When admiring a successful person from afar, it’s sometimes hard to remember that no one started out at the top. We’ve all had our share of struggles and setbacks, and one of the greatest gifts we can give one another are our stories of trial and error to help each other grow. While writing a college commencement address, Katie Couric got the idea to put together a book that did just that.
The Best Advice I Ever Got is a collection of essays from visionaries, world leaders, artists, entertainers and local heroes on how to take chances, follow one’s passions, overcome adversity and commit to something greater than ourselves. Couric reflects on her own life as well, and discusses the wisdom and occasional missteps that guided her from her early days as a desk assistant at ABC to her work as a broadcast journalist. The contributors write about how they got it right, how they got it wrong, and how they managed not to lose hope when they were at rock bottom.
Here are some quotes from the book that I found particularly inspiring:
“My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for 65 years. She said, ‘If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to your place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a new path.’” — Maya Angelou
“The most interesting artists are those who aren’t too afraid to fail. As the late, great Jack Lemmon once said, ‘Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure.’ You will never achieve a deeper understanding of your work, or learn the tough lessons, if you are liked or comfortable all of the time.” —Laura Linney
“To break out of the routine of life, you have to do what it takes to focus on staying true to yourself and your own dreams. Instead of ignoring those dreams and hoping you can get around to them later on, you have to be committed to developing an action plan, to creating a ‘life script’ with measurable goals, and to building a core of supporters around you to keep you going in the right direction.” – Dr. Phil McGraw
“Write down five things you love to do. Next, write down five things that you’re really good at. Then just try to match them up! Revisit your list once a year to make sure you’re on the right track.” –Hugh Jackman
“Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference. Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, be the optimist, see the glass full, be the one everyone comes to. Yes is what keeps us all young.” –Eric Schmidt, Executive Chair of Google
“Whatever you choose to do with your life—whether it’s running a company or cooking dinner—stand for something you know is true. If there’s a recipe for success, it’s staying real and true.” – Mario Batali