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40 Under 40: The best advice I ever got, 2014 edition

October 9, 2014, 12:00 PM UTC
Josh Tetric photographed with his dog in Bernal Heights, SF, CA
Alix Colow. Photo shoot by Robyn Twomey
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBYN TWOMEY FOR FORTUNE

Each year, once we select the young business stars that will make 40 Under 40 list, we get personal.

We interview listers about their jobs, about the future plans of their company—whether it’s a startup they created or a big Fortune 500 firm they’ve joined—and their career path. One of the questions we always ask is if they can recall the best advice they ever got. Often it’s from a parent. Sometimes it’s from a business mentor. And occasionally it came from somewhere completely surprising. Here are some of the best answers from this year’s crop.

Josh Tetrick, Founder, and CEO Hampton Creek (no. 22)

An entrepreneur once told me if you want to solve big problems you have to sweep away conventions out of your head. You’ve got to think in terms of first principles. What would it look like if we started over? That’s been really powerful for us as a company.

Peter Wallace, Senior Managing Director, Blackstone (no. 17)

My father used to tell me “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” Obviously that's not to say that good fortune hasn’t played a substantial role in my successes, but he urged me to create my luck through hard work.

Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO, Learnvest (no. 37)

Always underspend on your home—keeping your housing costs in check can help make you feel like you have much more room throughout your budget. 



Tristan Walker, Founder and CEO, Walker & Co. (no. 35)

Tyler Perry told me that once we realize that hardships and blessings are the same thing, it frees us as entrepreneurs. The trials we go through aren’t without lessons. These lessons are what we come back to when we need to make hard decisions.

Anthony Watson, CIO, Nike (no. 19)

Take risks, be disruptive and don't look back. A very influential mentor gave me the room to do just that early in my career and it has become a major factor in my success.

Liv Garfield, CEO, Severn Trent (no. 18)

Choose your other half carefully – they need to make you laugh and support you in all endeavors.

Kevin Chou, Co-founder and CEO, Kabam (no. 25)

Seek and listen to advice from a very small group of people, otherwise it’s distracting and leads to being pulled into too many directions. To select this small group, I use the three R’s test—Resume, Reputation, Rapport.

Robert Reffkin, Founder and CEO, Urban Compass (no. 29)

It was Vernon Jordan, telling me why I should apply to be a White House Fellow. “All young professionals in the private sector should get exposure to the public sector because the skills you develop and the relationships you build will be transferrable to either sector you ultimately choose and will make you more effective."

Gary Vaynerchuk, Co-founder and CEO, VaynerMedia (no. 40)

My dad spit in his palm, shook my hand, and said, “your word is bond.”

Tang Yan, Founder and CEO, Momo (no. 24)

Momo CEO Tang Yan, pictured, plans to take his company private and relist it in China.

Seek truth through facts. For example, I needed to fire somebody. But I wanted to reduce harm that person received. I wanted to explain why I was firing him. Better to be more direct.

Julie Smolyansky, CEO and President, Lifeway Foods (no. 22)

Dr. Nancy Snyderman [NBC chief medical correspondent] told me sleep trumps everything. I started giving myself permission to sleep more. It’s made a big difference in my feelings of wellness. I spent years getting by on 2-4 hours a day and that blows me away now. I must be getting older. I aim for 7 now.