The single best piece of advice I ever got and how it rocked my world

I was reading the papers last Sunday and as I went for my 24th Nespresso I noticed an interview with Martha Lane Fox, the woman (alongside Brett Hoberman) who founded (It is possible to say Lastminute without saying .com ? – I think that might be a generational thing) Anyway… She has had one of the most inspiring stories and interesting careers and for a woman still only in her 40s, has packed a hell of a lot in. Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho (she was the youngest ever member of the House of Lords), sits as Chancellor of the Open University. She fills her day, amongst other things, pushing the digital agenda from public office, and sits on the board of firms like Twitter, WeTransfer, Chanel. Wow!!

What was her one piece of advice that she was given that rocked her world… was it keep an eye on the top line? Grow your network? Or as one CEO said to me “Always Be Closing ABC David” which really sounded quite exhausting to do. No, her one piece of advice that rocked her world was “ You’re Not Listening”.

A simple and brilliant piece of advice because it would be a better world if we all did a bit more of that.

It reminded me of when I went I took my son Paddy to the cinema when he was 7 to see the film Spiderman. I am a huge fan and was keen to indoctrinate him in all things Marvel Comics. He was apprehensive, he said he was worried it would make him jump and didn’t want to go but I said if you get scared, you can sit on my lap, which I thought was a great solution. However, 10 minutes in Paddy is sitting on my lap with his head buried in my chest as the baddy Sandman is causing havoc across the city.

As we left, I didn’t bother to ask Paddy what he thought of the film because he’d not seen much more than the opening credits. However, he said to me and this is verbatim, “Next time I say I don’t want to see a film, will you listen to me” It was chastening because there was a 7 year old who was more mature than his Dad. It was almost like the child had become the parent. It taught me a valuable lesson and echoes Martha’s best advice.

A couple of years ago I was asked to contribute to a book One Golden Nugget (yes, really…) I was asked to come up with the one piece of advice I wish I’d known earlier in my career. I thought about the sage like advice I had been given through the years. It was hard to settle on one but I did.

I would love to lay claim to thinking this up but as most of you know I am a consummate magpie, so what went into print was borrowed. However, it has become a tenet in what I do, the way I think and I hope the way I engage with people and it is;

‘Assume people are working on best intent’.

So what’s yours? What is your golden nugget, the one single piece of advice that has stayed with you, do share as we all have a bit of a magpie in us.




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