Advice From a CEO

Over the summer, I was able to be a part of an amazing internship program. Every week, the interns had access to C level managers. One of my favorite talks of the summer was one given by the CEO because it resonated deeply in me. Here’s some advice he gave us:

  1. Pursue challenges, not money. As a young adult, it’s difficult not to think about money. With the cost of living increasing, it makes sense to chase money. My well being is important. But on the other side of the coin, the world has a plethora of problems. These problems come in all shapes and sizes. They come with different time horizons. How do we provide food for a growing global population with a fixed amount of land? How do we take care of the largest living generation (baby boomers) as they approach retirement age? How do we provide clean energy for the world? These are some of the challenges that we face. If we continue to pursue challenges, we will find solutions that will make for a better tomorrow. Hopefully, people will be willing to pay you handsomely for solving the world’s greatest problems.

  2. Stay long enough to make a difference. It’s all too common for my generation to move from job to job. We’re the Google/Amazon/Netflix generation. Need an answer? Google it. Need to buy something? Amazon Prime it. Want to watch something? Binge watch Netflix for several hours. We’re so focused on instant gratification that we’ve lost sight of what it takes to make a difference. The average Google engineer’s tenure is 1.1 years. Here’s the problem with instant gratification: it doesn’t have a lasting effect. You’re always going to chase the next big thing and never feel fulfilled. Here’s some advice: stay at a job longer than 2 years. For the first 6 months, you’ll learn about the problem. In the next 6 months, you’re coming up with a solution. In the following year, you’re seeing if your solution fixed the problem or not. If it fixed the problem, you’ll have achieved a fulfilling endeavor. Life’s greatest rewards are achieved through perseverance and will.

  3. Own your mistakes. Cowards shift blame and make excuses. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. The few that own up to them know that mistakes are not the end all be all. Mistakes are lessons for personal growth. Successful people aren’t afraid of making mistakes.

  4. Respect people who tell you the truth. It’s the greatest disservice to you to surround yourself with people who only tell you how awesome and amazing you are. If you have friends who care so much about you that they’re willing to risk their friendship with you by telling you the hard truth, there’s no better friendship in my opinion.

  5. Courage and character are the foundation of performance. You have to live courageously. The world is an unfair monolith that owes you nothing. To live courageously is to challenge the status quo and stand up for what you believe in. I would argue just as equally that you must live with character. Building your life and career with character is like using reinforced steel to build a skyscraper. Both courage and character are important for longevity and credibility. Both will do you well in your life and career.

I hope this blog motivates you as it does me.