10 people (2016)
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1. Marrisa Mayer- current CEO of Yahoo [as of July 2016 Yahoo was sold to Verizon for $5 billion USD]
A graduate of computer science at Stanford University, Marissa received multiple job offers upon graduation. Rather than choosing a secure job offer, she took a risk and accepted a job at the then unknown start-up, Google. She was the 20th employee of Google.
She took the job because it met her two requirements; working with the most intelligent people and being pushed past what she knew she could do.
In my research about her, time and time again I learn two specific things about her; she has a strong personality and is willing to work non-stop.
"She is strong-willed and has strong opinions. She is willing to say what she believes to be true, which can make her unpopular."
She is a clear thinker, opinionated and quickly takes on new information and adapts and evolves her opinion. She gets things done. She has a reputation for her intellect, work ethic and makes decisions based on scientific evidence.
She was part of a three person team that invented Google Adwords, which remains Google’s main source of revenue.
After thirteen years at Google, she was made CEO of Yahoo in 2012.
2. Darryl McDaniels aka D.M.C- Musician from hip hop group Run-D.M.C
Darryl McDaniels was part of the groundbreaking hip hop group Run-D.M.C in the 80’s with hits such as “It’s Tricky” and “It’s like that”.
Raised in Queens, New York, he started drinking as a young adult and eventually needed alcohol to get through his stage performances. This affliction impacted his career, as he began to lose his voice through a disorder known as spasmodic dysphonia. His crisis of his identity “who needs a rapper who can’t rap?” and not being where he wanted to be led him further into alcoholism and depression. This made him have suicidal thoughts, and he was thinking of ways to kill himself:
“From about 1995 to the early 2000s, I wrestled with deep depression, thoughts of suicide, and a lapse into the alcohol abuse I thought I’d left behind years earlier. It means another day of the sort of quiet, desperate frustration that had seeped into my soul…my depression came in the form of being disappointed by the life I had created for myself. I was surrounded by “friends” I felt did not care about me. I felt empty inside…there wasn’t a damn thing I wanted to do about it…for nearly five years of my life, I contemplated killing myself almost daily..I couldn’t cope with the anger and frustration that were driving me to want to hurt myself…part of my depression was rooted in not knowing why my voice had deteriorated..all I could do was stand around wearing a fuckin’ hat. I was embarrassed, and being dragged around the world to promote remixes only worsened my self-esteem.”
Things came to the boiling point when in around 2002 he was told by his parents that he was adopted. He found salvation in counselling and support in his wife and child. It also made him embark on a quest to find his biological parents. This was achieved in 2004, finding his birth mother for the first time.
"It was the missing piece of the puzzle," says Zuri (Darryl’s wife). "When he laid eyes on his mother, I lost my husband, and I watched him fall in love with another woman. I gained so much from that, he became complete, and we've been perfect ever since."
McDaniels later co-founded The Felix Organisation in 2006, which funds programs and summer camps for foster youth. He now spends his time making new music and speaking about addiction, depression and adoption.
3. Michael Bloomberg- founder of Bloomberg L.P, former Mayor of New York City
With an approximate net worth of 48 billion US dollars (source: Forbes.com as of July 2016), the CEO and founder of financial data company Bloomberg L.P is a notable person of influence.
He studied electrical engineering in Boston, USA, followed by a Masters of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. At the age of 24, he started work in New York at the investment bank the Salomon brothers. He later went on to found Bloomberg L.P, was the Mayor of New York City for 12 years, and then later resumed his role as CEO of Bloomberg.
It is not a daunting task to find a detailed biography of his professional achievements, but my interest is his character and personality. This was said of him when he was the Mayor of New York City:
“Depending on who you talk to, Mayor Bloomberg is either a clear-headed, non-partisan leader who bases decisions on fact rather than sentiment or party politics, or a heartless, autocratic killjoy who runs the city like a Fortune 500 company.”
Whilst not insightful on giving us a specific indication on his character, a later quote I found states:
“When Bloomberg believes he’s right, nothing’s going to change his mind. “You can’t lead from the back,” he says. “You can’t go and try to please everybody. We have a democracy, not a republic.””
Is this a show of strong will and decision making, or an ignorance of another’s opinion? It is unlikely that he would be where he is today if he listened and followed everything that was asked of him. There would have to be a platform of strength that he has chosen to create. A large motivation in his success seems to derive from his desire to dissociate himself with being lazy.
“Paul Schervish, a professor at Boston College, doesn’t know Bloomberg directly. But he’s studied him in great detail. Schervish is an expert on the psychology of the wealthy. “Bloomberg is an entrepreneur, and for many of them, it’s a difficult thing to view yourself as lazy or profligate””
His leadership style is straight forward and logical. He commits to a decision, and delegates the responsibility to his staff to get the job done:
“Former aides, like Bill Cunningham, who served as Bloomberg's communications chief, says that he brought the skills of a successful CEO to the mayor's office…"Mike believed you hire people and then you give them the authority to run their agencies, 'Here's your budget. You know the issues. I've hired you. I'm gonna back you up. Now go do a good job’…and generally, the last words he would say to somebody after he swore them in was: 'Now don't mess it up.' But he didn't say 'mess'."”
4. Joe Biden- current Vice President of the United States of America
For the onlooker, Joe Biden is the Vice President of the United States, and little else is known about the politician. Someone who only knows this can think he is lucky, wealthy and powerful. For those that have read his biography, he has done an extremely fantastic job at getting the best out of the terrible circumstances in his life. His ability to overcome adversity is what amazes me about him.
a. He suffered from a stutter in his childhood and in his twenties, which he overcome by constantly reciting poetry in the mirror.
b. His first wife and one year old daughter died in a car accident one week after he won election to the US senate in 1972.
c. He was left as a single father with two sons and a demanding job in the US senate. He would commute to work by taking a one and a half hour train every day.
d. After the death of his wife and daughter, his work suffered. His colleagues were gossiping about how long he would last in his job.
e. In 1988 he suffered severe neck pain in which he was hospitalised and given life saving surgery, being diagnosed as having an intracranial berry aneurysm. Three months later he had a second aneurysm, in which he had to stop work for seven months to recover.
f. Of his surviving two sons, his son Beau died in 2015 after a battle with brain cancer.
After all the events he has suffered, he remains focused on serving the American people to the best of his ability. It is a remarkable example of perseverance beset by grief and suffering.
5. Mark Cuban- entrepreneur, owner of basketball team “Dallas Mavericks”
Mark Cuban has a net worth of 3.2 billion US dollars (source: Forbes.com as of July 2016). He is a well known figure in the business community, and has gained more exposure through being an investor on the hit American TV series “Shark Tank”.
After graduation at the age of 22, he worked for Mellon Bank. He setup a “rookie club” where he would invite senior executives to talk to a group of young twenty-something employees. He thought that it would be a good idea.
“Instead, my boss called me into his office one day and ripped me a new one. “Who the f— do you think you are?” he yelled. I told him I was trying to help Mellon make more money. He told me I was never to go over him or around him, or he’d crush me. I knew then it was time to get out of there. That’s how I found myself back in Indiana, then on the road to Dallas.”
Regardless of how that boss interpreted it, this shows the beginnings of his appetite to use his initiative and create something.
His professional ethics of hard work parallel those of Mayer and Bloomberg:
“He’s not on the bandwagon of business leaders who tell you to follow your passions. Instead, Cuban professes that true success in business is found through hard work, leveraging your skills and reducing risk at every turn…his message for young entrepreneurs who want to reduce their risk when starting a business, is through intense preparation and research. The less experience you have in your industry, the more important this research phase becomes.”
He has given his advice and tips on business with many magazine articles and talk shows. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, he talks about the importance of credibility:
“Q: If someone was coming to you and you get to decide who was running for President of the United States, what questions would you ask candidates, how would you vet them?
A: I would want to talk to people he’s [referring to Donald Trump] done business with. I would want to talk to different people he’s done projects for, to find out what was their experience [of him].”
On Bloomberg television, he was interviewed about what entrepreneurs should do to set up a business:
“Q: What do you think is the most important thing for new entrepreneurs right now?
A: Just to go after it...it’s all to you…a lot of people like to make excuses, ‘I don’t have connections, I don’t have money’…if you find something that you love to do, be great at it and see if you can turn it into a business…worst case is you are going to have fun doing what it is you love to do and best case you can turn it into a business…I’m just not big on excuses.
Q: How do you get the capital to start that business?
A: If you are starting a business and you take out a loan, you are a moron, because there are so many uncertainties with starting a business, yet that one uncertainty that you have to have, is paying back that loan. The bank doesn’t care about your business.
Q: So what should small businesses do?
A: 99% of small businesses you can start with next to no capital, it’s more about effort. Businesses don’t fail for lack of capital; they fail for lack of effort. Most people just aren’t willing to put in the time to work smart. They just don’t recognise how much work is involved…if you start a business you better know your industry and your business better than anyone in the whole wide world because you are competing, and to think that whoever it is your competing with is just going to let you take their business, obviously that’s naïve.”
6. Michelle Obama- First Lady of the United States of America, lawyer
To learn about her biography means dissecting insurmountable content of information on her Wikipedia page.
I have been aware of Michelle Obama since 2007 when her husband first announced his bid for presidency. Since that time, she has built a reputation for being intelligent, measured and an inspiring speaker that young women around the globe aspire to.
She is accomplished in her own right, being the Vice President of Community Affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center in 2001 earning more than $300,000 a year before she became First Lady of the United States.
In my research on Michelle, a lot is written about her fashion sense and her style, being named one of the world’s most inspiring women by Essence, and one of the world’s best dressed people by Vanity Fair.
Before she became the First Lady of the United States in 2008, her routine was this:
“She is in bed most nights by 9:30 and rises each morning at 4:30 to run on a treadmill. “She'll sacrifice the sleep so she can make sure she has that time," says Susan Page, a friend since Harvard Law School. "Once she has a plan, she goes for it.””
She is of the same grain as the successful business people I have talked about earlier, that it is simply about getting things done:
"If politics were my passion," she told the Chicago Tribune in 2004, "I'd find out how to do it and make it work."
After her studies at Harvard Law School, she joined the Chicago law firm Sidley in the late 80’s. Following her father’s death in 1991, she decided to quit her job at the law firm and work in public service, at the Chicago city government as assistant to the Mayor, and assistant commissioner of planning and development.
“She decided to turn her back on Sidley and its hefty salary: "I wanted to have a career where I was thrilled to wake up," she told a reporter in 2004.”
When applying for the role as assistant to the Mayor, her job interviewer was Valerie Jarrett, the then deputy chief of staff to the Mayor. Valerie Jarrett offered her the job on the spot. Michelle asked Barack to meet with Valerie to help her assess whether or not to accept this career change. Barack approved and Michelle started work there. It seems Valerie was somewhat of a mentor to both Michelle and Barack, introducing them to a wealthier and connected Chicago society.
When Barack Obama became President, he gave Valerie a key role in the administration, first being a senior advisor to the President, and next the Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
7. Queen Rania of Jordan- wife of the King of Jordan Abdullah bin al-Hussein.
After meeting her to be husband in 1992, she married Abdullah bin Al-Hussein (who was prince at the time) six months later. She was proclaimed Queen in 1999.
I find her husband the King of Jordan, Abdullah bin-Al Hussein, interesting on a personal level, as his mother is ethnically British. His tenure as king has brought stronger diplomatic ties with foreign relations through its participation in the Middle Eastern peace process and enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq.
A pro-western foreign policy has meant that the UK’s relationship with Jordan is one of the closest and most enduring.
Queen Rania is best known for her work in education, health and the community. She was named UNICEF’s first Eminent Advocate for Children. In August 2009, Queen Rania became Honorary Global Chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). She has worked alongside Nelson Mandela in a global movement to improve the healthcare of children.
My two primary interests is her voice on refugees and religion.
I have lived with a Muslim housemate who taught me a lot about the Muslim community. His teachings has led me to respect his way of living, I feel not many people would have this insight, and rather fall into assumptions and stereotypes of Muslims based on what is seen in the media.
Queen Rania speaks about the misconceptions of Islam, especially women in Islam. She is not opposed to women choosing to wear the hijab, as long as it is a choice and not compulsory. She remains firm that women must not be pressured into wearing a hijab based on traditional interpretation of Islamic law.
About the Syrian refugee crisis, she says:
“The Syrian refugee crisis is a true humanitarian catastrophe…half of the population of Syria have left their homes…Jordan is a small country that is quite resource poor…it puts a strain on our country…we should find a unified approach to this…we need to put ourselves in their shoes, these people are not leaving by choice…refugees are running for their lives…these refugees are Arabs and Muslims and there’s been a stereotype now that’s been festering for so many years because the extremists have really dominated the agenda and have, I think, caused a lot of fear and mistrust and intolerance towards Arabs and Muslims”
She continues: “Some of the stereotypes [of Arabs and Muslims] can seep into our subconscious without us knowing and make us make grave misjudgements of people sometimes causing a great deal of unfairness and injustice.”
She articulates coherently, shows awareness of the world and what is going on around her. In interviews I have seen of her from media outlets around the world, she ties in her response with what is going on in that country. This shows her preparation to understand and learn before she speaks.
You don’t see many Queens around the world actively giving interviews to the press on current affairs. It is encouraging and admirable to see her use her position of power to engage in and openly discuss what can be done to improve the world we live in today.
8. Christopher Hitchens- writer, journalist
To many philosophers who disagree with religion, he is considered an absolute legend. His strong polemic arguments on religion combined with sophisticated intelligence and masterful peroration has invigorated those who simply struggle to assert themselves in front of religious fanatics.
He has written many bestselling books, pamphlets and essays. He has appeared on many debates, talks and interviews which are easily available online. He was a columnist for many magazines including Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation and Free Inquiry. He participated in an outstanding debate with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
But this article is not about his philosophy, how did he get to where he was?
Hitchens graduated with a third class degree from Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In the UK, a third class degree is the lowest level of passing a university course.
He then moved to London to work for the Times Higher Education Supplement as a social science correspondent. He admitted that he hated the position, and was fired after six months in the job.
He then worked for the magazine New Statesmen. In 1973, his mother committed suicide by overdose in a pact with her lover in Athens.
His career in writing continued, working next for the Evening Standard, then Daily Express, then joining an editor exchange program in New York City to work for the magazine The Nation.
His career in journalism took off in the US, landing a job as a contributing editor in Vanity Fair magazine. This led him onto debates, talk shows, and lecture circuits.
This shows a man climbing a ladder that he has chosen, and building his career keeping in the same industry.
“He was a good friend who wished his friends well. And as a result he had a lot of them.”
He died at the age of 62 in 2011 from pneumonia after a long battle with esophageal cancer.
9. Marva Collins, teacher
A successful teacher in the 1960’s working with poor black children in Chicago, her teaching methods were later recognised by Ronald Reagan who considered her a candidate for the Secretary of Education.
She was brought up in Alabama, USA with a household where her father “achieved despite the odds” to be a successful businessman. She grew up in Alabama at a time of racial segregation, however she was taught not to stay in failure or give excuses.
I find her beliefs and teaching methods interesting.
She holds important that someone must work on excellence for their own merit. In her own words:
“If I do my work in an office, I don’t do my work to please you, I’m doing all that I can for me, because I’m practising to be excellent, your company happens to benefit because I work there, but I’m really not doing it for you.”
“What bothers me is when people compare me to other people…a lot of people feel the need to tell me who their friends are, a lot of times people need to feel adequate, and they will say 'I was at Oprah’s house last week'…I could care less who your friends are because I take you on your own merit…I don’t care if you’re President of the United States, King, Queen whoever, you too also have your insecurities…your human frailties…I like them on their own merit…and you don’t have to let people put you down on your mistakes, sure I’ve made some mistakes, but I’ve also done some things that are right… I have to validate myself; I don’t let other people validate me.”
“It’s very comfortable to sit and be the critic but it takes a lot of courage to speak your thoughts, to say what you feel.”
On getting people to be disciplined:
“Getting people to be consistent…it’s not how you feel, it has to be done in pleasure and in pain, sometimes people will pursue excellence when its comfortable for them, you have to put personal problems aside and it has to be habit like night and day.”
“I think all of us are looking for somebody who insists that we be all we can be.”
“Q: What do you think having rules does for children and for adults?
A: I think they appreciate it, they really appreciate it…you can’t make decisions because I think you have to have enough equipment to make decisions, what does a 4 year old know whether to eat their vegetables or to eat the dessert first? What does a 4 year old know about telling me what they will not do?”
She holds the belief that just as we are what we eat, we are what we are taught.
She asks a child “how old are you?” They reply that they are 14. She asks them “what do you want to be doing in 10 years time?” and helps them with it. She will eventually encounter some smart alec that replies “nothing”. She would respond “we can alleviate you from this class because you don’t have to be here…why get up in the morning to be nothing, why be in a class where you have to behave, because the streets demand nothing of you, there is no requirement at all, it’s easy out there, why don’t you pick the box out there with the homeless…and I commend you for knowing what you want because a lot of people don’t know that yet.”
When teaching in Chicago, she talked about two children in an argument at lunchtime. One is from New York, the other from Los Angeles. They were arguing over which city is the greatest. They were called to her office and Marva said “well if either city is that great then what are you doing here in Chicago?” she continued “how much money did you have in your pocket when this argument started?” One child said 50 cents, the other child said one dollar. She replied “how much did you have in your pocket when this argument ended?” They both said they still have the same amount. Marva then said “what is the point here?” One replied “we wasted our time for nothing”. Marva then said case closed, and told them to go back to their classroom.
“When people criticise me I think they have good taste. They have selected me to criticise. I don’t get upset. My students think it’s very odd…they say doesn’t it bother you? I have that image of me that there is no one [that is] red, green, red striped, polka dot that can put me down because if they call me a racial slur, I concur that they really don’t know any better. And first of all that’s not my name…new students will come and say “Mrs. Collins he called me a whatever” and I will say “what did your mother name you?” “Why did you answer to that name? I’m beginning to believe that maybe that’s your name because you answered to it.”
10. Christine Lagarde, French lawyer, politician and current Managing director of the International Monetary Fund
Ranked the 6th most powerful woman in the world in 2016 [forbes.com], she is currently Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, an organisation that works with 189 countries promoting monetary co-operation and facilitates international trade.
It is an enormous responsibility to be at the top of the International Monetary Fund, meaning an exceptional qualified leader must be at the helm of it all. It is not only demanding work, but the job comes with the pressure of being scrutinised for every decision and mistake by the media. Truly, a heavy head that wears the crown.
I am curious about her character, and what makes her stand out from others.
Formerly the Minister of Finance for the French government between 2007-2011, she took up the position at the International Monetary Fund since 2011.
Prior to these positions, she was the Chairman at international law firm Baker & McKenzie. Note that it was her decision to title herself “Chairman”, which was subject to an article by the New York times in 1999.
In an article in the New York Times in 2003, it talks about her focus at an annual meeting in New York:
“She had to preside over the firm's annual partners' meeting in New York. With more than 600 partners from 36 countries, the group is akin to a mini-United Nations, she said. Ms. Lagarde, who is French, was quick to set some ground rules so that the multinational group would not veer off into political discussions about Iraq. ''We have a single focus: how to serve clients, and how to do it profitably,'' said Ms. Lagarde. She said that arguments over political matters ''are simply not tolerated'' at the gathering.”
In an article in 2010 by the New York Times when Lagarde was the Finance Minister, there was an extract of her writing in The International Herald Tribune’s Op/Ed pages:
“It took some luck and a lot of willpower for me to reach the position I hold today. I was lucky enough to be born into a family environment that was as demanding as it was stimulating [her parents were academics]. Being raised in a family of four children teaches discipline, sharing and the meaning of hard work. I was lucky enough to benefit from a challenging educational system that develops the skills necessary for success. And I was lucky enough to make a career in my chosen field, and to meet mentors and partners who helped me along the way”
She is aware of her gender in her position of power. In an article by the New York Times in January 2016, she talks about gender equality:
“The ubiquity of men in the corridors of power is also unacceptable. “There should never be too much testosterone in one room,” the then-French finance minister famously remarked in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. “In gender-dominated environments, men have a tendency to show how hairy chested they are, compared with the man who’s sitting next to them.””
In an interview in The Guardian newspaper in January 2011 when she was the Finance Minister one journalist wrote:
“We meet in her office…Her desk is enormous, but papers are stacked neatly: everything is in order, like the perfectly groomed Lagarde herself…she does not need a lot of sleep, and as a former synchronised swimmer on the French national team, she believes that success partially comes from being physically fit.”
She goes onto talk about her struggles as a mother of two children:
“When they were small, she says, the juggling of an alpha career and children was a struggle. "The balancing act is very hard. I had to accept that I could not be successful at everything. You draw up priorities, and you accept a lot of guilt." She is thoughtful. "It's part of growing up – as a woman, a spouse, a mother." She remembers an upsetting incident when a headmistress chastised her for working too much. "You can not let guilt engineer your life," she adds…[she] points out her ethical code, "being physically fit – select a sport and continue it – and try to get love, support and encouragement in what you do."”
Darryl McDaniels, “Ten ways not to commit suicide”, Harper Collins Publishers
Anthony Robbins audiobook “Power Talk with Marva Collins”