. Follow your gut. And observe what other people are doing around you.'

From the 2008 HACR Roundtable

Roman Stanek, CEO and founder, GoodData

'10 years ago I had a meeting with a good friend of mine, and his first question was 'What is your strategy? I was building a startup and I was looking at execution, so I told him what I was going to do, this is the model, and so on.'

'He said 'No, no, no, what is your strategy? You have to understand where you're going. You have to understand your assets are and what you're leveraging. Even if you're solving problems and running around and working 80 hours a week, it's not enough. You have to have a strategy.''

From a 2012 interview with Business Insider

Kenneth Burdick, president and CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota

Burdick received this message from various successful people he has met:

'Surround yourself with good people. And part of that is surrounding yourself with people who think differently than you. Surrounding yourself with people who have different experiences than you. In business, it's all about the team.'

From the 2008 HACR Roundtable

Steve Schwartzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group

BONUS: Ben Silbermann, co-founder, Pinterest

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