NY Post: 60 seconds with Michael Berland
August 18, 2009
You interviewed dozens of well-known achievers, from Heidi Klum to Richard Holbrooke. Why should someone with no ambition to be a CEO study ultra-successful people?
None of the people started as ultra-successful. In fact, many of them were on second or third careers. Brian Williams was a fireman. Mario Andretti washed dishes. But they looked inside and said, “What am I really good at? What do I find fulfilling?” And they put themselves in situations where they could achieve that.
Is there something wrong with people’s definition of success?
We always define success as moving up to the highest level of the totem pole. We’re always trying to look at the next step rather than finding fulfillment where we are.
You break your subjects down into five categories.
Natural Born Leaders find fulfillment in managing complex challenges and leading people. If you’re more focused on your own goals, you’re probably an Independence Seeker, who wants to live life on your own terms — to do what you want, when you want. Then there are the Do-Gooders, who get their satisfaction from working for the greater good.
Visionaries are the people who really change our world. Like [TV exec] Geri Laybourne, who said, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.” She was looking for better solutions and she revolutionized children’s TV at Nickelodeon.
Then there are people who know at a very young age exactly what they’re going to be. One was David Carey at Condé Nast — while other kids were playing with baseball cards, he was playing with magazines.
Do you envy people like that?
The key is to be introspective. I envy people who took the time early in life to think about what was important and made some affirmative decisions. They don’t teach that in school. And yet that’s probably the single most important class any of us could take.