The Best Advice These 5 Successful People Ever Received

Mentors reduce your learning curve by years through mastering the best of wiser, more experienced role models. These 11 entrepreneurs share the No. 1 piece of advice their closest mentor ever gave them.

1. Time is the most valuable thing you have.

My father, Charlie Harrington, was my first and best mentor. He taught me to analyze my day on a dollar-a-minute basis. Every Sunday, I examine the week ahead. I evaluate where to dedicate my time before moving things around. I ask, How long will this take? What’s my upside? What’s the opportunity cost?

I turn down free equity in people’s businesses every day because they want too much of my time: a weekly one-hour call, a monthly face-to-face meeting, a quarterly retreat. But it’s a startup. If it makes $1 million in three years, I’ll get 5 percent, which is $50,000. The math isn’t worth it.

I recently acquired 2 million shares of stock in a public company, trading at 60 cents a share. They only asked for a quarterly board meeting—two in person. The upside made it worth my time.

2. Your income correlates with the value you bring.

I met my mentor, Bill Mitchell, at 20 years old. I vividly remember his best advice: He asked about my goals, and I replied, “To earn $250,000 in commissions.” Laughing, he said, “Don’t focus on making money until after 30 years old.”

This seemed crazy because he was wildly successful, so I asked, “Why not?” He explained if you chase money, you’ll always just chase money and rarely be happy. “Instead, become more valuable than anyone. Deliver more service, help everyone achieve goals and become their best. And guess what will happen? Buckets of money will be given to you.”

Too many in today’s world want life’s riches, but very few understand and act on my mentor’s advice: Your income always directly correlates to the value you bring to the market.

3. Humbly say yes.

My mentor taught me, “The world likes inertia. It loves to say no. As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to keep saying yes and create the change that the world doesn’t yet know it needs. Don’t expect any thanks or pats on the back. Seeing the change you helped shepherd will be enough reward in itself.

4. Remember the human touch.

Bill Draper, my father, told me that it doesn’t matter who is doing the selling or who is doing the buying; it’s the human connection that counts. I think about that every time I raise a fund or hear an entrepreneur pitch me.

5. Don’t get in your own way.

The advice I’ve carried throughout my career is, “Three things bring great people down: fear, greed and ego.” If you look back at the downfall of any leader throughout history, you’ll find they exhibited at least one of these traits, if not all of them.

Vinnie Viola, a man who beat the odds by becoming a self-made billionaire after growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, and whose father was a truck driver, told me this one night over a drink while we were in Austin. His advice guided me to make some of the most successful business partnerships by focusing my efforts on people who are level-headed, generous and humble. And I too strive to exhibit these qualities in my own life.

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