Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life Lessons from Byron Wien

If you want to get ahead on your job, famed stock market strategist Byron Wien has some advice for you. Actually, his advice applies well to other areas of your life, too.

The Vice-Chairman of the Blackstone Group, formerly of Morgan Stanley and Pequot Capitol, Wien is best known to the public for his New Years’ predictions. I have had occasion to link to them on the blog.

Now, he is offering twenty life lessons. They are very good, indeed.

Herewith my versions of a few of them, with my notes:

1. Take risks. Wien suggests that you look for a big idea and then put yourself at risk implementing it. He himself took a giant risk by publishing his New Years’ surprises. He could have looked ridiculous; he could have been wrong.

Yet, success does not come to those who are constantly playing it safe. Life contains inevitable risks: embrace them.

Wien’s gamble worked out because we all spend a considerable amount of time projecting possible futures. We may not like to think of ourselves as crystal-ball-gazing prophets, but we all do it anyway. And we are right to do so. How can you plan for the future when you keep looking at the past?

2. Cultivate good relationships with people. Wien suggests that when you meet someone new, you should treat that person as a potential friend. Extend a hand of friendship and offer your trust.

Most of the time, it will work in your favor. At the least, you will develop your capacity for benevolence and generosity.

On those rare occasions when the person proves unworthy of your friendship, the fault will not lie with you.

Wien adds that you should cultivate relationships by sending off notes to people about topics of interest to them. It shows that you are thinking of them and respect their interests.

Of course, you already know that you should always say thank you. When someone does you a kind deed, Wien suggests that you send a hand-written note. It's more memorable than email.

Befriend those whose areas of interest and expertise have little to do with yours. Opening your mind to a new way of thinking is better than falling into a rut.

3. Read constantly. Surely, Wien is correct to emphasize this point. Many people know it, but few really do it. People who read more possess more information, know more about themselves and others and are better placed to make better decisions. 

It's better to live in the world than in your mind. 

You collect more information in a shorter period of time reading a newspaper or a book than you do watching television or listening to the radio.

Become a compulsive reader. Read widely and broadly. Begin with writers who can provide you with accurate information. Next, read commentaries and interpretations offered from different perspectives. Even if you do not agree, you will improve your thought by having your own ideas challenged.

And, make it a point to read people who write well. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t know how to write.

Wien doesn’t say so, but I will add: take notes, write things down. If you want to absorb what you have been reading, you should write down the facts and ideas that interest you and then add a few of your own.

Reading compulsively and writing notes will educate you far more than you can imagine.

Again, make both into daily habits.

4. Don’t brag. Your achievements should speak for themselves. If you have to tell people how great you are, you are showing them that you are young and insecure. If you are young and insecure, don’t advertise the fact. Pretend that you are old and confident.

That being said, never rest on your laurels. If you do, you will have nowhere to go but down. 

5. Good work is hard. When it comes to work, Wien says, the hard way is the right way. If your job feels like a breeze you are doing it wrong. The point is well worth underscoring: getting things right requires real effort. It is not a fun experience. It is often unpleasant. That’s why they call it work.

People who do their job effortlessly are usually taking short cuts and are handing in substandard work.

Don't let that person be you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've tried. I'm no Saint or Sage, but think I've been a good man w/flaws (which gnaw at my conscience, decades later). But I think it goes Beyond Free Will. In most cases, I could do no other. Even when it hurt like hell.

A 53 y/o friend is a semi-skilled manual laborer. His hands are palsied, knees shot, he's in continuous pain. I passed a Roofing truck on this muggy day. Roofers' work is brutal, lives truncated.

Like Mr. Wein (I suspect), I've been fortunate to earn my living in chairs, reading and writing. I've have the luxury of examining my Soul. I'm reminded of "Gunga Din". -- Rich Lara