Michael Bloomberg on succeeding in business

Michael Bloomberg - three term mayor of New York and eighth richest man in the world - recently offered his insight in a New York Times piece entitled Michael Bloomberg on How to Succeed in Business

He said a few things that I liked a lot.

Nobody remembers where you went to school. The first job they may ask, by the third job they won’t remember to. People put too much emphasis on that. It’s much more important that you go to a place where you fit in and which has decent academics. 

I have watched students and parents twist themselves into knots trying to get into this school or that school, when it's absolutely true:

No one will remember where you went to college unless you're the douchebag who brings up your time at Princeton whenever possible.  

Bloomberg is right. Find a place where you fit in and that has decent academics. 

My wife attended Smith College. It's an excellent school, but more importantly, it was a place where she felt completely at home, and she remains closely connected to the school even today.

I attended Trinity College for my English degree and St. Joseph's University for my teaching degree - two well respected schools - but the best education I ever received was the three years I spent at Manchester Community College. My years spent at Trinity and St. Joseph's pales in comparison to the instruction I received at the community college.   

The part that’s most important in an education is how to deal with people. There’s no job I know that you do by yourself, and I learned as much from the two guys I worked for at Salomon Brothers, Billy Salomon and John Gutfreund, as I’d learned at Harvard. In the end, it’s people skills that you need. 

The greatest eduction I ever received in terms of dealing with people was the ten years I spent managing McDonald's restaurants, beginning in high school and continuing through college. Learning to train, manage, and motivate a vast array of employees ranging from pregnant teens, paroled felons, non-English speaking immigrants, college students, empty nesters, and everything in between taught me more about management than any MBA program could.

I have always believed that companies would be wise to identify highly effective McDonald's managers in inner city restaurants and steal them away for whatever management positions they may have. When you can operate a fast food restaurant in the inner city profitably, you can do almost anything.     

What disturbs me is you talk to kids applying today and they invariably say, “I cured cancer, I brought peace to the Mideast.” Spare me. How about, “My father never existed, my mother is a convicted drug dealer. I worked three shifts at McDonald’s.” That’s the kind of kid I want — with an ethic of taking care of his family — because then he’ll take care of others. Some of us don’t have much prenatal intelligence, but nevertheless go out and try and have a decent chance of surviving. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but nobody’s going to outwork me.

I couldn't agree more.

I recently met a person who recently graduated from a prestigious university after attending a private boarding school in high school. He managed to land a dream job in New York and was telling me about how lucky he felt to break into a tough industry so early in life.


His parents sent him to a prestigious private school. He had all the advantages that a person could imagine as a boy. Then he attended a prestigious university on his parent's dime. He spent his summers interning in his chosen field. No part-time or summer jobs. He's traveled the world, studied abroad, and graduated without any debt.    

Landing that job was not lucky. His entire life was designed to land that job. 

Give me the kid who had to claw and scrape his way through college any day. Give me the kid who has faced enormous adversity and came out on the other end stronger, wiser, and with a perspective that will serve him well. Give me the kid who wasn't supposed to make it as opposed to the kid who had no choice but to succeed.

This position may reflect a personal bias, but Bloomberg agrees with me, so it can't be all about my own experience.