Danny Meyer is a success in the hospitality business by just about any standard. What makes his so successful? It is actually a rather simple idea — that commitment to hospitality requires a better understanding of what hospitality is. He explains.
Sir Kenneth Clark was a brilliant art historian and much, much more. He led a charmed life. I found this comment about him in an article from the Guardian to be interesting
Clark was sealed off, a mystery, even to himself. “I have no aptitude for self-analysis,” he writes in his memoirs. “When I try to examine my character, I soon give up in despair.” Perhaps it was simply that it was better to look out than within, to see the barbarians at the gate not as the enemy, but as a helpful, even soothing distraction.
We find it odd that a man would not be intensely introspective. After all, we are urged forward to dissect and analyze ourselves on a routine basis.
Clark was not uninterested in who he was. The point is that he was much more interested in things outside of himself. It was a unique strategy focus that enabled him to learn much more deeply about the things that he loved.
It is great to hear about success stories — especially ones where success was not so easy to find. Where huge challenges had to be overcome. That is why I like the Jessica Mah story.
She has done a lot of stuff for a 24 year old. It makes me realize how much we all could do on any give day.
John Brockman has a great life. He is not a celebrity. Nor is he a creative genius. Nor does he create or disrupt great industries. But he has something that we all would want.
What is that? What is that thing that we all would give our left arm for? Ok, perhaps not the whole arm, but you get the point. John Brokman is connected to some of the smartest people in the world. They come to him with their work and he helps them connect with the public. He is their agent.
Brockman has his own ideas and they are interesting too. Check out the link to learn more. But from a strategic learning perspective, the most interesting thing is his access to the flow of amazing new ideas.
I am not a big fan of the Kardashian family. They embody something that I find a bit repulsive. The urge for celebrity without achievement. And by achievement, I mean achieving something that adds value to others. Instead, the Kardashians seem very happy to focus on using media to add value to themselves. This, I find to be manipulation.
But ok. One has to admit that they are pretty good at what they do. Mathew Ingram points this out. And I would add one point more. They are not afraid to be different. Indeed, their entire act is to stand out from the crowd. To be noticed.
Most of us don’t do this. In fact, I know very, very smart people who have a phobia about being different. And yet, they are unique despite themselves. And this uniqueness is something we cultivate when we start thinking strategically about our lives.
Here is the thing: pursuing uniqueness is an attitude. You need to cultivate it. The more your do that, the better you get at it and the more unique you become. To be more precise, you are already unique. With practice, you will be more in tune with those special qualities. You will feel more confident that they give you meaning in life. And unlike the Kardashionas, you can use that to add value to others. Not just become a celebrity.
Strategy is about coping with future unknowns. You can’t know these things because they haven’t happened yet. And the key strategic challenge is to reach into that bowl of unknowns and pull out an amazing focus point or points that bring your future to life.
But that involves taking risks. A lot of folks don’t like to take risk, and indeed psychologists tell us that humans are biased against choices that involve risk of loss. So assuming you have the model to think strategically, how do you cope with fear of failure?
Sometimes stories help. Check out this story of NBA coach Brett Brown, who has and continues to take quite a lot of career risks. Or at least it looks that way from the outside.
Peter Thiel is one of the more unusual characters of our time. He is a contrarian with a brilliant strategic sense. And, it is nice to add, wildly successful in business and investing. Like him or not (and I do not like some of his thinking), he presents an interesting model of what we all may be capable of … if we develop our own strategic sense. Fortune offers a nice profile.
Who is Bill Clinton? Before you answer, you have to think for a second. That is because Bill Clinton does the same thing. Before he does stuff, he thinks about what you want him to do. At least in part, he is who he thinks you want him to be.
We call that being the “ultimate politician”. And one has to admit that Bill is pretty damned good at it. Of course, he is not alone. He just does it better than a lot of other folks do.
Is that the only way to do politics? Of course not. Another way is to have the courage of your convictions. To say out what you think in order to be more proud of who you are. This is why I like the way Elizabeth Warren handles herself in Washington. Check out her comment on Eric Cantor’s new job on Wall Street.
Tim Ferriss has an innovative way of looking at the issue of learning. His main point is that we can go about learning with greater efficiency if we follow some simple rules.
So it is no surprise that Tim is a fan of Richard Feynman. Feynman had an amazing knack for figuring out very, very complex problems. And he did it using simple methods.
That is the point of mastering a learning strategy — life is complicated enough if you don’t know how to learn.
Felix Dennis passed on recently which gives us a chance to assess his life. He was a self-made man. More than that, he was perhaps one of the most successful self-made men you could imagine. He made his money in magazines. And here is what he had to say about being rich (from Daily Reckoning)
I have been very poor and I am now very rich. I am an optimist by nature. And I have the ability to write poetry and create the forest I am busy planting. Am I happy? No. Or, at least, only occasionally, when I am walking in the woods alone, or deeply ensconced in composing a difficult piece of verse, or sitting quietly with old friends over a bottle of wine. Or feeding a stray cat… I could do all those things without wealth.
The point is not that being rich is a bad thing. It is that achieving success is less satisfying that the adventure of getting there. How we structure our adventures is what matters. And that is a matter of strategy.