13 Big-Time Business Leaders Share the Best Advice They Ever Got

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You never know where inspiration will come from. A respected mentor, a terrible pitch meeting or going somewhere new to change your perspective, can all make a world of difference.

LinkedIn asked its Influencer community -- leaders in the realms of business, media, finance, technology and more -- to take some time to remember the best advice they ever received, and impart a little of their own in a new series of original essays. Here's what they had to say. 

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group
Image credit: BingNorton

"The truth is, rules are made to be broken. There have been many occasions, especially early on in my business career, when I've had to ask my ever-understanding wife to sign a sheet of paper with me to put a second mortgage on our home in order to get a business deal done! However, the theory is sound: trust your instincts, but protect the downside. And, of course, remember to listen to your mum and dad's advice!"

Rachel Schall Thomas, president at LeanIn.Org

Rachel Schall Thomas, president at LeanIn.Org
Image credit: leanin.org

"I try to build what I like to call “confidence reserves.” Each week, I spend a few minutes writing down my accomplishments and star the ones that felt like a stretch. If you do this, I’m willing to bet you’ll begin to see a pattern of success." 

Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia

Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia
"You just don't know what the reality of the situation is going to be until you're in it. Once you're in it, and things maybe aren't exactly what you expected them to be, you have no choice to make a call and adjust. You'll never be able to force a different reality on the situation."

David Marcus, president of PayPal

David Marcus, president of PayPal
 "People will only change the way they do everyday tasks if it’s overwhelmingly clear how it makes their lives better."

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief at the Huffington Post Media Group

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief at the Huffington Post Media Group

"We don’t have to wait until we move or change jobs to change our lives. Nor do we have to wait for large-scale, upstream change. We can initiate change right now. There are endless starting points."

Brad Keywell, co-founder of Groupon and Lightbank

Brad Keywell, co-founder of Groupon and Lightbank
Image credit: bradkeywell.com

"I’ve been involved with companies that hit dead ends, had business ideas I couldn’t get off the ground, been in situations that I desperately wanted to succeed but were on a path to failure. But each set-back and adversity could be traced back to the same flawed plan: I had approached the game the way it had always been played. My ability to overcome adversity has often been tied to a refusal to accept defeat and a willingness to explore other approaches to the game."

Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project
Image credit: gretchenrubin.com

"So if there’s something that you wish you did more regularly, try doing it every day. Write every day, pack a lunch every day, go for a walk every day, read every day. It's easier."

Maynard Webb, chairman at Yahoo and former COO of eBay

Maynard Webb, chairman at Yahoo and former COO of eBay
Image credit: maynardwebb.com

We must always move forward. We must always work to get better and always be searching for what we are intended to do with our lives, including with our loved ones. It’s a lesson that’s important at any age. I wake up every day grateful for this time — I would argue the happiest of my life — and I’m inspired by the knowledge that my best years are not behind, but still very much ahead.

Jennifer Dulski, president and COO at Change.org

Jennifer Dulski, president and COO at Change.org
Image credit: Charlottelinnaehill

"[Lynn Sorenson] taught me an extremely basic technique, “mission-based prioritization,” that I still use to this day. (Even 20 years later, there are still times when I find myself needing to remember to do this.) Here’s how it works: make a grid with your mission statement at the top (or whatever language you use to measure your primary work objective) and your “to-do” list down the side. Run through your entire to-do list, checking whether each item does or does not impact your ability to achieve your mission."

Cyrus Massoumi, CEO and founder at ZocDoc

"Vinod Khosla (one of our early investors) offered us a crucial piece of wisdom: Your first 20 hires, he said, will make or break your company. Look for top-notch intrinsic qualities, and refuse to compromise. This simple maxim forever altered the course of ZocDoc’s development…Your company – your brand – is the sum of its parts. It’s made of people, and better people create a better company."

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International
Image credit: news.marriott.com

"While I’m not advising you to send your children into a war zone, there is no better advice you can give or receive than to explore the world. The further you get from what is familiar to you the more you’ll learn."

Jim Kim, president at the World Bank

"Courage and humility — just give it a shot and if someone has a better idea, say, thank you, that’s a better idea. For CEOs, that’s the kind of culture you need to create in your organization. For junior staff, you must insist on speaking up when you have a thoughtful idea. You never know — lives may depend on it."

Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Foundation

Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Foundation
Image credit: deepakchopra.com
"I was told that my core being was a field of infinite possibilities, infinite creativity, comfortable with uncertainty, synchronicity, and imbued with the power of intention and choice."
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