Tonight the long-running “Late Show With David Letterman” draws to a close, and its host will retire from a career including more than three decades in late-night television. He is widely known for stunts—both off-the-wall and on-the-wall—and for making top 10 lists a cultural institution. Countless musicians and comedians have gotten their big breaks on his show. And with his directness and wry humor, he also happens to be the second-best interviewer on television (behind only Charlie Rose).
It’s only fitting to recognize the end of the era with a top 10 list. So here are the top 10 pieces of career advice Letterman has doled out over the years:
10. “There’s only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe—because I’ve done a little of this myself—pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing.”
9. “There is no off position on the genius switch.”
8. “Every big change in my life was full of trepidation….and they worked out beyond my wildest dreams.”
7. “I wish I wouldn’t have let the wrong things distract me.”
6. “I cannot sing, dance, or act. What else would I be but a talk show host?”
5. “Next in importance to having a good aim is to recognize when to pull the trigger.”
4. “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
3. “Any enormous uprooting change in my life has petrified me. Really petrified me. But once I’ve come through the other side, the reward has been unimaginable.”
2. “The guy in the race who spends more time looking over his shoulder, well, that’s the mistake.”
1. “I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work….And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.”
In short: Know your strengths. Try new things. Push yourself. Don’t fear change.
If you’re looking for career advice, you can’t go wrong in turning to someone who built such a long and successful career by playing to his strengths and interests rather than blindly following trends.