I’ve been fortunate to have met truly inspiring and thoughtful people along my journey, all of whom I’ve learned from immeasurably. Here are the 10 best pieces of advice for success I’ve picked up along the years.
1. If everyone is taking Highway 101, you better take local roads. ~My Father via My Grandfather
My father and grandfather were both successful entrepreneurs, though on totally different scales. They both lived by this principle (also shared by Warren Buffet in his investing technique)- if everybody is trending towards one product, method or path, you better build a unique product, find a different technique or take a different road. Be a leader, not one of the herd. That way you’ll always be ahead of traffic.
2. Overcome hatred with kindness and compassion. ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama
I put 2 and 3 together on purpose because while I just said that there is a line to draw, I also strongly believe in the Dalai Lama’s wisdom. Even though we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be anybody’s punching bag, I have personally witnessed how embodying kindness and compassion in the worst of situations does prevail. Genuine kindness can melt the coldest of hearts. In times it fails to do so, at the very least, we (the kindness-giver) always end up on top because we have maintained our humanity and we don’t need to live in fear of negative karma.
3. Don’t care about what people say; you must do what is right for your life. ~Shihan Keiko Fukuda (the only female to reach 10th Dan in Judo)
Shihan Fukuda was one of my heroes- one of the fiercest martial arts competitors in the world who broke a slew of records. She defied all norms in her era of traditional Japan, never marrying, never having kids and dedicating her entire life to Judo. When I asked her how she dealt with family, friends and society telling her to follow a different path, she said “I didn’t hear anything anybody said because all I knew was my love for Judo. It was my life.”
4. Failure is a necessary step towards success. ~My Father
Long before I fully understood the weight of his words, my father recounted stories of his own failures as he built up his company. There were tales of not getting paid what he was worth, of getting held up at knife point, of making the wrong decisions- all of which taught him invaluable lessons on what not to repeat, of what needed to be changed and how to deal with different types of people. He taught me that the greatest leaders show what they’re made of in the bad times, not the good. He said “understand what led to that failure and move forward. It’s not the end of the world unless you’re dead.”
5. Be the best ‘you’ that you can be for yourself and shut out useless noise. ~Me
You could be the nicest, sweetest person and still have haters/detractors. There will always be unhappy, unsatisfied people who make it their life’s purpose to tear others down out of sheer misery. As much as I try to follow the Dalai Lama’s advice about facing hatred with compassion and kindness, there is a line to draw when you become haters’ punching bag. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have not hurt that person or done anything negative towards him/her and he/she keeps hating on you, the problem is obviously theirs. At that point, you just have to keep on being the best you that you are and sooner or later, everybody around will recognize you for the awesomeness you are, and the hater for the hateful person he/she is.
6. A true entrepreneur can never allow fear to get in the way of doing what is necessary. ~Dr. Lars Buttler, Founder & Chairman Trion Worlds and Madison Sandhill LLC
I met Dr. Lars Buttler at a crossroads in my journey. I had major decisions to make about how I was going to move forward with my business and whether or not to undertake a particular endeavor I wasn’t sure about. With these simple words, he made me realize that if I truly wanted to succeed, I had to leave fear where it belonged- tucked away in a little corner of my mind, chained and locked up. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to use this advice as it applies pretty much across the board.
7. You’re trying to do everything all at one time and too soon; be great one area at a time then put it all together. ~Hiten Shah, CEO Kissmetrics
Hiten gave me this invaluable piece of advice when I was trying to grow AsianFusion as rapidly as I could almost single-handedly. I was drowning under the weight of my own ambitions, trying to launch multiple aspects of my business at one time too early in the process. What I loved about his advice was that he didn’t say I would be a “jack of all trades, master of none.” He was simply saying that I had to focus on one area of my company at a time, grow it well, then put the pieces together and one day, I would become “master of all.” Like Dr. Buttler’s words, Hiten’s advice applies to areas of life outside of entrepreneurship. It can even be used for something as simple as tackling house chores- with two hands you can get through cleaning that house one task at a time but if you stand there trying to do all of them at one time, well, that’s just impossible.
8. A great accountant and attorney is worth their weight in gold. ~My Father
He first told me this when I was twelve years old (that’s when I started shadowing him at his office). Years later after experiencing the services of both great and terrible accountants/attorneys, I understood. There are some aspects of business and life we can cut corners on to save money but never do that on crucial matters like your taxes, finances and legal affairs. You might shell out more up front but will save yourself enormously over time by avoiding excruciating mistakes that will end up costing far more in the long run.
9. Never let a man control how you look or dress (unless he’s a great fashion designer). ~My Mother
My mother started teaching my sisters and I very early on about skincare, fashion and make-up. She always said that women should strive to feel and look their best for ourselves, not to please a man (this was a by-product of achieving the former). She also stressed that any man who tried to control the way we dress or the way we look (whether that’s our weight or how much make-up we wear) was not a good man. He was probably domineering in multiple ways and if he’s the only one telling you that your lipstick doesn’t look good while everyone else compliments you, he’s probably got an inferiority complex and wants to put you down.
10. I’m too busy trying to do what’s right in my life to worry about whether he’s being faithful or not. ~A Pastor’s Wife
I love what this pastor’s wife told me when I asked her how she dealt with gossiping parishioners when there were allegations that her husband was fooling around. She said that she focused on answering to her God and her husband would answer to his God. She was as certain as humanly possible that they had a good marriage but if she was one day proven wrong, she knew it would be his loss because any woman who would cheat with a married man was not a woman worth being with. And any man who would disrespect her that way was not one she wanted to sleep next to.