- Father’s Day has arrived in the United States.
- Dads love to give advice. And, sometimes, it turns out to be pretty great advice.
- Check out these insights from the fathers of people who went on to succeed in business.
Father’s Day is here in the US. Time to contemplate everything your dad has done for you — and maybe even reflect on his advice and insight.
You never know. Your dad’s classic mantra might turn out to be words to live by. Plenty of famous success stories have had great results with taking such paternal gems to heart.
In honor of Father’s Day, we’ve collected the best advice super-successful business leaders ever got from their dads.
Here’s the fatherly wisdom:
Meg Whitman: Be nice
While “be nice” may sound like a platitude, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said it’s some of the most important advice she ever got.
“I’ll never forget my father telling me that,” Whitman recalled in Fortune in 2005. “I had been mean to someone. He said, ‘There is no point in being mean to anyone at any time. You never know who you’re going to meet later in life. And by the way, you don’t change anything by being mean. Usually you don’t get anywhere.'”
T. Boone Pickens: Have a plan
The chairman of BP Capital Management was a student at Oklahoma State when his dad arrived on campus for his fraternity initiation — and delivered a life-changing message.
“A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius with no plan any day,” he told Pickens. “And your mother and I think we have a fool with no plan. We think you’re wasting your time here in Stillwater. You’re not getting anywhere.”
His dad was right, Pickens wrote on LinkedIn in 2014. “I had to admit I wasn’t burning up the place.” But within a month of that visit, everything changed. He picked a track and switched his major. “I got a plan,” he says, “and I’ve had one ever since.”
Bill Gates: Do what you’re not good at
These days, the former Microsoft CEO and his lawyer father give each other advice as cochairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but back in the day, the elder Gates was the one doling out counsel to his son.
The most important lesson Gates ever learned from his dad? Invest in things — even if you’re not good at them.
In a 2009 conversation with Fortune, he recalled that both his parents encouraged him to “to go out for a lot of different sports like swimming, football, soccer,” he says. “At the time I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities and showing me that I wasn’t good at a lot of things, instead of sticking to things that I was comfortable with.”
His father agrees that those early forced softball team memberships seem to have worked out okay. “Apparently it turned out to be good advice.”
Indra Nooyi: Assume positive intent
The PepsiCo president and CEO got a piece of advice from her dad that changed the way she approached the world. “Whatever anybody says or does,” he told her, “assume positive intent.”
It’s a simple shift, but the results can be huge, she explained to Fortune. “You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed.”
Instead of getting defensive, you’ll be able to really listen to other people — and moreover, other people will be able to really listen to you. “[W]hen you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.'”
Richard Branson: Listen more than you talk
“When I grew up our house was always a hive of activity, with Mum dreaming up new entrepreneurial schemes left, right…