The Best Advice Influencers Would Give Their 22-Year-Old Selves

Updated on 23 May 2014

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What the world's thought leaders wish they'd known at 22

Professional social networking site LinkedIn has been running an exclusive group called Influencers made up of over 500 of the world’s most successful thought leaders like Richard Branson, World Bank President Jim Kim and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, voice their opinions.

Every month LinkedIn poses a question to its group members, like the best advice they’ve ever received, or in this case, what they wish they’d known when they were 22 years old. Over 80 contributors answered the question.

Here are our five favourite answers:

1. Richard Branson – Entrepreneur and Billionaire

If I were 22, I would be out working hard, playing hard and having the time of my life. Hang on, what’s the difference between 22 and 63? I would have loved to have known that Sir Tim Berners-Lee was going to invent the Internet so that I could have invented LinkedIn—not to mention Google, Twitter and Facebook!

“Have a blast but build your purpose”

It would have been useful to have known that Steve Jobs was going to launch the iPod and the Internet was going to revolutionise the music industry—I would have sold our record shops and got out of the music business a lot earlier. As a 22-year-old starting again, I’d love to spend my life from a young age doing things that completely transform the world. If I were to go back, I’d start Virgin Unite, our non-profit foundation, at the same time as the record label. Having said that, as a 22-year-old it is important to have an absolute blast. You are only 22 once!


2. Arianna Huffington – Entrepreneur, Editor and Author

I wish I had known that there would be no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and my ability to do good work. I wish I could go back and tell myself, “Arianna, your performance will improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.”

“Chart your own path to success”

That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout and exhaustion. The advice I’d give to young people today is this: don’t just climb the ladder of success—a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout—but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.


3. Martha Stewart – Business Woman

A few years ago, on my TV show, we spotlighted “30 Things Everyone Should Know” – basic things like how to make a bed, iron a shirt and mix a margarita. A word of advice: make the bed and iron the shirt before you mix the margarita. You’ll get better results. People often ask me, “What is your recipe for success?”

“My recipe for success is sacrifice”

There is no single recipe, but I can offer some advice from my own experiences that you won’t find on any cooking show. An omelette is easy to prepare. It calls for just four ingredients: eggs, butter, salt and pepper – and if you want to get fancy maybe a sprig of parsley. As the French proverb goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. To me, those broken eggs mean sacrifice. To create an egg dish – or a business success – you must give up a great deal: time with family and friends, sleep, and episodes of Modern Family. But in the end, you have something worthwhile, a degree that will make a difference for you, your family and your future.


4. Suze Orman – Author and Motivational Speaker

When you are starting in your 20s, it is natural to think about all that you will have and do once you start making money, and making more money. That gives money way too much power over your life. It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have.

“Never let money define you”

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I met the love of my life when I was 50. My 25-year-old and 35-year-old self hadn’t yet figured out what truly matters. Part of that journey is never forgetting that who you are is far more important than what you have. Money will never define you. You define your money.


5. Deepak Chopra – World Famous Doctor and Author

When I was 22, my whole life was planned out. I was succeeding as a student at the All-India Medical Institute, expecting to graduate at the top of my class.

“There is hidden wisdom in uncertainty”

Everything was on track, and frankly, if 68-year-old Deepak showed up to give advice, I would have ignored him, assuming as the young and cocky do, that he’d be better off heeding my advice.

What I didn’t know at 22 was how soon and how drastically life can go off track. I went into my oral exams with the challenge of diagnosing a patient on the spot being given no advanced knowledge. My patient turned out to have quite a rare condition, and I nailed it. Unfortunately, the judge for the exam came from a rival medical school, and he failed me because I had cheated — someone on the faculty of our school must have leaked the diagnosis of such a rare disorder to me. It was only by dint of much begging that I was allowed to retake the exam and given a simple “pass.”

See Also: Advice from some the best business brains

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