Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wisdom of Not

Who do you think is a genius?
  • Not Flying: A man who escapes a plane crash alive (Crash Survivor is a Hero proclaims newspaper) or the guy who cuts down on air travel by using video conferencing because he knows that the best way to lower your odds of dieing in a plane crash or car accident is to fly and drive less? And its good for the environment.
  • Not Buying: The man who gets a great deal on a property after its down 20% or the woman who decides to not buy a home but rent in stead in Las Vegas? The company (Bank of America) that buys Countrywide or the hundreds others that walked away?
  • Not Kissing: Wall Street or Warren Buffett? The genius of Warren Buffett is perhaps not so much in what toads he kisses but in the toads he chooses to walk away from. In 1992, Warren said in one of his famous annual letters:
    In the past, I've observed that many acquisition-hungry managers were apparently mesmerized by their childhood reading of the story about the frog-kissing princess. Remembering her success, they pay dearly for the right to kiss corporate toads, expecting wondrous transfigurations. Initially, disappointing results only deepen their desire to round up new toads. ("Fanaticism," said Santyana, "consists of redoubling your effort when you've forgotten your aim.") Ultimately, even the most optimistic manager must face reality. Standing knee-deep in unresponsive toads, he then announces an enormous "restructuring" charge. In this corporate equivalent of a Head Start program, the CEO receives the education but the stockholders pay the tuition.
  • Not Graduating: Chasing after yet another degree that will get you a dream job or walking away from the rat race? Bill Gates chose to walk away from a Harvard degree, Steve Ballmer from a Stanford MBA and Michael Dell from University of Texas at Austin.
Sometimes not doing something is a sign of deeper wisdom than the heroic genius of doing, saving, buying, kissing, graduating, chasing.

Don't just do something, sit there. There is even a book on that. And on giving up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very exciting write up.