Achievers Know Best

Invaluable strategies and wise words from those at the top

The path to success is not a secret. Those who have attained it are willing to share, be it helpful tactics to move your career forward or encouraging words for risk-taking. Hearing from those who have journeyed toward success is imperative to forging your own path. And getting to the next level is not an unattainable feat, so long as you look to the right people to guide you. Here, four of the top individuals in their respective fields take a moment to offer us key lessons derived from personal experiences.

Kenneth Chenault Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, American Express
How do you achieve success? How do you “run fastest?” Through my career, I have distilled some principles that have guided me:

Personal integrity: Don’t sell yourself to the highest bidder. If you don’t believe in the product or ideals of a company or organization, don’t accept the job. Dedicate yourself to a core set of values. Without them, you will never be able to find personal fulfillment [or] lead effectively.

Always try to associate with the best and brightest people. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by someone’s reputation for being hard and tough. Believe in yourself, and never be afraid to challenge yourself. In other words, stay away from stupid people.
Don’t overestimate the importance of networking. Whether in school or in business, your main focus always needs to be on completing the job at hand. If you’re already in your career, don’t expect a network of strangers or acquaintances to lay the path to your success.

Execution–performance–is the bottom line measure for everything we attempt to do.
To be successful, our EQ, or execution quotient, must equal our IQ. Network off of your performance.

Richard D. Parsons Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Time Warner Inc.
Represent yourself well wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and those wheels will turn in your favor–oftentimes without you even knowing it. How I made partner [early] at Patterson Belknap is a perfect example:

What happened was, at the time, I was representing Nelson Rockefeller, [who was donating] money to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I went up there to meet with these prominent lawyers and museum officials [to negotiate the deal].
So I walked into the meeting room, turned around and they were all still standing there, facing the other way.

I said, “What are you guys doing?”
“We’re waiting for the governor’s lawyer.”
I said, “Well, he’s here, I’m him.” You talk about things that happen that might have a racial overtone; you’re better off laughing at it than taking offense! I got on with [the meeting].

Days after, Herb Brownell, who had been Eisenhower’s attorney general, [ran] into Chauncey Belknap–who was the titular head of the firm. Herb says to Belknap, “You know, I met that new young partner of yours the other day… I commend you and the firm ….”

Belknap [returns] to the firm and says, “We gotta make Parsons a partner”–because he [cannot] look like a fool [to] his friend Herb Brownell–”and by God, I don’t care that it’s May

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