Advice for graduates from the world’s most successful people

In his book, Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss asked the world’s most successful people what advice they had for graduates about to enter the 'real world'. Here is what they said. 


Arianna Huffington

I would advise graduates to be much more mindful and deliberate about their relationship with technology. Technology allows us to do amazing things, but we have become addicted to it. And that’s by design – product designers know how to addict us in the race to dominate the attention economy. But there are ways to – as Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, puts it – “unhijack your mind.”

Ashton Kutcher

Be polite, on time, and work really fucking hard until you are talented enough to be blunt, a little late, and take vacations, and even then… be polite.

David Lynch

Learn Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and meditate regularly. Ignore pessimistic thinking and pessimistic thinkers.

Darren Aronofsky

Most of the game is about persistence. It is the most important trait. Sure, when you get an opportunity, you have to perform and you have to exceed beyond all expectations, but getting that chance is the hardest part. So keep the vision clear in your head and every day refuse all obstacles to get to the goal.

Joseph Gordon Levitt

For anybody out there reading this who wants to get into acting or entertainment, my advice is to first ask yourself: why? Try to be really honest with yourself about what exactly you’re after. Fame is seductive. We’ve all seen and loved the movies about the young underdog becoming a star. I won’t claim to be 100 percent immune to it.

Of the famous people I know, the ones who are happy aren’t happy because of fame. They’re happy for the same reasons everybody else is: because they’re healthy, because they have good people around them, and because they take satisfaction in what they do, regardless of how many millions of strangers are watching.

I think this applies outside of acting and entertainment. In any field, there’s usually some kind of mythological reward you’re supposed to receive if everybody considers you a success. But in my experience, there’s a lot more honest joy to be had from taking pleasure in the work itself.


Kyle Maynard

Since I read Joseph Campbell’s line “follow your bliss”, it has become my true north. Thinking of what makes me happy doesn’t give me the same clarity as thinking about what gives me bliss. For me, it’s the freedom I feel on top of a mountain or the breeze I feel laying on a catamaran net halfway around the world. Bliss is the highest peak of what brings you joy. If happiness is just above the status quo, bliss is what makes you feel most alive.

Expect it will take courage to follow your bliss, and expect it will suck at times. Expect you’re going to have to take risks for it. Expect others won’t necessarily understand. And also expect that what gives you bliss today may not be what does tomorrow. Just follow it all over again. 

Linda Rottenberg

People always tell recent graduates and budding entrepreneurs that they should keep their options open; “don’t close any doors.” But keeping every option open winds up leading to paralysis or, worse than that, self-deception. How many of my former classmates who took a job at Goldman Sachs or McKinsey for “a few years” before they pursued their real passions like cooking or starting their dream company are actually now chefs or entrepreneurs? Most are still banking and consulting, believing that those doors are still open. My advice to college students: Close doors.

This advice also applies to entrepreneurs who have one foot in the business and one foot out. That’s okay at the outset (heck, Phil Knight of Nike worked as an accountant for years, and Sara Blakely of Spanx sold fax machines until she was certain her idea would take off). But at some point after your idea has launched, the hedging has to stop. You can’t build a significant business with one foot out the door.

Yuval Noah Harari

Nobody really knows what the world and the job market will look like in 2040, hence nobody knows what to teach young people today. Consequently, it is likely that most of what you currently learn at school will be irrelevant by the time you are 40.

So what should you focus on? My best advice is to focus on personal resilience and emotional intelligence. Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working.

By 2040, this traditional model will become obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves again and again.


Tribe of Mentors is a collection of short life advice from the best in the world – on everything from failure to unusual habits. 


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