How ‘Bout We Stop Using This Word

For a myriad of reasons, I hate the word “success.” The main reason, I suppose, is because the way we associate it with wealth. I guess I’m too old to fall for that line; I know better. Which is why this perverted use of the word is so annoying. Because it perpetuates a fraud. And misleads our youth. And takes people’s eye off the ball — the one that truly matters.

Donald McCullogh, in Waking From The American Dream, makes the point in stark terms as he described the fortunes of seven well-known successful men:

“In 1923, seven men who had made it to the top of the financial success pyramid met together at the Edgewater Hotel in Chicago. Collectively, they controlled more wealth than the entire United States Treasury, and for years the media had held them up as examples of success.

Who were they? Charles M. Schwab, president of the world’s largest steel company; Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator of his day; Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange; Albert Fall, a member of the President’s Cabinet; Jesse Livermore, the greatest bear on Wall Street; Leon Fraser, president of the International Bank of Settlement; and Ivar Kreuger, the head of the world’s largest monopoly.

What happened to them? Schwab and Cutten both died broke; Whitney spent years of his life in Sing Sing penitentiary; Fall also spent years in prison, but was released so he could die at home; and the others? Livermore, Fraser, and Kreuger, committed suicide.”

I think the world would be better off if we simply stopped using the word. I’m pretty sure our kids would be better off.

What Can We Learn from Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens is remarkable. He’s the coach of the Boston Celtics. Before that, he coached the Butler Bulldogs. Some people consider him to be the best basketball coach in America. Why is he held in such high regard? Well, of course, it’s because his teams win. But it’s more than that: it’s because his teams win against teams with superior talent. In other words, his teams win because of him.

Other teams win because of their coach — sometimes. Some teams win in spite of their coach. And some teams lose because of their coach. But Mr. Stevens’ teams log more wins because of their coach than other teams — at least that’s what the evidence suggests. Mr. Stevens is that good.

So what’s the difference? It’s important to know because the skills are probably transferable. In other words, the same qualities are likely to yield similar outstanding performance in other arenas, whether they be in business or nonprofits.

From what I’ve been able to discern, here are some of the keys to Mr. Stevens’ success: Continue reading

Even Rome Wasn’t Burnt In a Day

Conservative author and pundit Jonah Goldberg recently reminded us that “even Rome wasn’t burnt in a day.” He was talking about the United States. And what he sees as our country’s decline.

Sven Henrich was even more pointed:

If you ever wanted to understand how the all powerful Roman empire ended up destroying itself, just watch the news in 2017.

More recently, James Traub authored an article in Foreign Policy titled “The United States of America Is Decadent and Depraved,” wherein he observed that:

Decadence is usually understood as an irreversible condition — the last stage before collapse. … But as American decadence is distinctive, perhaps America’s fate may be, too.

At the close of the year, in an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader delivered a stinging critique of the current state of America, in a column titled The Visionless Society.

I don’t know if America is in decline. But I have to admit: it feels like Messrs. Goldberg, Henrich, Traub and Nader could be right.

Mainly, I feel this way because of 11 specific factors.  Continue reading