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What is the Best Advice You Ever Got?

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

What's the best advice you ever got?

Mayor of New York City, founder of Bloomberg LP

"I can't remember who told me this, but I certainly didn't grow up knowing it, so I must have gotten this advice at Salomon Brothers in the 1970s. The advice was, first, always ask for the order, and second, when the customer says yes, stop talking..." Fortune Magazine, May 12, 2008

On a long flight recently, I was catching up on some reading. An article in Fortune's May 12 issue got my attention: The Best Advice I Ever Got, featuring responses from 19 very successful people including Larry Page, the founder of Google, Tina Fey, Gen. David Petraeus, and Robert Iger, CEO of Disney. (Click on the article name to read all 19 pieces of advice.)

And it got me thinking about the best advice I had ever gotten...

From Rollie Tillman at University of North Carolina's Business School
"Separate the decision of what to do from how to pay for it."

So frequently in strategic planning sessions with clients or when making personal decisions, the tendency is to go immediately to the shortage of current resources. This sage advice from my professor has frequently helped facilitate first the conversation about "What is the right action to take here?; What do we really want?; What is our vision for our best future?" Then, armed with a compelling view of what we want, we can begin to think about how to achieve it, and how to pay for it.

From another business school professor
Professor Rader at the Darden School taught Rader's Rules and they had a profound impact on my husband, David. He has often shared them with me and the one I have found most useful is: "Get the facts or the facts will get you." Harold Geneen, CEO of ITT called this "shaking the facts". He told the story of buying a tract of land in Canada because of the plentiful and high quality lumber. After purchasing the land, someone finally went to see the land... and learned that the trees were all very small and thin because of the short growing season, and were many many years from being harvested. A graphic example of the need to verify the facts!

So often a conversation or problem-solving session roams from opinion to opinion. Those who know me know I am not always right, and I am rarely in doubt! Life has taught me to look for the facts in a situation and to base my decisions on them. If ignored, the facts have this incredible way of showing up when my actions contradict them.

From my Aunt Alean
"Don't expect anyone to take care of your financial needs except you."

My aunt had a difficult life as a single parent in the 1960's. She and my three cousins even had to come live in our three bedroom house for a time - and it already had seven people in it! Her determination to provide for her girls when life threw her some serious curve balls helped me see the value of being able to take care of oneself.

It was the same important lesson that Maria Shriver shares in her book: Ten Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Went Out in the World.This short book is based on a commencement speech she gave at the College of the Holy Cross. It is full of wisdom and insight for young folks beginning their careers. Now, how do we transmit that value to our children? It is a question that has real meaning as our children, Julie and Ed, become young adults.

So, what is the best advice you ever got? Please share it here by hitting the comment button... we'll compile all the responses and share them later this summer!

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