Thursday, July 10, 2014

Important Keys to Success

I have known many traders who worked for Marc Rich a very long time, even before he took flight from the United States because of pending charges that the US government was about to bring against him.

To a man, the traders all respected Rich and told me that one key to his success, which ultimately turned him into a billionaire, was his approach to problems. He would attack problems in trades and other situations by going at the problem from every conceivable angle possible.

The New York Times captured this same approach by Rich, when it described decades later how Rich approached getting a pardon from President Clinton. NYT wrote in 2001: 
A review of the campaign to persuade Mr. Clinton, drawn from interviews with people directly involved and documents made public for Congressional hearings, shows how Mr. Rich and his supporters orchestrated the use of every imaginable chit to win their goal.
That was indeed the Marc Rich that traders had described to me, come at a problem from every angle possible.

I bring this up because of a sentence in Timothy Geithner's book, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises. In the sentence, Geithner discusses another very successful, very powerful man, former Goldman Sachs CEO and ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who is now co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. Geithner writes:
He was calm, dispassionate, and almost comically deliberate, analyzing problems from every possible angle, scribbling down risks and probabilities on his yellow legal pad...
Guys, like Rich and Rubin, didn't gain their positions by accident. They were always prepared and did the work that needed to be done. Geithner also wrote in Stress Test:
Rubin used to do roughly sixty minutes of prep for every minute on Meet the Press; I did zero minutes prep for the first TV interviews of my career. 
Rubin, in a personal conversation, once told me that, even now, when he has to deliver a speech, he takes up to a week's worth of time to prepare for it.

But there are a lot more people like Geithner, who don't do the preparation, who act before considering all options. And there are many who give up on a problem  in front of them, even before trying half the options that Rich and Rubin would consider in the same situation.

Preparation, thoroughness, tenacity and the consideration of all options will put you way ahead of the pack, if you employ them regularly.


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