Category Archives: Books

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: Love of learning

Love of learning
By Michael Berland
Published December 14, 2009

Q: A recent series in The Post painted a bleak picture of the prospects for millions of U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants, who will play an outsized role in the future of the American workforce but are dropping out of high school in greater numbers than other any other U.S.-born racial or ethnic group. What needs to be done to help more of these young people succeed in school and get college degrees?

In this excellent series on the U.S.-born kids of Hispanic immigrants, a recurring theme in several of the articles is that parenthood often forces these teens and young adults into taking their own lives seriously for the first time.

On the one hand, it’s good that parenthood can make young people of any background suddenly want to make a success of themselves. And parents in their teens and twenties are holding onto their dreams of graduating from high-school or even college some day.

On the other hand, it’s tragic the sudden desire for betterment, as reported here, often happens after many mistakes that can have lifelong consequences, including years of poor scholarship and, in the case of several of the young men profiled in the series, criminal activity.

I was most alarmed by the article “Young, Latina and Already a Mom” about teen sisters Angela and Edelmira who deliberately had babies so that their parents would stop trying to separate them from their boyfriends. Their story made me realize the importance of a truly comprehensive and culturally relevant sex education that addresses why it’s self-defeating to use pregnancy and parenthood as strategies to manipulate situations and people.

More generally, the key for all young people is to ignite early on a love for learning; a sense of fulfillment; a curiosity about and an ability to understand and communicate with a world outside the world they know. That’s something that immigrant parents who don’t speak English can teach.

When you love learning, it becomes the carrot you end up following and that leads you to make the choices to lead your best life. When the carrot works, you don’t need a stick.

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: Bouncing back better

Bouncing back better
By Michael Berland
Published December 11, 2009

Q: What’s the right response when you come tantalizingly close to success but fail to achieve your goal? How hard is it to recover from heartbreaking setbacks like the ones the Washington Redskins have endured in recent weeks? How often have you experienced reversals that tested your own spirit?

I have advised and consulted for many political candidates, and one of the things that everyone knows is that you typically lose before you win. It’s very rare to win every race — bang, bang, bang.

After serving as a legislator, Barack Obama lost his first run for Congress in 2000. After his first term as the youngest governor in the country, at age 32, Bill Clinton lost his governorship of Arkansas, then came back to serve 10 years before becoming our nation’s president.

One candidate I worked for is New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who learned this lesson before he even jumped from business into politics: He was fired from Solomon Brothers … and then went on to start Bloomberg LLP. Maybe that’s what made him such a formidable candidate.

In our research for What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It – And What You Can Learn from Them, my co-author, Douglas E. Schoen, and I interviewed a lot of people outside politics who overcame enormous challenges to achieve success in their fields — in business, sports, fashion, entertainment and so on.

For a lot of people nowadays, that setback is a layoff or a company closing. One of my favorite stories from our book is that of a guy named Barry Sternlicht who was a star at his companies and a father-to-be in his early 30s. In the downturn of 1991, he was laid off. He was demoralized by the setback:

“I was making money, making deals, and making friends. I was making a life for myself. They were high times, and life was good. … I was let go. I was shocked. Everything I had was lost: the dream job, the huge deals, the great salary, all of it. Of all the great tragedies in the world, this wasn’t the greatest. But when that conversation came, it didn’t feel that way. But it didn’t take me long to realize where I stood …

“I decided to go off on my own. I figured that all the things that made me successful [thus far]… could make me successful on my own. I was creative and had stamina and desire. I saw that my greatest strengths were my passion, memory, and perseverance. And it was around then, after the challenges of crashing down from the highs of the years before, that I realized just how important that last trait is. Perseverance is genius in disguise. If only I could persevere, I could succeed.”

Barry Sternlicht went on to become the founder of Starwood Capital and Starwood Hotels, with more than 850 properties in 80 countries (including W Hotels, which he created, and St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin and Le Meridien properties).

My accomplishments are minor by comparison. But every time I achieve something great, there is always a setback first. If it’s been a while since your last professional setback, you are probably coasting, which is a nice word for stagnating. Setbacks are how you know you are on the road to overcoming a challenge, toward growth, toward somewhere different.

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: False idols

False idols
By Michael Berland
Published December 4, 2009

Q: Is the culture of celebrity and reality TV eroding our understanding of what constitutes success? What should we tell our children about people such as Tareq and Michaele Salahi who apparently crashed a White House state dinner in pursuit of reality TV fame?

The culture of celebrity confuses young people and creates false idols.

There’s nothing wrong with the spate of “reality” talent shows that allow great dancers, singers, chefs and clothing designers to show what they can do and try to make it in those very competitive creative worlds.

But even within Hollywood, media give equal, if not more attention, to poorly behaved stars — especially of the do-nothing trash reality genre– than to the legitimately talented.

In the case of the Salahis, who crashed the state dinner for the prime minister of India in an apparently not too misguided effort to become part of the reality TV fame machine, my fellow “On Success” panelist Patricia McGuire is absolutely right when she says that instead of focusing on the gate crashers, it’s important to talk about “the legitimate guest list and why people of achievement were invited to the White House.”

Among the invited guests were stars in medicine, film, literature, public service, journalism, classical music, diplomacy, business, and so on. For some of those people, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, a reward that recognized a lifetime of hard work, sacrifice and risk-taking of the kind that doesn’t thwart measures to protect the executive brand of our government.

Frankly, I think that we shouldn’t even be talking about the Salahis a week later, even in this “legitimate” forum of The Washington Post column on success. In my opinion, their names shouldn’t be Google-able with the word “success.” Continuing this discourse just gives them and people like them further incentive to engage in acts of this kind — like rewarding a kid with a lot of attention when he behaves poorly.

And that’s a comparison that even a child would understand.

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: Doing good

Doing good
By Michael Berland
Published November 30, 2009

Q: Why has Oprah Winfrey been so successful as a TV talk-show host? Does it make sense for her to end her syndicated talk show in 2011 when she’s still dominating the daytime ratings? Can you imagine anyone replicating the following she’s been able to build?

Oprah has been so successful because of her integrity — by which I mean her personal authenticity as well as her ability to take on endeavors that fit with who she is as part of a larger whole.

Oprah embodies very clearly one of the four success archetypes that I and my co-author, Douglas E. Schoen, identified in our research for What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It — And What You Can Learn from Them. She is what we called a “Do-Gooder.”

Do-Gooders get their greatest satisfaction from working for the greater good and helping other people. That’s what motivates them. Everything else that comes with success is collateral. Do-Gooders are all about personal contact and connection. (And luckily for Oprah, personal contact and connection that make Do-Gooders thrive are the very same skills that make a great talk-show host!)

Oprah also has some of the qualities of the “Visionary” success archetype. Visionaries are the people who change our world, who see beyond the accepted models.

The evidence of both archetypes is that she’s used her talk-show success as a foundation from which to envision and build a full-scale, multi-media empire (broadcast TV, film, magazines, book publishing, radio, online and so on, cable) to help people live a well-examined, enriching, mentally healthy, empowered life.

What makes her a successful leader (a real business leader as opposed to just another great entertainment personality) is that she hasn’t been competitive with the talent she’s met along the way. She has brought that talent along with her — Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, even her best friend, Gayle King. Their success is her success.

But I think what has helped her achieve that success is that she was able to recognize early on who she is and to put herself in situations that value who she is.

There’s a well-known story about her that demonstrates even more what I mean. At the local TV news station in Baltimore where she worked before she moved to Chicago, she would get too emotional to report the news — if the story was sad, she would tear up; if it was funny, she would laugh. Did she quit broadcasting? No. She moved from straight-news to a talk show, where being emotionally connected to the topic is an asset, not a liability. She didn’t change who she was.

And setting her exit date for her syndicated TV show now while she is ahead, so she can give her full attention to new cable venture with Discovery Communications is right in character for her.

That’s authenticity.

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: At the core

At the core
By Michael Berland
Published November 23, 2009

Q: Do financially successful people have an obligation to help those in need? Are Bill and Melinda Gates, who have given away hundreds of millions of dollars through their foundation, encouraging others to step up to the plate? How much should people who have made millions be expected to give?

The ability to make a difference to others can be a much more fulfilling measure of success than a fancy title or having your company championed in a leading business or trade publication. And being able to offer a fraction of your income as financial support to people in need or to causes you believe in can be a big part of that.

Often there’s a moral or religious component to this for people, whether it’s tithing, as in Christian traditions, tzedakah as in Judaism, or zakat or sadaqah as in Islam. That can feel very gratifying for individuals. But, increasingly, many businesses are baking their charitable, community and cause-related commitments into their core mission.

Roger Barnett is the chair and CEO of Shaklee, the top natural nutrition company in the United States. When I interviewed him as one of the super-successful people for What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It — And What You Can Learn from Them, he told me: “I’ve always been fascinated with that approach — trying to leverage private sector techniques for public sector goals. I was sure I’d eventually have to choose, but I kept trying to combine the two.” He’s worked really hard to achieve that at Shaklee.

The nonprofit B Corporation is leading the way in helping other businesses to embed community and charitable commitments into their corporate governing documents so that those commitments can survive new investors, new management and even new ownership. So, doing good becomes not just a choice that financially successful individuals make one by one, or even a happenstance business byproduct — but rather an official commitment by a company’s leaders, employees and stakeholders.

My friend Susan Smith Ellis is CEO of (PRODUCT) RED, the groundbreaking initiative founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver that creates retail commerce opportunities to fund the fight against AIDS in Africa. She put it best: “What [all] we do, as individuals or as companies, is not just business. We’re not just part of an economy. We’re part of a society. And what we do matters beyond the boundaries of our immediate stakeholders.”

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: Luck and timing

Luck and timing
By Michael Berland
Published November 20, 2009

Q: How much does achieving success rely on luck vs. skill? Recently, a Western Maryland lumberjack named Darvin Moon won $5 million in the World Series of Poker. He insists he is no more skilled at cards than any recreational player. What do you think?

Most of the super-successful people interviewed for What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It — And What You Can Learn from Them used the word lucky when describing the arc of their success. Most people understand that chance favors the prepared and they equate luck with timing more than anything else.

While they may have been fortunate in different ways, the fact that so many of rock stars in business, sports, entertainment, fashion etc. use the word “lucky” is a sign that they’re thankful for their success — that they understand the value of humility. In their own words, here what four of the 50 people we interviewed had to say on the subject.

Jake Burton, owner and chairman, Burton Snowboards:
“Some of it is out of your hands; it’s just luck, timing. Of course, to a certain extent timing is luck. If I’d tried to do what I did ten years earlier, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I think snowboarding eventually would have come around one way or another, but I think the timing was just perfect. … Not everyone is lucky enough to stumble on something that will take him to the level I’ve reached. But you can’t go wrong if you’re doing what you love.”

The late Don Hewitt, who created CBS News’ “60 Minutes”:
“Even though ’60 Minutes’ is the most watched, most honored, and most profitable broadcast of its kind in television history, I have to admit that my success in television was the product of a large dose of luck and a small dose of wisdom — just enough to capitalize on the luck.”

Brian France, chairman and CEO, NASCAR:
“I think the desire to be excellent, in whatever industry you choose, is crucial to success. … I’ve had a few moments of luck along the way. I’m not saying you have to have good luck to succeed, that if you don’t, you’re dead. You still have to have all the other things. But a little luck helps.”

Jeff Zucker, president and CEO, NBC Universal:
“I believe in luck, of course. I think there’s a degree of luck in all of this. But you’ve got to prepare for luck. You can’t just count on it. Great preparation puts you in the position to enjoy that luck and succeed even more.”

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: Finding your right role

Finding your right role
By Michael Berland
Published November 6, 2009

Q: Does success breed success? Are people more likely to succeed if they wind up with a successful organization like the New York Yankees or performing beside stars such as Derek Jeter? How often does the expectation and aura of success become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Being and feeling successful is about putting yourself in an environment you’re passionate about and/or a role where you can be successful based on who you are fundamentally, what your strengths are and what feels fulfilling to you.

The best teams in sports, in business and in creative fields all have people who are in the right roles for them.

You aren’t more likely attain your personal definition of success just because you are at a successful organization or work alongside “stars” in your chosen field. To be sure, you get sprinkled with some fairy-dust just from rubbing up against the stars in your field or working for a star organization.

If you mistakenly choose opportunities just based the chance to work for, or alongside, an industry “star” or working for a prestigious organization, you could end up asking yourself “What’s wrong with me that I’m not feeling fulfilled at this job?”

Parents can sometimes push young people toward jobs with an impressive “cocktail conversation” factor. I advise using introspection and self-knowledge, not the prestige of potential opportunity, to gauge your choices.

Washington Post: On Success with Michael Berland: Success = Fulfillment

Success = Fulfillment
By Michael Berland
Published November 2, 2009

Q: How do you define success?

Success is about fulfillment. Success is achieved by using your natural way of being and your own personality as a path to chart your own course. But you can learn to develop your own definition of success from the stories of people who maybe are or were like you — how do they define what feels fulfilling?
A common theme that most successful people share is that they define very early on for themselves passions they wanted to pursue or worlds they wanted to be part of — fashion, sports, broadcasting, Broadway, business. Of the 50 mega-successful people whose stories we collected, most of them felt that once they were in those worlds or engaged in those passions, they began to feel successful and fulfilled.

In our research for our book “What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It — And What You Can Learn from Them,” my co-author and I identify four main success archetypes. Visionaries see what others do not. These are the people who change our world, who see beyond the accepted models.Natural-Born Leaders find their fulfillment in managing complex challenges on a national and global scale. Do-Gooders get their satisfaction comes from working for the greater good and helping other people. They are all about personal contact and connection. Independence Seekers want to live life on their own terms — to do what they want when they want.They are inspired and challenged by a specific project rather than a position.

Personally, the success archetype that I fit best is “Independence Seeker.” I am fulfilled by pursuing varied interests and working with lots of different people, clients and projects over time.

Parade Magazine: How the Economic Crisis Changed Us, a new study by Michael Berland

How the Economic Crisis Changed Us
By Michael J. Berland and Douglas E. Schoen
Published: November 1, 2009

The changes in the economy over the past 18 months have had profound effects on the lives of people across the country. Now, for the first time, a new PARADE survey shows just how dramatically Americans’ goals, hopes, spending habits, relationships, and even their attitudes toward trusted institutions have been transformed by the recession.

Nearly four out of five respondents (79%) say that they’ve felt the impact of the financial downturn, with one-third saying that the turmoil has had a big impact on their lives. Most respondents haven’t had to turn on the TV to appreciate the scope of the declining economy—they’ve registered its toll in their own faces or those of friends, family members, and neighbors. Sixty-nine percent have lost a job, suffered a reduction in pay, or know someone who has experienced one of these. Close to half have had difficulty making their mortgage or rent payments or know someone who has.

As a result, many Americans have made significant financial adjustments in their daily lives. Eighty percent say that they’ve been “forced to do more with less,” 73% have had to make unexpected changes, and 19% have sought some form of government assistance. Necessity has led 27% of respondents to pursue extra work.

Most people have also cut back on their families’ spending. Common money-saving measures include delaying or canceling vacations (42%), putting off major appliance purchases (34%), postponing or forgoing home renovations (29%), and choosing not to buy a new car this year (28%).

Read the full article