8 Wise Tips Famous CEOs Would Give Their Younger Selves

By Brittany Lyte on 25 May 2017 0 comments

Every successful CEO has hit plenty of bumps on the road to the top. Despite the struggles, these top leaders have still managed to conquer challenges, shed their shortcomings, and grow both their skills and their net worth. They have made mistakes and learned from them.

We wondered what some of the wealthiest CEOs would tell their younger selves, and found eight gems worth passing on. (See also: 11 Finance Tips You Wish You Could Tell Your Younger Self)

1. Stay true to yourself

Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, is working hard to grow the chain from 26,000 locations today to 37,000 by 2021, all while maintaining the brand's unique appeal. He has some big shoes to fill, after taking over from Starbucks' iconic leader Howard Schultz in April 2017. His guiding principle, as he told Business Insider: Be authentic. By acknowledging all aspects of your authentic self — shortcomings and counterproductive tendencies included — you allow yourself and the people around you to do their best work.

"It's important to be comfortable being authentic," Johnson said, adding, "Being authentic means you have to be vulnerable."

2. Find a job you love

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett — one of the world's most successful investors with a net worth of $73 billion — puts it in layman's terms: Take on a career that makes you excited to wake up in the morning.

"You follow your passions. You find something you love," said Buffett at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit in 2014. "The truth is, so few people really jump on their jobs, you really will stand out more than you think. You will get noticed if you really go for it." (See also: The 5 Best Pieces of Financial Wisdom From Warren Buffett)

3. Exceed expectations

DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg's path to success was made by following this tip: Always give your best performance. And, if you can, outperform other people's expectations of your work.

"I don't think it matters how small or how big the task is," the Hollywood influencer, whose net worth is estimated at $750 million, famously said. "If you can do it just a little bit better than what is expected, you will be noticed and rewarded."

4. Embrace tough assignments

Don't settle for easy work — that's the advice of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who earned $29.8 million in 2016.

"Nobody notices when you do an easy job well," she told Business Insider in 2014. "It's far better to challenge yourself by raising your hand for the toughest assignments and work to solve problems that no one else has been able to solve. That's how you truly become a trusted leader inside an organization."

5. Pursue extracurricular interests

"My advice is to focus on becoming a complete person," said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who grew up in a Brooklyn housing project and now has a net worth estimated at $1.1 billion. "Everyone should focus on the content of his or her job, of course. But work is not the end; it's a means to an end. You owe it to yourself to open up to broader interests."

So, pursue a hobby, travel, learn a new skill, read voraciously. Become that interesting person that makes great dinner conversation.

6. Focus on developing your own unique talents

Former Birchbox co-CEO Hayley Barna knows a thing or two about developing personal strengths and talents. She helped launch the subscription beauty box company in 2010 before stepping down five years later to become First Round Capital's first female partner.

Her best advice is to identify and strengthen your distinct set of skills, rather than trying to be good at things you struggle with. For example, if you're a horrible writer but you're mathematically gifted, focus on your talent with numbers rather than trying to develop a literary voice.

"Never compare your weaknesses to someone else's strengths," Barna has said. "While comparisons are tempting, especially for competitive, ambitious people, it's always important to focus on your own special talents. That's how you can make a real impact. And it's the coordination of everyone's unique skills that can make magic happen."

7. Own up to your mistakes

Dave Finocchio, CEO of Bleacher Report, would tell his younger self to admit his faults, act swiftly to correct them, and learn from them.

"I make mistakes all the time, and talk about them openly with people up and down our hierarchy," the digital sports franchise leader told Forbes in 2016. "It fosters a culture where people should feel comfortable critiquing themselves honestly."

8. Push yourself

Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo, says she would counsel her younger self to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You'll never get ahead without pushing yourself to do things you've never done, and that means embracing tasks that you think you might not be fully prepared for.

"I always did something I was a little not ready to do," Mayer, whose net worth is $189 million, said in a 2015 speech. "I think that's how you grow. When there's that moment of, 'Wow, I'm not really sure I can do this,' and you push through those moments, that's when you have a breakthrough."

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