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40 Under 40: Advice I’d give my 20-year-old self

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)

40/40 2015 —Vas NarasimhanCourtesy of Novartis

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)

Social Innovation Summit 2014 Presented By Landmark VenturesPhotograph by Stephen Lovekin — Getty Images

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)

2015 40 Under 40Photo: Courtesy of Soul Cycle

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)

Y Combinator President Sam Altman InterviewPhotograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

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)

Courtesy of Alliance Consumer Growth

Don’t feel beholden to the usual (career) track. Create your own!


Logan Green, Co-founder and CEO, Lyft (No. 3)

Inside The South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive FestivalPhotograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Take risks while you’re young. Embrace frugality to chase your dreams.


Karen Fang, Managing director, Bank of America (No. 17)

40/40 2015 — Karen FangCourtesy of Bank of America

Focus on building knowledge, experience and confidence first. Rewards will come later.


Andy Katz-Mayfield, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Harry’s (No. 34)

Harrys-Andy-Katz-Mayfield-BFerry.JPGCourtesy of Harry’s

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)

Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

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)

Courtesy of Alliance Consumer Growth

Listen more and talk less.


Stacy Brown-Philpot, COO, TaskRabbit; Boardmember, HP Inc (No. 29)

TaskRabbit Inc. Chief Operating Officer Stacy Brown-Philpot InterviewPhotograph by Simon Dawson — Bloomberg via Getty Images

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)

40/40 2015 — Anand SwaminathanCourtesy of Accenture

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)

40/40 2015 — Brian ShethCourtesy of Vista Equity Partners

Take your life seriously but never take yourself too seriously. No one else will!


Orion Hindawi, Co-founder and CTO, Tanium (No. 21)

Key Speakers At The Bloomberg Tech ConferencePhotograph by David Paul Morris — Getty Images

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)

Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Fortune

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)

LEWIS_Fortune_Michael_Dubin_Dollar_sha.JPGPhotograph by Michael Lewis for Fortune

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)

2015 Town & Country Philanthropy SummitPhotograph by Monica Schipper — Getty Images

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)

Jessica Simpson Collection - Presentation - Spring 2016 New York Fashion WeekPhotograph by Desiree Navarro — WireImage/Getty Images

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)

40/40 2015 — Jared KushnerCourtesy of Kushner Cos.

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)

40/40 2015 — Ashifi GogoCourtesy of Sproxil

A broad experience pays off. Be curious.


Jason Robins, Co-founder and CEO, DraftKings (No. 8)

Jason Robins, one of the founders of the fantasy sports leagues site DraftKings, at offices in Boston.Photograph by Gretchen Ertl — The New York Times/Redux

Working the hardest is more important than being the smartest.


Ronda Rousey, UFC fighter (No. 40)

UFC 190: Rousey v CorreiaPhotograph by Matthew Stockman — Getty Images

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)

Dhivya Suryadevara, GM vice president, Finance and TreasurerCourtesy of GM

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.”