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French President Emmanuel Macron Receives Bill And Melinda Gates At Elysee Palace
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The people we’ve come to associate with the most successful technology companies were once relatively unknown names with big dreams. So if they could do it all over again, would they do it any differently?

The answer to this commonly-asked interview question tells us what we want to learn from the people who have, in our eyes, “made it.” And leaders in the tech industry are successful because they created something — or saw potential in something — in a way that no one else did. The advice they would give their younger selves, then, is often informative and motivational.

Digital advertising company AdView compiled quotes from across the internet to create these inspirational posters for a series called “What Would You Tell Your Teenage Self?” We found our favorites and pulled a few others from various interviews over the years from the leaders and executives at companies like Apple, Facebook, Intel, Pandora, Airbnb, and more.

Here’s the advice these 16 leaders in the tech industry told interviewers they would tell their younger selves:

“Smartness is not single dimensional and not quite as important as I thought it was back then.” — Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft

In Bill Gates’ Reddit AMA from 2017, user UncomfortableChuckle asked “If you could give 19 year old Bill Gates some advice, what would it be?”

The second richest man in the world — behind Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — responded:

“Find work you love. Believe you can do anything. There is no straight path to where you are going.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

The question was posed by a Quora user, and Sandberg took the time to lay out a detailed response, in the form of three pieces of advice instead of just one.

“A healthier lifestyle ultimately makes me more creative and allows me to think more cohesively.” — Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter and Square

That was Dorsey’s simple response when Y Combinator interviewed the Twitter CEO in 2016.

“When I was young I didn’t understand the value of exercise or health and how that affected my intellect,” he said. “I think it was useful for me to go to all the extremes to find the balance I have now, but I wish I focused more on being healthier in the past. A healthier lifestyle ultimately makes me more creative and allows me to think more cohesively.”

“You’re going to make mistakes no matter what you do. People spend a lot of time focusing on not making mistakes or regretting them but you shouldn’t strive to be right about everything.” — Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder and CEO of Facebook

Zuckerberg answered the question during a 2015 user Q&A that Facebook livestreamed.

“Before getting swept up in the competitors that define so much of life, ask yourself whether you even want the prize on offer.” — Peter Thiel, partner at Founders Fund

He told conservative student magazine Intercollegiate Review this during an interview back in 2015.

“The joy is in the journey.” — Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Cook has said this multiple times — during a commencement speech for Auburn, for example — but most recently said it in March in response to a question from the audience after an in-person interview

“No matter what you choose, build stuff and be around smart people. ‘Stuff’ can be a lot of different things … but, obviously, sitting around talking with your friends about how you guys really should build a website together does not count.” — Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combinator

Here is Altman’s whole response:

“Be unapologetically true to yourself, both in business and in life in general … if you do, and broadcast that to the world, over time, the right people will find you.” — Tom Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

The entrepreneur responded to an email from show hostShivad Singh, who was compiling answers from “the world’s most successful people.”

“Problems happen. Plans fail. Don’t be disheartened when things don’t go as you’d hoped.” — Justin Rosenstein, cofounder of Asana

“It’s very easy — in life or in work — to overreact, to think that problems indicate that you are incapable, or that the project you’ve undertaken is doomed to failure,” he said.

Rosenstein also added:

“Enjoy failing fast rather than spending so much time figuring out how to be perfect, or even worse, being paralyzed by fear of being perfect.” — Aicha Evans, senior Vice President and chief strategy officer at Intel

Source: Head Start

“Take the next step.” — Joe Gebbia, cofounder and CPO of Airbnb

Source: Head Start

“Never see being different as a flaw or think that something is wrong with you. Being different is your biggest asset and will help you succeed.” — Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

This is an excerpt from a letter entitled “My letter to my younger dyslexic self,” published to Virgin’s website.

“It gets better … it’s important to learn new things and expand your horizons.” — Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow

According to this response to Forbes, Spolsky was referring to an anthropology class he took in college to fulfill a required credit.

He said it was boring at the time, but it taught him a lot about making companies that are based on and driven by helping people.

“Whether it is a change of job, or an entrepreneurial dream, the less you need to spend each month, the easier it is to follow those dreams.” — Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia

Wales told Fast Company:

His favorite rule of thumb for this piece of advice? Never go into debt to finance anything luxurious. Only do it for necessary investments like education.

“‘No’ is often just the starting point.” — Kathryn Minshew, cofounder and CEO of The Muse

“And most careers worth having involve a fair amount of determination, grit, and just general ‘try try again’-ing,” she added.

“Be okay with things building up over time.” — Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress and cofounder of Automattic

Mullenweg told Product Hunt:

“Be sure to ‘notice’ ideas when you have them. Stop. Take the time to consider them seriously. And if your gut tells you they’re compelling, be fearless in their pursuit.” — Tim Westergren, cofounder of Pandora

“For most people,” he continued in his response to Forbes, “the idea of chasing a personal passion or being entrepreneurial is simply something they don’t think of themselves doing. We’re so programmed to walk well-trodden paths. But, we live life only once. So, rather than avoiding the risk of trying, avoid the risk of not trying. Nothing is more haunting than thinking, ‘I wish I had…’.”

“It’s not about building every feature or understanding everything the first time around. It’s about creating the best, tailored experience for your community and company.” — Alex Ljung, CEO of SoundCloud

Ljung said that when he makes decisions around leadership, design, and product, he often references a quote that T.S. Eliot had reportedly used: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

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