Monday, July 5, 2004
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Life lessons from Robert Rubin
Over the past few weeks I've been slowly reading Robert Rubin and Jacob Weisberg's In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington. The style of Rubin's memoirs perfectly match his deliberative demeanor. I'm not finished yet, but so far there are two things worth singling out as tips for those who aspire to pominent positions in their lives:
posted by Dan on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM
I think that's only partially true. If Mr. Rubin had devoted his volunteer efforts to something not politically correct such as the Boy Scouts I very much doubt it would have worked.posted by: Brad Osburn on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
“If Mr. Rubin had devoted his volunteer efforts to something not politically correct such as the Boy Scouts I very much doubt it would have worked.”
I have ordered Robert Rubin’s book and should receive it before the end of the week. It is very doubtful if he would have helped his career by not being politically correct. Joining the Boy Scouts would have indeed been a career killer. However, this is the question I want answered: what in hell is Rubin doing in the Democrat Party of 2004? How can he delude himself that the free traders and economic growth advocates possess the determining influence? I’m convinced that Rubin’s arch enemies control the action. Am I wrong---or is Rubin a Democrat merely because it’s the cultural thing to do? Is he being played for a fool?posted by: David Thomson on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
If you want a fuller version of the "chance makes us" thesis, look at Taleeb's book. I think it's "Fooled by Randomness." The guy's more than a little egomaniacal, and the writing style can be painful, but he's another successful guy who is willing to admit that fortune follows luck. I think you could also make the argument that Warren Buffett has acknowledged as much. In the estate tax debate, IIRC, he acknowledged that it was luck, in part, that made him so good at profitably deploying capital, and luck, in whole, that placed him at a time when that is a valuable skill.
And (serious question - not snark) isn't it this acknowledgement of the importance of luck, particularly as regards initial conditions, that underlies the liberal belief in safety nets (or gov't insurance)? To the extent that you buy Rubin's thesis to some depth, shouldn't you buy the safety net arguments? I understand that the extent of the safety net remains debateable, but shouldn't the basic program be all but beyond question by now?posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
Dan--Thanks for reminding me of Rubin/Weisberg and of those points.
As I understand it, some law firms (perhaps most) encourage and often require outside involvement in order to drum up business. Rubin is merely enunciating a familiar principle here (heck, Harvey Mackay beats it into his readers' heads every chance he gets).
As for the "Boy Scout" argument: Hmm, do you think that maybe joining the elite world of the ABT might offer bigger chances for an investment banker than the ur-bourgeois Boy Scouts?posted by: Paul on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
I agree that luck plays a role, but let's not take that too far. As the former baseball executive Branch Rickey once said, "luck is the residue of design." If you prepare yourself and work hard, you are much more likely to be "lucky" than if you just screw around. Of course, the level of success you can expect is influenced by your natural attributes, so certainly good fortune plays a large part. Do you really think that a guy like Rubin would not have been successful without good fortune? Maybe not to the point that he is, but I have to believe he would have done ok anyway.posted by: MWS on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
But be careful, here, please.
If you'd like a demonstration that luck isn't really needed, let's look at people whose luck has turned around.... they've been poor all their lives... and then won the lottery.
The stats for such people, show an amazing percentage becoming poor again in a matter of years.... their attitudes about wealth..(note I didn't say 'money') never changed.posted by: Bithead on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
I appreciate Dan's thought, but am curious as to how he defines the parameters of this concept we call "doing good."
I'm not against ballet, and I think civic activities generally can be very worthy things. They aren't charity, though; no one would go hungry or sicken and die without the American Ballet Theater. I'm not knocking Rubin or denying that along with his civic activities he also did genuine charity work (or at least gave money to people who did). I just think it's useful to recognize distinctions between different kinds of activities outside the workplace.posted by: Zathras on 07.05.04 at 11:02 AM [permalink]
I believe I read an article in Fortune magazine
Also, didn't Napleon once proclaim that "chance
Being able to take advantage of an opportunity
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