Seth Godin said it and I agree with him.
Over a two-year period (1908-1910), on an assignment for Andrew Carnegie, Napoleon Hill interviewed the most successful people in the world to learn what they shared in common. What was it?
The most successful people go “the extra mile.”
Think about that.
• They didn’t wait to be asked.
• They didn’t ask for permission.
• No one made them do it.
• Something needed to be done and done right.
• And they did it as best they could.
• They didn’t expect praise or recognition…and usually didn’t get it.
Almost always, they “went the extra mile” for someone else.
Out there, somewhere, someone needs your help now.
What are you waiting for?
People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, and their growth areas.
Here is a question – when the news could be bad, do you want to know? Think about it carefully before you answer…
George Friedman, founder of Stratfor, is the author of The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been…and Where We’re Going. It is the follow-up to an earlier book, The Next 100 Years. It raises many important questions, especially how the United States can maintain its values while managing its status as an empire.
But buried in the book is a question for all of us. Here are two quotes from the book to get us to this question:
(this first quote flows from his reflections of the 2008 financial crisis):
Everyone was making money and no one could get hurt – it was the oldest story in the book. And most people didn’t care or didn’t want to believe that the bubble could burst.
Americans like to hold everyone responsible for the problems of the United States but themselves.
There is an underlying truth here. Maybe it is a human truth – i.e., true for all people. Maybe it is somewhat uniquely American. I’m not sure. But I know it is true for me.
I don’t want to know the bad that I need to change. The bad habits; the bad views; the bad opinions; the bad practices. I would just as soon be “left alone.”
Now this is strange, because I have written and spoken frequently on the need to be honest with ourselves regarding our areas of concern, our areas of weakness. I believe that we must discover our blind spots, and fix what can be (must be!) fixed..
But, I suspect if you corner me, what I really believe is that you should discover your blind spots. You should discover your weaknesses, and work on them. Just don’t tell me what mine are….
So, I plead guilty. Friedman is right – at least, about me. We “don’t want to believe” that the bubble could burst – whatever the bubble of the day/month/year/lifetime is for our own lives.
Every year about this time, probably because of Presidents Day, I re-read brief biographies. This year, I selected Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th President of the United States. Bunting’s one of the two, the other written by Michael Korda and included among the volumes that comprise the Atlas Books/HarperCollins’ “Eminent Lives” series, with James Atlas serving as general editor. Although both cover much of the same material, there are significant differences between their authors’ respective approaches to the18th president of the United States.
For example, Korda duly acknowledges the problems that awaited Grant after he was elected to his first term in 1869. “What did Grant’s reputation as a president in, however, (and continues to do so today whenever journalists and historians are drawing up lists of the best presidents vs. the worst ones), was the depression of 1873, which ushered in a long period of unemployment and distress, made politically more damaging by accusations that the president’s wealthy friends were making money out of it.” Given that the United States was growing too fast, in too many different directions at once, and the inevitable consequence was corruption and an unstable economy, it would have taken a more astute man than Grant to slow things down or clean them up.”
It is soon obvious in this volume that Bunting disagrees with, indeed resents the fact that Grant is generally remembered “as a general, not a president, [which] explains in part the condescension – there is no better word for it — from which pundits and historians have tended to write of him.” Bunting asserts that if judged by the consequences of Grant’s common sense, judgment, and intuition, his presidency, “so far from being one of the nation’s worst, may yet be seen as one of the best.”
Korda indicates no inclination to view Grant’s presidency as “one of the best.” He duly acknowledges the problems that awaited Grant after he was elected to his first term in 1869. “What did Grant’s reputation as a president in, however, (and continues to do so today whenever journalists and historians are drawing up lists of the best presidents vs. the worst ones), was the depression of 1873, which ushered in a long period of unemployment and distress, made politically more damaging by accusations that the president’s wealthy friends were making money out of it.” Given that the United States was growing too fast, in too many different directions at once, and the inevitable consequence was corruption and an unstable economy, “it would have taken a more astute man than Grant to slow things down or clean them up.”
This last observation by Korda is consistent with a contemporary assessment of Grant by the Edinburgh Review, one which Brooks Simpson quotes in his own study (Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction 1861-1868), and which Bunting also cites: “To bind up the wounds left by the war, to restore concord to the still distracted Union, to ensure real freedom to the Southern Negro, and full justice to the southern white; these are indeed tasks which might tax the powers of Washington himself or a greater than Washington, if such a man is to be found.”
With all due respect to Grant’s admirable personal qualities, I remain unconvinced by Bunting’s eloquent but – in my judgment – problematic endorsement of Grant’s leadership as president. The same “buck” that stops on a desk on a battlefield in Virginia also stops on a desk in the Oval Office.
Both Korda and Bunting cite a number of other sources worthy of consideration.
Here is another outstanding interview in the McKinsey Conversations with Global Leaders series. To watch the conversation in a video interactive, or download a PDF of the transcript, please click here.
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The former CEO reflects on the oil industry’s future, as well as management lessons learned over a long career.
Source: Operations Practice
Jeroen van der Veer, former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, retired on June 30 of this year, bringing to a close his 38 years with the company. In this video, the latest in our interview series McKinsey Conversations with Global Leaders, van der Veer shares his thoughts on the future of oil, prospects for alternative energies, and challenges the industry faces in tackling the problems of climate change. Ivo Bozon, a director in McKinsey’s Amsterdam office, conducted this interview in The Hague in June 2009.
Watch the conversation in our video interactive, or read the transcript below.