The Catch 22 of Great Men

success_is_a_lousy_teacher_2014-04-22_13-42-24I recently read an article which mentions the following quote:

In 1923, nine of the most successful U.S. businessmen met in Chicago. Josh Brown writes:

Within 25 years, all of these great men had met a horrific end to their careers or their lives:

The president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died a bankrupt man; the president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died penniless; the president of the largest gas company, Howard Hobson, suffered a mental breakdown, ending up in an insane asylum; the president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, had just been released from prison; the bank president, Leon Fraser, had taken his own life; the wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died penniless; the head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Krueger the ‘match king’ also had taken his life; and the member of President Harding’s cabinet, Albert Fall, had just been given a pardon from prison so that he could die at home.

This is an extremely interesting anecdote. I often think about the qualities that make some entrepreneurs and business people wildly successful.   I have spent time with men who were on top of the world and ended up with nothing.

I believe the qualities which can make you successful can also be weaknesses that can lead to one’s demise. This is a difficult problem to solve.

Perhaps hubris as a result of great success becomes the obstacle.  When you start out young and hungry the understanding that you have not achieved greatness will keep you open to new ideas and willingness to listen to others.

Once you have achieved success perhaps you become closed off to change adaptation.

None of us are omnipotent; we are all subject to reality.  Granted, the greatest men on earth defied what others viewed as reality and shaped a new reality in their vision.  This is really the catch 22 of great men.

Success is a lousy teacher,”Bill Gates once said. “It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”


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