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Life advice from Harvey Specter

Harvey Specter of Suits has a strong case for being the best character on television. Here are some words to live by from the best closer in New York

Here at Square Mile we're big Suits fans, largely due to the swaggering presence of the brilliant lawyer Harvey Specter.

Sharper than a box of razor blades, more suave than George Clooney sipping a vodka martini, Harvey is one of life's winners, and knows it. He's also ridiculously quotable, regularly dispensing life lessons in the form of brilliant one-liners.

Here are a selection of the best bon mots from the man himself – and what you can learn from them.

“They think you care, they’ll walk all over you.”

Don’t take this as an excuse to act like a sociopath. It’s not that Harvey doesn’t care; it’s that he doesn’t show it. If your opponent knows you are emotionally invested in a transaction, they will use that knowledge to their advantage. Regardless of the stakes, always act as though you are willing to walk away.

"Winners don't make excuses when the other side plays the game."

Simple but vital. Nobody can win them all. What separates the winners from the rest is their willingness to accept responsibility and learn from their mistakes. Take a sales team experiencing a slow month. Jon blamed his failure to hit target on a depression in the market. Ethan came into the office an hour early every day and ultimately topped leaderboard. Jon accused Ethan of making the everyone look bad. Ethan isn’t getting sacked tomorrow morning.

“First impressions last. You start behind the eight ball, you’ll never get in front.”

‘Behind the eight ball’ is a pool expression, meaning to find yourself in an unfavourable position. The most obvious example is starting a new job: if you work late and cultivate relationships, you’ll thrive. If you shirk responsibility and spill coffee over the computer, maybe not so much. Once certain labels stick – “efficient”,“likeable”, “incompetent”, “lazy” – they can be mighty hard to shift. Make your first shot your best shot, and then keep improving.

"When you're backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down."

Sometimes you might find yourself in what appears to be an unwinnable situation. The best response? Come out swinging. Call their bluff. Leverage is only leverage if you allow it to be, and sometimes the best way to take away the opposition's supposed advantage is face it head-on. Or, to quote the childhood classic We're Going On A Bear Hunt: "if we can't go over it, and we can't go under it, we'll have to go through it."  

“I don’t get lucky, I make my own luck”

There’s a famous Gary Player quote: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” He was talking about golf but the fundamental message – work begets success – rings true across every walk of life. You can’t eliminate chance, but you can certainly attempt to negate it. How? Through practice, self-belief, and not making excuses.

“My respect isn’t demanded, it’s earned.”

Never respect someone just because they tell you to: judge them on their own merits. Often these merits are fluid. You can respect someone as a worker but not as a person, say, or vice versa. The important thing is you are meritocratic in your judgement; you don’t assume somebody to be a safe pair of hands simply because they claim to be.

"I don't have dreams, I have goals."

The difference between “I want…” and “I will…”. Don’t be the guy who’s spent the last 15 years telling everybody how he’d like to start his own company. That guy isn’t going anywhere. Be the guy who kept quiet and kept working. He started his own company last month.

“Life is this.” [Holds up hand.] “I like this.” [Raises hand.]

Don’t settle for the mundane. Push against it. Go big. An exciting professional life is a fulfilled professional life. And life’s too short not to be fulfilling – as Harvey would be the first to tell you.

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