How to Separate the Good Advice From the Bad

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This story appears in the September 2013 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

Everywhere you turn, someone's got a pithy piece of advice on how to run your business or live your life. By now you'd think that someone would've done a study to reveal the key tips that anyone needs to remember.

But here's the thing: Just as everyone's lives and businesses are different, so are the succinct power phrases that jump-start their souls.

Take me, for example. While I was growing up, my father dropped this line every time I faced a setback or challenge: "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." I hated that phrase; all it did was remind me that life was going to be a long, hellish slog no matter what.

It was Jon Albin, a teammate from my college rowing crew, who gave me the cliché that transformed my life: "You can't hit a home run if you don't swing." As a baseball fan, I realized that even the greatest players hit home runs only about 6 percent of the time. That's a failure rate of 94 percent. The realization that failure--and a lot of it--was part of the deal signaled a turning point for me. Since then, I've laughed at failures big and small, kept on swinging and even managed to hit a couple of home runs.

My point is that all business advice sounds good in theory, but much of it just doesn't click with our psyches. Keep on searching until you find the one phrase that unleashes your potential. I can tell you that life will never be the same once you do.

Dud advice: "Don't give up; there's almost always a solution."
Stud advice: "If it sucks then don't bother with it."
--Brian Dunn, founder, Great Divide Brewing Company

Dud advice: "Work harder than the competition."
Stud advice: "Work more efficiently than the competition."
--Josh Wyatt, investment director, Patron Capital

Dud advice: "Well begun is half done."
Stud advice: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
--Beth Cross, CEO, Ariat International


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