Thursday, June 07, 2012

Michael Lewis – Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie

Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker and alumnus of my university, spoke at Princeton’s baccalaureate ceremony recently on the importance of luck and the part it plays in success.

Now, like many people out there, I have been one of those who was incredibly envious of Michael’s success, because much of it seemed borne out of having been lucky enough to sit next to the wife of a high-powered investment banker at a party. Long story short, the wife influenced her husband into giving him a job, and, for the next few years, Michael had a prime view of what went on in the murky world of banking, which subsequently enabled him to write Liar’s Poker. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lucky b******.

The good thing is, he’s incredibly self-aware of just how fortunate he has been, something which comes across clearly in his speech.

I especially loved this bit:

Above all, recognise that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.

I make this point because — along with this speech — it is something that will be easy for you to forget.

It’s sound advice and well worth remembering.

I’m constantly grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had in my life: for the fact that I grew up in one of the world’s more well-off economies, and one that placed so much emphasis on education, that my parents were loving and liberal and encouraged me to pursue a university education, and, after that, a career away from home, and that I’ve been sufficiently blessed to have amassed a decent amount of savings to enable me to have survived the last few months without working.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, I think it’s the gratitude that enables me to remain a decent human being, rather than one that’s too absorbed with one’s success.

You can read the full text of Michael Lewis’ speech here and watch it online here.

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