Nuggets of Wisdom from 9 Inspiring Business Leaders

We face many challenges as we navigate our careers and work towards our goals.

Fortunately, many have walked the paths before us! There is a wealth of wisdom and insight to be gained from successful business leaders and inspiring figures who have overcome obstacles, achieved great things, and failed terribly themselves. Here’s some wisdom from nine of them.

1) Ben Horowitz

Co-founder and General Partner of American venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz

“In my experience as CEO, I found that the most important decisions tested my courage far more than my intelligence. Every time you make the hard, correct decision you become a bit more courageous, and every time you make the easy, wrong decision you become a bit more cowardly.”

Courage becomes the driving force behind the most important choices in life. It enables us to step out of our comfort zones, overcome fear and doubt, embrace change and risks, trust our instincts, and embody our personal values.

2) Oprah Winfrey

Media executive, talk show host, and philanthropist

“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

Often, we find ourselves doing things that may not align perfectly with our ultimate goals — goals which could also change as we grow in life experiences.

Through these experiences, however, we gain invaluable skills, knowledge, and insights that contribute to our personal and professional growth. These provide a foundation for building a successful future, allowing us to gather the resources, connections, and expertise necessary to transition to what we truly want to do.

So, while it may not always be easy, or immediately gratifying, always try making the most of where you are now!

3) Warren Buffett

CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway

“The best investment you can make is in yourself.”

You’ve probably heard this from just about everyone, but hear it from one of the most successful investors of all time too! You are the only constant in your life, so why not pour more energy and effort into yourself?

You will enhance your confidence, self-worth, adaptability and resilience. This also benefits your career and overall well-being and fulfilment. It’s one of the hardest things because improvement will not be visible overnight, but keep at it, and one day you may find yourself where you hoped to be years ago!

4) Indra Nooyi

Former CEO and Chairperson of PepsiCo

“You have to be constantly reinventing yourself and investing in yourself.”

While this quote is similar to Warren Buffett’s, we are including it because of the truth it holds in today’s fast-changing world. The most sought-after jobs and skills can seemingly change overnight, and technology will always keep us on our toes.

Here’s another great quote from her!

“The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you.”

Change begins within and with you!

5) Bill Gates

Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist  

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

Bill Gates warns against becoming complacent: success can lead to overconfidence.

“…life isn’t a one-act play…You probably feel a lot of pressure right now to make the right decisions about your career. It might feel like those decisions are permanent. They’re not. What you do tomorrow – or for the next ten years – does not have to be what you do forever.”

 

You’re not signing your future away to your first role!

Not long ago, he also shared this valuable piece of advice to graduating students at the Northern Arizona University commencement ceremony. Life is a long road, and what you choose as your major or first career is only the first step. During this same speech, he also reminded them to spend more time with their loved ones.

6) Jeff Bezos

Founder of Amazon

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon and one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history. He believes that success comes from consistent, deliberate practice and the development of good habits.

Excellence is not an act but a habit because it requires consistent effort, continuous improvement, high standards, building trust, and creating a positive feedback loop. By making excellence a habit, we embed it into our daily lives and work, allowing us to perform at our best and achieve remarkable results consistently.

7) Sheryl Sandberg

Former Chief Operating Officer of Facebook (now Meta)

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

 

Sheryl Sandberg reminds us how careers are not a linear path, but rather a series of ups and downs, twists and turns. You’ll need flexibility and adaptability in order to succeed.

8) Steve Jobs

Former co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

Did you know Apple, now one of the most valuable companies in the world, actually faced numerous challenges and setbacks? It struggled in the late 1980s and early 1990s, almost going bankrupt, before the introduction of innovative products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Even large and successful businesses face obstacles and setbacks along their journey: what more us? Persistence, resilience and many minds brought them to where they are today.

Interested in more of such stories? Check out Walt Disney and Starbucks!

9) Irene Rosenfield

Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mondelēz International

“I talk a lot about taking risks and then I follow that up very quickly by saying, ‘Take prudent risks’”

 

(Mondelēz International is home to big brands such as Oreo, Halls and Ritz)

Prudent risks? Irene Rosenfield reminds us how #YOLO is sometimes not the wisest idea. When taking risks, you should still make the most informed decision you can. Remember to have contingency plans or strategies, and make sure that you’re fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into!

Prudent risk-taking recognizes that not all risks will lead to success, but also how these serve as valuable lessons for future decision-making. This way, we can work toward continuous improvement and adaptation in the face of changing circumstances!

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