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200 Inspiring Quotes from Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing

Billionaire Li Ka-shing's Path to Success

Li Ka-shing (born June 13, 1928 in Chaozhou, Guangdong province, China) is a Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is broadly respected as one of the most powerful businessmen in Asia. His companies span telecommunications, real estate, infrastructure, ports, retailing and manufacturing, energy, and technology, among other ventures. Known as “Mr. Money” and “Superman” in Hong Kong and Asia, Li Ka-shing exemplifies China’s remarkable rise from a dilapidated communist state to a free market behemoth. One year after Deng Xiaoping commenced his transformation process in 1978, Li purchased a British firm in Hong Kong named Hutchison Whampoa. Thenceforth, his ability to generate wealth globally exploded exponentially.

  • “If you think, then you will be prepared. If you are prepared, then you will have no worries.”
  • “After the pacific war began only my father and I were in Hong Kong. Soon he developed tuberculosis and went to a public hospital.”
  • “You can believe in Fung Shui if you want, but ultimately people control their own fate. The most important thing is to improve yourself and give it your best. Then many things previously thought to be impossible will become possible.”
  • “Democracy without law and order is no democracy. We have many investments in democratic countries.”
  • “When I was young, I appeared humble but was inwardly very arrogant. Why was I arrogant? When my colleagues went to play, I went to study. We’d all had very little education. But they remained the same while I was becoming increasingly knowledgeable. We were doing similar work, but I was striving for improvement all the time. So when I went into business, I reminded myself that if I allowed myself to be arrogant, I’d fall one day. And so I named my company Cheung Kong.”
  • “I may not be very talented but I can say that I’m like a small tree that’s grown in storms and among rocks. You go to the hills and see. To uproot a little plant that’s grown among the rocks takes quite a bit of effort.”
  • “I was once an employee myself, so I know what employees want.”
  • “In 1997—First job at age 12. First business started at age 22.: I’ve worked for 58 years.”
  • “The first year, as I didn’t have much capital, I did everything by myself, including the first set of account books. I needed to go the Inland Revenue Department, and I asked my auditor if my accounts were correct, since I had no experience doing accounting. He said that it was complete and that I could take this to the government. I had no experience, but I learned by reading books on accounting. When you want to understand the balance sheet, you needed to know a little bit about accounting. I did so many things by myself, which kept my overhead low. I have made a profit every year since 1950. I have never lost a penny in any year.”
  • “I also have some strengths. First, I have a thirst for knowledge. Second, I work hard, which can compensate for some of the weaknesses. Most importantly, I know what’s right from wrong.”
  • “As for father, there’s one thing that’s remained comforting to me. One day before he died… he turned things around. Instead of saying something to me, he asked me if I had anything to say to him. Think about it and you’ll find that very sad. But with a lot of confidence, I talked to him and comforted him, saying ‘The whole of our family will have a good life.’ I promised myself that after saying those confident words to my father I must work doubly hard for a future.”
  • “You must know and understand your business like the back of your hand. Otherwise, your company would be here today, gone tomorrow.”
  • “I want to build a corporation that not only the Chinese are proud of, but that even foreigners are impressed with.”
  • “To me, intellectuals… whether they are in education or in technology, industrialists, entrepreneurs and politicians, they’re all an integral part of society.”
  • “A large US competitor of my buyer approached me and offered to pay me an extra 30 percent profit for the merchandise my buyer had ordered. He said that, with the extra profit, I could expand my factory. I said, ‘Look, I am also a businessman. I’ll make a deal with you. I will start another factory in nine months’ time, a much bigger one, and I will take your order. But this time I have already promised this buyer, and I will finish the order for him as I am his only supplier.”
  • “If you allow your partners to benefit from the deal, they always come back and want to do business with you. There will never be a shortage of opportunity.”
  • “In the competitive world today, you give more in order to get more. It’s like the Olympics. Look at the runners that come home first. The winner has won but he is just a bit faster than the first and second runners-up. If it’s a sprint it may be less than a second, just a tiny bit. You run a bit faster and win.”
  • “You need to be interested in your business. If you are interested in your business, you are bound to do well.”
  • “We believe that big family company: of ours, by the year 2000, will have increased its membership by one third locally and abroad.”
  • “The Foundation has invested in a lot of companies with good returns and they are 100 percent for charity. One of the items is almost five times bigger than the PCCW investment.”
  • “I do not get overly optimistic when the market is good, nor overly pessimistic when the market is down.”
  • “The most challenging issue raised by globalization is how we can all get along with each other in our race against time. Corporate leaders must possess far-sighted vision, detailed action plans, macro-thinking, and a global outlook. To get ahead in the race, they must also possess a deep understanding of their own organization and that of their competitors.”
  • “I’d never been particularly happy about getting honours. But after the Tribunal’s verdict the government gave me a CBE and I was particularly happy. My first thought was: on one hand I was censured for insider trading while on the other hand I was given a commendation by the government. Need one say more!”
  • “Like living and doing business, there are ups and downs.”
  • “There’s an interesting story about Richard Li. When he was a boy, a friend of mine gave him a big toy. Very big it was, big and very expensive a toy tank that boys love. Some Sunday morning we were going out to sea and Richard was very carefully wrapping up the toy with paper. I thought it strange because he was not the kind to sit quietly and work meticulously. So I asked him, ‘Richard, what are you doing? I’ve told you not to play with this toy?’ He said, ‘I’m not playing with; I’m giving it to the crew.’ He was not giving it to the captain; he was giving it to the assistant. I asked him why he was giving it to the assistant. He said that the week before the assistant had told him, ‘Richard, you’re really fortunate with a father who loves you, with such a wealthy family and with so many toys to play with. It’ll soon be my son’s birthday and I can’t afford to buy him a toy.’ When Richard had finished, I was silent for a while and then only said, ‘Wrap up the present nicely.’ Though I didn’t encourage him to do what he did, I was very pleased about what my son was doing.”
  • “A good reputation for yourself and your company is an invaluable asset not reflected in the balance sheets.”
  • “Through the years, property is of course the most profitable business. But no line of business remains forever prosperous. At a certain point, there will be market saturation or the government will have new policies. I’d always known this.”
  • “At six something I play golf… Play for an hour and a half. This period of time belongs to me alone. The rest of the time, I deal with business and work and time spent like this is not necessarily my own. This hour and a half is all mine.”
  • “It’s entrepreneurs who create and who, with marketing skills, make a nation wealthy. Their contribution to a nation is definitely not less than that of scholars, farmers and workers.”
  • “If I hadn’t been smart and bought those books it would have been better. I was only 13 then and got scared to death after reading the books. I had all the symptoms.”
  • “The hills have remained the same, as has the environment. One hundred… one thousand years from now, they will remain the same but the people now will not be there…”
  • “On working hard at 70 years of age: First, it’s a challenge. Second, I’m in charge of several listed companies and want to maximize profit for my shareholders. When you are rich, you suddenly think of doing meaningful things in life, things you can do with money. If you try to make money only when you need it, it’s very difficult.”
  • “I often think that in all these years the Chinese people have only ventured into south-east Asia and relatively few have gone to the western countries in a big way. I believe that what I’m doing can open up more investment channels for Hong Kong and China.”
  • “I am very prudent financially because of those hard times I went through. I spent nothing. I had a haircut every three months. I shaved my head like a monk.”
  • “China in the past several hundred years… since Kangxi… has been weak because not enough respect has been given to industry and trade.”
  • “When times are tough you need to ask yourself if you’re up to it. During tough times I’ve always thought I’m up to it.”
  • “Some morning I was trying to get my car key from my pocket and accidentally dropped a two dollar coin. It rolled underneath the car, if the car was moved, the coin would fall into the drain. So I squatted down to try to get the coin back, not wanting to lose it. The guard saw me doing that came up to ask me, ‘Mr Li, what’s up?’. I said I’d dropped a coin. He then gave me some help. The coin was picked up, I got two dollars back and gave him one hundred dollars. Why did I do that? If I hadn’t picked up the coin, when the car moved the coin would drop into the drain and would be lost forever. But I got it back and gave the guard one hundred dollars, which would not be lost because he would make use of it. In a word, money may be spent but never squandered.”
  • “Broaden your vision, and maintain stability while advancing forward. That is my philosophy.”
  • “If you don’t have a big heart, you will not succeed.”
  • “I rely on a system. Important issues have to be approved by Hong Kong. So things have worked fine for years. We rely on a system, checks and balances and regular meetings.”
  • “Fifty years ago, I named my company Cheung Kong Holdings after the Yangtze River that flows through China, a great river that aggregates countless streams and tributaries. These days I think about where this ‘river’ should flow.”
  • 'Li Ka-shing Hong Kong's Elusive Billionaire' by Anthony B. Chan (ISBN 0195900766) “In 1978, I returned to the mainland China: for the first time after liberation.”
  • “What am I after? As a Hong Kong citizen, I do things for myself as well as for Hong Kong. I have several principles. One: a liberal economy that allows free movement of assets and remittances that do not require official approval. Two: freedom of personal movement and I’m very insistent on this. Three: permanent resident status… and I argued about this point. What did I argue for? As long as you’ve lived a full seven years in Hong Kong, regardless of what happens afterwards… you may have emigrated and returned, you are considered the same as all Hong Kong residents and keep your permanent resident status.”
  • “A company is built on the efforts of many individuals, and not just on one person.”
  • “I was in rather good shape when the 70’s began and, observing foreign owned establishments. I found they owned very few shares but controlled great assets. If I could take over these companies, I’d be able to get their assets, and their people would also be useful as I had the idea of starting an international company. If my company had gone public without me having an idea, it wouldn’t have reached its size today.”
  • “It doesn’t matter how strong or capable you are; if you don’t have a big heart, you will not succeed.”
  • “I wasn’t lucky. I worked hard to achieve the goals I set for myself.”
  • “I have worked hard to establish my business over the past decades, and now we are seeing the fruits of our labor. Not only is my group reaping the benefits, I am also able to make greater contributions to worthy causes.”
  • “I would like to do more meaningful deeds. I don’t care how much money or how much energy it takes. I have very simple needs. With the blessings that I have received, I have no need for more wealth. But if I can do more for mankind, for our people, and for our country, I would be more than happy to do so.”
  • “Had I wanted to live in luxury, I could definitely have done so in 1960.”
  • “I had a clear intention of taking over one of these companies with underperforming assets and developing it into a multinational corporation.”
  • “Children of wealthy families grow up in a greenhouse. No matter it is a big tree or any plant, their roots are not strong. If I spoil them, they’ll have a hard life ahead. When they get a knock or run into hard times, they’ll be helpless.”
  • “My childhood days were very tough, tough that I had no one to talk to. I couldn’t have written and told my mother, could I? Absolutely not. Whatever went wrong in my life, I couldn’t tell my mother.”
  • “Despite facing this big economic crisis. I’ve found that at least two companies larger than ours to work with me on a long term investment project in Hong Kong.”
  • “If you are not honest and sincere, people will leave you sooner or later.”
  • “My father had tuberculosis, which was as devastating a disease as cancer is today. If you were rich and could afford proper care, you might have a better chance. We had no choice.”
  • “Today I can be frank. When I started my business, I almost certainly did not rely on luck. I relied on work, hard work and ability to make money.”
  • “Once you’re in sales, you will also learn what sells and what not. Use the sensitivity of detecting market sentiments as a platform for running your business and in the identification of product winners in the future.”
  • “On ‘How much of your success is due to good fortune?': I cannot deny it’s the times that create heroes.”
  • “I find solace in my heart. I think I’ve done many things that have required money, time and care for the good of other people and these things make me feel honoured and proud.”
  • “During my father’s time, our family finances were deteriorating. My uncles did not make any contribution to the family after they came back from Tokyo. I always had a fighting heart. I only had a small amount of capital when I started my own business. That’s why I am always conservative. I never forget to maintain stability while advancing, and I never forget to advance while maintaining stability. Stability and advancement must always be in balance.”
  • “The first year, I didn’t have much capital so I did everything myself. I had to keep my overhead low by learning everything about running a business, from accounting to fixing the gears of my equipment. I really started from scratch.”
  • “In 1956, when I was in the plastics business, my first order was for a three to six month production. I calculated a profit of 20 percent. My competitors were making 100 percent profit.”
  • “What his father Yun-jing Li told him on his deathbed: You must have the strength of character. Then you can rise as tall as the sky.”
  • “Regardless of when I go to bed, I get up at the same time every morning. At 5:59am I get up when the alarm clock rings because I want to listen to the news on the radio. This is how a day begins.”
  • “On a customer cancelling an order: I said, there were plenty of buyers for the goods and I didn’t need him to compensate me for my losses. I also said that if another business opportunity arose, we could build an even better relationship. I’d forgotten the whole thing when something strange happened one day. I’d just started doing plastic flowers… about 1956-57 it was. Unexpectedly a foreigner came looking for me. He said a certain company had introduced him. That company had said that mine was Hong Kong’s top plastic flowers factory, a factory commanding a huge area. I was dumbfounded because my factory was not huge it was in fact small. But later his American client ordered a lot of things from me. Placing at one time all the orders for six months. I later discovered the man of that trading company knew this foreigner. The foreigner was a senior executive of another trading company. He had told the foreigner about me, saying that I was completely trustworthy to deal with. He had said all the good things about me. I believe everything good that could have been said had been said. The moral of this is: something that seems to be a loss can often turn out to be a gain.”
  • “When his children were very small: I took them to squatters’ areas and took them on tram and bus rides although I already had a chauffeur and a car.”
  • Spiritual peace and comfort… are very important to me. I only have a desire to do more meaningful deeds.”
  • “On Hasbro asking ‘What was that?’ when riots were taking place in the city: It was a bomb. But we are still working, so you should give us a medal instead of rushing us for the order.”
  • “As people seek to improve their living environment, there will be continuous demand for residential property. Investment in real estate market should have reasonable prospects in the long run.”
  • “I took jobs, not matter how lowly they were. At any rate what could a 14-15 year old boy do? But I did my best at work and at increasing my knowledge.”
  • “All my senior staff know I demand efficiency. Before a meeting, the other side know what’s going on and I know what they’ve done. Everybody is well prepared and no time should be wasted.”
  • “I loathe the social scene; I don’t like cultivating relationships, and I’m too emotional. These are all weaknesses in doing business.”
  • “The future may be made up of many factors but where it truly lies is in the hearts and minds of men. Your dedication should not be confined for your own gain, but unleashes your passion for our beloved country as well as for the integrity and humanity of mankind.”
  • “We must get on well as partners.”
  • “My thinking in 1979 was buying this foreign company gave me the advantage of paying one dollar for two to three dollars’ worth, even more profitable than investing in property.”
  • “Your life is meaningful if you can honestly say that you have done your best to do some good.”
  • “The most important enjoyment for me is to work hard and to make more profit.”
  • “Before the Asian financial crisis stuck, the signs of a bubble economy were already glaring.”
  • “It’s very important to devote yourself to work.”
  • “You have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. If nobody buys your property, can you support your debt? For 56 years, especially after we went public, Cheung Kong has never had any financial problems.”
  • “This was actually a more difficult job, but the prospects were better. I was confident about the bright prospects of the plastics industry and I told my boss that I would like to start my own business. I already knew a lot about the plastics business, including the technology, the market and sales.”
  • “If you are good to people, they will be good to you.”
  • 'Li Ka-shing No Accidental Success' by Li Yongning (ISBN 751134352X)Successful managers should also have a keen eye for talent. They not only select people who are smarter than themselves, but also avoid picking corporate superstars whose reputation precedes them.”
  • “So soon after my company went public, I began looking for investment opportunities overseas.”
  • “When Victor and Richard were still students, I brought them to one of our meetings. They just sat there. My purpose was not to teach them to do business. It was to let them know doing business was not that simple and that it took a lot of work, meetings and the help of many people to get a job done.”
  • “During the time China and Britain were having talks in 1982 and 1983, the stock market and the property market were in the doldrums. I remember using only one to two hundred million dollars to get four berths at Container Terminal 6. Later Terminal 7 cost me over four billion. My decision was to press ahead with expansion in the worst of times. That really was the cornerstone of HIT.”
  • “Businessmen must move with the times…the correlation between knowledge and business as the key to success is closer than ever.”
  • “If we rush into things and get emotional, usually it will lead to unexpected mistakes.”
  • “To be a successful manager, attitude and ability are equally important ingredients. A leader inspires others to greatness. A boss dominates his subordinates and makes them feel small.”
  • “I remember in 1938 I’d just begun high school when Japanese planes bombed Chiuchow. A year afterwards our family moved to Hong Kong.”
  • “In a small business – a family business you’ve got to do everything personally. But when the company is big, you need to give your staff a sense of belonging and make them feel at ease. That’s vital.”
  • “In 1997 on the university he founded: Education is different from business; I will never be discouraged. In business, I can bring to an end something that is dissatisfying and has no future, but I will not do this to Shantou University. Friends and colleagues said to me, ‘Mr Li, for a while, you were the only one caring about the university. You put in the most time and the most care; you were the most anxious.’ By way of encouraging him, I said, ‘If the university were destroyed by a bomb tomorrow or demolished by an accident. I would have it rebuilt.'”
  • “The Yangtze River doesn’t pick and choose its tributaries. Waters from small streams and springs are just pulled over. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any Yangtze, would there?”
  • “His promise to his dying father at age 13: The whole of our family will have a good life.”
  • “The art of good management lies in the capacity to accept change, and the ability to meld new and traditional thinking.”
  • “In Chinese we have a saying: If you want to be successful, whatever your business or position, you need to accept different opinions and different people.”
  • “I think education is the most important thing to a nation. Without good education, whatever equipment or plans you have mean nothing.”
  • “1967 gave me a chance to make a lot of money. But it wasn’t an astronomical figure… no, it wasn’t.”
  • “Investing in Husky Oil: What I learnt from the Husky experience was: management has to be perfect! The management was really a bit slack at the beginning.”

Li Ka-shing Biography

  • “Magazines like using my pictures on their overs hoping to increase circulation. All this to me is hard to bear… a form of pressure.”
  • “Money may be spent but never squandered.”
  • “The character ‘Tzar’ was chosen in accordance with our family decree.”
  • “Before, I used 99% of our time together to teach them His children: principles of life. Now we talk about business sometimes… one third of the time for business, and the other two thirds still for principles of life.”
  • “The media neglected one thing. Why did Hong Kong Bank sell their shares to me? Their biggest consideration was whoever bought the shares should be able to manage and lead the company towards better development.”
  • “Life is short.”
  • “I was very careful. I had no debt (actually, I was not qualified for a bank loan at the time), but I knew my company’s finances like the back of my hand, and I could answer any question that anybody asked.”
  • “On philanthropy: I will continue to do the same and more, not out of a sense of duty but because it is a maxim by which I choose to live my life.”
  • “When you think that life is but a short journey, you’ll hope to make the most of the time when you’re still able to work, to sow good seeds in the world. This is worth doing.”
  • “At the start of the 90’s my decision was that we had to develop overseas; otherwise the future of the company would be limited, because our business had run into considerable snags.”
  • “Educated people are vital.”
  • “A company needs a good infrastructure, good organization, and good people. If everyone works in concert, then you can succeed.”
  • “War broke out when I was ten, I was constantly on the move. First to make a living and later for my career. In this life of mine, I think if I make up for what I lost in my youth… like education and medical health if I can make some contribution in such areas as long as I’m up to it… I would like to do more.”
  • “The first year, as I didn’t have much capital, I did everything myself, which kept my overhead low.”
  • “My father died of tuberculosis when we could not afford medical care. I know the feeling of helplessness and loneliness.”
  • “Set your goals high; make friends with different kinds of people; enjoy simple pleasures. Stand on high ground; sit on level ground; walk on expansive ground.”
  • “In 1958: I firmly believed that property would be one of the best businesses in the future. I could see that the supply of land in Hong Kong was limited, whereas population was unlimited.”
  • “First of all, I am an optimist. When you study hard and work hard, your knowledge grows, and it gives you confidence. The more you know, the more confidence you gain. When I was 10 years old, I lost my schooling, but I still had plenty of hope to return to school.”
  • “The most important thing is to build the best reputation.”
  • “Social progress requires courage, hard work and perseverance; more importantly, they know that a fair and equitable society is built on trust and integrity.”
  • “I lived and breathed plastic flowers for ten years, and all day long all I could think of was how to make them look more life-like and how to be more creative.”
  • “My life differs from the lives of most people in that I didn’t have a childhood.”
  • “There are things that might bring in a lot of money but I wouldn’t do. A person has to be able to look beyond money. As long as we can keep our dignity, life becomes more meaningful.”
  • “I was facing life for the first time. I was 12 years old, but I felt like a 20 year old. I knew then what life was.”
  • 'Asian Godfathers Money and Power' by Joe Studwell (ISBN 0802143911) “I was already keeping an eye on the political developments within china, and I also had a firm grasp on economics, industry, management and the latest development and productions of the plastics industry. Not many people in Hong Kong at that time were aware of the potential. It was still quite new.”
  • “Our work is certainly challenging, but we are not under any pressure except for the pressure to outperform.”
  • “On being up to it: Because I’m hard working, frugal, steadfast, willing to learn and to build a credible name.”
  • “Knowledge changes fate.”
  • “I wake up every day just before 6:00 am and exercise and play golf for an hour and a half. I insist on reading before I go to bed at night. I am still energetic during the day. Your energy comes from being interested in your work.”
  • “Times were really tough in the beginning. When I started my business in 1950, I only had HK$50,000, so I was in a tight spot financially. I already had some work experience, but I had an advantage in competing with other companies. I was willing to learn the latest industry trends.”
  • “In 1997: I will not because of Oriental Plaza, lose interest or faith in investing in China.”
  • “The fruit that you eat will never taste as beautiful as the fruit that I ate during the turmoil of war. You will never cherish it as much as I do.”
  • “On publicly being censured for ‘insider trading.': Even now I still think that was a farce. First, none of the directors did any personal trading of the stocks in question. I made a statement in the press and I won’t be breaking any law by repeating it now. What happened was that I signed a transaction agreement with Mr Wang Guang-ying. He was buying our property and that should be good news. Our colleagues responsible for investment had sold the stocks two or three days before. Cancellation of a deal was bad news, but he had chosen to buy the stocks before the cancellation. You see the point? If one wants to make money, one should work the other way round. How could that be considered insider trading?”
  • “In 1967, I was as emotionally challenged as others were. Wow… the situation… it was threatening. Then in the night I had it all thought out, down to a simple theory. If China wanted to take back Hong Kong it didn’t have to resort to such measures. So I went against market sentiments and used my idle cash to buy a lot of property.”
  • “Despite my achievements, I can still remember poverty. I told my children and grandchildren that ‘The fruit that you eat will never taste as beautiful as the fruit that I ate during the turmoil of war. You will never cherish it as much as I do.'”
  • “The four days when Hong Kong stopped trading, I wasn’t in Hong Kong, I was in Canada.”
  • “Reputation is the key to success. You have to be loyal to your customers.”
  • “I needed to save every penny…I needed to be strong, and needed to find some way to secure a future. That’s why I am always conservative. I never forget to maintain stability while advancing, and I never forget to advance while maintaining stability.”
  • “The more you know, the more prepared you will be when opportunity knocks. If you are lazy and wile your time away, you would not know how to take advantage of opportunities even if they stared you in the face.”
  • “On New Year’s Day, the boss announced that the bonus that year would be based on sales. At the end of the year, my sales figure was seven times higher than the second best. If they paid my bonus based on my sales, my bonus would have been higher than the general manager’s. The other salesmen were already jealous. So I said to my boss, “Just pay me the same as the second best salesman; it would make everyone happy.” As a result, I became a manager when I was 17 going on 18.”
  • “Knowledge is not a guarantee of a life of riches but it does open the door to more opportunities. And recognizing more opportunities is really the best that you can expect.”
  • “Hong Kong people are realistic, diligent, flexible and innovative. If we can, like in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, go about our business with the same fighting spirit, I have great faith in Hong Kong people. After all, through thick and thin this is our home.”
  • “A liberal society has to be founded not only on law and order but also on: a prosperous economy.”
  • “I bought secondhand books whenever I had spare money and absorbed them before trading them in for more books. Even today I read before going to bed every night.”
  • “Short economic lulls don’t worry me. My only concern now is there’ve been changes in social harmony, policy and structure.”
  • “Frankly I was very hurt, absolutely hurt. It caused great repercussions in our company. At the peak of our heated debate about moving base, I said something after which no one dared speak anymore. I said, ‘If it is moving base you want, please tell me whether you are able to move Li Ka-shing, this chairman. If you are unable to do it, say no more about moving.'”
  • “The burden of poverty and this bitter taste of helplessness and isolation sort of branded on my heart forever the questions that still drive me. Is it possible to reshape one’s destiny? Is it possible to minimize challenges through lessening complexities? And is it possible to enhance chances for success through meticulous planning?”
  • “We cannot afford to have instability in Hong Kong.”
  • “While other people learned, I grabbed… grabbed knowledge.”
  • “We in Hong Kong were apprehensive… fearing that people would say our terminals were becoming too dominant, there was this constant apprehension. Although the Government did not openly say we were getting too big, we could feel it… feel there were people saying we were getting too big. In those circumstances, in order to maximize returns for our shareholders, overseas development was the only choice.”
  • “A good system is of great importance.”
  • “After seventeen, I knew I’d have a good chance of starting my own business, because I knew I’d been right in my beliefs.”
  • “In so many years, the site of Shantou University changed from desolate land to a campus of several million square feet. I believe this will go on and will not disappear with time. Equally meaningful things, big or small, I will never stop doing.”
  • “I should make more money and use it when opportunity arises. Only making money like this has any meaning.”
  • “The potential is endless and inexhaustible.”
  • “Simply speaking, you are the commander in chief, the head of a group of armies. You can never be better with a machine gun than a machine gunner or better than a gunner at operating a cannon. But as commander, you don’t do these things. Your job is mapping out strategy. So good organization is very important.”
  • “Anytime I say ‘yes’ to someone, it is a contract.”
  • “When the buyer came to Hong Kong he humoured me and said that he thought I would be bankrupt by now. He said, ‘Why didn’t you take the extra profit from my competitor?’ I said, ‘I already promised you.’ He said, ‘but at least you could have told me and requested a price increase.’ I said, ‘Next time, I will increase the price.'”
  • “Some people are learned and I should learn from them…”
  • “Husky has a staff of 1500. Two of the people I’ve place here have worked for me for over 20 years and one had been with me for over 10 years. The people originally working here will gradually become our own people.”
  • “Why did the Yangtze become a long river? It’s because it can accept smaller rivers and become big.”
  • “We are approaching a new age of synthesis. Knowledge cannot be merely a degree or a skill… it demands a broader vision, capabilities in critical thinking and logical deduction without which we cannot have constructive progress.”
  • “On calling his foundation ‘Third Child': I was tossing and turning one night. The next day, when I was having dinner with my family, I told them that I have a third child. They fell silent. They were shocked and thought that I had finally lost it. Actually it was an epiphany. If I had a third child, wouldn’t I want to build a solid foundation for his future? By treating my private foundation as my third son, I could allocate more assets to it and enable it to benefit more people.”
  • “Very naturally anybody in the world can become one of your nucleus group.”
  • “I made a lot of money in 1957 and 1958 and was very happy. But does having money mean real happiness? I was beginning to wonder and felt the answer was ‘not necessarily’. Later I had the conundrum thought out. I should make more money and use it when opportunity arises. Only making money like this has any meaning.”
  • “America owes 80% of it’s economic growth today to new inventions.”
  • 'The New Elite' by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison (ISBN 0814400485) “On being asked in 2002 ‘Do you still wear a $50 Citizen or Seiko watch? Is it always set eight minutes fast?… Do you still live in the same house you have lived in for 20 years?': Except for the fact that my watch clocks a full 20 minutes ahead, your facts are basically correct. My standard of living has remained at about the same level as when my business first began to take off in 1957, perhaps even more modest.”
  • “I will never be satisfied, like the Olympics.”
  • “But how many times have you heard that Cheung Kong’s finances were in trouble over the last fifty years? Never; the reason is, we are always prepared for the worst. That is my policy.”
  • “In the constantly changing world today, you should strive for knowledge innovation and strength and, with a sound foundation, seek advancement.”
  • “The secret of management is simply identifying and making use of talent. But you must in principle make them feel they belong and like you first.”
  • “The more you know, the more confidence you gain.”
  • “During the day I worked in the office to bring in business to sell. After office hours I worked in the factory to see that the orders were taken care of and we’d give good delivery.”
  • “On Hutchison Whampoa: I didn’t care how things might look from the outside. I wanted genuine control.”
  • “I bought land with my own cash. If somebody invites me to be a partner, and I take only 15% to 20% as a minority stakeholder, they would perhaps get a loan from the bank. But I had no personal debt. At that time, when Cheung Kong went public in 1972, the company had almost no debt. Even if the company had to borrow from the bank, we would have alternative arrangements, such as buying government bonds equivalent to the bank loan amount, to ensure that we can readily cash out at anytime. The interest income would continue to accumulate, while interest expense on the loan would be repaid monthly. So you see; our corporate finance is very conservative and prudent.”
  • “Because he had TB (Tuberculosis), I went to get some old books… books about treating TB and taking care of TB patients.”
  • “Doing business may be tough, but I am willing to learn, to innovate, and to work hard, which are the reasons why my business can continue to grow. We focus on our core competencies while looking for new areas for expansion. New businesses sometimes fail, and sometimes succeed. But the ones that succeed can be very profitable. This has been my experience. Setbacks and difficulties are ways to build character.”
  • “In the past years, when the stock market, the property market and the general economy were in the doldrums, we increased our investments. One of the reasons was that we are always prepared. We don’t get carried away when times are good and don’t get too pessimistic when times are bad.”
  • “It takes a cool head to do business, as does playing golf. Even if you’ve teed off badly, as long as you keep your composure, stick to your plan, you may not lose the hole.”
  • “As a leader, one should spend more time than others planning for the future.”
  • “Sound economic fundamentals coupled with a number of positive factors have partially offset the psychological impact of rising interest rates in Hong Kong.”
  • “Well, I have my own definition for the term “retirement”. Life was extremely hard when I was young; today working without the burden of pressure to me is the same as the luxury of retirement. These few years, our Group has embarked on some new projects and is in exciting times. We plan all our projects meticulously. Our work is certainly challenging, but we are not under any pressure except for the pressure to outperform.”
  • “Be prepared for rainy days. No matter how well you’re doing, you’ve got to be prepared.”
  • “People were working eight hours a day, but I worked sixteen hours… It was really full, non-stop work.”
  • “Businesspeople in general shouldn’t have an overly narrow view of their industry, rather they: need a 360-degree perspective and to look at everything from all possible angles.”
  • “Vision is perhaps our greatest strength… it has kept us alive to the power and continuity of thought through the centuries, it makes us peer into the future and lends shape to the unknown.”
  • “Some people only know how to complain, hoping you will help to solve their problems. Frankly, if they are fully prepared, they make the best suggestions.”
  • “I long for a frugal life. In general, frugal people have more time. This attitude has not affected my business, but has actually helped me to achieve the best results and returns for my shareholders.”
  • “It is the man who goes to the table to ask and squeeze for the last nickel who is never happy. Do you know why? It is because that person leaves the table, typically getting the nickel, but then hates himself for not asking for two nickels. As a result, he is never happy.”
  • “You give more in order to get more.”
  • “Buying land is not like buying antique. It is not the only deal available.”
  • “In 1997: We now have eighty container berths in the world, which last year meant an 11% control of the international market. All being well, in 2000 or 2001, the percentage will go up to 15%.”
  • “Our principal policy is never to take financial risk.”
  • “You can’t succeed on charisma alone.”
  • “All my senior staff get along very well with me. That’s gratifying.”
  • “I personally hope to lessen my business workload in the coming years, but I will not be idle.”
  • “We are living in a dynamic age with multiple ideas and beliefs of correctness; this world is not deterministic and not still.”
  • “I have set boundaries for myself. There are certain business I won’t get into…This is my principle and I will stick to it.”
  • “If you have done your best to make meaningful contributions, when it is time for you to go, all you will feel is a little tired, just like when the sun sets you need to take a rest. I just hope that I lead a full life.”
  • “Information and communications technology unlocks the value of time, allowing and enabling multi-tasking, multi-channels, multi-this and multi-that.”
  • “I remember reading a treatise by Sima Qian. He says to trade is to fill the needs of the people.”
  • “Without the money for new books I bought old ones, textbooks used by teachers for high school. I only had a dictionary and the books and I studied on my own. When I was done with the books, I exchanged them for more old books. In the circumstances then, I was working for a future.”
  • “In the Han Dynasty, Xiang Yu was very brave and won many battles, but in the end he failed. Treat people with sincerity and build a good organization. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how famous or how capable you are.”
  • “From the business point of view, if one had invested in China in the 80’s, one would have had better conditions and returns than today. Why didn’t I invest then? I was afraid people might say Li had come to exploit. That wouldn’t have been worth it.”
  • “I have always enjoyed a simple lifestyle. I have very modest needs in terms of material comfort.”
  • “Though a universal formula for success is difficult to come by, caution signs for failure are posted everywhere. Establishing a structure that serves to minimize failure will prove to be a shortcut to success.”
  • “I often think back on the past few decades. Almost every time Hong Kong was in a lull and people had lost confidence, I made investments, large investments; particularly from 1983 to 85, when public confidence was down and the economy was I bad shape. I made heavy investment, totalling over 10 billion dollars. The government, past or present has never given me one iota of privilege.”
  • “Since many seem to be interested and concerned, I am happy to report that I am in good shape, and can rise to the opportunities and challenges of our times, and I embrace each project with enthusiasm. I also spend a lot of my time on education and medical care initiatives. This is a passion that I will never grow tired of. In fact, I consider it a lifelong endeavor.”

Recommended Reading

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The Rise and Fall of Theranos

The Rise and Fall of Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Two years ago, the blood-testing startup Theranos was one of the hottest assets in Silicon Valley. Valued at $9 billion, it guaranteed nothing short of a paradigm shift in medicine with its groundbreaking, needle-free test process. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, a 32-year-old Stanford dropout, was effusively profiled in the business press as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. But now, the company is fighting for its survival, in the midst of claims that its tests are “at best, fundamentally flawed and, at worst, unsafe.” The disturbance began six months ago, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s breakthrough technology, which could reasonably run hundreds of tests with blood from a finger prick, couldn’t really deliver. Not long after, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates lab testing, said that Theranos put patients’ lives at risk with faulty tests at its California lab. The latest blow: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lately began independent criminal investigations into whether Theranos deceived investors about its technology.

Nothing is proven yet. It’s very unusual for the SEC to investigate a privately held company like Theranos, but it could begin to happen more often. SEC Chair Mary Jo White wants to give more enquiry to the growing number of so-called unicorn startups, which are valued at more than $1 billion, “because they pose a high risk to investors.” The company’s fate is now in the hands of its charismatic founder—as the company’s leader, chairwoman, and majority stakeholder, Holmes can command what she wants done at her company. It’s a common procedure in Silicon Valley’s startup philosophy, where boards have “little real power.” Many venture capitalists are willing to take the risk, hoping to get in with the next Mark Zuckerberg, but “if trouble brews,” the cult encircling a founder can become a obligation. That’s largely because there is no such thing as investigative journalism in Silicon Valley. Journalism here is largely confused with, and deliberately conflated with, public relations, but they’re not the same thing.

So far, Theranos has never been able to establish its testing technology really works. Rather than publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, or letting its blood-testing machines to be assessed by external experts, the company has continually kept its methods cloaked in secrecy. Theranos has reasoned that it was guarding trade secrets, but testing openness is customary routine in the medical industry. Even drug companies, which function in a exceedingly aggressive segment, issue adequate results of their drug trials to establish that a medicine actually works, whilst even keeping sufficient details secret to make their product proprietary. Blood testing is a $73-billion-a-year commerce set for disruption—as any person who’s had blood drawn can confirm, it’s laborious, uncomfortable, and pricey.

Theranos is under investigation for fraud, which is weird for a private company. Theranos is performing tests on patients without having published peer reviewed research—a cardinal sin in science—and with minimal federal oversight. Theranos should have attracted scrutiny long before it did.

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Lessons from Edgar de Picciotto

Edgar de Picciotto of Union Bancaire Privee

Edgar de Picciotto, an early promoter of hedge fund investing, passed away on Sunday 13 March 2016 after a long sickness. On November 12, 1969, de Picciotto opened his own asset-management bank in a city dominated by such well-known private banking names as Pictet Group, Lombard Odier, Darier and Hentsch.

Edgar de Picciotto founded Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) in 1969. UBP is one of the most favorably capitalized private banks in the world, and a leading player in the field of wealth management in Switzerland with $110 billion in assets under management at the end of December 2015. Edgar de Picciotto, who was born of Syrian-Lebanese parentage, moved to Switzerland in the 1950s and worked as a financier before founding UBP’s predecessor in 1969. From the bank’s inconspicuous headquarters on one of Geneva’s chief luxury-shopping drags, he built a customer base of affluent individuals and institutions all over Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East.

De Picciotto was born in Beirut and hailed from a lineage of businesspersons, which lived from the 14th to the 17th century in Portugal, moving in later centuries via Italy and Syria to the Lebanon. He afterward lived with his parents and brothers in Milan, ultimately deciding to study mechanical engineering in France. However, it was financial engineering, which took his perpetual fancy. He earned his spurs and made financial contacts, working in his previous father-in-law’s bank in Geneva. In its 2015 annual report, UBP recalled,

As our 2015 Annual Report was going to print, we learnt with deep sorrow that Edgar de Picciotto, the Chairman and founder of Union Bancaire Privee, had passed away at 86 years of age.

Edgar de Picciotto was a recognized creative visionary and pioneer in a wide variety of fields in the banking industry. He quickly rose to become a leading figure of the Geneva financial hub, and one of the most respected authorities on investments around the world.

In just a few decades, Edgar de Picciotto turned UBP into one of the world’s biggest family-owned banks. Very early on, he also set up a governance structure designed to ensure the Group’s longevity by integrating the second generation of his family into the business.

UBP is his life’s work. UBP is his legacy to us. It now falls to us to grow UBP with the same entrepreneurial spirit that he used to create the Bank, by perpetuating the values that Edgar de Picciotto would wish to see upheld every day and in everything we do.

Edgar de Picciotto’s children and all the members of UBP’s management are determined to carry on the spirit that its founder instilled in it, and they know that they can rely on the professionalism and dedication of all UBP’s staff members to continue to grow the Bank’s business, while also maintaining its independence.

In 2002, news of merger talks between two family-controlled private banks, Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) and Discount Bank & Trust Company (DTBT) over forming one of Geneva’s biggest private banks became newest sign of the altering attitude among the country’s private banks. Withdrawing from UBP’s operational management 20 years ago, de Picciotto set up a governance structure designed to guarantee the bank’s durability. His son Guy de Picciotto has been chief executive officer since 1998, while his daughter, Anne Rotman de Picciotto, and his eldest son, Daniel de Picciotto, are on the board of directors.

Byron Wien, vice chairperson of Blackstone Advisory Partners, had the pleasure of calling Edgar de Picciotto his mentor.

My purpose in reviewing Edgar’s thinking over the past 15 years is to show how he consistently tried to integrate his world view into the investment environment. That was his imperative. He wasn’t always right, but he was always questioning himself and he remained flexible. When he lost money, it tended to cause minimal pain in relation to his overall assets, and when one of his maverick ideas worked, he made what he called “serious money.”

Lessons from Edgar de Picciotto of Union Bancaire Privee

Edgar de Picciotto as a Mentor

Mentors fall into two categories: there are those you work with every day who are incessantly guiding you to enhanced performance. The ability to serve as a great mentor is one of the most undervalued and underappreciated skills in finance. Perhaps better branded as a “role model,” an outstanding mentor can provide not only a wide-ranging knowledge base and technical skills, but also the sagacious financial judgment that implies the high-class investor. Perhaps of even larger importance, a mentor can express a “philosophy of practice,” including the optimal interaction with clients and economists, a procedure for remaining current with advances in the field, and a thorough concept of how the practice of finance fits into a full life. A sympathetic mentor can also provide counselling in selecting the best practice opportunity and can maintain a close relationship for many years.

Mentors are significant to all of us, as they teach us what can’t be learned from books or in the classroom. They set aside a concrete example of “how to get it done,” and, sometimes more importantly, what to be done, when to do it, and whom to engage in the effort. Their inspiration often carries us through when nothing else does.

  • Understand the consequence of understanding the macro environment. “Many people describe themselves as stock pickers … but you have to consider the economic, social, and political context in which the stocks are being picked.” De Picciotto indubitably showed he had a good nose for trends.
  • Meet as many people of authority as you can. “For him, networking never stopped.” De Picciotto took great pleasure from knowing smart people and exchanging ideas with them.
  • “Nobody owns the truth.” De Picciotto would test his ideas on those he cherished and, and if he ran into a convincing conflicting opinion, he would contemplate on it seriously and sometimes change his position. While he never lacked principle about his ideas, he was unprejudiced and malleable.
  • Value the trust and the delight of friendship and the vainness of resentment. De Picciotto was gratified of his own success but also an enthusiast of the success of others who were his friends.
  • Never talk about overlooked opportunities except when you are disapproving yourself. Be your own harshest critic. Even if you are an intellectual risk taker, you will make many mistakes. Diagnose them early, but never stop taking risks, because that is where the tangible opportunities are and your life will be more invigorating as a result.
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When Ronald Reagan forgot about his adapted son Michael Reagan

In 1945, President Ronald Reagan and his first wife, the actress Jane Wyman adopted a son Michael E. Reagan. His adoption was not a happy one and he is now estranged from his family.

'Reagan: The Life' by H.W. Brands (ISBN 0385536399) ‘Reagan: The Life’ by H.W. Brands recalls Michael Raegan’s story, who as a child was “neglected as those of any famous parent. Invited to speak at his adopted son Michael’s boarding school, Reagan failed to recognise his boy under a mortar board. ‘My name is Ronald Reagan. What’s yours?’ he said. ‘Remember me?’ came the sad reply: ‘I’m your son Mike.'”

In 1964 Ronald Reagan was the commencement speaker at an exclusive preparatory school outside Scottsdale, Arizona. He was standing with several of the graduating seniors, who were invited to pose for pictures with him. He chatted to each of the graduates in turn, and to one of the boys said: “My name is Ronald Reagan. What’s yours?” The boy said, “I’m your son, Mike.” “Oh,” said Reagan. “I didn’t recognize you.”

Reagan and his first wife Wyman divorced in 1952. Michael Reagan was born in Los Angeles to Irene Flaugher, an unmarried woman from Kentucky who became pregnant through a relationship with U.S. Army corporal John Bourgholtzer. Michael Reagan is a conservative radio host and strategist for the American Republican party.

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Charles Baudelaire: In Praise of Cosmetics

Charles Baudelaire introduced the idea that no woman is so beautiful that her beauty would not be enhanced by cosmetics.

Charles Baudelaire, French poet and essayist For much of the history of humanity, the wearing of cosmetics by women has been viewed, in the West at least, as something associated with harlots and stage performers (with those two professions once being considered almost equally disreputable). As an early nineteenth-century song once asserted, it is nature itself that “embellishes beauty,” so what need would a virtuous woman have for makeup?

The French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire (1821- 67) was raised in this culture of “naturalized beauty” and never really questioned it in his early years. But then, in the 1860s, the man who coined the word “modernity” began to question what Romantic artists and writers referred to as the “supremacy of nature.” In his book, The Painter of Modern Life (1863), he turned his attention to the nature of beauty in the chapter titled “In Praise of Cosmetics.” Charles Baudelaire wrote in his “In Praise of Cosmetics” (1863,) “I am perfectly happy for those whose owlish gravity prevents them from seeking beauty in its most minute manifestations to laugh at these reflections of mine … .”

Baudelaire had always felt especially drawn to the opposite sex, and was conscious of how society’s notion of beauty was changing in an increasingly industrialized world. His essay on beauty was a little too whimsical to be taken absolutely seriously, but it was nonetheless a triumphant defense of the notion that makeup can make the beautiful even more beautiful. “External finery,” Baudelaire wrote, is “one of the signs of the primitive nobility of the human soul.” Every fash ion is “charming,” and every woman is bound by “a kind of duty” to appear magical, to astonish, and to charm her fellows. Accordingly, nature could now be imaginatively surpassed by applying black eyeliner, which “gives the eye a more decisive appearance,” and rouge, which “sets fire to the cheekbone.” Baudelaire’s emphasis on the beauty of artifice over nature marked a significant departure from the Romanticism of the first half of the century, reflecting the rise of decadence and Aestheticism, to many of whose practitioners he was a hero.

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Ben Franklin’s Fable of The Lion And The Dog

Ben Franklin's Fable of The Lion And The Dog

In January 1770, in the London newspaper The Public Advertiser, Benjamin Franklin published a fable about a young lion cub and a large English dog traveling together on a ship.

A lion’s whelp was put on board a Guinea ship bound to America as a present to a friend in that country: it was tame and harmless as a kitten, and therefore not confined, but suffered to walk about the ship at pleasure. A stately, full-grown English mastiff, belonging to the captain, despising the weakness of the young lion, frequently took its food by force, and often turned it out of its lodging box, when he had a mind to repose therein himself The young lion nevertheless grew daily in size and strength, and the voyage being long, he became at last a more equal match for the mastiff; who continuing his insults, received a stunning blow from the lion’s paw that fetched his skin over his ears, and deterred him from any future contest with such growing strength; regretting that he had not rather secured its friendship than provoked its enmity.

'A Benjamin Franklin Reader' by Walter Isaacson (ISBN 0743273982) This is one of the many his articles, letters, hoaxes, and other pieces of political propaganda all aimed at convincing the British colonial powers that its oppressive treatment of the American colonies would sooner or later backfire. Franklin was acting in his capacity as the spokesman in London for several colonies.

Franklin “humbly inscribed” this to Lord Hillsborough, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had become Franklin’s most ardent opponent.

Lord Hillsborough (Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire PC) served as the colonial secretary from 1768 to 1772, a critical period leading toward the American War of Independence.

For a great collection of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, see ‘A Benjamin Franklin Reader’ by Walter Isaacson. Not only was Franklin a self-made man, but he gave great advice about connecting with people and interacting with others both from a business and from a personal point of view.

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Sam Walton Saw No Need for Unions at Walmart

Pro-Union Activists Protest Against Walmart's Anti-Union Policies

Walmart has always been criticized for its policies against labor unions. Supporters of unionization efforts blame workers’ reluctance to join the labor union on Walmart’s anti-union tactics such as managerial surveillance and pre-emptive closures of stores or departments that choose to unionize. Leaked internal documents show that Walmart’s strategy for fighting to keep its workers from forming unions includes instructing managers to report suspicious activity and warning workers that joining unionizing efforts could hurt them.

Walmart’s management has contended that it’s employees do not need to pay third parties to discuss problems with management as the company’s open-door policy enables employees to lodge complaints and submit suggestions all the way up the corporate ladder. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart wrote in his autobiography:

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) I have always believed strongly that we don’t need unions at Wal-Mart. Theoretically, I understand the argument that unions try to make, that the associates need someone to represent them and so on. But historically, as unions have developed in this country, they have mostly just been divisive. They have put management on one side of the fence, employees on the other, and themselves in the middle as almost a separate business, one that depends on division between the other two camps. And divisiveness, by breaking down direct communication makes it harder to take care of customers, to be competitive, and to gain market share. The partnership we have at Wal-Mart—which includes profit sharing, incentive bonuses, discount stock purchase plans, and a genuine effort to involve the associates in the business so we can all pull together—works better for both sides than any situation I know of involving unions. I’m not saying we pay better than anybody, though we’re certainly competitive in our industry and in the regions where we’re operating; we have to be if we want to attract and keep good people. But over the long haul, our associates build value for themselves—financially and otherwise—by believing in the company and keeping it headed in the right direction. Together, we have ridden this thing pretty darned far.

Source: Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made In America

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The Comprehensive Benjamin Franklin Timeline

The Benjamin Franklin Timeline

Benjamin Franklin is revered as the truly distinguished American for his way of living. Assiduous, industrious, ingenious, opinionated, involved, entrepreneurial, intelligent, inquisitive, patriotic, and he lived to be old. He was a printer, a politician, an author, writer, and journalist. He was an inventor, a thinker, and a doer. He was an honest and righteous man who zealously wanted these colonies to be free, self-determining, flourishing, and protected.

He was one of the founders of the United States. America was very privileged to have this right man at the right time. He was well loved as a diplomat and he was a manufacturer of ink. This one man could have filled the lives of ten men with achievements and honors. Lastly, he was most mercifully and humanly flawed.

1706 … Born in Boston on January 17 (Jan. 6, 1705, Old Style). One of seventeen children born to his father, Josiah Franklin,and ten to his mother, Abiah Folger.

1714 … Attends Boston Latin School.

1718 … Apprenticed to brother James Franklin, a printer, who taught Ben the printing trade.

1722 … Writes Silence Dogood essays in the New-England Courant, his brother James’s newspaper.

1723 … Runs away to Philadelphia.

1724 … Moves to London with the intention to acquire equipment necessary for establishing another newspaper in Philadelphia.

1725 … Wrote pamphlet “A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain” and, in it, rejected Christian dogma. Later regarded this pamphlet as an embarrassment.

1726 … Returns to Philadelphia.

1728 … Opens his own print shop.

1729 … Writes the “Busy-Body” series essays. Buys Pennsylvania Gazette.

1730 … Enters common-law marriage with Deborah Read. Son William born.

1731 … Founds Library Company of Philadelphia.

1732 … Son Francis born. Launches Poor Richard’s Almanac.

1733 … Moral Perfection Project that consists of twelve guidelines to help make himself morally perfect

1735 … Controversy over preacher Samuel Hemphill.

1736 … Clerk of Pennsylvania Assembly. Son Francis dies. Forms Union Fire Company, one of the first volunteer firefighting companies in America.

1737 … Made Philadelphia postmaster.

1741 … Launches General Magazine, which fails. Designs Franklin stove.

1743 … Daughter Sarah (“Sally”) born. Launches American Philosophical Society.

1745 … Collinson sends electricity pamphlets and glass tube.

'A Benjamin Franklin Reader' by Walter Isaacson (ISBN 0743273982) 1746 … Summer of electricity experiments.

1747 … Writes “Plain Truth.” Organizes militia.

1748 … Retires from printing business.

1749 … Writes proposal for the Academy (University of Pennsylvania).

1751 … Electricity writings published in London. Elected to Pennsylvania Assembly.

1752 … Kite and lightning experiment.

1753 … Becomes joint postmaster for America.

1754 … French and Indian War begins. Proposes Albany Plan of Union to create a unified government for the Thirteen Colonies.

1757 … Leaves for London as agent. Writes “Way to Wealth” and last Poor Richard’s Almanac. Moves in with Mrs. Stevenson on Craven Street in London.

1758 … Visits Ecton to research ancestry with son William.

1761 … Travels to Flanders and Holland with son William.

1762 … Returns to Philadelphia. Son William made royal governor of N.J., marries.

1763 … Postal inspection trip from Virginia to New England. French and Indian War ends.

1764 … Paxton Boys crisis. Defeated in bitter Assembly election. Returns to London as agent.

1765 … Stamp Act passes.

1766 … Testifies in Parliament against Stamp Act, which is repealed.

1767 … Townshend duties imposed. Travels to France.

1768 … Wages press crusade in London on behalf of the colonies.

1769 … Second visit to France.

1770 … Townshend duties repealed except on tea. Made agent for Massachusetts.

1771 … Begins Autobiography. Visits Ireland and Scotland.

1773 … Writes parodies “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Smaller One” and “Edict of the King of Prussia.” Boston Tea Party.

1775 … Returns to Philadelphia. Battles of Lexington and Concord. Elected to Second Continental Congress. Proposes first Articles of Confederation.

1776 … William removed as royal governor, imprisoned in Connecticut. Declaration of Independence. Goes to France with Temple and Benny.

1777 … Settles in Passy, feted throughout Paris.

1778 … Treaties of alliance and commerce with France.

1779 … Salons of Madames Brillon and Helvetius. John Paul Jones’s Bonhomme Richard defeats the Serapis.

1781 … Appointed (with Adams and others) to negotiate, in Paris, peace with Britain.

1785 … Last meeting with son William. Returns to Philadelphia.

1787 … Constitutional Convention. Elected president of Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

1790 … Dies on April 17 at age 84.

For a great collection of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, see ‘A Benjamin Franklin Reader’ by Walter Isaacson. Not only was Franklin a self-made man, but he gave great advice about connecting with people and interacting with others both from a business and from a personal point of view.

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Apply New Knowledge to Solve New Problems

Apply New Knowledge to Solve New Problems

Education is what have left after forgotten everything you’ve learned. Today, people must constantly forget things they know.

Product generations often last less than 18 months. Some entire product lines turn over every year, and some in six months. Companies that roll to success are those that develop constant learning capacities and exploit them.

Learning can become a renewable resource. An educated person is like a spring: as a spring replenishes itself when water is withdrawn, so educated individuals replenish their learning when knowledge has served its purpose.

Educated people know how to learn. A person who has been trained in specific tasks but not educated in the art of learning is like a dipper, which gets its water from an external source. When the water’s gone, the dipper can’t refill itself.

In the industrial age, education was not essential to successful job performance. Tasks were broken into small subtasks, which people performed repetitively. Once the worker had learned the mechanical procedure, further learning was unnecessary. A robot could do it.

Well, robots are doing it, which means that something more is required of people. They must learn to become more than repetitive doers; they must become purposeful thinkers.

Today, knowledge must generate more knowledge. Workers must learn to bridge between what they already know and what they need to know to achieve continuous improvement.

This calls for skills in interacting with other people and applying new knowledge to solve new problems. Corporate education should develop these skills.

Knock down walls (bureaucratic barriers that block communication). In many companies, communication flows through narrow channels, chimneys of power, usually from the top down. People walled off from these chimneys are left to work in an information vacuum.

Today’s leaders must demolish the walls that prevent the lateral flow of communication. With the walls gone, information permeates and people find it easier to be focused, flexible, fast and friendly. You can’t focus the efforts of your workforce if your organization is criss-crossed with walls that impede the flow of information. You can’t be flexible if you have a rigid structure in which every division and department is a closed information loop. You can’t be fast if information has to seep slowly through layers of management. And you can’t be friendly if your people don’t talk to other people inside and outside your organization.

If you look around, you may see plenty of boundaries that need to be removed. One may be the door to your office that remains closed to input. Another might be a rigid boundary between hourly and salaried employees. Or it could be a boundary that shuts out ideas that don’t originate in your own organization. Other boundaries might be the lines between divisions. If one division develops a new method or technology, does it share it with other divisions?

Among the toughest boundaries to dismantle are the ones managers erect around the borders of their turf. People who are promoted to their “levels of incompetence” and armed with the word “manager” in their titles, stake out their own turfs and guard them jealously. In a corporation without boundaries, advancement means moving into positions in which expertise is interchanged and knowledge is put to productive use by coaches, advisers, and knowledge workers. In such corporations, advancement for individuals results in advancement for the entire company.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Mental Models and Psychology

How to Create a Culture of Accountability

How to Create a Culture of Accountability

Most people view accountability as something that belittles them or happens only when performance wanes, problems develop, results suffer, something goes wrong, or someone seeks to identify the cause of the problem, all for the sake of pinning blame and pointing the finger. When things sail along smoothly, people rarely ask, “Who is accountable for this success?”

Most dictionaries define accountability in a negative view. Consider Webster’s definition: “subject to having to report, explain, or justify; being answerable and responsible.” The words “subject to” imply little choice in the matter. This suggests that accountability is a consequence for poor performance, something you should fear or avoid. When people experience accountability this way, they shun it and justify poor results.

We need a more positive and powerful definition of accountability. Consider ours: “A personal choice to rise above your circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve desired results.

This definition includes a mindset of asking, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the desired results?” It involves seeing it, owning it, solving it, and doing it, and requires making, keeping, and answering for personal commitments. Such a perspective embraces current and future efforts rather than reactive, historical explanations. With this new definition, you can help yourself and others do everything possible to overcome difficult circumstances and achieve desired results.

Accountability in Action

As hard as he tried, Dave Schlotterbeck, CEO of Alaris Medical Systems, could not get his 2,900 employees to perform. The $500 million company had resulted from a merger of IVAC and Imed. While the merger should have produced strength, debt and under-performance stalled all efforts.

The breakthrough at Alaris was the result of focused effort. Through a series of cross-functional feedback sessions between operations, sales, quality, customer care and service, individuals were confronted with hard facts. People could see the problem and how they could change it. They overcame the barriers of functional expertise and prefer ences and aligned themselves for the common good. ALARIS attained a culture of accountability in which everyone wanted to do and achieve more.

Here are four steps to take in creating a culture of accountability

  1. Know what result you need to reach. Whether you have a sales goal, a delivery date for your product, or a minimum ROI to achieve, know what result you need to reach. Once you set the goat make it clear to all managers and employees. Everyone must know what they are working for and how their job moves the company forward.
  2. Generate joint accountability for results. This occurs when everyone assumes accountability for the result. No one can even think, let alone say, that he has done his job if the team has not achieved its targeted result. In fact, no one can think or say that she has achieved her individual result if the company has not achieved its result. Leaders can create joint accountability by targeting a clear result, driving the result though the company, and holding everyone accountable for achieving the result—not just doing his or her job. Joint accountability demands that everyone become accountable for producing the results the company must achieve.
  3. Keep people focused on achieving the result, not just putting in time and doing tasks. Often, job descriptions push people into boxes. They give people the idea that they are getting paid and using their skills to perform a defined function or task. The task mindset leads people to believe that if they perform their functions, they’ve done the job, whether or not the result is achieved. Effective leaders lead people beyond the boundaries of their jobs and inspire them to relentlessly pursue results by creating a culture that motivates them to ask, “What else can I do?” until the results are achieved. They help people see that their “job” is to achieve the results. The daily activities that comprise people’s jobs must be aligned with the targeted results.
  4. Direct you own destiny. Only when you assume full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, actions and results can you direct your own destiny; otherwise, someone else will. Accountability enables you to influence events and outcomes before they happen. You will gain much more from a proactive posture than from a reactive one.

This view of accountability can help revitalize your character, strengthen your competitiveness, heighten innovation, improve the quality of your products and services, and increase your responsiveness to the needs and wants of your customers and constituents. When you create a culture of accountability, you will achieve the results you want, and everyone will help you along the way.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators