Those Profound Words of Advice People Get From Mentors

When successful people are interviewed they are often asked, “What was the best piece of advice someone gave to you or you would give others?” Their answers are usually cliches or things we all hear.

“Take risks and make mistakes.”

“Be thankful for adversity.”

“Hire above yourself.”

“Hold high ethical standards.”

Most good life truisms are all written down and simply rearranged in fancy sentence structures. So why do successful people always cite these as super important in their lives? Couldn’t they just have read a book of wisdom nuggets early on?

My theory is that “wisdom nuggets” and all self-help books have little to do with their content or actual message, and more about the person consuming the nugget. It depends on where you are in your life or what mood you’re in. It depends on the context of the recipient.

When I was grappling with an ethical issue once a couple years ago that involved my company, my first and close mentor Mike Patterson told me, “Ben, you can rationalize your behavior to do anything you want.” Hey, I’ve read some psychology, I know we’re able to rationalize anything, those words aren’t particularly novel. But given the time and place and situation, they were profound, and I won’t forget them. In addition, the most influential self-help book I’ve read, The Power of Full Engagement, may not be influential in your life.

So anytime somebody tells me a book or a quote or a person changed their life, I always ask: Was it the book, or was it you?

3 comments on “Those Profound Words of Advice People Get From Mentors
  • I think you hit the nail on the head. All self-help starts with the “self” part. The human mind and soul loves cliches because they can help give a little reassurance and focus. When it comes down to it, horoscopes and fortune cookies act the same way that any self-help book does.

  • I totally agree that a major factor is the person “consuming the nugget”. I would also agree that two people could read the same book at get different things from the same material, based solely on their view of the world. As could one person reading the same material at different times in their life.

    For example, ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckahrt Tolle is probably the book that has had the biggest impact on my life.

    As for whether it was me, or the book – it was probably a combination of both. The book has a fantastic concept, one which has really increased my enjoyment of my everyday life.

    But also at the time I read it I had just finished the Landmark Forum, so I was very open to new ideas and different ways of viewing the world; so its totally possible the book would not have been as miraculous had I not been in that state of mind.

  • You’re right, Ben. If the person isn’t ready to assimilate what they are hearing or reading its not going to have an affect on them. I’ve been hearing the cliches and reading books all my life but not all of them impact me in the same way–if at all.

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