Getting There: A Book of Mentors

By Gillian Zoe Segal


Thirty stories of success condensed into one book. The author interviewed people from a variety of fields–subjects include Warren Buffett, Sara Blakely, and Laird Hamilton. Each person describes their own journey to the top. A common theme throughout the book is overcoming adversity. Many of these people went outside the traditional systems, often on their own or with little support. The word “self-help manual” comes to mind.

My notes for this book are a little different than usual. I read each story looking for one good quote from every person. The ones I liked best are below. If you read this book, you might come away with entirely different insights than I did. Be sure to check out the pictures. The author photographed every interviewee in their workspace. It’s a small but fascinating window into their lives.

No matter who you are, how far you’ve come on your own personal journey, or what you have achieved in your career, you can always benefit from a great role model.

You have lived a successful life if, as you grow older, the people who you hope love you actually do.
-Warren Buffett

A great idea is worthless; execution is everything.
-Matthew Weiner

Over the years, people have come to me and said, “You can’t do everything.” That is total bullshit. You certainly can do everything. The people who do some things can do more.
-Michael Bloomberg

I believe that defeat is life’s way of nudging you and letting you know you’re off course. There’s always some sort of hidden opportunity or lesson in each episode—a chance to build your character.
-Sara Blakely

I rarely ask people for advice or permission when I’m planning on doing something I feel strongly about. That only opens the plan up to be crapped on.
-Anderson Cooper

No matter what you do, there will be times when things go well and times when things go badly. The only thing for sure, in either scenario, is that things will change.
-David Boies

When you do your job, even if its just cleaning an office, do it as if somebody you want to impress is watching your every step.
-John Paul Dejoria

Success comes from doing something extraordinary with passion and intensity.
-J. Craig Venter

The lesson is: don’t automatically be intimidated by people who have achieved more professional success than you, and don’t let your own insecurity bog you down. Move upward if you have the opportunity. Once you have the chance to survey the lay of the land, things are often not as hard to tackle as you might have imagined, and the people you assumed were so smart might not be.
-Les Moonves

In every business and in every facet of life there are “gatekeepers.” Gatekeepers are people who decide whether or not you get past them to do what you want to do. If they won’t let you pass via the traditional route, your job is to get around them in whatever way you can.
-Jillian Michaels

An objective risk is something that can kill you. A subjective risk is something that just frightens you.
-Jim Koch

How one deals with obstacles is what separates the men from the boys. No matter what field you are in, there will always be stumbling blocks. Don’t think about everything that can possibly go wrong. Just put one foot ahead of the other and, step-by-step, get everything done.
-Ian Schrager

It’s almost certain that you are going to make mistakes along the way. Try to make small ones, if you can, and think of them as opportunities to learn.
-Graydon Carter

There are no limits to the ways you can educate yourself. The smartest people I know never stop learning.
-Kathy Ireland

If you give up at first blush, you’ll never succeed at anything because nothing worth doing is easy. Give whatever you do your full effort, but at the same time keep your eyes open. If you discover, even by accident, what you’re truly spectacular at and can pursue it, I recommend doing so.
-Nitin Nohria

Life is temporary. Make every day meaningful and don’t spend time on bullshit.
-Marina Abramovic

We are all totally ordinary people with a chance to create extraordinary situations for ourselves.
-Tom Scott

It’s essential to strike the right balance between confidence and humility. If you don’t have enough confidence in the rightness of your pursuit, you’ll give up too easily. But you must also have enough humility to recognize your own limitations and be receptive to learning from others.
-Wendy Kopp

If you don’t continually revise your goals, the only place you’ve got to go is down.
-Laird Hamilton

Human creativity is limitless. If we channel it toward addressing the problems we have created over the years, we can redesign anything and construct the kind of world in which we want to live.
-Muhammad Yunus

Negativity burns inside of you and keeps you awake at night. If you can avoid letting it consume you, I strongly suggest doing so. You will have more freedom to enjoy life and focus on important, productive things.
-Rachel Zoe

Whether you’re an athlete, a doctor, or a writer, you have to put in a lot of effort to become an expert in your chosen field. If you do, when your opportunity finally arises, you’ll be in a good position to take full advantage of it.
-Jeff Kinney

When you go through dark moments in life, it is important to remain optimistic. There is usually a way to make something positive out of a negative experience.
-Jeff Koons

Challenging conventional wisdom can be scary, but most major changes happen because someone asked: “Why not do it differently?” If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
-Gary Hirshberg

If you’ve got something to say, say it and stop talking. If you don’t have anything to say, you’re doing yourself and others a favor by keeping quiet. If you can’t make a contribution, don’t slow down the people who can.
-Craig Newmark

While I do think that both men and women can “have it all,” I don’t think anyone can have it all at once. You need to figure out what your priorities are and then fulfill your potential at each stage of your life.
-Stacey Snider

It’s easy to think that by being against something you’re standing up for a cause, but if you want to have a greater impact, you need to ask yourself, “What do I stand for and what do I want to happen?”
-Helene Gayle

If you look at the downside of any vocation, you can find a million reasons not to pursue it. But if you try to play it safe and pick a career because you think you should, it most likely won’t end well.
-Hans Zimmer

When you feel like you’ve lost your compass, it’s okay to ask for directions.
-Daniel Boulud

Question everything. Curiosity is the lifeblood of creativity.
-Frank Gehry

Bonus quote from the author: Don’t take a ‘No’ from someone who doesn’t have the ability to say ‘Yes’.


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