Community leaders give their best pieces of advice

College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook shares a story about how a vision for the campus was developed in the 1980s and 1990s during a ceremony marking the completion of a parking structure on campus. Austin Dave/The Signal

Advice is an interesting thing. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s terrible. That’s why the best advice lies in the eye of the beholder.

However, there is an occasional piece of advice that sticks with you. Whoever it’s from, certain advice can impact us more than we thought possible.

Santa Clarita is full of leaders who’ve experienced this themselves, so we reached out to a few of them in order to share some of their personal takes on the best piece of advice they have ever received.

Mayor Marsha McLean’s best advice was simple: “Be yourself, tell the truth and treat others as you wish to be treated.”

Others’ advice began as one thing, but evolved into much more.

Ravi S. Rajan, President California Institute of the Arts speaks at the 2019 Economic Outlook held at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Great advice

Ravi Rajan, president of the California Institute of the Arts, had a teacher tell him to “Be ready when the call comes.”

Although they were talking about playing the trumpet, he went on to explain that you need to be ready for the unexpected, because opportunity isn’t planned and you never know when you’re going to get it.

“Not being able to jump on something when it comes your way, not being ready for “the call,” renders that opportunity moot, and you never know when the next one is going to come forth,” Rajan said.

Chancellor of College of the Canyons Dianne G. Van Hook had similar thoughts.

Her best advice was, “If you can imagine it you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can do it,” which is a piece of advice she said she received several times from mentors and others she respected.

She went on to explain that this can only be done with hard work and perseverance.

“That shaped my own development and my own will to dream big and to figure it out,” Van Hook said.

Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corp., said her best advice was that if you don’t ask, then the answer is “no.”

This is two-fold — it means you must ask for what you want, but also that the worst thing that can happen is the answer is no, according to Schroeder.

This teaches you not to be afraid of “no” and to go for things that you might not have otherwise done, Schroeder said.

“I would have to say life is essentially a marathon, not a sprint,” said Dr. Bud Lawrence, medical director of the emergency department at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “We get daily wins and daily loses, and it can mess with our emotions, our focus and, ultimately, our success.”

Those loses are just short term bumps in the road and are “one-off items” in the path to the rest of your life, Lawrence said.

Some have gotten their advice early on in life and followed it since, including Cameron Smyth, mayor pro tem.

His advice came from his father when he was 12, and it’s something that’s stuck with him through the years: Everybody deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of their station in life.

“It was something that I didn’t understand at the time, but as I got older I developed a greater understanding and appreciation for that,” Smyth said.

L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger had similar advice from her father, who told her to treat everyone she met with respect.

Los Angeles County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks about the need to combat homelessness through mental health services during a ceremony Thursday. Austin Dave/The Signal

“He told me to never believe any position I held or title I had gave me the authority to talk down to anyone else or act with a sense of entitlement,” Barger said. “I try to approach every person I work with kindly, which has proven to be the best piece of advice I could have been given. It’s stuck with me for decades and comes in handy every day.”

Although Senator Scott Wilk has traveled all over California, his best advice was to raise his family in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a better place to live, to educate your children and build a life,” Wilk said.

Councilman Bill Miranda’s advice came from a former classmate, who advised him to read the book “Think and Grow Rich,” which was a book authored by Napoleon Hill.

Its principles helped him turn his business career from “rather average” into successful, he said.

The book begins with the principle of desire, and advises you to make sure what you’re seeking is what your heart and soul desires, not just what your mind desires.

When opportunity knocks

We all love getting advice, but most of us don’t always take the advice we are given. Here is some advice that they wish they had followed.

Lawrence’s advice has been given to a lot of us — it’s to try to live in the moment and to “stop and smell the roses.”

He has a very challenging time following this as he has a hand in so many different projects, Lawrence said.

“I’m always focusing on what’s next,” Lawrence said. “Day- to-day, I’m not good at appreciating where I am or who I’m with. But you only get one chance at life, so I continuously try to live in the moment.”

Wilk’s advice was similar — to spend more time with his family — but got real when both his wife and son were diagnosed with cancer.

They’re both doing fine now, but Wilk said, “The mere notion that I could have lost them was a game-changer. I wished in retrospect I had spent every waking minute with them.”

Miranda had similar consequences to advice he wished he’d taken, as his wife told him to “slow down.”

He didn’t slow down and continued doing too much, causing him to have a stroke, which not only ended his corporate career but also took him two years to recover from.

“I wish I didn’t have to go through those two years of agony and had listened to her,” Miranda said.

Van Hook grew up in an era when women’s rights were restricted, and her advice reflects that.

Her advice was to not let anyone else’s opinion of her affect her own opinion of herself.

“I let others people’s actions and opinions affect my own self-confidence,” Van Hook said. “Eventually, I realized that the power of a can-do attitude opens up a world of opportunities, and I recommitted that I would not alter my behavior based on what I others thought. Now, I avoid negative people as they deplete energy.”

Some had advice that would’ve completely changed the course of their lives.

In the mid-1990s, Steve Jobs returned to Apple. Rajan took $500 of his earnings as a trumpet player and purchased some Apple stock as he had always been a big believer in Jobs.

He decided to sell the stock for $10,000 in 1998, but a fellow computer fan and friend suggested he keep the stock.

“I was worried about doing this as I needed savings because I would soon move to New York City,” Rajan said.

Rajan decided to use the money on his move, but had he have chosen to invest, that stock would be worth over $1.5 million today.

While it’s hard not to think about near misses, and it’s good to learn from these experiences, it’s also important not to dwell on the past.

“I’ve been given a lot of advice throughout my life, both good and bad, but I don’t regret my decisions to take or not take any of it,” Barger said. “I try not to look in the rearview mirror and or have any regrets. Everything is a valuable learning experience.”

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS