We ask a lot of our 40 Under 40 each year.
We want to know them beyond their corporate résumés. So we ask them everything from their favorite restaurant to their best time-management tactic to even their favorite room in their own house. But the very best answers we get come from asking them for advice. We ask them to relay the best advice they ever got—and then, a bit of a twist: we ask for their own advice that they’d tell themselves at 20, if they could. (Of course, some of these high-achieving business stars aren’t yet much older than 20.)
Here are some of their best answers. You’ll notice they don’t all sound the same note. For example, some suggest relaxing and not stressing the small stuff, while others say the opposite: yes, sweat the small stuff. If there’s a takeaway from that, it’s that there isn’t any one clear philosophy for success.
Vas Narasimhan, Global head of development, Novartis (No. 7)
Find a life partner better than yourself. I would not be where I am without my wife Srishti.
Noah Wintroub, Vice Chairman, JP Morgan Chase (No. 13)
Take a chill and think for the long term. Pick your battles wisely and it’s not cool to be stupid. It’s cool to do the hard things and stay ahead of the trend
Melanie Whelan, CEO, SoulCycle (No. 26)
Don’t focus on where you’re going. I used to think you needed to know what you wanted to be when you grew up. Turns out, that’s not true. I believe if you work hard and learn the most you can in whatever you’re doing, the next opportunity will reveal itself and you’ll know it when you see it.
Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator (No. 30)
Things are not ever as risky as they seem. People always overweigh risk.
Trevor Nelson, Co-founder and managing partner, Alliance Consumer Growth (No. 35)
Don’t feel beholden to the usual (career) track. Create your own!
Logan Green, Co-founder and CEO, Lyft (No. 3)
Take risks while you’re young. Embrace frugality to chase your dreams.
Karen Fang, Managing director, Bank of America (No. 17)
Focus on building knowledge, experience and confidence first. Rewards will come later.
Andy Katz-Mayfield, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Harry’s (No. 34)
Stop worrying so much about what you should be doing and focus more on what you want to be doing. Also, lose the gold chain.
Chris Wanstrath, Co-founder and CEO, GitHub (No. 31)
When I was 20 I was in such a rush, but almost everything worth doing takes time—from growing gardens to building companies. Plan for the long haul.
Julian Steinberg, Co-founder and managing partner, Alliance Consumer Growth (No. 35)
Listen more and talk less.
Stacy Brown-Philpot, COO, TaskRabbit; Boardmember, HP Inc (No. 29)
Don’t stress so much. The hardest moments of your life in your 20s will provide some of the greatest lessons that will come in handy later.
Anand Swaminathan, Managing director, Accenture Digital (No. 18)
I would actually say to sweat the small stuff, to think about the details. They can change outcomes in a pretty significant manner.
Brian Sheth, Co-founder and president, Vista Equity Partners (No. 33)
Take your life seriously but never take yourself too seriously. No one else will!
Orion Hindawi, Co-founder and CTO, Tanium (No. 21)
Sleeping in until noon on a weekend won’t happen once you have kids. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Apoorva Mehta, Founder and CEO, Instacart (No. 23)
I have come to believe that a person can truly just have one obsession at any given point in time. So, I’d encourage my 20-year-old self to not try to do too much, but focus on just one thing at a time and do it well. I have found that having a singular focus is extremely liberating, as it allows you to ignore everything else and spend all your time and energy on just one thing.
Michael Dubin, Co-founder and CEO, Dollar Shave Club (No. 34)
Don’t worry so much about where the path is going. Enjoy the journey and embrace the fact that pure recreation is productive in the long term.
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code (No. 39)
Take big risks. I wasted too much time doing what I thought I was supposed to do.
Yehuda Shmidman, CEO, Sequential Brands Group (No. 37)
Unless we get replaced by robots, it’s all about relationships. Invest “all in” on building relationships and never stop investing in those relationships.
Jared Kushner, CEO, Kushner Companies (No. 25)
Take big swings, don’t bet more than you are prepared to lose and don’t be so afraid to fail – it’s a necessary stop on the path to success.
Ashifi Gogo, Founder and CEO, Sproxil (No. 38)
A broad experience pays off. Be curious.
Jason Robins, Co-founder and CEO, DraftKings (No. 8)
Working the hardest is more important than being the smartest.
Ronda Rousey, UFC fighter (No. 40)
Everything that you think is the end of the world right now won’t even matter to you in two years.
Dhivya Suryadevara, VP of finance and treasurer, GM (No. 4)
Try to have some fun. Life is about to get a lot harder…
To see the full list of the Fortune 40 Under 40, visit fortune.com/40-under-40.
A version of this article appears in the October 1, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline “Advice to my 20-year-old self.”