Learning by Observation

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There are very few television shows that I watch.  When “The Apprentice” is on I try to catch it.  Why?  Because Donald Trump is like the Dr. Phil of business.  It’s amazing to me how he gets people to say things that they may or may not want to say. People typically focus on a symptom and not the actual problem.  He is a master at cutting through to the problem.

This book is about 25 years old.   Even though it is an oldie, I still wanted to read this book in order to learn about his background, and also see if that gives some insights on what makes him so perceivably successful.

The book begins with a week in the life of Donald Trump.  It was an impressive week.  There were deals that he was working on that have far exceeded my lifetime earnings.  How exciting (and depressing (if you believe in comparisons))!  There was one important thing that I picked up from this.  Few things where actually driven by him.  He had a lot of people who where presenting him with ideas or providing recommendations to him.  He has an exciting life, but without these other people, what would he be?  During this part of the book, I was thinking about the importance of keeping trustworthy and influential friends.

Donald comes from a family of privilege.  His father was an influential real-estate developer.  He came from influence, but his father didn’t baby his son.  There was a trust fund, that was, admittedly, huge, but for someone who could’ve given his son enough money so he would never have to work, it’s a step in the right direction.  He had to open the doors for himself to some extent.  Given the amount of success Donald and his siblings had, this approach must’ve done something right.  They provided the door, but it was up to their children to open it.

A good portion of the book is dedicated towards projects he had completed or was working on.  Quick observations:

  • If Donald likes you, he really talks well about you.  If Donald doesn’t like you, he really talks poorly about you.  Partially reminds me of a Carnegie quote, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise”.
  • Deals of a large magnitude have many moving parts.  Your project is only as strong as the weakest part.
  • Luck happens sometimes, but it happens more often when you look around.
  • There are a ton of regulations around real-estate.  Those regulations give ultimate power for the project to government officials.
  • He has an obsession for the best.
  • Whenever the risk can be passed onto others, he does it.
  • Trump is a symbol.  The business equivalent of Batman.
  • Speaking of symbols, advertising something as the “world’s biggest” will sell.
  • It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.He dreams big.

The project that resonates the most after reading the book is the Wollman rink.  Trump totally embarrasses Ed Koch, the mayor of New York at the time.  He really rips on the incompetence of the people who worked on the original rink plans.  I really think this hurt him in the long run.  The mayor has a lot of influence.  Make him mad; and your projects suddenly fail.  Perhaps the moral lesson is “Don’t burn bridges” or “Don’t publicly say anything negative about anyone”.  The obvious lesson is that the right leadership can make a huge difference.

It has an incomplete feel to it as a lot of the things he was working on are still in progress. It is good be able to to see the outcomes of these projects. The flip side of the successful Wollman project was the failure to build the world’s tallest building.  Perhaps, if he had not ruffled so many feathers, that vision would’ve been better received and, possibly, realized.  Perhaps not.

Few of his failures were mentioned in the book.  The only failures that were mentioned lead to something positive.  Although I like this type of lifestyle, when more projects fail then succeed, and this book is 95% success stores; it comes across as unbelievable.  He comes across as more than human (a symbol :)?).

I didn’t get many insights into what makes him so good at cutting to the core of a problem.  Perhaps he has learned it though just the sheer number of times he has worked with different people or the number of experiences he has had.

It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.

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From http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids&print=true
Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

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The computers are never large enough or fast enough. Each breakthrough in hardware technology leads to more massive programming enterprises, new organizational principles, and an enrichment of abstract models. Every reader should ask himself periodically “Toward what end, toward what end?” — but do not ask it too often lest you pass up the fun of programming for the constipation of bittersweet philosophy.

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“An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.”
-Aldous Huxley

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Priorities

Phoronix: Out of all of your achievements up to this point, what would you consider the most rewarding?

Mark [Shuttleworth]: Staying unmarried.

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