Life Health & Wellbeing

Friday 20 July 2018

The best advice I have ever received

Irish personalities reveal to Katie Byrne the essential words of wisdom that have guided them through life

Broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan. Photo: David Conachy.
Broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan. Photo: David Conachy.
Emma Hannigan
Maia Dunphy
Alan Hughes
Anna Daly
Eoghan McDermott
Louise O'Neill
Nadia Forde
Richard Flood
Rosanna Davison

We're bombarded with advice these days, yet it's rare to discover a pearl of wisdom that really resonates. We asked 10 Irish personalities to share the life-affirming advice that has served them well.


"There are two pieces of advice I have received in my life, which I use on an almost daily basis. They are both very simple, but very powerful.

"The first was from the late, great Seamus Heaney via the late, great John McGahern: 'If and when you meet someone difficult in life, treat them with implacable courtesy.' I use this all the time and it nearly always works. They are so disarmed by your politeness that they usually back down.

"The second piece of advice was from my wonderful Kerry father, who came from a small holding in Kerry and became a senior civil servant. He was incredibly sound. He said if at any time you come across someone in either your personal or professional life who is causing problems or headaches for you, make a conscious decision the next time you come across them to stop worrying about them, and let them worry about you. It works a treat."


"The best advice I ever received was 'What other people say about you is none of your business.'

"I had spent so much time thinking about the impression I was making on those around me and trying to control the way in which I was perceived, I never gave any thought to how I felt.

"I think we should spend less time worrying about what others think of us and concentrate on exploring how we feel about ourselves."

Louise O' Neill's most recent novel, Asking For It, is a bestseller and was named the overall book of the year at the Irish Book Awards.

MAIA DUNPHY, producer, broadcaster and writer

"Most advice I've taken on board (probably years after it was given) comes from my parents. My mum always told me that nothing is ever that bad. As a perpetual worrier, it's helpful to remember that.

"My dad once told me that you can't spend your life trying to fix people, which I suspect I was often trying to do. The piece of advice I'd happily kick to touch is the classic 'What's for you won't pass you by.'

"People only ever dispense this gem when they don't know what else to say. And whoever coined it obviously never missed a bus."

ROSANNA DAVISON, model, nutritional therapist and cookbook author

"The best advice I ever received is that you simply cannot please everybody all of the time, and that it's more important to live a life that makes you happy than to worry about pleasing everyone else.

"I used to worry far too much about what others thought of me, and said yes to everything to keep people happy. Now, I put my energy into my loved ones and living a life that I love. Life is too short and too precious to worry about what strangers think."


"'Don't tell lies unless you have a very good memory.' My dad told me this a long time ago and it's always stood to me. Even if it seems harder in some situations, the truth always prevails."

Emma Hannigan's novel The Perfect Gift, published by Hachette Ireland, is out now

ALAN HUGHES, TV presenter

"The best advice I ever received was 22 years ago when I met my husband Karl… and that was 'It's nice to be nice' and 'Just be yourself'.

"I was living alone and struggling to build a career. I was a bit shy but disguised it with bravado. He didn't like that… I was trying to meet the right people and avoid the 'perceived' wrong people. I see it today: people talk to you at a party while looking over their shoulders for someone more important… and you have to laugh.

"Karl said: 'The Queen of England will be nice to whoever she wants because she has no fear... so will Julia Roberts.' He was right. I was trying to be something I wasn't and was afraid to be found out. As soon as I started being myself, doors opened. A few months later, I went for an audition for the TV show Talk About and, to my total surprise, I got the gig."


"The best advice I received was from my father a few years ago. I had been struggling to find consistency in my work and was feeling very frustrated as things were not moving at the pace I wanted.

"His advice to me was, 'Life is not a sprint, it's a marathon.' What he was saying was that what's important is to work hard and be committed to what you're doing and the things you want will eventually come. It is very important, especially in this industry, to be able to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Embrace the struggle and you will learn more than you realised was possible."

ANNA DALY, TV presenter

"The best advice I ever received was to be true to myself. Most of the time, you know in your gut if there's something amiss or something feels right. Be assertive but not overpowering. Stand up for yourself when necessary but choose your battles wisely. Don't complain if you're not going to act on it and try to change it. Ambition isn't a dirty word but I find the harder I work, the luckier I get!"

NADIA FORDE, model, singer and actress

"I think the best piece of advice I've received was from my best friend Debbie. She said, 'You can't control how other people act or what they say or do.'

"There's been so many times I've worried or have been upset over how other people have been treated or how I've been treated and I think there's a huge realisation that comes once you understand that it's no reflection on you and there's nothing you can do to change it. There's a huge weight lifted.

"Life is so short, so spending what time we have with good, positive, loving people and doing the things you love is what will make you happy."


"It's a massive cliché - and also a Nike slogan - but the best advice I ever received was 'Just do it.'

"I studied politics and Irish in UCD but I wasn't firmly set on what I wanted to do. I ended up taking loads of dance classes - street and hip-hop - and I started flying to LA and London for masterclasses.

"My head was telling me that I should become a teacher; my heart was telling me to follow my passion. Eventually, I went to mum and dad and said, 'I want to be a dancer.' I thought they were going to cry and wonder where they went wrong. Actually, they were all for it. So I auditioned for a prestigious dance college in New York and I got in. That kicked off my dance career.

"Back in Ireland, we ended up opening some shows on the Chris Brown tour. During one of those shows, there was someone working on the TG4 show Seacht in the audience. I got a role on the show. On the back of that, the channel offered me a gig on Pop4. Then Spin 1038 got in touch and then I met the boss of XFM in London.

"There was no obvious goal in sight except doing what I really wanted to do."

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