The Best Advice We Ever Received

Emily Triplett Lentz | June 16, 2016

Recently, we went around and asked the people at Help Scout to share the best advice they’ve ever received. We were curious about which words of wisdom have stuck with our teammates and shaped their lives and careers. The responses we got were too good not to share — we hope they stick with you, too!

“Have a stance; don't take a stand.”

David Stanley, Engineering

This came from an old boss of mine. He believed that if you are taking a “stand” then you are not open to alternatives and/or ideas. By having a “stance” you are essentially saying, “I'm willing to look at alternatives.”

“Only start a company if you can't move on with your life and be happy otherwise.”

Nick Francis, CEO

It needs to be something you are deeply passionate about, ideally for a decade or more. Without that passion, you won’t have the energy and resolve you need to build a company and stick with it when the road gets bumpy.

“Define ‘success’ on your own terms.”

Becca Van Nederynen, People Ops

When I was a kid my dad told me there are many ways to define success, and money is just one of those ways. You have to decide what success means to you before you can set goals for achieving it. I’ve thought a lot about this advice on a grander scale — for me, helping people is more important than accumulating monetary wealth. But when you’re working with teams, it helps to remember that everyone defines success differently, so it’s important to talk about that before setting goals and kicking off a new project.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Tim Thyne, Customer Development

Behind any great achievement, you’ll find a hint of opportunity and a boatload of hard work and preparation. Everything good that has happened in my career has been a combination of the two. When I was a college freshman, for example, I wanted a job in software, but no one was hiring interns my age. I spent my free time learning how software companies operated, about the different systems they use, and so on. Then the marketing team at my university accidentally included my email address on a job posting that was only supposed to be sent to seniors. I applied and ended up working at that company for years.

“Articulate your desires.”

Emily Triplett Lentz, Marketing

About six years ago I was flailing about, trying to figure out what I wanted and what was next. The book I was reading at the time encouraged “articulating your desires.” So I did — I wrote down things like “move somewhere warm” and “get a remote writing job.” At the time it seemed like so much wishful thinking, but recently I came across what I wrote and thought, “Wow, I got everything I wanted.” So I just did it again.

“Be a good listener.”

Mat Patterson, Customer Evangelist

An early web design client of mine told me she always chooses to work with people who truly listen and make an effort to understand what she wants. Some specialists are great at what they do, but they’re not necessarily great communicators. Communication makes a big difference in working relationships, because it improves the outcome, develops trust, and moves things along more quickly.

“Focus on learning and doing; the money will follow.”

Beenish Khan, Engineering

My eldest brother gave me this important advice when I was a teenager: “Don't run after good grades; study for the knowledge itself and the grades will come automatically.” When I finished my Engineering degree he said, "Don't run after money; learn to do things in the best way and money will come automatically." I found both of them to be quite true.

“Selling out doesn't mean giving up on your dreams.”

Mo McKibbin, Support

My sister, who’s a creative person like me, told me to seek stability before pursuing my creative passions. You don’t necessarily have to give up a creative life if you focus on a path that’ll sustain you. I struggled with whether to take a “real job” for a while, but she was right — now I have the time, comfort and ability to pursue my creative dreams without feeling like I’m depending on them for survival.

“Your work is not your life.”

Dave Martin, Design

I like to work and I love what I do, which is a terrible combo if you want to have a life outside of work. I heard this advice early in my career, and it helped me set boundaries for myself, which is still a constant struggle. I try to work 40 hours per week, and unless there’s an emergency, I stop at 5 p.m. sharp. I walk and listen to podcasts during lunch breaks, and I try to take a technology-free hour in the morning to be with my kids, make them breakfast, play a game, and help them get ready for the day.

“We are the results of our thoughts and activities.”

Alex Edwards, Support

I have a yoga teacher who also studies neuroscience, and she drops this advice into every class: “Our bodies are the result of our activity. Our minds are the result of our thoughts.” Thinking about that helps keep me from negative, judgey meta-emotions and self-deprecating thoughts, because I don't want to forge those paths in my brain.

“You seem smarter if you keep your mouth shut.”

Eli Overbey, Growth

My dad told me that when I stay quiet, I seem smarter. He wasn't insulting me — he just meant that staying quiet leaves room for listening and thinking before you speak, which makes whatever you say more meaningful. It’s helped a lot.

“Be deliberate.”

Devin Bramhall, Marketing

At a young age, my mom taught me to look people in the eye and “shake hands like you mean it.” The deliberateness you exhibit in these seemingly small actions shows confidence and intention which makes people take you more seriously. And it works! Now I try apply this same idea to other areas of my life and career as much as possible, especially in how I communicate. A bit of mindfulness and deliberateness in your actions goes a long way to building trust and respect.

“Get a job that’s not ‘just a job.’”

Brett Jones, Engineering

The work I do is fairly straightforward — it's rewarding, but I'm not doing pioneering work solving intractable problems. Help Scout's great remote culture, team and product are what make it “more than just a job” to me. My buddy has the opposite sort of gig — interesting “problem space,” but lousy company culture. I’m a lot happier.


What’s the best advice you ever got about your career, your life, or your place in the world? Did you heed it, and where has it taken you? Join the conversation.


About the author: Emily Triplett Lentz is on the marketing team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.