Fortune magazine dropped through the letterbox this morning and with it some more very good articles, like a review of how Welshman Howard Stringer is getting on with reviving Sony; how the Marriott is getting a makeup and a profile of Toyota's New Man at the Wheel. However, the the articles that caught my eye were on the subject of the Best Advice I Ever Got, including an interview with Bill Gates and his dad, Bill Gates Sr.
Here's some advice that Bill received from his dad
Well, my dad and my mom were great at encouraging me as a kid to do things that I wasn't good at, to go out for a lot of different sports like swimming, football, soccer, and I didn't know why. At the time I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities and showing me that I wasn't good at a lot of things, instead of sticking to things that I was comfortable with. It was fantastic, and now some of those activities I cherish. They had to stick to it because I pushed back a lot, but it was fantastic advice.
And here's what advice was given to Larry Page of Google:
In graduate school at Stanford University, I had about ten different ideas of things I wanted to do, and one of them was to look at the link structure of the web. My advisor, Terry Winograd, picked that one out and said, "Well, that one seems like a really good idea." So I give him credit for that.
Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett Packard has this to say:
Nine years after starting at NCR, I moved to a head-office job in Dayton in 1988. An NCR executive was giving a presentation; he had great slides and an even better delivery. The CEO, Chuck Exley, listened to the entire presentation in his typically gracious, courteous manner. At the conclusion, he nodded and said something brief but profound: "Good story, but it's hard to look smart with bad numbers." And as I reflected on it, the presenter, articulate as he was, as good as his slides were, simply had bad numbers.
Bob Iger, President and CEO of Disney offers us a bit of Shakepseare:
My father wrote in my sixth-grade yearbook quoting Hamlet - Polonius to his son, Laertes: "To thine own self be true." I was 12 years old, but it had a powerful impression on me then, and I've often thought of it since.
Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of Spacex
"Don't panic." It's from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. You have to be wary of emotion clouding your decision-making process - and of making a decision that you'll later regret. You have to be as clearheaded as possible. Of course it's a fine line, because you don't want to be completely dispassionate
Peter G. Peterson, Co-founder and Senior Chairman, Blackstone Group
When I was at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, I had Milton Friedman as a professor. He worshipped free markets and was also a powerful advocate of Adam Smith's concept of comparative advantage: Focus on those things you do better than others. That has been enormously helpful in defining our business strategies