Recently, the topic of conversation on campus has been the website “If I Knew Then”, created by the HBS Alumni Class of 1963. Assuming an average age of 30 at graduation, they are now around 80. On the site, alumni look back on their lives, offering guidance on various topics – careers, family, business, leadership, wealth etc.
The following advice struck me above all else on the site -“Leadership, in my opinion, is getting others to do what you think should be done but have it be their idea.” “There is no substitute for integrity. In a world where greed and taking shortcuts seem to be major themes, there is nothing that can replace one’s reputation. The ability to look back on life and say, “I did it the right way” is a treasure. There is no do-over when you lose your integrity and reputation.” “Be your own man and don’t get influenced too much by friends and parents. Do your own thing. Do what you enjoy and financial success will follow your enthusiasm.” “Exercise patience. It took me two marriages and 80% of a lifetime to appreciate the value of that word.” “Have fun. You’ll be dead a long time.”
This may be easy for them to say as they have been around the block and have faced what awaits us. And hindsight IS twenty-twenty. Although we have been made aware of, and are appreciative of these sage words, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we are required to travel the same path.
However, most of the alumni are people who have achieved great success in their careers and have acquired much of what we hope for. The caveat here – maxims of our predecessors, although deserving of our attention and consideration must be parsed for meaning and relevance to our lives, hopes and dreams.