Chairman Reveals His Top Life Tips
“You don’t establish your manhood or womanhood by turning 18.
You do so with actions.”
- Orlando McGuire
ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: In June, 2013, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a commencement address to Princeton University graduates. In his remarks, he was “uncommonly common” and uncharacteristically simple in expression.
Because Dr. Bernanke is quite accomplished, and yet quite down-to-earth, as well, I thought I’d pass on his Ten “Life Suggestions” to the graduates of the university at which he was an economics professor before being summoned to public service in Washington, D.C.
1. “Don’t be afraid to let the drama play out.” “Life is amazingly unpredictable; any 22-year-old who thinks they know where they will be in 10 years, much less 30, is simply lacking imagination.”
In this, Dr. Bernanke drew upon his own life: “A dozen years ago I was minding my own business teaching Economics 101 in Alexander Hall and trying to think of good excuses for avoiding faculty meetings. Then I got a phone call.”
2. “Focus on becoming a better human being.” “If you are not happy with yourself, even the loftiest achievements won’t bring you much satisfaction.”
For a man who is credited by some with saving the world’s financial system, that’s a pretty interesting comment.
3. “Those who are luckiest also have the greatest responsibility.” “As the Gospel of Luke says (and I am sure my Rabbi will forgive me for quoting the New Testament in a good cause): ‘From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.’”
He gave the Biblical quote an academic spin: “Kind of grading on the curve, you might say.”
4. “Effort Matters.” “I think that most of us would agree that people have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect – and help, if necessary – than many people who are superficially more successful.” And, he added, “They’re more fun to have a beer with, too.”
5. “Most policymakers are trying to do the right thing.” “The greatest forces in Washington are ideas, and people prepared to act on those ideas. Public service isn’t easy. But, in the end, if you are inclined in that direction, it is a worthy and challenging pursuit.”
6. On Economics: “Economics is a highly sophisticated field of thought that is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much.”
7. “Money isn’t everything.” “I’m not going to tell you that money doesn’t matter, because you wouldn’t believe me anyway.” But he did add the following: “If you are part of the lucky minority with the ability to choose, remember that money is a means, not an end.”
8. “Don’t be afraid to fail.” “Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.”
9. On choosing a partner: “Remember that physical beauty is evolution’s way of assuring us that the other person doesn’t have too many intestinal parasites. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for beauty, romance and sexual attraction – where would Hollywood and Madison Avenue be without them? But while important, they are not the only things to look for in a partner.”
“Speaking as somebody who has been happily married for 35 years, I can’t imagine any choice more consequential for a lifelong journey than the choice of a traveling companion.”
10. “Call your mom and dad once in a while.” “A time will come when you will want your own grown-up, busy, hyper-successful children to call you,” said Bernanke, who has two adult children. “Also, remember who paid your tuition to Princeton.”
The Fed Chairman ended with a battle cry: “Congratulations, graduates. Give ‘em hell!”
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*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.
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