I really love self-help books. I think it’s a combination of my own tendency for introspection and a love rules. So when I saw this book at the library last week, I couldn’t just leave it on the shelf. While not a traditional self-help book, The Best Advice I Ever Got is packed with life lessons. It was also a huge point in the book’s favor that it was by Katie Couric, someone whose work I admire.
The Best Advice I Ever Got combines Couric’s own professional journey with pieces of advice from various people she’s interviewed over the years. She talks about her early experiences, the triumphs (like managing to get the managing producer of World News Tonight to meet with her, because she lived down the street from his cousin) and the failures (like botching her first stint of television reporting on the president’s schedule, and hearing the network president say he never wanted to see her on TV again). Couric’s willingness to be frank about the screw-ups and hardships of her professional and personal life makes the story more honest and engaging, while never abandoning her trademark optimism.
The life lessons of Couric’s interview subjects are a joy to read: they are organized thematically, sprinkled in among the chapters of Couric’s life, which provides a connection through the diversity of speakers and styles. There’s Bill Cosby’s advice—drawn from his terrible first experience performing at a major club—about not being one’s own worst enemy; Thomas Friedman writes on the important difference between skepticism and cynicism; and Laura Linney reminding us to “Never read your own reviews”. What ultimately comes through, from both Katie Couric and the many other people who contributed to this book, is some simple (though not always easy) advice: learn to embrace failure. Know yourself. Do what you love. Be kind. It’s nothing new, but that’s exactly why The Best Advice I Ever Got is not only worth reading, it’s worth keeping.