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?

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