What Is The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received?

Giving — or getting — advice is a tricky thing. You have to be in the right frame of mind to hear advice and really learn a lesson from it.

And yet, given at the right time, by the right person, in the right way, advice can be life-changing. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that wise counsel can change the course of your future, and can influence some of the most momentous decisions from that point on.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What book has had the biggest impact on you?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you show thanks?’

It can come from many possible sources. Some are expected, like parents or a mentor. You might come across it in an inspirational book, perhaps a teacher or a religious figure. Or it might come from a less-expected source, like someone you don’t know particularly well, or perhaps a fortune cookie. Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest sources, as long as you are open to it.

Have you gotten powerful, meaningful guidance that has stayed with you over the years? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Related questions: What advice would you give your past self? Have you ever had a mentor? Been a mentor? Who inspires you? What’s the most useful thing you’ve ever learned?


4 thoughts on “What Is The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received?”

  1. I’m going to cheat and provide two pieces of advice I’ve been given.

    I believe the best advice I have ever received came from my guidance counselor, who told me I had to apply for college. While I had the grades to get into college easily as well as to get grants and other forms of assistance to pay for higher education, as a potential first-generation college student, I thought the price tag was going to keep me from doing so. I wasn’t planning on even making an effort before my guidance counselor’s firm prodding. Luckily, I applied to a handful of colleges and was, if I remember correctly, accepted into all of them.

    The second most valuable piece of advice came from my mom while I was running the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. I was on the phone talking to her about needing to go to work even though I was incredibly ill. She matter-of-factly told me, “Michael, you are not that important.”

    Not something you’d want to hear? I’ve actually treasured it.

    In my line of work, I am constantly training people in the skills that I have for grassroots advocacy so that I don’t always need to deliver the message about the community’s desire for justice. Movement-building is all about building the capabilities and capacities of others who care about issues enough to take action. I don’t want to be more important than the grassroots voice.

    Oh, yeah, and my mom’s advice has stayed with me about sickness. I m not so vital that I have the right to get my co-workers sick. And they are not that important either.

  2. One of the pieces of advice that I came across young and has stayed with me throughout my life is a quote from Isaac Asimov: “Violence is the least refuge of the incompetent.”

    Asimov didn’t say this directly; rather it was stated by one of the characters in a science fiction novel. But as a young teenager, the idea was revelatory. Being scrawny as a youngster, I was never particularly likely to commit much violence myself. However, it could be, and was being, done to me.

    This quote opened my mind to the idea that the bully was not, as it appeared to me at that time, the strong one. And that even lacking in a physical presence, I could still be competent and capable with my other skills and abilities. And that’s a lesson that I’ve carried with me ever since.

  3. Let’s see:

    circa 1989: a friend suggested I buy a townhouse in Mountain View, CA in the low $100,000’s. Nope.

    circa 1999: a co-worker upon hearing I was leaving our software-as-a-service company in Sunnyvale, CA told me about this new company down the street, ‘Google’, that was hiring. Nope.

    circa 20-?: A buddy tried to convince me to buy these new things called ‘bitcoin’ he had just bought at $500 apiece. Nope.

    circa 2019/20: A housemate begged me to buy Tesla. stock. Nope.

    Looking forward to ignoring more golden advice in 2029! 😀

  4. Who says your co-workers “aren’t that important?” 😉

    I really connect to your very personal posts. Thank you for sharing them

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