Q & A / JEANNINE STEIN : 'The Worst Advice I Ever Got Was . . .'

What's the worst advice you ever got?

Susan Feniger, co-owner and co-chef of City Restaurant and Border Grill:

"The message I got as a kid (from my parents) was to work very hard, be serious, be successful and make money--that's what you need to do to succeed in life. But that generation did not and does not still put value on people investing in themselves, who they are and their relationships. Maybe because they grew up during the Depression, but they grew up believing that you judged your life by how hard you worked, and there wasn't any value placed on vacations or dreaming or quiet time, because there wasn't a place for it. Maybe they didn't have the luxury.

"I think as a society we need to put more importance on having a life, separate from our work. There's plenty of time to work hard and be serious, and I have respect for that kind of work ethic. But I also respect the person who goes trekking through the mountains. There's value to that, too."

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Stephanie Beacham, actress:

"The worst advice I ever got was to 'follow your heart.' I think a lot of people have given me that advice. I think that you have to follow a combination with common sense, not just your heart. I don't think the world is as sentimental as I try to be. In a way, what you do is follow your heart and then put your head behind it. You (will) always be at the mercy of others if you don't use your head."

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Tim Groom, executive director, Beverly Hills Country Club:

"Some friends of mine and I were coming to the end of our senior year of high school, and we were sitting around wondering what to do. As far as college was concerned, my parents weren't going to pay for it, so I had to get loans or go into the (military) service. One of my friends decided that the military was the right thing. He was really gung-ho and said the Marines was the only way to go.

"So we went in. At that time, they had the buddy program, where the three of us could do the entire tour together. But when we got off the bus, we were immediately separated into three platoons for boot camp. We never saw each other during training or for the entire tour.

"Did I blame my friend? I think I did while I was in boot camp. My aunt had sent me some cookies, which was a real no-no, and I had to drink salt water. At that point, I think I was cussing my friend.

"If I had it to do all over again, I probably wouldn't do it. But it did pay for my college--that was the best thing I got out of it."

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ShadowHawk, comic book super-hero (as quoted by his creator, Jim Valentino):

"The worst advice I ever received was from my stepfather, who was an attorney. He told me to trust the justice system in our country. Pursuing this advice placed me in the most frustrating situation of my life when I followed in his footsteps and eventually served with the D.A.'s office. I set out to help my fellow man, but I found out all too quickly that the system would not allow that. The end result was my decision to re-create the justice system in the best way that I could. I became ShadowHawk."

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Doug Brignole, owner, Brignole Fitness Center, Pasadena:

"When I was 23 years old and starting my business, I had a number of people who told me that I'd never make it. It's been 10 years now, and we're in the process of expanding. A lot of times people are really conservative, and they tell you not to take chances. I think that's really bad advice. That's not to say you should take every chance or risk, but if you don't take any at all, you don't stand to gain. A calculated risk is a good thing.

"I think when I started, I was at an advantage in that I was young and didn't know enough to be afraid. And I would say to myself, people with a lot fewer assets or less intelligence have done what I'm about to do and been successful, so what makes me think I can't do it?"

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