Most revered CEOs lead lives and do things that are beyond our wildest dreams. Their experiences and lessons are read, discussed and followed by millions of people, all hoping that the same wisdom and mentality will get them to a similar place. Here are four lessons we all should remember.
1. Grit and humility – Satoru Iwata, former CEO of NintendoA computer programmer and avid gamer, Iwata knew his company's products inside out. He was unafraid to immerse himself in the games, conducting tests and pitching in with coding assistance whenever required. As a result, Iwata was able to predict trends and recognize customer needs, which led to the release of the handheld Nintendo DS. In a style contrary to most Japanese companies, Iwata ran a blog known as Iwata Asks, to stay connected to consumers and answer their queries. He accepted responsibility for mistakes by taking a pay reduction during Nintendo’s financial slump and did not shy away from admitting he did not recognize the potential of the smartphone craze. In our careers, many of us avoid admitting to, let alone accept, the consequences of our professional decisions lest we are seen as incompetent or ineffective. But admitting failure or short-sightedness can go a long way – stay grounded and humble, and you'll command respect.
2. Modesty and level-headedness – Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Despite his immense wealth, Buffet lives a frugal life. Instead of splurging on expensive cars and extravagant houses, one of the richest men in the world prefers to spend his money on simple pleasures, such as junk food and television. His disdain for fads is well-documented, and he cautions young people against getting credit cards and living beyond their means. In his youth he had worked several odd jobs, one of them being as a delivery boy for the Washington Post. Today, Berkshire Hathaway commands a whopping 24% of the company, a position it has occupied for the last 37 years.
Consumerism has driven us all to spend our money on things we do not need. Most of us struggle to save money every month, and we could all take a page out of Warren Buffet's book on how to be economical.
3. Do everything – Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba The owner of Alibaba came from humble origins, which is reflected in all of his nuggets of wisdom. Despite his current economic success, he has faced his share of hardships. Ma failed his university entrance exams thrice, and suffered dozens of job application rejections – even from KFC! He believes that the best learning experience comes from engaging in a variety of activities and interacting with people from all walks of life, rather than simply reading books. Ma is also a proponent of embracing failure, as valuable lessons can be gleaned from mistakes and failed ventures.
In modern corporate culture, failure is viewed as negative, as a sign of employee incompetence. However, there is enlightenment to be gained from professional debacles.
4. Lofty thoughts – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceXBy far the most eccentric individual on this list, Elon Musk is admired for a laundry list of business successes, including establishing three multi-million dollar companies. A lover of science fiction, Musk wanted his creations to solve more significant humanitarian problems: making sure the global population had access to energy and electricity, and, oddly enough, colonizing Mars. While some may call him as outlandish, there’s no denying that Musk is unafraid of having outrageous goals and work towards achieving them. According to him, nothing should be done solely for the money, but rather for the betterment of the world.
Due to the fast-paced nature of our lives, we often do not stop to think about what we really want to achieve. While our ambitions do not necessarily have to be as extraordinary as the man who wants to land a rocket on Mars, keeping track of them will help us determine our current position in life.