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Summer 08: Learning Beyond the Classroom

  |   Leadership   |   No comment

Wow, summer is officially here and school is out. Even though students are taking a break from the classroom, many of them are learning new lessons in other environments, in particular, the working world. I’ve had the opportunity to observe three young individuals who are doing this and as a result, I’m revisiting some of the lessons that I’ve encountered in my own career:

  • Lesson 1: To be the best, you have to train the hardest. A rising senior at Harvard, my oldest son Michael is spending his summer at Goldman Sachs where he is working over 100 hours a week. His experience is mirrored by other outstanding students and recent graduates on Wall Street, all of whom understand this process of starting out in order to succeed. For many, it seems intangible to work 100+ hours a week, but every point in my career has always started out this way whether it be the years I spent training at McKinsey, the early stages of companies I formed, or even my experience here at Mzinga building it up to be the leader in enterprise social media. My son and his peers, professional athletes like Tiger Woods, CEO’s like Steve Jobs, and even my business partner Rick Faulk, our success is not coincidental or attributed to luck. We are all linked by the following: hardwork, perseverance, and vision. There are people like Tim Ferris who preach about four hour work weeks, but the concept is foreign to me. There are 30 years that separate Michael and I and countless works hours spent between the both of us. At the end of the day we share a common goal – to be the very best at what we do.Bottom Line: There are no shortcuts to long-term success.
  • Lesson 2: Be passionate about your work. I have to give credit to my younger son, Adam, for reminding me to recognize the value of passion in the workplace. As a summer intern at U.S. Genomics, Adam is loving his first job. Ever since he was young, he aspired to be an engineer, constantly taking things apart only to piece them back together again. Today, he’s part of a great bio-tech firm where he constructs biotech devices. He loves his work so much that he doesn’t think of it as workit’s just an extension of his life, 18 years of passion finally being applied. Having observed Adam, I’ve been forced to think about myself and my career. I’ve asked myself to identify the type of passion I bring to the table and I’m happy to say that it’s the same passion that got me started thirteen years ago. I spend every day thinking about leadership, organizational design, social applications and technology, and how it can all be pieced together to make this world a better place. It’s this passion that has kept me going, the same driving force that makes 100 hour work weeks bearable, and every day rewarding. Bottom Line: Without passion, work is just work.
  • Lesson 3: It’s not enough to be successful on your own. You have to help others do the same. I have re-learned a third lesson from a young professional who just joined me from Columbia University (Barnard to be more exact). Her name is Alexa Scordato. Alexa has reminded me that as a leader, it is my job to give back and mentor those who want to be great and learn how to be successful. Along my journey, I have been mentored by wonderful leaders at Mckinsey &Company, Hancock and Arthur Anderson. At each of those firms, there was always someone there to help me navigate the organization, learn the ropes and protect me along the way. As such, directly and indirectly, Alexa has reminded me of the importance of giving back. Bottom Line: Help others succeed and you will be successful.

In short, Michael, Adam, and Alexa have each re-taught me to work hard, be passionate, and give back (For those of you who know me, I always think in 3′s, hence the nick name Barry “Three Things” Libert). I look forward to the other lessons I’ll encounter with them as the summer progresses and where this will take us in the fall and beyond.

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