1. Ira Glass, Host of This American Life
“I actually just heard an old interview with Studs Terkel, interviewing Louis Armstrong in 1961. And Louis Armstrong is backstage after a show at two in the morning. And Studs asked Louis Armstrong, ‘How do you keep it so fresh. You know, I just saw you out there. You just keep it so fresh.’ And Louis Armstrong says, ‘Well, we get into town and I try to sleep in the afternoon.’ And Studs is like, ‘No no no, that’s not what i’m talking about. You’re an older man. You’ve been playing this music forever. How do you keep it so alive, so new?’ And Louis said, ‘That’s what I’m telling you. Just take a nap in the afternoon before the gig.’”
2. Tony Goldwyn, Actor on Scandal
The best: “Never be afraid to fail.”
3. Tom Brokaw, Journalist
The worst advice: “When I was 19 or 20, I was working at a television station in Iowa and going to college at the same time, and my boss said, ‘I don’t think there’s much of a career for you in this business.’ That’s probably the worst advice I’ve ever gotten. And I was too dumb to listen to him.”
The best: “Concentrate on what you do best. I always say that to young people now. You got a lot more choices than I did… I actually think it’s, in some ways, a glory time, because of the choices.”
4. Charlie Rose, Talk Show Host and Journalist
“Someone once said to me, find your spot, communicate that you know what you’re doing, you’re prepared to be there, you’re ready to do it, and you love doing it… Leave no stone unturned in terms of hard work, in terms of being prepared to engage someone in a variety of circumstances.”
5. Ken Burns, Documentarian
“It’s all about perseverance. There’s thousands of people with talent, but I think, too often, it is such an uphill slog, that it’s discouraging. And I think the hallmark of what we’ve tried to do is persevere.”
6. Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, Stars of Key & Peele
Peele on the worst advice he’s ever gotten: “When I first moved to Chicago to become a comedian, I wanted to be on a sketch show, and I asked somebody, ‘What should I do?’ and he said, ‘Go back to college’. And that, on paper, is good advice. But maybe I needed a little bit of that adversity to get my head down against the wind and become a little more stubborn.”
Key on the best advice he’s ever gotten: “My mother said to me, ‘Well, my opinion is, yes, you can move to New York and start working on a soap opera. Or you can finish school.’ So I finished school. And then did more school. And it was the best thing for me. So, the same advice was the best advice for me and the worst advice for him. Because people are different.
“Work begets work. So when you’re working, if your nose is on the grindstone, in a matter of speaking, you don’t have a lot of time to listen to advice. If you’re doing work, that’s when you’re gonna get your best advice. It’s simply when a co-worker’s going, ‘No, no. Don’t do that. Do this.’ It’s in the midst of working, as opposed to sitting at the feet of a master. There’s nothing like practical knowledge.”
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