20 lessons learned in my first 80 years

Byron Wien

Byron Wien grew up in Chicago during the Depression.  “He was orphaned at 14 and overcame a difficult childhood to attend Harvard undergrad and business school.  He recently turned 80, and in response to a request from a conference organizer moments before he was supposed to speak, Wien committed to paper some ideas which surely contributed to his success, but more important, they are lessons that shaped such a rich and remarkable life.”  Here are a few excerpts:

  1. Network intensely.  Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible.  Nurture your network by sending articles, books and emails to people to show you’re thinking about them.  Write op-eds and thought pieces for major publications.  Organize discussion groups to bring your thoughtful friends together.
  2. Read all the time.  Don’t just do it because you’re curious about something, read actively.  Have a point of view before you start a book or article and see if what you think is confirmed or refuted by the author.  If you do that, you will read faster and comprehend more.
  3. On philanthropy my approach is to try to relieve pain rather than spread joy.  Music, theatre and art museums have many affluent supporters, give the best parties and can add to your social luster in a community.  They don’t need you.  Social service, hospitals and educational institutions can make the world a better place and help the disadvantaged make their way toward the American dream.
  4. Younger people are naturally insecure and tend to overplay their accomplishments.  Most people don’t become comfortable with who they are until they’re in their 40’s.  By that time they can underplay their achievements and become a nicer, more likeable person.  Try to get to that point as soon as you can.
  5. Take the time to give those who work for you a pat on the back when they do good work.  Most people are so focused on the next challenge that they fail to thank the people who support them.  It is important to do this.  It motivates and inspires people and encourages them to perform at a higher level.
  6. The hard way is always the right way.  Never take shortcuts…Short-cuts can be construed as sloppiness, a career killer.
  7. When seeking a career as you come out of school or making a job change, always take the job that looks like it will be the most enjoyable.  If it pays the most, you’re lucky.  If it doesn’t, take it anyway, I took a severe pay cut to take each of the two best jobs I’ve ever had, and they both turned out to be exceptionally rewarding financially.
  8. There is a perfect job out there for everyone.  Most people never find it.  Keep looking.  The goal of life is to be a happy person and the right job is essential to that.
  9. When your children are grown or if you have no children, always find someone younger to mentor.  It is very satisfying to help someone steer through life’s obstacles, and you’ll be surprised at how much you will learn in the process.
  10. Never retire.  If you work forever, you can live forever.  I know there is an abundance of biological evidence against this theory, but I’m going with it anyway.

Read all of Byron Wien’s Life Lesson’s here: Byron Wien Discusses Lessons Learned in his first 80 years

Read one of the most authentic Bios I have ever read here: The Life Report – Byron R. Wien, David Brooks, NY Times

Image Credit: Twin Cities Business


  1. sent numbers 7 and 8 to my son who is trying to decide whether to stay in school or fend for himself in the work world with a business marketing diploma in hand–thank you for sharing this–I am inspired to read his bio


    • His bio is very inspiring. I was surprised with the candor LouAnn. I, too, sent it to my kids. It is more than Twitter length so I do wonder if they will read it. I can hear them whispering to themselves…”here comes Dad again cluttering my email box with his “old man” advice. :). And, only Dad sends emails anymore anyway…doesn’t he get it…”


  2. Reblogged this on On the Homefront and commented:
    Sent numbers seven and eight to my son who will be looking for a full time job after finishing another year of college:


  3. Wise man with solid opinions – how can one not listen to that kind of advice?


  4. Teaching Tuesdays….great knowledge shared. Thank you.


  5. There is so much personal insight in what he said…. not the ‘run of the mill’ type things suggested but ‘attitude’ and it seems living a good life and advice for those entering the work place….. Diane


  6. Very interesting and so much to ponder here. I found #3, 7, and 8 particularly intriguing. I don’t know that I entirely agree with his stance on philanthropy–I’m not sure the dichotomy is that clearcut–art, music and theatre aren’t automatically guaranteed affluent supporters–having worked in several museums, I know they struggle like everyone else–but his chosen charities are worthy as well. Sounds like a fascinating read….thx for bringing it to our attention, David!


  7. These are excellent! I like #3.


  8. Excellent! Thank you David, I enjoyed each one 🙂


  9. lkanigan says:

    Very good. Thanks Dave.


  10. Great tidbits to live by, thanks for sharing them…


  11. Thank you!


  12. No. 4 really lands home for me. I guess the quest to find out for myself kept me from learning this earlier.


  13. Reblogged this on Wholeheartedness.


  14. One of the Best lessons I have come across. Thanks a lot for sharing this post. I will going to keep these points in my mind. Once again thank you very much Sir. I loved it. 🙂


  15. Master mind opinions. I am taking them all with me.


  16. Really interesting. Numbers 1,2,5,6 and 9 really resonate for me. I have no kids but mentor many younger writers. I really enjoy it and am honored when they ask me for advice and guidance. Only recently have I started making much more of an effort to get out an enlarge my network face to face — I had lunch yesterday with a new-to-me contact who (!) knows someone well who knows the celebrity I’d hoped to get in touch with for a project. You never know who knows who.

    Thanking people is huge. Really huge. I have an assistant half my age and I make a point to thank her often and profusely. She really is exceptional and I am very lucky to know her. It’s too easy to take competence/excellence for granted.


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