“Whenever you sit down with your boss, you should have paper and pen handy for note-taking.” That was one of the first nuggets of advice my old boss gave me after we were introduced to each other. Hence, I usually carry a pen or pencil and a small notebook for note-taking. I don’t trust devices for this, because they can fail, or what I need to remember gets easily lost.
By any measure, Jerry was a very successful man. As a newspaper publisher and radio stations owner, he was one of the most powerful people in the state. At one time he owned stations in Nebraska and Colorado. There were some weekly “shopper-type” classified ads papers to his name. Jerry was a generous philanthropist who regularly aided humanitarian causes–and never made a fuss about it. He was somewhat athletically active. Jerry was also friends on a first-name basis with famous people like Johnny Carson. Despite his many successes, Jerry was a very humble person with an aura of quiet strength.
Most of my interactions with Jerry were not directly related to business. Typically, we sat near one another at functions like holiday parties. Many times alphabetical order seating was the reason. Whenever that happened, out came my little notebook and a pen.
At one of the parties we attended just before Jerry had decided to turn his publishing company over to his son-in-law, we were again seated together. My dinner companion was a man at the height of his power and wealth. I wanted to know what was his definition of success.
After a few moments of thought Jerry said: “Success is to live the life we deserve and want, deep inside.” He stressed that success isn’t just about wealth and power, but they were a large part of it for him. Jerry had five categories of personal success: well-being, curiosity, humility, wisdom, and generosity.
Jerry’s inherited high status as a prominent businessman provided plenty of well-being. His curiosity was manifested by being involved in journalism and media. To know Jerry, was to witness his low-key, humble demeanor. He was a thoughtful, intelligent person who made many wise business and personal decisions. His charitable giving was great yet was often anonymously given. He compensated his employees fairly and above industry standards.
Jerry said his success was an interaction between self-confidence and the peace of mind as a result of acting ethically in all areas of life. Much of his success was enabled by having an open mind about people and circumstances. He advised me to never be attached to beliefs. That is, try and think like a scientist and be open to changing your cherished opinions when solid evidence indicates you’re wrong. Never be afraid to admit when you’re wrong, then explore new thinking and directions.
Above all, respect the dignity of everybody. Without people, you will never be honestly, truly successful.
Jerry referred to his newspaper’s obituary section. He said to carefully ponder what you want your obit to say when it is published for all the world to see. What you deeply hope your obituary to say is what will ultimately define you as personally successful.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes clothing retailer Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. “Your personal core values define who you are. Character is destiny.”