70 Pieces of Wisdom for Smart and Driven College Graduates to Enter the "Real World"

I just spent the past month finishing “Tribe of Mentors”, the latest book by the legendary Tim Ferriss. It is packed with wisdom and tools that will change your life. The book contains more than 100+ interviews with people around the world. I made my notes, did some highlights and will be referring back to it on the need per basis. After all, I learned this trick from Tim himself.

In one of his many podcast episodes, The Tim Ferriss Show, he described, advice (or information/context) when comes to reading books will stick if it has to stick. In other words, when reading a book as heavy in material as Tim Ferriss’ last two (Tools of Titans and The 4-Hour Workweek), brain will be able to process most of the information but the only those thing will stay with you, or stick with your consciousness or occur at the moment when your subconscious is working for answers in an abstract moment. This is a great advice in the age of information overload.

All these mentors that Tim tracked down for this book were asked the almost similar amount of questions with full willingness to answer or not to take into consideration the question they don’t want to answer. Some of these answers might help you in navigating your life further. For me personally, this is my favorite question that Tim asked his mentors:

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?

As a recent college grad, I found the answers to the question truly life changing and I’d love for you to get the same gift. Here they are:

1 - Samin Nosrat: "When in doubt, let kindness and compassion guide you. And don’t be afraid to fail."

2 - Steven Pressfield: “Don’t worry about your friends beating you or getting somewhere ahead of you. Get out into the real dirt world and start failing. The goal is to connect with your own self, your own soul.”

3 - Susan Cain: “You will hear so many stories of people who risked everything in order to achieve this or that goal, especially creative goals. But 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.”

4 - Kyle Maynard: "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.”

5 - Terry Crews: “There is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is like following a GPS route right into a body of water until you drown. Wisdom looks at the route but, when it takes a turn into the ocean, decides not to follow it, then finds a new, better way. Wisdom reigns supreme.”

6 - Debbie Millman: “You don’t just find and get a great job. You find and win a great job against a pool of very competitive candidates who may want that job as much, if not more, than you do. Finding and winning a great job is a competitive sport that requires as much career athleticism and perseverance as making it to the Olympics. You must be in the finest career shape possible in order to win.”

7 - Naval Ravikant: “Follow your intellectual curiosity over whatever is “hot” right now. If your curiosity ever leads you to a place where society eventually wants to go, you’ll get paid extremely well.”

8 - Matt Ridley: “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.”

9 - Tim Urban: “Society loves to glorify the “you-as-CEO” paths and make people who don’t want to be the CEO of their own career feel inferior about their path, but neither of these paths is inherently better or worse than the other—it just depends on your personality, your goals, and what you want from a lifestyle. There are some super smart, talented, special people whose gifts are best expressed as CEO and others whose are best expressed when someone else is worrying about keeping the lights on and you can just put your head down and focus on your work. Likewise, there are some people who need to be CEO to find their work fulfilling and others for whom being CEO and having their work bleed into everything is a recipe for misery.”

10 - Ayaan Hirsi Ali: “I am often asked whether one should work in the private or public sector. I always advise working in the private sector and wish I did this before entering politics and the public sector. The private sector teaches important skills like entrepreneurship that can then be applied to any area of work later on.”


11 - Graham Duncan: “I like to think about careers through Dan Siegel’s model of a river flowing between two banks, where one side is chaos and the other side is rigidity.. It’s critical to remember you can always choose to course-correct and swim toward structure or chaos, apprenticeship or freedom, depending on what you need at that moment, what tempo and phase of your career you want to be in, which riverbank you’re coming from and where you want to go.”

12 - Mike Maples: “Don’t let yourself define what matters by the dogma of other people’s thoughts. And even more important, don’t let the thoughts of self-doubt and chattering self-criticism in your own mind slow you down. You will likely be your own worst critic. Be kind to yourself in your own mind. Let your mind show you the same kindness that you aspire to show others.”

13 - Soman Chainani: “Make sure you have something every day you’re looking forward to. Maybe it’s your job, maybe it’s a basketball game after work or a voice lesson or your writing group, maybe it’s a date. But have something every day that lights you up. It’ll keep your soul hungry to create more of these moments.”

14 - Max Levchin: “Take risks, now. The advantages that college students and new grads have are their youth, drive, lack of significant responsibilities, and, importantly, lack of the creature comforts one acquires with time. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Barnacles of the good life tend to slow you down, if you don’t get used to risk-taking early in your career.”

15 - 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 job is a great way to get a foot in the door.”

16 - Patton Oswalt: “Embrace the suck for a while. Chances are your first job is going to stink and your living conditions won’t be much better. Enjoy the scrappy years, ’cuz they’ll make you self-sufficient way faster. Ignore anyone who tells you to go for security over experience.”

17 - Lewis Cantley: “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. You will also be able to put in extra hours to blow out the competition every now and then, should that be necessary. If, on the other hand, you have to work long hours all the time just to be competitive, you will burn out and not enjoy life.”

18 - Jerzy Gregorek: “Up to today, you studied hard and repeated what the world told you. Our purpose in the next four years is to teach you how to think for yourself. If we succeed, you will create something this world has never seen before, but if we do not, you will just be stuck copying others and repeating. Take my words seriously, study hard, but also open your imagination. One day you will be designing a new world, and I hope it will be better than the one we live in.”

19 - Amelia Boone: “If you are struggling to figure out where you are headed in life or what you are passionate about, pay attention to activities, ideas, and areas where you love the process, not just the results or the outcome. We are drawn to tasks where we can receive validation through results, but I’ve learned that true fulfillment comes from love of the process. Look for something where you love the process, and the results will follow.”

20 - Anna Holmes: “They should ignore any advice from anyone who purports to tell them what the future will look like. No one knows. People have ideas, and those are good to take on board and consider, but that’s about the extent of it. Interrogate the information shared with you by others, and use it as a way to make up your own mind, not a path to follow.”


21 - Andrew Sorkin: “Persistence matters more than talent. The student with straight As is irrelevant if the student sitting next to him with Bs has more passion.”

22 - Joseph Gordon-Levitt: “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.”

23 - Annie Duke: “Seek out dissenting opinions. Always try to find people who disagree with you, who can honestly and productively play devil’s advocate. Challenge yourself to truly listen to people who have differing ideas and opinions than you do. Stay out of political bubbles and echo chambers as much as possible. Feel good about really hearing those who disagree with you. Try to change your mind about one thing every day.”

24 - Esther Perel: “Life will present you with unexpected opportunities, and you won’t always know in advance which are the important moments. Above all, it’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life. Invest in your connections, even those that seem inconsequential.” 

25 - Maria Sharapova: “You can’t ever say the words “please” and “thank you” enough. And turn those words into actions, make people around you feel that those words are genuine, that it is exactly how you feel. The same goes for when you break through and make it. Don’t eliminate those words from your pocket.”

26 - Josh Waitzkin: “Do what you love, do it in a way that you love, and pour your heart and soul into every moment of it. Do not be subject to inertia. Challenge your assumptions and the assumptions of those around you as a way of life. Notice how you are unconsciously fighting to maintain your conceptual scheme even as it mires you in quicksand and immense pain. Harness the body to train the mind.”

27 - Ann Miura-Ko: “This may come as strange advice from someone who majored in electrical engineering and got a PhD in math modeling of computer security, but 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.”

28 - Jason Fried: “Focus on your writing skills. It’s the one thing I’ve found that really helps people stand out. More and more communication is written today. Get great at presenting yourself with words, and words alone, and you’ll be far ahead of most.”

29 - Ariana Huffington: “I would advise them 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.”

30 - Gary Vaynerchuk: “Macro patience, micro speed. They should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress the next eight days.”


31 - Tim O’Reilly: “We equate being smart and being driven as the ways to get ahead. But sometimes, an attitude of alert watchfulness is far wiser and more effective. Learning to follow your nose, pulling on threads of curiosity or interest, may take you places that being driven will never lead you to.”

32 - Tom Peters: “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.”

33 - Leo Babauta: “Embrace uncertainty, groundlessness, and fear as the place where you’ll really learn and grow. Go into that place, rather than shrinking from it. It’ll help you overcome procrastination, social anxiety, fear of launching your own business or pursuing your dreams, fear of failure and ridicule, and more. Those fears will still be there, but you’ll find the deliciousness in them.”

34 - Esther Dyson: “Always take jobs for which you are not qualified; that way you will inevitably learn something.”

35 - Kevin Kelly: “Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master some skill, interest, or knowledge that others find valuable. It almost doesn’t matter what it is at the start. You don’t have to love it, you just have to be the best at it. Once you master it, you’ll be rewarded with new opportunities that will allow you to move away from tasks you dislike and toward those that you enjoy. If you continue to optimize your mastery, you’ll eventually arrive at your passion.”

36 - 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.”

37 - Franklin Leonard: “Try everything you think you might want to do professionally before accepting whatever backup plan you have in the back of your head but are very much hoping to avoid.”

38 - Peter Guber: “The seminal change in the business from then to now is that a young person should view the career pyramid differently rather than traditionally. Put the point at the bottom where you are now (at the start of your career) and conceive your future as an expanding opportunity horizon where you can move laterally across the spectrum in search of an ever-widening set of career opportunities. Reinvent yourself regularly. See your world as an ever-increasing set of realities and seize the day.”

39 - Strauss Zelnick: “Figure out what success means to you. Don’t accept others’ views or conventional wisdom. Write down what your successful personal and professional life looks like in 20 years. Then roll the clock back to today. Make sure your choices are in service of those goals.”

40 - 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.”


41 - Mark Bell: “I would tell them to invest time in themselves, to make sure they have some sort of physical activity in their life, and adhere to some form of nutrition that keeps them healthy. When that stuff falls apart, it can make other things more difficult.”

42 - Ray Dalio: “Love looking at what you don’t know, your mistakes, and your weaknesses, because understanding them is essential for making the most of your life.”

43 - Jacqueline Novogratz: “Don’t worry all that much about your first job. Just start, and let the work teach you. With every step, you will discover more about who you want to be and what you want to do. If you wait for the perfect and keep all of your options open, you might end up with nothing but options. So start.”

44 - Dr. Gabor Mate: “If you’re really smart, you’ll drop the drivenness. It doesn’t matter what’s driving you; when you’re driven, you are like a leaf, driven by the wind. You have no real autonomy. You are bound to be blown off course, even if you reach what you believe is your goal. And don’t confuse being driven with being authentically animated by an inner calling. One state leaves you depleted and unfulfilled; the other fuels your soul and makes your heart sing.”

45 - Steve Case: “If, like many people, you got a liberal arts degree, be proud of it, and own it. While the conventional wisdom says that coding is the key to success, that’s not as likely to be as true in the Third Wave, when major industries will be disrupted, as it was in the Second, when the focus was on building apps. Sure, coding will continue to be important, but creativity and collaboration will be as well. 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.”

46 - 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.”

47 - Tommy Vietor: “Don’t worry about making money. Don’t stress about having a plan. Don’t think about networking or setting yourself up for the next thing. Try as hard as you possibly can to find something you love, because the depressing reality is that most people never find a career that they’re truly passionate about. For many people, the real world is a slog and they live for the weekends. It will never get easier than right now to recklessly pursue your passion. Do it.”

48 - Sam Harris: “Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Just find a profitable and interesting use for the next three to five years.”

49 - John Arnold: “The unfortunate truth is that advice is almost always driven by anecdotal experience and thus has limited value and relevance. Read a sampling of college commencement addresses, and you quickly realize each story is unique. For every entrepreneur who thrived by resolutely working on a singular idea for many years, there is another who pivoted wildly. For every successful individual who designed a master plan for life, there is another who was deliberately spontaneous. Ignore advice, especially early in one’s career. There is no universal path to success.”

50 - Mr. Money Mustache: “A high savings rate (or “profit margin on life”) is by far the best strategy for a great and creative life because it’s your ticket to freedom. Freedom is the fuel for creativity.”


51 - David Lynch: “Learn Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and meditate regularly. Ignore pessimistic thinking and pessimistic thinkers.”

52 - Nick Szabo: “Everybody is striving after social proof—from a close friend’s adulation to online likes and upvotes. 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. But it could be a very long time before people will love you (or even pay you) for it. 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. But for me, making progress on the ideas was very rewarding in itself at the time, even though they would have made the worst party conversation topics ever. Eventually, decades after, they generated more social accolades than I now know what to do with.”

53 - Dara Torres: “Many people have started from the bottom and have worked their way up, so don’t think being at the bottom of the totem pole is a bad thing in the work world. You have nowhere to go but up. Ignore hearsay and rumors until you know it as fact."

54 - Dan Gable: “Don’t plan on “winning the lottery” right away, because it usually doesn’t happen. Doing a good job and building your assets is like winning the lottery, but over time. You gotta work hard every day, make progress every day, and make money every day. Over time, you’ll be in good shape. If you do win it in the first year, hey, I’ll be the first to congratulate you—but don’t count on it.”

55 - 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.”

56 - Evan Williams: “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.”

57 - Bram Cohen: “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.”

58 - Chris Anderson: “In your 20s, you may not really know what your best skills and opportunities are. It’s much better to pursue learning, personal discipline, growth. And to seek out connections with people across the planet. 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.”

59 - Kelly Slater: “Think for yourself. Everyone has a unique picture of how things work and function, and yours is as valuable as anyone’s. It’s sometimes the belief in yourself, open-mindedness toward others, and your delivery that allows things to be heard by others.”

60 - Adam Fisher: “Be humble and self-aware. Ignore the concept of “being yourself.” Of course, this is literally true by definition, but it is a way to avoid self-improvement. Pursuing your passion is fine.”


61 - Laura Walker: “Get out of your comfort zone when you graduate. Ask yourself what you are genuinely curious about and explore it. Embrace the ambiguity and contradictions that life invariably will bring, and develop habits—exercise, talking with friends, writing—that help you do so. Don’t spend time chasing a right answer or a right path, but instead spend time defining how you are going to approach whatever path you choose. What values most define you? What questions do you want to pursue?”

62 - Terry Laughlin: “The same will apply in any field of endeavor. If your highest goal 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.”

63 - Marie Forleo: “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. Do whatever it takes to earn enough money, so that you can go all in on experiences or learning opportunities that put you in close proximity to people you admire, because proximity is power. Show up in every moment like you’re meant to be there, because your energy precedes anything you could possibly say.”

64 - Drew Houston: “It’s not just about passion or following your dreams. Make sure the problem you become obsessed with is one that needs solving and is one where your contribution can make a difference. As Y Combinator says, “Make something people want.”

65 - Scott Belsky: “Every step in your early career must get you incrementally closer to whatever genuinely interests you. The most promising path to success is pursuing genuine interests and setting yourself up for the circumstantial relationships, collaborations, and experiences that will make all the difference in your life. A labor of love always pays off, just not how and when you expect. Set yourself up to succeed by taking new jobs and roles that get you closer to your interests.”

66 - Whitney Cummings: “Chances are, if you’re reading books like this, you will succeed, but I’ve found that it all feels pretty meaningless if you’re not in some way helping people or improving humanity in some way. Instead of striving to be a CEO or an entrepreneur, strive to be a hero. We need more of those.”

67 - Rick Rubin: “I would ignore most anything you learn in school and ignore all accepted standards. Free yourself to try anything. The best ideas are revolutionary. If you’re searching for wisdom, try to find it from people who’ve done it more than from people who teach it. Ask a lot of questions.”

68 - Peter Attia: “Be as genuine as you can. Don’t fake it. In my view, better to be a cold stiff than fake that you care. If you are genuinely interested in a subset of other people, even if that number is small, you will foster relationships that really matter. As we age, I believe, frivolous relationships in business and our personal life become less and less bearable, so only put energy into completely genuine interactions with other people.”

69 - Jocko Willink: “Work harder than everyone else. Of course, that is easy when you love your job. But you might not love your first, or second, or even third job. That doesn’t matter. Work harder than everyone else. In order to get the job you love or start the company you want, you have to build your résumé, your reputation, and your bank account. The best way to do that: Outwork them all.”

70 - 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… The world of 2040 will be a very different world from today, and an extremely hectic world. The pace of change is likely to accelerate even further. So people will need the ability to learn all the time and to reinvent themselves repeatedly—even at age 60.”

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