Many years ago I read a great piece by Byron Wien. He was a financial expert at Blackstone Advisory Partners L. P. He spoke at an investment group about what he learned over the course of his career. He was encouraged to share his thoughts with a greater audience. Basically, it was the lessons he learned over the first 80 years of his life. He said he wants to practice them in the next 80 years. There were 20 points in all. Some will surprise you. All are just great reminders. Enjoy!
- If you want to be successful and live a long, stimulating life, keep yourself at risk intellectually all the time.
2. Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible. Nurture your network by sending articles, books and emails to people to show you’re thinking of them. Organize discussion groups to bring your thoughtful friends together.
3. When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed but your network will broaden if you follow the path.
4. Read all the time. Have a point of view before you start a book or article and see if what you think is confirmed or refuted by the author. You will read faster and comprehend more.
5. Get enough sleep.
6. Evolve. Try to think of your life in phases so you can avoid a burn-out. Do the number crunching in the early phase of your career. Try developing concepts later on. Stay at risk throughout the process.
7. Travel extensively. Try to get everywhere before you wear out. Attempt to meet local interesting people and keep in contact with them throughout your life.
8. When meeting someone new, try to find out what formative experience occurred in their lives before they were seventeen. It is my belief that some important event in everyone’s youth has an influence on everything that occurs afterwards.
9. My approach is to try and relieve pain rather than spread joy. Music, theatre and art museums have many affluent supporters and give the best parties etc. They don’t need you. Social services, hospitals and educational institutions can make the world a better place and help the disadvantaged make their way toward the American dream.
10. Younger people are naturally insecure and tend to overplay their accomplishments. Most people don’t become comfortable with who they are until they are in their 40’s. By that time they can underplay their achievements and become a nicer, more likeable person. Try to get to that point as soon as you can.
11. Take the time to give those who work for you a pat on the back when they do good work. It motivates and inspires people and encourages them to perform at a higher level.
12. When someone extends a kindness to you, write them a handwritten note, not an email. Handwritten notes make an impact and are not quickly forgotten.
13. At the beginning of the year think of ways you can do your job better than you have ever done it before. Write them down and look at what you have set out for yourself when the year is over.
14. The hard way is always the right way. Never take shortcuts except when driving home from the airport. Shortcuts can be construed as sloppiness, a career killer.
15. Don’t try to be better than your competition, try to be different.
16. When seeking a career as you come out of school or making a job change, always take the job that looks like it will be more enjoyable. If it pays the most, you are lucky. It it doesn’t, take it anyway. I took a severe pay cut to take each of the two best jobs I’ve ever had, and they both turned out to be exceptionally rewarding financially.
17. There is a perfect job out there for everyone. Most people never find it. Keep looking. The goal of life is to be a happy person and the right job is essential to that.
18. When your children are grown or if you have no children, always find someone younger to mentor. It is very satisfying to help someone steer through life’s obstacles and you’ll be surprised at how much you will learn in the process.
19. Every year try doing something you have never done before that is totally out of your comfort zone. This will add to the essential process of self-discovery.
20. Never retire. If you work forever, you can live forever. I know there is an abundance of biological evidence against this theory, but I’m going with it anyway.
The views expressed in this commentary are the personal views of Byron Wien of Blackstone Advisory Partners L P (together with affiliates Blackstone) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Blackstone itself.