Peechaya Burroughs for TIME

The Advice Warren Buffett, Jillian Michaels and Michael Bloomberg Would Give You If They Were Your Mentors

Feb. 5, 2016

'Warren, you can always tell someone to go to hell tomorrow'

For my new book, Getting There: A Book of Mentors, I interviewed 30 leaders in a wide range of fields about navigating the rocky road to success. Although Getting There was intended to be a career book, my subjects shared wisdom applicable to all areas of life. Here are some of the highlights:


  • Pause before saying something you’ll regret

    “Forty years ago, My good friend Tom Murphy gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. He said, ‘Warren, you can always tell someone to go to hell tomorrow.’ It’s such an easy way of putting it. You haven’t missed the opportunity. Just forget about it for a day. If you feel the same way tomorrow, tell them then—but don’t spout off in a moment of anger.” —Warren Buffett, investor and philanthropist

  • The real risk lies in never taking a risk

    “No one likes to feel vulnerable, and I’m no exception, but the reality is that you can only know as much depth, happiness and success in your life as you can know vulnerability. If you don’t ask out a girl or a guy on a date, you won’t get rejected, but you won’t fall in love, either. If you don’t apply for the job, then you won’t get the position you want. If you don’t try to start your own business, then you’ll never be the entrepreneur you always dreamed of being.” —Jillian Michaels, fitness and health expert

  • Seize the day

    “I have an old message from a guy framed and hung on my office wall. It says: ‘I’ll call back on Monday.’ It was a Friday when he called and left that message with my secretary. On Sunday night, the guy died of a heart attack. He was only 34. Monday never came. Monday doesn’t always come. Whether ‘Monday’ is 10 years from now or tomorrow, you may not have the chance to do the things you say you will sometime down the road. Think about the things you want to do with your life, and try to get them done. Particularly when you are young. There are a lot of things that if you don’t do them in your 20s, you’ll never do. Make sure you get the important experiences out of the way early because once you start a career, get married and have a family, you probably won’t have a large chunk of time off for the next 30 years.” —Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company

  • Express your appreciation for others

    “People want recognition and respect. When I walk into a building, I always make a point of shaking the hands of the security people at the door. If it wasn’t for them, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to conduct our business. They are just as important as the head of the company. It’s important to recognize when credit is due and not be stingy about giving it.” —Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg

  • Really examine criticism

    “I have been harshly criticized at various points in my life. … Although criticism often hurts, it can also be a gift. Even when it comes in a really nasty package, you have to examine it. It may simply give you the resolve to prove your critic wrong, but sometimes you’ll find an opportunity to learn.” —Kathy Ireland, model and actress turned entrepreneur

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  • Remember that life has ups and downs

    “No matter what you do, there will be times when things go well and times when things go badly. The only thing for sure, in either scenario, is that things will change. When something good happens, I try to enjoy it. When something bad happens, I try to understand why it happened. But in either case, the next day I’m on to something else.” —David Boies, lawyer

  • Don’t waste your own time

    “You don’t always know what you want to do in life, but you sure know when something isn’t right. My advice is that, once you realize you don’t want to pursue something, get out. The sooner you exit a situation that’s not meant to be, the sooner you can move toward your ultimate destiny.” —John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of The Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Hair Systems

  • Don’t worry about keeping score

    “My grandfather didn’t have a lot of money, but he was amazingly generous. … I try to teach my students to behave as he did. When you are generous, you will always feel good about yourself. If life ends up being generous in return, as it usually does with giving people, then you will have greater joy.” —Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School

  • Approach your personal life with as much urgency as you do your career

    “You can passively hope that cupid shoots his arrow at you, or you can be proactive. In my early 30s, after having been divorced, I let those around me know that I wanted to meet someone great. My husband and I were fixed up by a colleague of mine. If I hadn’t specifically told her that I was looking, she would probably not have thought to introduce us. If you are purposeful and can articulate your goals, whatever they may be, you have a much better chance of achieving them.” —Stacey Snider, co-chairman of 20th Century Fox

    Gillian Zoe Segal is a photographer and the author of the books New York Characters and Getting There: A Book of Mentors.