Editor’s Note: In this column, we will be continuing our series of offering bits of advice from 101 of our country’s most successful men and women. The advice was compiled by writer Vince Reardon into a book, The Pocket Mentor: Insider Tips from America’s Most Successful People which is now available for purchase on Amazon.
After gathering all the advice, Vince concluded that it fell into five distinct themes: 1) be yourself, 2) be for others, 3) be a learner, 4) be persistent, and 5) be a risk-taker.” Here’s some advice about persistence:
Mario Livio is an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. He is the author of popular science books, including The Golden Ratio and Brilliant Blunders.
There is a lot to be said for following your dreams. But unfortunately dreams sometimes turn out to be just that—dreams. I, therefore, recommend a balanced approach. Do follow your dreams, but don’t hesitate to ask for advice from the experienced, and try to shape your path so that it incorporates that advice. At the end, as Oscar Wilde once noted: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Do your best to look at the stars, without forgetting that we may be in the gutter.
Alan Lightman is a physicist, author of Einstein’s Dreams, and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2011 he received a Sidney Award, named after the renowned philosopher Sidney Hook, for his thought-provoking essay “The Accidental Universe” in Harper’s Magazine.
I have learned several important lessons in my life. (1) Everything is impermanent. The nature of existence is change. We often get so hung up trying to repeat an experience or a state of mind in the past that we are unable to live in the present, or proceed to the future. But nothing stays the same in life. Everything comes and eventually passes away. That is the natural way of life and of the universe as a whole. (2) The greatest joy in life comes from helping others. We are frequently fixated on our own pleasures, but the deepest pleasure comes from giving to other people. (3) Rewards in life are often not handed out according to merit. Luck and chance play a significant role in the outcome of events. The sooner we learn this lesson, the happier we will be. Instead of continually beating ourselves up because we do not receive the recognition or fame of fortune we think we deserve, we should recognize that life is not necessarily “fair.” All we can do is the best we can do with each enterprise, try our best, and the rest is beyond our control. (4) Much of our stress, unhappiness, and disappointment originates within our own minds and is tangled up with our own egos, rather than being an intrinsic part of external events.