Advice to College Students From the Best Entrepreneurs, Thinkers, & Leaders in the World

This is what the leading influencers in the world want you to know.

I am also a College student currently. So this applies to me as much as it does to anyone else. I am studying philosophy.

Might I also add, all of this advice is for free. Think about that. It’s for free. These people were generous enough to spend their time thinking about what would be the most valuable lesson from my career and what will help students aspiring to contribute to the world, the most.

Think about that. Generosity in material terms — yes. But this is invaluable advice, nonetheless. And I am very grateful to all that contributed to Tim Ferris’ book.

I recommend you read it. I read the book in 2 sittings.

Here’s a list of some of my most favorite book recommendations from the book:

These are all taken from Timothy Ferris’ most recent book Tribe of Mentors. In it, he asks numerous questions among which was the question: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Susan Cain

Co-founder of Quiet Revolution and the author of the bestsellers Quiet Power: The Secret to Strengths of Introverted kids, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her TED talk has been viewed more than 17 million times and was named by Bill Gates as one of his all-time favorite talks.

I do not believe that your best creative work is done when you’re stressed out because you’re teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or other personal disasters. Just the opposite. You should set up your life so that it is as comfortable and happy as possible — and so that it accommodates your creative work (12).
What you seek is seeking you. — Rumi (13th century Persian poet)

Terry Crews

Actor and former NFL player. Known for Everybody Hates Chris, and films including White Chicks, and the Expendables franchise. He now starts on the Golden Globe Award-winning Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He also released his autobiography, Manhood: How to Be a Better Man — or Just Live with One. Personally, I am a big fan of Terry Crews and I adored his autobiography.

Ignore any advice that tells you you are going to miss something. Every mistake I have ever made in business, marriage, and personal conduct was because I thought if I didn’t do or get this now, it was never going to happen (22).

Matt Ridley

A prominent author whose books have sold more than a million copies. He also writes a weekly column in The Times (London) and writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal. As Viscount Ridley, he was elected to England’s House of Lords in February 2013.

Don’t be intimidated by anything. in the vast majority of the professions and vocations, the people who succeed are not any cleverer than you. The adult world is not full of gods, just people who have acquired skills and habits that work for them. And specialize — the great human achievement is to specialize as a producer of goods or services so that you can diversify as a consumer. Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty (36).

Tim Urban

Author of the blog Wait But Why and has become one of the Internet’s most popular writers. Wait But Why receives more than 1.5 million unique visitors per month and has over 550,000 email subscribers.

Obsess over figuring out the funnest, most exciting, most natural shape of yourself as a writer and start doing that. . . . By focusing inward on yourself as a writer instead of outward on what you think readers will want to read, you’ll end up creating the best and most original work, and that one-in-a-thousand person who happens to love it will end up finding their way to you (47–8).

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A women’s rights activist and best-selling author. She fled to Holland and claimed political asylum, working her way up from being a janitor to serving as an elected member of the Dutch parliament.

Too often students can’t meaningfully help the disadvantaged now, even if it makes them feel good for trying to. i have seen so many former students in their late 30s and 40s struggling to make ends meet. They spent their time in college doing good rather than building their careers and futures. i warn students today to be careful how they use their precious time and to think carefully about when is the right time to help. it’s a well-worn cliche, but you have to help yourself before you help others. This is too often lost on idealistic students (55).
“One should use common words to say uncommon things.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (Renowned 19th-century German philosopher)

Soman Chainani

Filmmaker and New York Times best-selling author.

Make sure you have something every day you’re looking forward to. . . . Too often, aspiring artists put pressure on themselves to make their creative work their only source of income. In my experience, it’s a road to misery (73).
The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting. — Walt Disney

Max Levchin

Co-founder and CEO of Affirm. Named “Innovator of the Year” in 2002, when he was 26 years old, by MIT Technology Review.

I started numerous companies in my early 20s only to see them all fail, but I never thought twice about starting the next one. I knew after the first one that I loved the feeling of starting something, and I had almost no other responsibilities. Eventually, one of the startups did work out, but I was prepared to try as many times as it would take to win (95).

So what if it fails? You can start again. And then again. And then again. Expect failure. This is something I am teaching myself at the moment as well.

Learn more, know less.

Neil Strauss

Eight-time New York Times best-selling author. Most recently he co-authored with Kevin Hart the instant #1 New York Times bestseller I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons.

The best investment was the time I put in as an unpaid intern at The village Voice in NYC. I must have spent a year just opening mail and doing people’s expense reports, but I was so excited to be there. I probably interned there for years. They couldn’t get rid of me. I loved writing, but I wasn’t very good at it when i started. But by being around the writers and editors I admired, and spending all my free time reading back issues in the archives, i learned to be a writer, a critic, and a reporter (98).

Veronica Belmont

Don’t wait until you get a job to do the thing you want to be doing. For most careers, showing that you have initiative by working on projects related to your future jobs is a great way to get a foot in the door. If you want to be a writer or journalist, start keeping a blog that you update regularly (103)!

Patton Oswalt

Ignore anyone who tells you to go for security over experience (106).

Lewis Cantley

He is the author of more than 400 original papers and more than 50 book chapters and review articles. He conducted his postdoctoral research at Harvard University, where he became assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. He has also made significant advances in cancer research. his pioneering research has resulted in revolutionary treatments for cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

My advice is to choose a profession that is really easy for you to do and that also allows you to be creative. If it is easy for you to do and somewhat difficult for your peers to do, you will not have to work too hard to be successful and you will have enough spare time to enjoy life.
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If you are uncertain of your talent, get a broad education that does not narrow your options. The best skill is to be able to communicate efficiently both in writing and speaking. The two college courses that were probably most important for my career were a course in literature and composition and a course in logic (an advanced math course). These courses taught me how to reach the correct conclusion from a set of facts and how to communicate that conclusion to a diverse audience (110).
“There is nothing that the busy man is less busy with than living; there is nothing harder to learn.” — Seneca (Roman Stoic philosopher)
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case you fail by default.” — J. K. Rowling
“The struggles ends when the gratitude begins.” — [Quote associated with] Neale Donald Walsch

Joel McHale

Film credits include Deliver Us from Evil, Blended, Ted, What’s Your Number?, The Big Year, and The Informant! Joel also performs standup comedy around the country to sold-out audiences. He is the author of Thanks for the Money: How to Use My life Story to Become the best Joel McHale You Cane Be.

Pursue that dream or dreams that are planted in you already. Yes, some of you are saying you don’t know what that dream is, but — it’s there. Believe me.
. . .
I believe you’re supposed to follow your dreams. Like it’s an order.
On top o that — and just as important — help people who are less fortunate than you and help the planet (133–4).
“Don’t believe anyone who tells you they know what they are doing. William Goldman, the screenwriter, once wrote ‘nobody knows anything’ in the movie business, and it is true. I know I don’t.” — Ben Stiller
Persistence matters more than talent. The student with straight As is irrelevant if the student sitting next to him with Bs has more passion. — Andrew R. Sorkin

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Actor known for Inception, 500 Days of Summer, Snowden, and Don Jon. Also directs HITRECORD, an online community of artists emphasizing collaboration over self-promotion.

Fame is seductive.
. . .
Of the famous people I know, the ones who are happy aren’t happy because of the 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. . . . In my experience, there’s a lot more honest joy to be had from taking pleasure in the work itself (150).

Vitalik Buterin

I’d rather give an understated good recommendation: be interdisciplinary. In my case, I follow quite a bit of research in computer science, cryptography, mechanism design, economics, politics, and other social sciences, and the interactions between these fields tend to very often inform strategic and protocol decisions (155).
Mistakes are more useful than success in life. — Turia Pitt

Esther Perel

She has been called the most important game-changer in sexuality and relational health since Dr. Ruth. Her TED Talks on maintaining desire and rethinking infidelity have more than 17 million views. Esther is the author of the international bestseller Mating in Captivity, which has been translated into 26 languages.

It’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life. Invest in your connections, even those that seem inconsequential.
. . .
Always take the time to acknowledge people — and not just when you know you have something to gain. If you show interest in them, they will be interested in you. People react to kindness with kindness, to respect with respect. Relationships — even brief ones — are doorways to opportunity.
The advice to ignore is “What is your five-year plan?” (180)

Maria Sharapova

Winner of five Grand Slam titles and is an Olympic silver medalist in tennis.

You can’t say the words “please” and “thank you” enough (184).

Josh Waitzkin

Is the basis for the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. Considered a chess prodigy, loves Brazilian jujitsu (black belt) and tai chi push hands (world champion).

Do what you love, do it in a way that you love, and pour your heart and soul into every moment of it.
Advice they should ignore: Follow the beaten path. Avoid risk. Play it safe. Wear a suit (197).

Ann Miura-Ko

She has been called “the most powerful woman in startups” by Forbes and is a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Stanford.

I first tell students I encounter to spend the remainder of their time in college filling their minds with the best of the humanities their school has to offer.
. . .
The timeless lessons on fundamental human nature (e.g., John Locke, Thomas Hobbes), the rise and demise of great societies and the inspirational examples set by real-life heroes (e.g., Alexander Hamilton) found in the literature and history classes I took are ones I draw upon even to this day.
. . .
The practice of judgement and reasoning found in philosophy (e.g., Kantian ethics), history, and literature are skills we should continue to hone even when we are out of college . . .
Develop a philosophy of giving as soon as you enter the working world. [My manager] said that I should develop this philosophy when I had few obligations outside of the student debt I had taken on.
. . .
What I didn’t realize then but have come to know in my life is that charitable giving is as much a habit as it is a conscious act (202).

Jason Fried

Every time I’ve given without any expectation of return. Money, time, energy, whatever. Whenever I’ve expected something in return, the investment was stunted. Whenever I’ve given purely for giving, for helping, for supporting, for aiding, for encouraging — with zero expectation or interest in any return whatsoever — it’s been thoroughly fulfilling (207).
Focus on your writing skills. It’s the one thing I’ve found that really helps people stand out.
. . .
It’s the medium of work. While people often say there’s not enough time, remember that you’ll always have less attention than time. Full attention is where you do your best work, and everyone’s going to be looking to rip it from you. Protect and preserve it (208).

Ariana Huffington

In May 2005, she launched The Huffington Post, a news and blog site that quickly became on of the most widely read, linked-to, and frequently cited media brands on the Internet, and in 2012 won a Pultizer Prize for national reporting. Ariana serves on numerous boards, including Uber and The Center for Public Integrity, and she is the author of 15 books, including her most recent, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

My second book was rejected by 37 publishers. I remember running out of money and walking, depressed, down St. James Street in London, where I was living at the time.
. . .
My mother taught me that failure is not the opposite of success but a steppingstone to success (212).
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Now I realize that you can’t separate the two — time spent taking breaks, taking a walk, unplugging, meditating — that’s all work time, too, in the sense that time spent unplugging and recharging makes me better, more effective, and happier in my work and in my life (213).

Gary Vaynerchuk

A serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency servicing Fortune 500 clients. He is also a venture capitalist, four-time New York Times best-selling author, and an early investor in companies such as Twitter, Tumblr, Venmo, and Uber. Gary is currently the subject of DailyVee, an online documentary series highlighting what it’s like to be a CEO and public figure in today’s digital world.

Macro patience, micro speed. [Students] should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress the next eight days.
At a macro, I think everybody’s super impatient. . . . This is super important.
Everybody’s impatient at a macro, and just so patient at a micro, wasting your days worrying about years. I’m not worried about my years, because I’m squeezing the fuck out of my seconds, let alone my days. It’s going to work out (216).

Tom Peters

He is the co-author of In Search of Excellence: Lessons from American’s Best-Run Companies, which is often referred to as “the best business book ever.” Sixteen books and more than 30 years later, he’s still at the forefront of the “management guru” industry he helped invent. Tom has given more than 2,500 speeches, and his speech and writing materials are available for free at

Good manners pay off big time. I assume you’re smart and I assume you work hard. But being civil and decent and kind is the bedrock of career success, as well as personal fulfillment.
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Oh and two other things: First, become a superstar, all-pro listener. How? Work on it. It does not come naturally. Read up on it. Practice it. Have a mentor grade you on it. Second: Read. Read. Read. Read. In short, the best student wins, whether at age 21 or 51 or 101 (227–8).

Bear Grylls

Don’t shy away from the hard times. Tackle them head-on, move toward the path less trodden, riddled with obstacles, because mot other people run at the first sign of battle. The storms give us a chance to define ourselves, to distinguish ourselves, and we always emerge from them stronger.
The other key is to be kind along the way. Kindness matters so much on that journey of endeavor. It is what separates the good from great (230).

Esther Dyson

Always take jobs for which you are not qualified; that way you will inevitably learn something. And do not drop out of college unless you truly have a better alternative (245).

Ashton Kutcher

Actor, investor, and entrepreneur.

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 (252).

Jerome Jarre

Dropped out of business school at age 19 and moved to China. After failing in six startups, he focuses all of his energy on cracking social media, and within 12 months, his videos about happiness and challenging fears reached 1.5 billion views, making him a pioneer of the mobile video industry.

I started sleeping at the office of his company VaynerMedia, showering at the nearby gym, eating the leftovers that his team was forgetting in the company fridge. This lasted for months, and during that period my posts on Vine started to intensify. I was inspired by New York, so inspired that I didn’t mind the struggle of being broke in such an expensive city. I think it took just about one year before I moved into an apartment. My goal had never been to grow a huge following, only to study the app by using it. In June 2013, just a couple weeks after moving to New York, I grew from 20,000 followers to 1 million in a month.
If you are studying business/PR/marketing, then drop out today. The world is already full of marketers and businessmen. The world doesn’t need more of that. The world needs healers and problem-solvers who use their hearts. Your heart is a million times more powerful than your brain (261–2).
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise, instead, seek what they sought. — Matsuo Basho (Japanese poet of the Edo period)
If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success. — James Cameron
I lived the first 33 years of my life actively trying to avoid failure. More recently, I’ve worried less about failing and more about not risking failure enough, because I’m reasonably sure that there’s not a failure I can’t survive. — Franklin Leonard
Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up. — Bono

Tony Hawk

Success should not be measured by financial gain; true success is doing something you love for a living. Learn every aspect of your chosen field or craft, as it will give you an advantage over any competitors, and set you up for more — often better — job opportunities (299).
Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly. — Mae West

Steve Case

Is one of America’s best-known entrepreneurs and chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC, an investment firm he co-founded.

If, like many people, you got a liberal arts degree, be proud of it, and own it. . . . . Don’t try to be something you’re not. Be confident in the skills you have, as they may be make-or-break for the journey you pursue.
Be fearless. I recognize this is easy to say and hard to do, particularly for a generation that has been raised by hovering helicopter parents who may have encouraged you to stay in the box, and in a world that has been unsettle by job loss and terrorism. But despite all of that, you have to get out of your comfort zone and swing for the fences, knowing that sometimes you will fail (346).

Linda Rottenberg

Author of the New York Times best-seller Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags.

Get over the sense that you might be perceived as aggressive.
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Find a little courage and reach out to a mentor you admire. People respond to passion and a clear articulation of why you are approaching them in particular (351).
If you’re not called crazy when you start something new, then you’re not thinking big enough! — L. Rottenberg

John Arnold

Ignore advice, especially early in one’s career. There is no universal path to success (374).

Nick Szabo

The less you need positive feedback on your ideas, the more original design regions you can explore, and the more creative and, in the long term useful to society you will be. . . . The more original your ideas, the less your bosses and peers will understand them, and people fear or at best ignore what they do not understand (383).

Darren Aronofsky

Award-winning filmmaker behind cult classic films such as Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler. He is perhaps best known for Black Swan, which was nominated for five academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Every single film I have ever made was at first met with a chorus of “no”s. It led my producer at the time to even come up with the quote, “When everyone is saying no, you know you’re doing something right.” So I think all success starts with tremendous rejection, and being able to look past those attacks is key (399).

Evan Williams

Co-founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium. He is currently CEO of Medium, the online publishing platform.

Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation. In a team environment, you will make a much better impression if it seems like you’re not at all worried about yourself. It’s okay to actually be worried about yourself — everyone is — just don’t seem like it. If you resist asking for too much, you will often get more (402).

Bram Cohen

The inventor of BitTorrent. In 2005, MIT Technology Review named Bram one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.

Pick your early jobs based on what gets you the most valuable experience. If you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t dive directly into doing your venture but go get work at an early-stage startup to learn the ropes and get paid to make your early mistakes. Only after getting the necessary experience and knowledge should you strike out on your own. This is what I did, and although the startups I worked at were mostly failures, I don’t think I could have succeeded at my own thing without that experience (406).

Chris Anderson

Became the curator of the TED Conference in 2002 and has developed it into a global platform for disseminating ideas worth spreading. In 2006, TED began free distribution of its talks on the web and more than 2,500 talks are now available.

Live for something that’s bigger than you are.
By adopting a generosity strategy, your reputation will spread, and you may be amazed at what you get back in return.
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It’s much better to pursue learning, personal discipline, growth. And to seek out connections with people across the plant. For a while, it’s just fine to follow and support someone else’s dream. In so doing, you will be building valuable relationships, valuable knowledge. And at some point your passion will come and whisper in your ear, “I’m ready.” (409)
Obstacles are those terrible things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Terry Laughlin

Founder of Total Immersion, an innovative swimming method focused on teaching students to swim in a highly efficient manner.

Several years ago, I read an op-ed in The New York Times that described a study of 10,000 West Point cadets who were followed for up to 14 years. They were asked as first-year cadets to describe their career goals.
Those who cited goals intrinsic to being an outstanding officer — developing excellence as a leader and communicator, earning the respect of the troops under their command — went on at much higher rates to earn commissions as officers, extend their service beyond the five-year minimum, gain early promotion to higher ranks, and report a high degree of satisfaction with their Army service.
Thos who cited extrinsic goals — earning promotions and gaining status — were less likely to earn commissions and early promotions, or report a high level of satisfaction, leading them to terminate their service after the minimum five-year period at higher rates.
The same will apply in any field of endeavor. if your highest goals is incremental, patient, continual learning and development in critical skills and core competencies — and you allow recognition, promotions, and financial rewards to be a natural result of the excellence you attain at core competencies — you will be far more likely to experience success and satisfaction, and perhaps even attain eminence, in your field (444).

Marie Forleo

And finally.

No matter what challenge or obstacle you face, whether it’s personal, professional, or global, there’s a path ahead. It’s all figure-out-able. You’ll find a way or make a way, if you’re willing to be relentless, stay nimble, and keep taking action. It’s especially useful to remember when things go wrong, because rather than wasting time or energy on the problem, you shift immediately to brainstorming solutions. I honestly believe it’s one of the most practical and powerful beliefs you can adopt (452).
Pursue every project, idea, or industry that genuinely lights you up, regardless of how unrelated each idea is, or how unrealistic a long-term career in that field might now seem. You’ll connect the dots later. Work your fucking ass off and develop a reputation for going above and beyond in all situations.
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Show up in every moment like you’re meant to be there, because your energy precedes anything you could possibly say.
Ignore the advice to specialize in one thing, unless you’re certain that’s how you want to roll (453).

I hope you enjoyed this advice as much as I did.

All the best in your endeavors.

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