Friday, April 14, 2017

Relationships & Power | Lefsetz Letter

Smarts are overrated.

I’m not saying it’s a disadvantage to have a high IQ, be book smart, be educated, just that it won’t get you that far. The elites are all about jumping through hoops, getting good grades to get into a good school so they have insurance for the future. And too many squander this opportunity. By playing it safe, going to work for the bank.

But you want to be the tail that wags the dog, you want to be the one who calls your lawyer as opposed to the attorney codifying the deal.

How do you get there?

Some are born with it. Or have parents who teach them the ways of the world.

Most do not.

How can you learn?

You can buy a self-help book, but never forget, those are not individualized to you, and rah-rah motivation, endless cheerleading with a positive attitude really doesn’t go far. Sure, you don’t want to come across as depressed, you want to be motivated, but you’ve got to examine your flaws and learn new ways of thinking.

I’m a big fan of psychotherapy, which gets a bad rap these days. If you even admit you’ve got a problem you get a pill, or a short term of counseling. But if you’ve got the bucks you can see an analyst who will examine your issues and teach you new ways of thinking. As for those who believe they can do it on their own… That’s why men commit suicide, have trouble getting over relationships, while women circle the wagons, support each other and move on. Men soldier on, blindly. And if you’re not aware and looking all the time you’re gonna lose.

And then there’s observation, seeing how the great ones do it.

Forget their books, they’re self-promotional hogwash. Jack Welch cooked the books. Employed financial shenanigans. It was left to Jeff Immelt to pick up the trash and crawl GE from the wreckage, to sell assets that were bringing the company down and move the headquarters to Boston, a tech center.

Enjoy your business biographies, but they’re worth almost nothing.

But you can learn from business books. The creme de la creme, like Connie Bruck’s “The Predators’ Ball” and James B. Stewart’s “Den of Thieves” and “Storming The Magic Kingdom,” by John Taylor. Those are all out of date, but in their era they evidenced a cornucopia of insight, more beneficial than a business school course, because business school teaches you how to rape and pillage, but it does not teach you how to be build, how to get along with those outside the walls of the citadel, hell read the new book by Duff McDonald entitled “The Golden Passport” if you want to know about that, not that I’ve read it yet, and in many cases the reviews themselves are enough. And they’re minting new analytical tomes every day, hell, even read Bethany McLean in “Vanity Fair.”

Yes, you must be a student of the game. The players know the landscape, the other players, the history, where the bombs are buried. Information is the currency of business.

But once you have that…

You must have relationships, and who they’re with is very important.

When you’re starting out the people at the top don’t want to know your name, so you’re limited to those like you, at the bottom. Don’t waste time with people who are not going anywhere, who are fun to hang with but don’t push the ball forward. Yes, in business you’re either moving up the food chain or you’re falling behind, just ask all those baby boomers who can no longer work in the music business while their elite brethren are running it.

It takes time to ferret out who is a winner and who is a loser.

Attach yourself to the winners, they’ll carry you through.

But you must offer something of value, you cannot be replaceable.

And after more victories you’ll be exposed to higher-ups, who will not only show how the game is played, but may deign to help you.

And it becomes complicated, do you settle for less and break a relationship when a better one comes along or sit on the sidelines biding your time…

I DON’T KNOW! I’m still trying to figure it out, it’s a learning process.

And don’t be afraid of standing up for yourself, alienating people. If you can’t draw a line in the sand, if you can’t bite back, you won’t be respected. Many people will test you, if you cave, if you accede to their wishes and behavior, they’ll plow right over you.

And at the top of the pyramid you’ll find relative calmness. All the noise is underneath. Those at the top have not only survived, they know all their compatriots personally and have traded favors to the point where they’re owed something. You’re looking for someone who can get their call picked up instantly by anybody. They exist.

And if you’ve got none of the above skills, you must recognize this and attach yourself to those who do, it’s the only way out of the morass, especially today, when the world is comprised of winners and losers.

And if you’re a fan of kumbaya, if you want to love everybody and just get along, that’s fine, BUT DON’T BITCH WHEN YOU DON’T RISE ABOVE!

If you’re a band playing clubs making a living and happy, that’s cool with me. But if you can’t move on to arenas, which is ever more difficult to do, especially without radio play, you need someone with power and relationships. Who may not be interested because they don’t think you’ve got the chops.

This is the way of the world.

It’s all about power. Getting it, keeping it and wielding it.

And you cannot achieve that power in a vacuum, you gain it via relationships.

It’s both simple and complicated. Kinda like Monopoly. You can understand the game, but can you win?

And just like in Monopoly you’re a victim of chance. But never be afraid to roll the dice. And know you get to roll them again, it’s you who take yourself out of the game. Don’t do that.


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