10 Lessons from Guy Kawasaki’s Book, Wise Guy

Marketing guru and Chief Evangelist at Canva, Guy Kawasaki, came out with his 15th book last year, Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life. Not quite an autobiography or memoir, not a business book, Wise Guy shares various highlights of Guy’s fascinating life, with each captivating story having called-out takeaways that make his life lessons easy to digest.

There are easily more than 100 pieces of wisdom in this book, and all of it is contextualized by Guy’s practiced storytelling and entertaining life. We suggest reading the book yourself, as his lessons become even more applicable in conjunction with his great stories, but for the purposes of this post we’ve collected 10 of our favorites:

1. Remember the opportunities that you were afforded. After you’ve “made it,” provide opportunities to others. In doing so, you honor the people who came before you by helping the people who come after you.

We’ve all stood on other peoples’ shoulders; now we must allow others to stand on ours. We love how instead of saying “pay it forward” or “pay it back,” he says, “honor the people who came before you.” What a great perspective – and how true! By helping those who come after us, we’re putting the efforts of those who came before us back to work.

2. Be a hard-ass if you are a teacher, manager, coach, or someone who influences people. You’re not doing anyone a favor by lowering your standards and expectations in an effort to be kind, gentle or popular. The future cost of short-term kindness is great.

While we’d argue one should always be kind, we agree with Guy’s argument that you should be a hard-ass if you’re of any influence to people. Sometimes it’s those little pushes that really move people to their full potential.

3. Read If You Want to Write. Full stop. There is no greater recommendation than an author’s urging you to read a book that he did not write. I am living proof that this book can change a person’s life.

We took his recommendation, and we concur. This book – written by Minneapolis-born journalist Brenda Ueland in 1938 – is a goldmine for writers and artists alike. Its premise is to use your voice and tell your truth because it’s the only thing that’s really going to resonate with others. Don’t write (or practice your art) in the way you think others will like. Do what is true to you, and it will benefit you whether it meets acclaim or not.

4. Diversify your acquaintances.

Here Guy gets into the different people he’s worked with over the years, and says if you diversify those you spend time with, “you’ll probably learn that people are more similar than they are different – no matter their race, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.” There is so much truth to this. At Studio/E we try to diversify the individuals we bring into our programs so as to make the experiences more valuable for everybody in them. Part of the value is having a diversity of experience, backgrounds, knowledge, opinions, and the like.

5. Be curious. Mistakes and failures can yield opportunities. If you have the right mind-set, the opposite of success is not failure, it’s learning.

Did we write this or did Guy? This is on-theme with what we’re about at Studio/E . First, curiosity is one of our three core values (along with generosity and growth). Second, we often say that there is no such thing as failure – there is only learning (if you have the right mindset, anyway). Changing your mindset to adopt this way of thinking is a game-changer, as it reframes so-called failures as experience and preparation to help avoid future failures.

6. Keep trying new stuff. It’s never too late to acquire a new skill or improve a current one. The acquisition of skill is a process, not an event, and the process itself can be the reward.

Be a lifelong learner. Guy picked up hockey at age 44, surfing at 61. Maybe you’ve always wanted to pick up wheel-throwing. Well here’s the push you need to go do it. You’re never too old to learn something new or pick up a new hobby.

7. Help people and be generous.

Guy suggests being nice to people on your way up because you’ll likely run into them on your way down. Remember your interns, because they might end up one day becoming the CEO of Salesforce like Guy’s former intern did. Generosity of spirit goes as far – and oftentimes further – than generosity of material goods.

8. The more you smile and laugh, the more you will smile and laugh. The more you smile and laugh, the easier life gets. You can never go wrong with being nice, and there’s no such thing as being too nice.

Smiling and laughing make life so much better. The energy you carry with you permeates into others’ energies, so the more you smile and laugh, the more generous you’re being to those around you. Also, it makes life more enjoyable.

9. Be humble, be relational. Nobody gets where they are without the help of others in one way or another.

Nobody has done something truly great without the help of others. Honor those who have helped you get where you are, and be willing to help others get where they’re looking to go. Humility is attractive; the more humble you are, the more likely people are going to want to help you. It’s all cyclical.

10. Help people who cannot help you. A measure of a person’s goodness is how they treat someone who can be of no use to them.

Integrity is what you do when nobody’s looking. This is the same concept: help those who you think cannot reciprocate. You never know what your help will do for them, and how they might return your favor down the road.

Bonus: Never bet against, nor lose faith in, someone like Steve Jobs. For example, I advise against betting against Elon Musk.


These pieces of wisdom can stand alone without the context of the greater book because they’re all valuable. But we do suggest reading Wise Guy because it’s educational, entertaining, and generally a feel-good read. Guy Kawasaki’s M.O. is basically to work hard and be kind — and we can definitely get behind that.

Congratulations to Guy Kawasaki on the success of the book!

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Want to hear more from Guy Kawasaki? He was the first of our Hero Speaker Series for 2020, and we’ll have a lineup of video interviews on our Content Library soon. Be sure to check back often for fresh content.

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