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Stay Curious: Wise Words from a ‘Wise Guy’

Favorite lessons from Guy Kawasaki's new book.

By Ruth Carter

A few months ago, my Attorney at Work editor sent me a preview of Guy Kawasaki’s new book, “Wise Guy.” Given that Kawasaki is an entrepreneur, brand ambassador and speaker, I assumed it would be a business book. Instead, it is a collection of stories and personal lessons he gained from his lived experience.

A quick read, Kawasaki writes about his Hawaiian upbringing, his job history — including “two tours of duty at Apple” — and parenthood, among other things. He also shares the story about how he quit law school after two weeks.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

Guy’s Wisdom on Being an Entrepreneur

“Entrepreneurship is a marathon combined with a decathlon — that is, you have to do a lot of things well for a long time.”

Yes! This is a perfect way to describe what it’s like to be an entrepreneur to someone who has never started their own business. There are so many facets that go into running an effective business.

“Don’t get cocky when things are good, or too negative when things are bad. Life regresses to the mean over the long run. The wisdom is to keep working at it in order to raise the mean.”

Oh … I like this.

“Anyone who really wants to get in touch with you will follow up multiple times.”

On the flip side, don’t give up if someone doesn’t respond the first time you try to contact them. Always follow up. I’ve had more success from my follow-ups than my initial attempt at contact. (Pro tip: If you’re trying to reach someone by email, don’t follow up to your first email by sending a second email. Instead, send a reply to your first email so you don’t have to repeat yourself.)

Guy’s Wisdom on Marketing

Kawasaki is widely considered to be one of the most influential social media users.

“Act as if every social media profile is your professional profile.”

Kawasaki also says, “Make your personal interests known.” It’s a “powerful way to make you more interesting and approachable,” which is absolutely true. Talking about hobbies is much more interesting than your law practice. If you haven’t done so yet, consider adding your hobbies to your bio on your law firm’s website.

“It’s not enough to make a great product — you also need to position it and explain it as a way to improve lives.”

This is how all lawyers should be taught to market their practice. No one cares what we do, but rather how it helps them.

“Add value to people’s lives. Provide value, and social media becomes a fast, free, ubiquitous, and powerful tool.”

Agreed! To date, I have not spent any money on my social media – just time and creativity. I still get a substantial number of clients as a result of my blog and YouTube channel.

“Your cover photo should establish that you are an interesting person, so tell your story with it.”

I’ve never given much thought to my cover photo, but I will now. Does your cover photo tell a story?

Guy’s Wisdom for Writing a Book

“Wise Guy” is Kawasaki’s 15th book. He knows what he’s talking about.

“Read to write. Great writers are great readers. The writing of others can inspire, motivate, and challenge you.”

The more I read, the more I’m inspired to write.

“Have something to say. The only time you should write a book is when you have something important to convey. Fame, fortune, credibility, and other fantasies are not good reasons to do so. You should feel a moral obligation to write for the benefit of mankind. That’s the test for whether the ‘book in you’ should come out.”

Writing a book is arduous. You will need something to keep you going when the last thing you want to do is sit down and type for hours.

“Spend two hours building up your social media following for every hour you spend writing. Start this the day you decide to write a book because you’ll find that marketing a book is harder than writing it.”

Agreed. Marketing a book is much harder than writing it. This would be a fascinating experiment to take on the next time I write a book.

My Five Personal Favorites from “Wise Guy”

  • “Seek out and embrace people who challenge you.”
  • “Be curious. Mistakes and failures can yield opportunities. If you have the right mindset, the opposite of success is not failure it’s learning.”
  • “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.”
  • “Honesty is a test of your competence and character. You need intelligence to recognize what is true, and you need strength to speak it.”
  • “It’s good to cover your ass when you’re bending the rules.”

I had four pages of potential quotes from “Wise Guy” to pare down for this month’s column. The book is also loaded with recommendations for other books to read, so I now have seven more books on my reading list. If you’re looking for a book with lots of stories with nuggets of wisdom, “Wise Guy” is a good choice.

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Ruth Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at and

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