Like most of us, I received some excellent advice from my parents when I was growing up – much of which I admit I dismissed as ‘old fogey’ stuff at the time – such as “eat more vegetables” and “if you do well at school, you will do well at life”. But the best single piece of advice I was ever given came from someone who, unlike my parents, definitely did not have my best interests at heart.
That ‘advice’ went along the following lines:
“There is just no way, Naomi, that you could ever build your own life insurance company. You have been a talented 2IC but you simply don’t have the experience, intellect, resilience, emotional control or image necessary to replicate the success of Sovereign on your own, so don’t try because you will fail and I don’t want to see you be hurt and humiliated like that.”
There have been so many helpful, concerned people along the way who have given me similar advice. Don’t stick your neck out, it will get chopped off. Don’t be a squeaky wheel. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Here’s my advice to those people – if you want to achieve anything spectacular, or if you want to consistently behave in keeping with the values you hold close, then don’t take your own advice!
Obviously I didn’t heed the advice of this person, whom I absolutely idolized – which made being told not to even try all the more devastating. But he did succeed in motivating me to prove him utterly wrong. In the end, his very poor advice was a significant factor in driving me to succeed, and I am very grateful for it now.
The lesson is that sometimes the worst advice can also be the best advice, if you choose to ignore it or, better still, use it for motivation.
But I also still eat my vegetables and try to learn something new every day!
FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR,