Richard Branson wishes he’d known that the Internet would exist and that it would revolutionize the music industry. That’s what the billionaire founder and CEO of the Virgin Group says in a new LinkedIn post marking college graduation season.
Since the fall of 2012, LinkedIn, the 11-year-old professional social networking site, has been running a feature called Influencers, where some 500 thought leaders like Branson, World Bank President Jim Kim and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, voice their opinions. Every month LinkedIn asks them to weigh in on a specific question, like what was the best advice they’ve ever received, or in this case, what they wish they’d known when they were college-graduation age. This time the site got answers from more than 80 contributors. To read the complete package, click here.
I’m including edited highlights from 10 top leaders below.
Richard Branson, 63, billionaire founder and CEO, Virgin Group
“Have a blast but build your purpose.”
If I were 22, I would be out working hard, playing hard and having the time of my life. Hang on, what’s the difference between 22 and 63? I would have loved to have known that Sir Tim Berners-Lee was going to invent the Internet, so that I could have invented LinkedIn—not to mention Google, Twitter and Facebook! It would have been useful to have known that Steve Jobs was going to launch the iPod and the Internet was going to revolutionise the music industry—I would have sold our record shops and got out of the music business a lot earlier. As a 22-year-old starting again, I’d love to spend my life from a really young age doing things that completely transform the world. If I was to go back, I’d start Virgin Unite, our non-profit foundation, at the same time as the record label. Having said that, as a 22-year-old it is important to have an absolute blast. You are only 22 once! [Read the full post here.]
Ban Ki-Moon, 69, Secretary-General of the United Nations
“Keep your head above the clouds and your feet on the ground.”
A Confucian teaching [was] impressed on me from a young age: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; ant to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.” I understood this to mean that if I wanted to contribute to the greater public good, I had to begin by working on myself; only then would I see progress radiate out from my personal circles to society at large. These two approaches—the concrete push for hard work and study as well as the philosophical focus on personal responsibility as a prerequisite for leadership—found common expression in the simple advice I received from my middle school principal, who said, “Keep your head above the clouds and your feet firmly planted on the ground—then move step by step.” [Read the full post here.]
Jim Kim, 54, President, World Bank
“Travel and see how people live.”
First, begin working on your leadership skills. You’re never too young to think about your role as a leader. There are “natural” aspects of leadership like charisma, emotional intelligence, and visionary thinking, but no single skill by itself will be enough to tackle the most complex and meaningful leadership challenges. Leadership is not about being the head of a large organization. It’s about making groups more effective. And almost no matter what you do, better leadership skills will help. Start now on a lifelong commitment to humbly listen to your co-workers and set yourself on a program to improve those things that will make a difference in accomplishing your goals. If there’s a way of getting some real feedback, start doing it right away. Second, find out how other people live. You should get to know people from every income level and understand their worlds. [Read the full post here.]
Deepak Chopra, 66, doctor and alternative healer, author of more than 80 books including 22 NY Times bestsellers.
“The wisdom of uncertainty.”
I thought security was my friend and uncertainty my enemy. . . . I wasn’t prepared for losing my fellowship. Or for being blackballed from my chosen medical specialty. Or for being totally broke with a wife and baby to support. Or being looked at sideways for being Indian. When I became fascinated, many years later, by the mind-body connection, how could I know that I would make myself a lightning rod for ridicule and vitriolic attack? This has become a cliché, yet in the Vedic tradition of India, there’s a deeper explanation. Imagine that you have an invisible thread in your hand, and you will be holding it all your life. This thread is your lifeline. It leads where you need to go for your greatest fulfillment, not where your mind, your fear, your expectations, and your insecurity tell you to go. In India the thread is called Dharma, which derives from a root that means “to uphold.” In other words, the invisible thread, fragile as it looks, is guiding you in the best possible direction. But being invisible, it guides you in unexpected ways – out of seeming uncertainty, there is hidden wisdom. [Read the full post here.]
Arianna Huffington, 63, entrepreneur, journalist, author:
“Chart your own path to success.”
I wish I had known that there would be no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and my ability to do good work. I wish I could go back and tell myself, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.” That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion. The advice I’d give to young people today is this: don’t just climb the ladder of success—a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout—but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive. [Read the full post here.]
Sallie Krawcheck, former executive, Bank of America; owner, women’s networking organization 85 Broads
“Face it, you’re going to be kissing some career frogs.”
The chance of the stars aligning on your first job or even your first couple of jobs is very low, so you’ll have to keep searching. You’re going to have what feels like a lightning bolt insight that you should be in equity research at the mature old age of 29. But it still won’t be easy once you decide what you want to do: over the months that follow, you’re going to be rejected by all of the major Wall Street firms…by Lehman Brothers three times, by one firm after they give you an offer because they discover you have a baby at home, and by one Director of Research who doesn’t think you’ll work hard because you’re married. You’re going to be rejected a lot. You’ll need thick skin to get through it. Oh, and work hard. That really matters. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Not every day, but most days. [Read the full post here.]
Martha Stewart, 71, Founder, Martha Stewart Omnimedia
“My recipes for success”.
A few years ago, on my TV show, we spotlighted “30 Things Everyone Should Know” – basic things like how to make a bed, iron a shirt and mix a margarita. A word of advice: make the bed and iron the shirt before you mix the margarita. You’ll get better results. People often ask me, “What is your recipe for success?” There is no single recipe, but I can offer some advice from my own experiences that you won’t find on any cooking show. An omelet is easy to prepare. It calls for just four ingredients: eggs, butter, salt and pepper – and if you want to get fancy maybe a sprig of parsley. As the French proverb goes, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. To me, those broken eggs mean sacrifice. To create an egg dish – or a business success – you must give up a great deal: time with family and friends, sleep, and episodes of Modern Family. But at the end you have something worthwhile, a degree that will make a difference for you, your family and your future. [Read the full post here.]
Craig Newmark, 61, founder, Craigslist
Nerds, hack your career
If you have normal social affect, you might know all this already, or will pick it up much faster than your nerdy co-workers. People will quickly decide to perceive you one way or the other, and it’ll be hard to change that perception, which is what the marketing folks rightly call a “brand.” My young nerds, here’s the deal:
- Take control of your image, your branding, from the beginning. It even includes how you dress, since people judge you that way.
- Decide on a small versus large company; I’d recommend small, starting out.
(It was a mistake for me to start with IBM.)
- If you go large, do what you can to identify the teams or silos, and decide where you want your ambitions to go. Might be happier to find the people who want to do the job well. Bear in mind that the ambition-focused tribes might find it useful to destroy the tribes who believe in good product; that’s happened to me, maybe more than once.
[Read the full post here.]
Suze Orman, 62, television host, author
“Never let money define you.”
When you are starting out in your 20s, it is natural to think about all that you will have and do once you start making money, and making more money. That gives money way too much power over your life. It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I met the love of my life when I was 50. My 25-year-old and 35-year-old self hadn’t yet figured out what truly matters. Part of that journey is never forgetting that who you are is far more important than what you have. Money will never define you. You define your money. [Read the full post here.]
Maynard Webb, Chairman, Yahoo, former COO, eBay
“Relax. It’s not a race against time.”
To be 22 — for many, it means just getting out of school, entering the real world of work, and having an entire career and life ahead. It’s too bad that when I was 22 I saw it differently—I thought my life was almost half over. My fear was founded by my personal experiences: My father died unexpectedly a week before my seventh birthday. I grew up thinking that I would die young as he did. I was afraid I would not have the time to do everything I wanted to do and I made decisions based on that belief. Some decisions were good, and some, made in a race against time, driven by fear, were not so good. If I could go back to my 22-year-old self I would tell him to stop thinking that there was never enough time. I was wrong, and wasting my energy worrying about it wasn’t worth it. [Read the full post here.]