What’s the Best Life Advice You’ve Ever Read?

The Best Advice You've Ever Received | CorporetteWhat’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  I recently came across a note I’d made a few years ago, from an Esquire article on marriage — the advice being that it just takes 90 seconds, three times a day, to have a good marriage.  I found it and said to myself, “man, that was really good advice.”  I’m not always the best at doing it (and actually, until I looked it up I thought it was 30 seconds, three times a day), but I always appreciate it when I do it.  (Another good piece of advice someone gave me years ago that I’m not always the best at: everyone has to share ONE good thing that happened to them that day over dinner.)

We’re inundated with Pinterest quotes and articles offering advice on everything under the sun — so I thought it might be fun to talk about the advice that’s stayed with you.  It could be career advice, life advice, fashion advice — anything that’s changed your life for the better, that changed the way you try to live your life.  (Hopefully it’s something better than “Life is like a box of chocolates…” — but I’ll admit that there’s truth in that, also.)

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(Pictured: chocolate box, originally uploaded to Flickr by richardoyork.)

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  1. My mom gave me good career advice: Never be loyal to a company because they won’t be loyal to you when it comes to the bottom line. She didn’t mean be dishonest or betray your company, but you shouldn’t sacrifice advancing your career because of a feeling of guilty or loyalty.

    • This is smart advise!

      The best advise I got on life was out of Marie Claire magazine. It told me not to worry if I am not MARRIED at age 30 b/c I am a professional and I deserve to have the BEST in a marrage and a career. YAY!

      I think another Marie Claire or Cosmo articel I have followed said NOT to let men walk all over me. FOOEY!

      To be sexy but NOT overly donative to men in bed, but when you find the right man, to be VERY attentive. (I tried that with Alan, but have learned NOT to be to giveing until he is giveing to me). FOOEY on Alan!

      Lynn has been very attentive to Mason today!!! I think there is surley something goieing on between the two, b/c she is NOT talkeing to the maintenenace guy’s when they come over. She stopped by Mason’s desk and left him something.

      Unfortuneatley, the IRS guy showed up at 11, and is in with the manageing partner. I do NOT think they are even eateing LUNCH. This could be more serius then I thought. DOUBEL FOOEY!

    • I heard something similar recently: never stay for the people. Stay for the job, stay for the location, stay for the perks, but people can come and go and you’ll be stuck in a bad situation.

      I am still thinking about this because it is so the opposite of how I tend to think; for me, people are super important and if I like the people I work with, I really am very unlikely to leave/make moves, but maybe I should re-evaluate.

      • Do you like the people because they just happen to be good people (you got lucky) or do you like them because you work for a company that is a good cultural fit for you, and therefore tends to hire people you like? Company culture is the #1 reason to stay in a job (IMO), and also has the biggest impact on who the people are that you work with.

        • A bit of both. But it’s not a company culture like, say, Google where there is a certain corporate ethos. It’s more of an immediate boss and the tone he sets on down. I work in a smaller team of people, so it matters. Prior to this group, I was also in a very nice (for me) environment. So I do put a lot of stock in it, but if my immediate boss leaves, my day to day job enjoyment could change significantly – so in some sense my loyalties need to take that into account.

          • That makes sense. It sounds like you don’t necessarily trust the company to replace your boss with someone else who’s ‘as good’ if he were to leave. Whereas if it were a ‘company culture’ thing, then even though you would be disappointed to have him leave, it would be very unlikely that the change would end up being seriously negative for you, becuase the corporate culture simply wouldn’t allow him to be replaced with someone who wasn’t a good fit.

  2. “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

    – General James Mattis

    Although directed at his marines deployed in Iraq, I think it can apply to many situations – essentially, go into life experiences with guarded optimism and diplomacy and a positive attitude, but know ahead of time how you are going to handle yourself if situations go south or take unexpected turns. Don’t be taken off guard.

  3. Everything in moderation

  4. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their own battle.

    I have a really hard time remembering this, but I’m resolving to be kinder to everyone because I believe this is true.

    • Anon for this :

      I have decided to divorce my husband. Its a relief. Due to substance abuse issues and a bunch more. I am the primary (close to only) breadwinner. I assume I will have to pay my lawyer and his, and give him half of everything I have earned, and probably child support and alimony. We were married in CA and live in CA and have been married 14 years.

      I got appointment with lawyer I plan to hire on Friday. (I first went to her 4 years ago and was not ready to pull the trigger!) My husband returns from a trip on Friday. I do not do well with pretense. I am afraid I am going to tell him to leave as soon as I see him. I suspect he will be surprised and will not react well.

      I have been advised to wait to tell him till I have my ducks in a row. We don’t have joint accounts so that’s not a problem. I will search the house for car and house titles.

      For those of you who have been there, what do you recommend?

      • Senior Attorney :

        Good grief. Are you me?

        Do you have a plan for where he is going to go? If he is on title to the house you don’t have the right to just tell him to leave. I ended up leaving myself, which may or may not have been the smartest move in the world.

        BY ALL MEANS talk to your lawyer and strategize before you say one. single. thing. to him. If you feel like you absolutely cannot act natural, then tell him you need some time to think and you don’t want to talk to him for XYZ amount of time.

        But do not pull the trigger until the ducks are in a row.

        • Anon for this :

          Yes he is on the title. And (thank you CA law) I paid all the down payment and all the mortgage payments and we have two kids and I am not moving out. Also he has very little money (very little income) and I honestly don’t know where he would go. I will ask lawyer about it maybe give him a couple thousand dollars (loan or pre pay as to what I will ultimately have to pay him) so he can go get set up in an apartment. One of my issues though, is codependency and I tend to over function (allowing him to under function) so my counselor is like — hell no its not your job to find a place for him to live.

          I have started to tell people (my sister, my trainer, two friends) and its such a relief. I am sure telling him will be far less pleasant, maybe that will be the incentive I need to keep it in.

          I am a lawyer too but not a family lawyer.

          • Senior Attorney :

            One of the scenarios I considered was just renting him an apartment and moving all his stuff into it while he was out of town, then changing the locks on the house. It sounds like you may well be liable for significant spousal support anyway, both pre- and post-judgment, so that may be something to talk to your lawyer about. Sad to say but “giving him a couple thousand dollars” is probably going to be only the beginning.

            What your conselor says may or may not be consistent with your legal obligations at this point.

            And honestly? Not the best idea to tell anybody until the ducks are in a row and the plan is hatched. As my lawyer keeps telling me, “Loose lips sink ships.”

          • Anon in NYC :

            Just be aware that your husband’s lawyer may tell him not to leave. My parents went through a divorce for 2+ years while living under the same roof because my mom wanted to keep the place (i.e., refused to move out) and my dad didn’t want to pay rent somewhere else (even though he wasn’t paying the mortgage).

          • Commenter in Cal :

            I think you need to get your ducks in a row before telling him. And as Anon in NYC said, he may not leave. You may be the one who has to leave. I don’t quite understand “giving him a couple thousand.” I think you will need to start thinking of all your money and assets as community property.

      • anon-commiserate :

        I’m so sorry, and I can honestly say that I have been there. I was thisclose to divorcing my husband in late 2009/early 2010 because of his alcoholism. He got sober, and while it has been a rocky road to recovery for both of us, our marriage is now stronger than it ever has been.

        I have no advice for you, but I do know how difficult it is to deal with addictions on the other side.

        Hugs, and I hope you find peace.

    • I also believe this and am working hard at putting it into practice.

  5. This was really helpful for advice for the pathological perfectionist that I was in my young adulthood (came with lots of anxiety and depression):

    “Give up on the idea of your own perfection.”

    This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t stop improving. For me, this simply let me acknowledge that it’s possible for me to be wrong about things, and that that isn’t the end of the world. I have a responsibility to be good, and better than I currently am, but it is not a moral failing if I am not perfect. Turns out, I’m also a lot more fun to talk to when I’m not operating from a position that everything I say is Gospel :)

    • Diana Barry :

      I don’t remember being told this but also had the same realization – took me until very late 20s and having my first kid to get it!

    • kjoirishlastname :

      Along the same lines, I read something about figuring out new motherhood, and one of the best pieces of advice was not to LOWER your expectations, but change them. It was in reference to the cleanliness of your house, and how when you have a new baby you shouldn’t worry so much about having a clean house, because you’re doing more important things at that point. Basically, you just need to tell yourself “eff it, the housecleaning can wait”

      I’ve used the “change your expectations” mantra in several avenues of my own life.

      • I love this. This is excellent parenting advice, too, especially if your child has any learning or behavioural difficulties. Two of my boys have ADHD, and changing our expectations of them (ie, they are incapable of doing something the first time they are asked. Their brains just can’t process) has been instrumental in keeping harmony in our home, and not destroying their self esteem.

        • kjoirishlastname :

          It has come in handy a lot. I find that I change my expectations of my husband, and I am much happier. It is a little bit just like letting things go, which I also think is important and sometimes the key to happiness. My stepmother was a top researcher in the science of forgiveness psychology, and I believe that those two go hand in hand: forgiveness and letting things go.

          I used to expect more housework out of hubs, and when he didn’t deliver, I would be sad, angry and resentful. I changed my expectations of what I wanted of the house, and how hubs’ contributions could just be gravy on top of the things that I was doing to satisfy my own needs. So, I do what I believe is acceptable (I definitely lowered my expectations of what I could, and wanted to do), and whatever hubs does is extra.

    • BigLaw Refugee :

      Along those lines, I once read that perfectionists should, as an experiment, try to do “average” work for a day or two. Aim for 70% of your best rather than 100%. Then evaluate the results – did you still get compliments on your work, or at least no criticism? When you look at your work product, do you think it’s really that much worse, or did you just leave in a few typos you could have caught? Once you do the experiment, you can be more strategic about when to be perfectionistic, and when to just get it done (which in my experience is much more important to career success than doing things perfectly – chances are what’s holding you back is either lower productivity, not marketing yourself, or not thinking to do things that are above and beyond what you’ve been asked to do, because you’re too busy fixing typos to think big picture).

  6. 1. Thou shalt not wear Crocs
    2. Don’t ask the question if you are not prepared to hear the truth.

  7. A Nonny Moose :

    You always have the time, you just have to make the time.

  8. “Be able to take care of yourself; never depend on a man to take care of you.”

    From my great-grandmother who was a flapper in the 20’s.

  9. Sit at the table. (Lean in)

  10. The weight room at my gym has a list of rules on the wall, and at the bottom it says “MAKE YOUR FRIEND GREAT,” which I think is pretty excellent whether you lift or not.

  11. One more: “Fake it until you make it” has been invaluable to me, especially when dealing with “imposter syndrome”

  12. From my mom– “no one is smarter than you; they’ve just had different life experiences.” Always helps ground me when I start a new job and put pressure on myself to know everything right away!

  13. Make friends with the support staff. No one is ever beneath you and you never know how or when they might be able to help you.

    • To a point. Be kind to support staff, sure (be kind to everyone). Respect that when you are starting out, most of the support staff know more than you and can be a helpful resource, absolutely. But being overly buddy-buddy can hurt you.

      • I read that as making ‘work-friends’ with them. As in, if you are on good terms with support staff, you can often get them to do you favors, or go above and beyond. Whereas those who just treat support staff like faceless cogs will not be able to get extra favors. Not as in, take them out for drinks and become BFFs.

      • Anonattorney :

        How does being buddy-buddy with the support staff hurt you? I’m seriously curious. Not trying to disagree with the statement – I actually would like advice on this point. I’ve always been the type of person who naturally is more casual and open with all my co-workers. So far it hasn’t caused any problems, but I’d like to know what I may run into in the future if I don’t create more of a hierarchical division.

        • Senior Attorney :

          What zora said. Work friends, not friend-friends.

          You need to be sure you keep enough of a distance so that when you expect them to follow your orders and do thier jobs, they will do it. If you get too close you run the risk of support staff not taking you seriously as a work superior.

  14. Anonymous :

    Perfect is the enemy of good.

    I have struggled with perfectionism for my whole life and have only recently let go in the past five years based on anti-anxiety medication (ha!) & this idea. Obsessing over something having to be perfect means that you miss out on a lot of good things. I used to always save outfits for the “perfect” occasion to wear it…and then never wear it. Not invite someone over because my house wasn’t perfectly clean…and then just miss out on a good time with a friend. It really has helped me to remembe rthis.

  15. I assigned my baby engineers a seemingly simple task of coming up with award layouts but they were having the hardest time. Really garish or too simple displays. Awful. I tried to reassure them by letting them know I took a graphics designer off of the project because he simply didn’t get what we wanted. Having something look professional yet nice was something they could not compute.

    Finally, I decreed, “THERE SHALL BE 3 COLORS ON EACH LAYOUT.”

    They argued. Two colors should be enough. Blue on white. Barf. I had baby engineer look at his cubicle – how many colors are in this decorating scheme? Two, he says, white and gray. Turn around, bro. Oh and blue. How many colors are you wearing? Two, purple and black. Look at your tie, buddy. Oh, gray. And there it was, the beautiful light of color scheme enlightenment.

    And now I have more beautiful layouts.

    So, my advice is to wear 3* colors. Always. It just looks better. Whether that third color is jewelry or a scarf or shoes, make it 3.

    *Of course, I break my own rule and wear 4-5 colors but ymmv.

  16. Maddie Ross :

    “You’re only as happy as you make up your mind you’re going to be.” My grandmother told me this when I was 13 and my parents were moving us across the country. It’s, I believe, from Abraham Lincoln and I totally messed up the actual quote I think, but it’s accurate. You’re in control of your own happiness. If you decide to be happy with your life, you will be. If you decide to be miserable, you will be.

    • +1 Along that line, “You can be upset with a situation, or you can accept it and move on.” I learned this from my husband, who is so calm and even-keeled that it almost borders on annoying for someone like me who likes to pitch a fit every now and then.

      Also, “Worse things have happened to nicer people.” I’m not sure where I picked that one up, but it stops my pity parties dead in their tracks.

  17. Famouscait :

    From the (somewhat debatable) Larry Summers: “Never make a decision about something until you have to.”

    I’m a planner and as much as I like to have things wrapped out and planned out, I’ve often found that leaving my options open longer reveals, well, more options.

  18. hoola hoopa :

    – When you’re wrong, admit it. When you’re right, shut up.
    – A successful marriage is not one where each partner gives 50%. You must both give 100%.

    – Keep looking for your next step, next promotion. When you don’t see one any more, it’s time to move to a new job.

  19. “You can’t give somebody something they don’t want.”

    No matter how great it is, even if it is better than the thing they want, if it isn’t the thing they want, it won’t work.

    True for so many aspects of life.

  20. housecounsel :

    When I got my first waitressing job at 16, my dad told me, “Always do a little bit more than you get paid for, and you will always have a job.” From the time I started filling other tables’ empty ketchup bottles throughout my legal career, I’ve relied on those words.

    • Kontraktor :

      We had a similar mantra at my previous firm about living the model of a “baker’s dozen,” ie give 13 when you’re only asked for 12. I always liked that analogie and it’s stuck with me. I like the idea in general of always going above and beyond even for simple things.

    • Interesting… I started out with this kind of philosophy but am working on un-learning it. The most successful and happy people I’ve known in my career have been those who keep firm boundaries around what is and is not their problem at work, have avoided giving too much, and have managed expectations all the way through. Most of them are appreciated and secure in their jobs, whereas many who condistently go “above and beyond” have not been rewarded and ended up all the more bitter. I’ve actually been trying to learn to give less and take better care of myself.

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