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20 Famously Successful People Sum Up Their Work Advice

20 Famously Successful People Sum Up Their Work Advice

We all admire people who’ve succeeded in their field – successful people who we all admire. We want to be like them, be as rich as them.  Sometimes, we want to be them.  We want to know what they know, what they did, so we can reach that pinnacle where they are standing.

Here are 20 people sharing what they did to succeed:

1. Warren Buffet, Investor

“I don’t try to jump over 7-foot hurdles; I look for 1-foot hurdles that I can step over.”

The Oracle from Omaha is the 4th richest man in the world and probably the best investor of the century.  Buffet is actually known for his meticulous and deliberate analysis of any business he is interested in.

2. Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul and Businesswoman

“Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.”

Oprah Winfrey, the Queen of All Media, is one of the most successful media personalities in the world.  You can bet she got all her achievements because of her perseverance.

3. Larry Bird, Professional Basketball Player

“I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody – somewhere – was practicing more than me.”

Larry Bird played for the Boston Celtics from 1979 – 1992. He is a 12-time NBA All-Star and an MVP for 3 consecutive years. Bird won 3 NBA championships and 2 NBA Finals MVP awards.

4. Tiger Woods, Professional Golfer

“No matter how good you get you can always get better and that’s the exciting part.”

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Tiger Woods is one of the most successful golfers and one of the highest paid athlete in the world. Woods has been the ranked 1 golfer for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest number of weeks.

5. Stephen King, Author

“If you don’t want to work your ass of, you have no business trying to write well.”

Stephen King is one of the century’s most successful authors, with 54 novels, 200 short stories and 5 non-fiction books under his belt.  Over 350 million copies of his books have sold worldwide, many of them adapted into film and television movies.

6. Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

Vince Lombardi is one of the most successful NFL coaches in history, leading the Green Bay Packers to five NFL Championships. For him, getting back up is an achievement and a vital key to winning.

7.  Bill Gates, Businessman

“Never took a day off in my 20s. Not me.”

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world, has been since 1995. His work ethic while building Microsoft one of the reasons the company is a leader in computer technology.

8.  Twyla Tharp, Ballet Dancer and Choreographer

“Be aware of what distract you and give it up for a while.”

Twyla Tharp is a successful American ballet dancer and choreographer.  She has been awarded with 2 Emmys, a Tony, 19 honorary doctorates and various other awards, recognizing her achievements in dance.

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9. Larry Page, Computer Scientist

“Always deliver more than expected.”

Larry Page is an engineer and computer scientist who co-founded Google.  He is currently Google’s CEO.

10. Mark Cuban, Businessman and Investor

“Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you.”

Mark Cuban is known as the current owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.  He is a businessman and investor, who cashed in early on the first tech boom.

11. Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

“Be candid with everyone.”

Jack Welch was the CEO and Chairman of the Board of General Electric from 1981 to 2001.  During his tenure, he increased GE’s market value from $12million to $280 billion today.

12. Stan Lee, Comic Book Writer, Editor and Publisher

“I try not to do anything that’s too close to what I’ve done before. And the nice thing is we have a big universe here. It’s filled with new ideas.”

Stan Lee is a comic book writer, editor, publisher, and former President and Chairman of Marvel Comics.  He co-created many of Marvel and DC Comics’ biggest characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, Silver Surfer and many more.

13.   Wayne Gretzky, Professional Ice Hockey Player

“I wasn’t naturally gifted in terms of size and speed; everything I did in hockey I worked for…”

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Wayne Gretzky is a former professional ice hockey player and is considered the greatest hockey player ever.  He leads in the NHL in number of assists and point-scoring, and is the only player to have over 200 points in one season.

14. Neil Gaiman, Author

“As an author, I’ve never forgotten how to daydream.”

Neil Gaiman is an English author of novels, comic books, graphic novels and short stories.  He has been the recipient of many awards including the Newbery and Carnegie medals.

15.  Donald Trump, Businessman

“…listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper.”

Donald Trump is a successful businessman, investor and celebrity. He is the chairman of The Trump Organization and he built his money on real estate, hospitality and entertainment.

16.  Richard Branson, Businessman and Investor

“As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back.”

Richard Branson is a businessman, investor and the founder of Virgin Group, a conglomerate that is made up of more than 400 companies.  Branson is the 7th richest citizen of the United Kingdom.

17.  Simon Cowell, Producer and Talent Scout

“The secret of my success is that I make other people money.”

Simon Cowell is a producer, talent scout and celebrity who rose to fame as a judge on talent shows like American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent. Some of the talents under him include One Director and Il Divo. He is one of the richest persons in the British music industry.

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18.  Steve Jobs, Inventor and Entrepreneur

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Steve Jobs is an inventor, businessman and the co-founder of Apple, Inc. He was the CEO of Apple, Inc and under his tenure saw the development of the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone and the iPad, some of the most successful devices in the world today.

19.  Madonna, Entertainer

“I’m always looking for something new: a new inspiration, a new philosophy, a new way to look at something, new talent.”

Madonna is one of the most successful artists in the world today. She is a singer, songwriter, actress and businesswoman, known for reinventing herself and her music throughout the years. She has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and is the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

20. Meryl Streep, Actress

“I think the most liberating thing I did early on was to free myself from any concern with my looks as they pertain to my work.”

Meryl Streep is one of the greatest film actors of all time. She is a three-time Academy Award winner, eight-time Golden Globe winner and was awarded the 2010 National Medal of arts and the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Featured photo credit: 04222014 – Success Boot Camp Graduation at PCP/US Department of Education via flickr.com

More by this author

Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya

Lianne is a licensed financial advisor, Registered Financial Planner, entrepreneur and book author.

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

Think of your cover letter for a job application as an in-person introduction. Your resume outlines the facts—where you worked and for how long, along with your major accomplishments. But your cover letter also shows off your personality.

Your cover letter should outline the case for why you deserve the job without being “salesy.” How do you do that? Follow these 12 important guidelines.

1. There Is No Cookie-Cutter Cover Letter for a Job

Targeting your resume to a particular job may mean changing up your “Objective” section a bit or adding to your “Executive Summary” section. Cover letters, though, really need to focus on the particular person you’re writing to, the particular job, and the particular company. It needs to prove, with an economy of words, that your job experience fits the requirements of the position for which you’re applying.

Your letter should show that you have amassed the skills you need to succeed in that workplace. And, your cover letter should clinch your prospects by making the case that you are very excited about working at that particular company.

2. Always Opt-in to the Optional Cover Letter

Some job postings will give applicants the option of opting out of providing a cover letter for a job[1]. Don’t take the bait! Use the opportunity to further sell yourself in a personalized, well-crafted cover letter that creatively shares who you are and why your skills and personality align with the position and the company. Think of your cover letter for a job as an opportunity to describe your value proposition.

3. A Reference Goes a Long Way

Did someone recommend you for the job? Put that in the subject line of your cover letter if possible. If an online listing dictates what your subject line must be, cite the personal recommendation in the first sentence of your letter:

Dear Ms. Sanders,

Steve Smith recommended me for your Assistant Planner position. I worked with Steve at the XYZ company for four years as his assistant until he moved on, and I feel as though I learned from the best.  His high praise for you is the primary reason I am applying for this position, as I consider him an excellent judge of character. 

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You may want to bolster Steve’s recommendation with a short anecdote about working with Steve. Don’t be shy. Steve’s high opinion of you will likely mean that your resume gets a serious look.

4. Outline the Key Points You Want to Make

Company by company, your cover letter for a job application needs to be specific and bulletproof. Unless you have a great deal of practice in writing cover letters, it’s hard to just bang them out. So don’t even try. Instead, start with a list of points you intend to make. Generally, these would be a “grabby” introduction, a story or two about a particular accomplishment that is relevant to the job to which you are applying, a reason why you are the ideal candidate for the position, and a conclusion with a suggested next step.

  1. Intro – Have been familiar with the company since my father worked there in the 1980s.
  2. College Major – Majored in industrial engineering so I could get a job at CYY Building, Inc.
  3. Captain of Soccer Team – Prepared me to solve problems, promote morale, and coach a team.
  4. Ask for Informational Interview – 15 minutes to meet in person and learn more about opportunities.
  5. Compelling Close – Ask Hiring Manager to call me. Say I will call her in a week if I don’t hear from her first.

5. Moderating the Tone of Your Cover Letter

Some companies are buttoned-up. The workers wear three-piece suits to the office each day plus loafers. Other companies are more casual. The employees wear shorts in the summertime and skateboard through the hallways. In an in-person interview, you would never wear shorts to a company whose employees are sporting three-piece suits.

Similarly, your cover letter needs to strike the right note. The letter you write to a start-up should sound markedly different than the letter you would write to a white-shoe law firm.

For example, even using something as informal as “Greetings” for the salutation may not be appropriate at a more formal firm. And definitely don’t use the default “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager with an online search. If that’s not possible, you will want to begin with “Dear XYZ Hiring Manager.” The tone of your cover letter for a job starts at the very beginning.

6. Create an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line

Think of going to hear a presentation by a motivational speaker, only to have her open with, “I’m here today to present (fill in with title of the presentation).” What a let down! What if instead, she started with, “I just ran a half marathon. Now doesn’t that sound better than if I told you, ‘I tried to run a marathon but quit half-way through?’” See the difference? You want to hear more.

Craft the first line of your cover letter with the utmost care. It doesn’t need to be clever, but it needs to show your personality and your fit for the position.

Dear Mr. Stevens,

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I am committed to making the customer service experience better for people like my grandmother. At 87 years old, my Gram is lost in the digital world and reliant on customer service representatives she can reach by telephone to answer her questions and solve her problems. She regularly shares stories of frustrating dead-ends she experiences with people wanting her to “go online and make your selection.”  Yet, whenever she reaches someone willing to take the extra time to resolve her issue, she sings the company’s praises to everyone she knows. Based on Gram’s frustrations, I want to be that person who won’t give up or pass the buck with bewildered customers.  

With a strong, anecdotal opening such as this, you show purpose and passion behind your application to be a customer service representative.

7. Recognize the Value of Cover Letter Real Estate

Spare writing is key in the cover letter for a job. It is always best if your letter doesn’t exceed a page. Those reviewing applications appreciate a letter that is terse, yet provides useful information to evaluate an applicant. This means you have five to six paragraphs in which to work.

Repeating anything from your resume is a waste of real estate. Think in terms of describing why you are applying for the position and why you are the best candidate.

To best show your personality, avoid stale phrases such as, “I believe my experience would be a good fit in your organization.” Add punch to your statements that show off your accomplishments and your attitude.

I thrive in start-up environments where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to make changes on the fly. In one such instance, I uncovered better results from a pilot project and in under 30 minutes had updated the CEO’s presentation in time for his meeting with a venture capitalist.

8. Getting Creative

On the surface, a requirement is a requirement. Many online ads specify the number of years, and you might think they are ironclad. But if you count the number of years you amassed a particular skill at the job and add any volunteer work where you also used that skill, you might surpass the requirement.

Say that you are applying for a position in fund development. If your career experience in putting on charity fundraisers falls a little short, it’s certainly appropriate to add in time spent organizing fundraising events as a volunteer—as long as you indicate it as such in your cover letter for the job.

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I recently passed my two and a half year mark of employment as a fund development associate with Notable Events. Concurrently, I oversaw all aspects of two annual fundraising galas as a volunteer board member of Reach for the Stars Foundation, offering scholarships to first-generation college-bound students. These involved finding sponsors for more than 70 silent auction items, renting event space, working with caterers, recruiting volunteers and MC-ing both events, which each drew more than 200 attendees and, together, raised more than $250,000. I believe this intensive hands-on experience helps supplement my years of employment.

Showcasing your community ethos through volunteering could make up for the deficit in actual on-the-job experience.

9. Making the Case that You Fit

How will you fit in at the company? With some research, you can easily figure out the corporate culture of an organization. Many companies share their core values in job recruitment ads. But even if you can’t discern a company’s mission or beliefs from its advertising, you can learn it from articles you read about the company.

Is it employer-centric or employee-centric? Is the culture more traditional or more fun? And what are you looking for? When you find a company where your needs align with theirs, that’s an indication that you would fit in well. Take care to make sure that your cover letter reflects how you fit.

If you are a recent military veteran[2], consider which civilian positions lend themselves to the regimented culture of which you’ve become accustomed. For example, your occupational specialty while in the military could dovetail well with a company’s job requirements—and you have the added benefit of discipline, following instructions, and teamwork that you can apply to any future position.

10. Always Ask for What You’re Worth

If the employer asks applicants to share their salary requirements in the cover letter for a job, disregard what you made in your former position and look into the salary ranges[3] of the advertised position. You will want to adjust up or down within the salary range depending on your prior experience in the industry or in a similar role.

The key is to not undercut yourself by asking below the minimum amount, or to overinflate your worth by asking for an amount higher than the maximum pay in the salary range.

11. Show Your Cover Letter to Three People Whose Opinion You Trust

Once your letter is out in the world, it’s too late to tweak it for that particular job. You will dramatically improve your chances of having your cover letter “land” correctly if you’re proactive. Find a few people in the field, and ask them if you can show them your cover letter before you send it out.

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If you are starting out and don’t know anyone in the field, you may want to consider paying for a professional career consultant or coach to review your cover letter and resume. Remember that the care you demonstrate in your cover letter is that employer’s first impression of you.

12. End With Enthusiasm

You want to stay upbeat all the way to the end of the letter. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the opportunity to apply and that you look forward to hearing from (or having a chance to meet with) them in person.

It would be an honor to be part of your team, and I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this role and how I could contribute to it in person.

This acknowledges that the organization gets to make the next move, but that you anticipate it will be in your favor.

Sign off formally (“Sincerely” or “Best regards”) or informally (“Best” or “Thank you”) depending on the tone of the letter. Also, be sure to include your email address and phone number under your name. This ensures that, should the reviewer wish to contact you, the contact information is easily accessible.

Final Thoughts

The best cover letters for a job are lively, authentic, and provide a memorable result, anecdote or example of your approach to work. By tying your approach to the requirements of the job description and revealing your personality as a fit for the organization, you will give yourself a winning chance for making the cut and landing that coveted job interview.

More Tips on Writing a Great Cover Letter

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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