Archives for June 2007
Last night I was a guest of my friend Nick Risom ,who is the ultimate professional and rainmaker of MARSH at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards dinner. What a night to see people from different industries basically turn their powerful ideas into thriving businesses. It goes back to the theory that you can achieve so much in life when you put your mind,talents and actions together.
I got a wonderful surprise also because I was able to reconnect with an amazing person at Ernst & Young, Paul Viti who I have known for years and has written the best book on Personal branding and lives his brand each day and for the firm.
What a great event for me to attend, learn and to connect and reconnect with terrific people and also have the opportunity to introduce some of my great friends together!
My friend and lawyer, Richard Weltman (who I met through an organization that we are both members of Executive Association of Greater New York) had breakfast today at Salute! on Madison Avenue.
As I walked through the door, I was immediately greeted by the wonderful hostess/manager- Marie Hallas who I had known years ago when she literally ran the breakfast room at the Regency Hotel for years! It was great to see her and what struck me about her over the years was her consistency in greeting people and great customer service. Whether she was talking to someone very famous and powerful or to me, she was the same and made you feel important and that she was happy to have you at her restaurant.
Richard and I had a great breakfast, his firm is in the same building and we are both going to make sure to spread the word about this ‘new’ power breakfast spot. It is all about creating word of mouth advertising through the wonderful connections you make in life.
I am a product of the NYC public school system.
Throughout my elementary and junior high days, I was placed
in a “SP Program”, where my classmates and I had more challenging classes and
higher expectations put upon us.
For example, in junior high everyone was enrolled in one
elective, usually home economics where students (mostly girls) learned to bake
cookies and a metal working/carpentry/repair shop where students (mostly boys)
learned how to fix air conditioners.
Being in “SP”, my classmates were educated in law and we
created our own student court system complete
with lawyers, judges, and a jury composed of students throughout the different
classes. At 13 we were taught tort law, were expected to speak in front of the
whole court house. We didn’t only need to understand the definitions of the
standard courtroom objections, but actually use them when representing our
clients (students who were picked on by bullies, or had their power ranger
action figure stolen etc.) in front of a student judge.
I caught up with some of my friends from my junior high school
SP class and chatted about what our classmates were doing now. Everyone was a
professional or doing an advanced degree. Bankers, medical students, lawyers,
engineers; I was the token marketer.
Over 90% of the students from my elementary school went on
to their zoned junior high school, and about 80% of the junior high students
went on to Lincoln High School, the zoned high school.
Like most of the students in the SP program, we didn’t go to
their zoned school, but went on to a different high school with tighter
I spoke with friend with whom I studied in the same schools all
the way from kindergarten to junior high. He wasn’t with me in the SP program,
but we would always chat together in the cafeteria. He told me was one of the handful
students from outside the SP program to graduate high school without a GED. Out of a class of 150—only a handful of non-SP
According to Wikipedia, just one or two generations prior,
Lincoln High School graduated some of the world’s most incredible talents,
· Paul Berg, class of 1943, won Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980
Karle, class of 1933, won Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985
Kornberg, class of 1933, won Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1959
· Mel Brooks, actor, writer, director, and comedy producer
· Larry Namer,
class of 1966, Founder of E! Entertainment TV network
Miller, class of 1932, author and playwright
· Neil Sedaka,
class of 1956, singer
Heller, class of 1941, author of Catch-22
· Marv Albert,
class of 1959, television sportscaster
Today, about half of the students who enter Lincoln High
School ever leave with a diploma.
The same friends I ate lunch together with were arrested for
driving stolen cars, are addicted to drugs, have joined gangs or got pregnant
at an early age. What went wrong?
We have a crisis on our hands. But is it a crisis of
education or expectations?
Everyone in my junior high school was given roles and expectations
to live up to, based on how educational bureaucrats viewed their test scores.
Being in SP, my teachers expected me work harder and my
family was proud of me and nudged me to do better and work harder. I was
educated to think for a living and the people around me enforced that
In the post-industrial
economy (whatever that means), our system of education can no longer divide the
student population into domestics, factory workers and professions. We all need
to be trained to think for a living.
What can we do to give our students, colleagues, employees
and greater community a higher expectation to live up to?
One of my heroes, Mohamed Yunus, winner of the
Nobel Peace Prize for his paradigm shifting micro-credit bank whose
model has taken tens of millions out of poverty, said this in an
interview with Charlie Rose:
"In a way, human beings are like bonzai trees. You
cut the seed from the best tree and plant it in the flowerpot, and it
grows only way high. Human beings and poor people are like bonzai
people. There is nothing wrong with the seed. Only society disallows
them to grow. If the society allowed them the soil to grow, they would
be just as tall as anybody else. Poverty is created by the systems that
I just got this note in the mail from my 7 year old nephew Rocky.
As you can see, he is starting to write his personal notes and build relationships at an early age. 🙂
I remember when he saw my first book a few years ago and he said–"I can’t wait to read your books, when I learn to read!!"
Of course, now he can have anything he wants from me!! –The power of relationship building!
My friend Ben Casnocha has a fantastic blog post on luck, which I have quoted in several of my speaking engagements.
A lot of things are important (passion, connections, emotional
intelligence, etc.) but luck doesn’t seem to be talked about much.
I don’t buy into the hype around “hard work.” Hard work is
important, but not the primary ingredient for successfully starting
something (be it a business, project, whatever). In my view, luck is
the single most underrated component of success.
There are many things you can do to maximize your chances of being lucky.
First, expose yourself to as much randomness as possible. Attend
conferences no one else is attending. Read books no one else is
reading. Talk to people no one else is talking to. Think and be
different. This has happened more times than not: I start talking to
someone at a dinner party, without any specific goal in mind, and he
just happens to know someone else who just happens to know something
critical for my business. That’s luck. That’s randomness.
Second, trust in probabilities of luck. I think life works in
valleys and mountains. Every time luck doesn’t go my way I believe a
piece of good luck is right around the corner. Every time I get lucky I
prepare myself for weathering a dip. Knowing this, I can always
mitigate a rough stretch and make the most of the good times.
Third, trick yourself. Self-deception is essential to maintain high
self-esteem. It’s OK to take more credit than you deserve, in your own
mind, for successes. It’s OK to think that you can outwork and
outpassion anyone who competes with you. It’s OK to attribute soaring
victories to a tireless work ethic. It’s OK if these are slight
exaggerations. After all, how many people attribute “good luck” to
their wins? Way less than people who attribute “bad luck” to their
losses! Stay humble, especially on the outside, but consider yourself
(privately) as unstoppable.
It’s very easy to dish out advice. Ask 20 entrepreneurs for their 20
keys to success and you’ll get 20 different, passionate answers. All
So, it’s time to stop listening and take the plunge!