This book is a collection of memoirs and life lessons from leaders in diverse fields, ranging from investing (Warren Buffett), art (Marina Abramovic), business (several) to academia (Nitin Nohria). The content is surprisingly fresh and different from what one may have read from these same people elsewhere. The candid, reflective and conversational tone makes the book a great bedtime read.
Below are some snippets from each of the subjects.
Warren Buffett, investor
- Communication skills are extremely important. The $100 Dale Carnegie course on public speaking gave me the most important degree I have – it has had the most impact on my subsequent success.
- You have lived a successful life, if, as you grow older, the people who you hope love you actually do.
- Try to work for whomever you admire the most. Never work for people who make your stomach churn or who keep you up at night. If you are in that situation, consider changing that.
- Benjamin Graham, my mentor, consciously decide to become the type of person he admired – he made a list of qualities he deplored in people, and qualities he liked. He realized it was not difficult to adopt the latter, or to avoid the former.
- Operate within your circle of competence. The size of the circle of your competence does not matter as much as you knowing what its boundaries are. Knowing what to focus on is as important as knowing what to leave out.
- If you were told as a teenager, that you would get only one car for your entire life, you would take utmost care of it and never allow a scratch. Your body is this car. If you don’t take care of your mind and body now, by the time you are forty or fifty you will be like that car that can’t go anywhere.
Matthew Weiner, creator of the show Mad Men
- Weiner has multiple Golden Globes and Emmys today – but his path to success has been an extremely trying one. His first sort-of job was at age 30, until then he struggled as a writer.
- Thrive on rejection and hold on to compliments. The “I’ll show you” feeling is an extremely powerful motivator.
- “The biggest regret that I have in my career, is how much cruelty I showed to myself in the beginning for not having accomplished much. I spent much time trying to write, but paralyzed by how behind I felt. In retrospect, if I had only written a couple of pages a day, I would have written 500 pages by the end of the year, not counting weekends.”
- It took seven years for Mad Men script to be accepted. “I have lived everyday with the script as it were going to happen tomorrow. That’s the faith you need to have.”
- “I don’t harp on things, and I never, ever look back.”
- You don’t quit smoking for life, you quit for five minutes. Five minutes from now, you won’t want a cigarette. If you do, force yourself to stop for another five. Eventually, one of those fives will end in not wanting a cigarette. And then one day, you’ll think, “I’ve come so far and I don’t want to go back.”
- I like the Woody Allen quote – “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” In my early days developing Bloomberg, I would arrive at the deli across from the street from Merrill Lynch’s headquarters every morning at 6 am and buy both, coffee and tea, with and without milk, a few sugars on the side. I would walk into anyone available in the offices, and say “Hi, I am Mike Bloomberg. I bought you some coffee. I’d just like to bend your ear.” Nobody is going to say “Get outta here” if I just bought him or her a cup of coffee.
- Living well is the best revenge. “I have the same insecurities as everyone else, I just don’t let them get in my way.”
Sara Blakely, Spanx creator
- “I used to spend hours on my couch, not meditating or lazing, but visualizing who I wanted to be and what kind of life I wanted to live. I became very specific in my visualizations, and even wrote in my journals… I spent much of my free time trying to figure out what I really wanted out of life and my strengths were.”
- “I realized that I can find humor in anything, and needing some sort of creative outlet, I began to dabble in standup comedy at night.”
- Keep your idea hidden from people around you while it is nascent. Else you will spend most of your time protecting your idea instead of going for it.
- You have about fifteen seconds to capture someone’s attention – if you can make them smile or laugh, you get an extra fifteen to thirty.
- Book/Audiobook recommendation: How to be a no limits person.
Anderson Cooper, Journalist
- Sometimes you have to do drastic things to change the way people perceive you. Cooper was at a news firm as a fact-checker, he realized that people there saw him as a fact-checker and it would be very hard to move ‘up’ to a international reporter.
- “When you are much more interested in what you are doing than going out for a drink with friends, you have found your bliss.”
John Craig Venter, first to sequence the human genome
- Success in any field is largely about taking risks. At the same time, you can’t go straight into the wind. I like to start with quick and dirty experiments to gauge if we are on the right track. If we are, I get intensely focused and put 110 percent into proving it and making it work in an elegant fashion.
Hans Zimmer, Musician, Academy Award winner
- If you try to play it safe and pick a career because you think you should, it most likely won’t end well. Half of my musicians are doctors and the other half are lawyers whose parents forced them into those jobs. Whenever I need legal or medical advice, I stand in front of my orchestra and announce the problem.