Advice is a powerful thing. The impact of a few words said at the right moment in the right context can change your life.

When I was in high school, I was set on following my father's advice into becoming a doctor. As an immigrant, my father always drilled into my head that having a career that needed a license - whether it be a doctor, lawyer, accountant - guaranteed job safety. "When you have a license," he would say, "it's very easy to find a job."

It all made sense, but it didn't feel right. One afternoon as I was applying for college, I walked into my guidance counselor's office to have her proofread some of my college application essays. Mrs. Conway was a sweet, elderly woman who cared about her students. She sat down and read my college essay, peering at the paper over her horn-rimmed glasses. Her red hair was tied up in a frazzled-looking bun.

After a few moments, she looked up, smiled and said: "You know Betty, you're a pretty good writer. You should try it." I knew what she was saying. Hearing those few words changed my life.

I've always been curious what pieces of advice very successful people have heard that changed their life. I was lucky to have had someone encourage me to do what I really wanted. What "Mrs. Conway" moments have others had?

Below are some great words of wisdom our Experts on Radiate - CEOs and thought leaders - have for their 21-year-old selves:

Tamara Mellon, founder of TamaraMellon.com, says she would tell her younger self that "using my voice is the most important thing and speaking up, knowing my value, asking for what I'm worth and believing that I'm worth it." 

"Don't be so nervous, I've always been a little bit of a worrier," says the co-founder of Plated Nick Taranto. "I've found that if you are giving something your all and you surround yourself with incredibly bright people, things tend to work out."

The Executive Chairman of Honeywell David Cote says: "Don't be defensive." Defensiveness was something he took a little time for him to recognize. "People would say I was defensive to which I would respond, 'no, I'm not' - not kind of recognizing the irony of it!"

"It gets better," Richard Socarides Head of Public Affairs at GLG would tell his younger self. "Whatever you're struggling with, it will get better. I think I would also say that it's a long life, and if you're in a situation, be it a professional situation or a personal situation that is less than ideal, you can work your way out of it. Nothing stays the same, everything is always changing and just realize that you're worth it."

"Do things for the experience. When you're young, don't worry about titles. If you can, to the extent that you can, don't worry about how much you get paid," Richard Haass the President of the Council on Foreign Relations would tell his 21-year-old self. "Put yourself in as many different and challenging circumstances as you can."

Published on: Jan 11, 2018
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