Final message of Boone Pickens

3 minute read

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Boone Pickens passed away a while back, and his final message contains good advice I wanted to highlight:

I’ve long recognized the power of effective communication. That’s why in my later years I began to reflect on the many life lessons I learned along the way, and shared them with all who would listen.

I agree with the power of communication. I’m average at communicating, which is why I started writing more in order to improve my ability to understand others and get others to understand me.

In those speeches, I’d always offer these future leaders a deal: I would trade them my wealth and success, my 68,000-acre ranch and private jet, in exchange for their seat in the audience. That way, I told them, I’d get the opportunity to start over, experience every opportunity America has to offer.

I think this is universal; we all wish that we had the benefit of hindsight to relive our youth. What we can learn from this is to treasure our time now, whatever stage of life we’re at

She always made a point of making sure I understood that on the road to success, there’s no point in blaming others when you fail.

Nobody owes us a living; no one else is responsible for our lives. If we cannot take ownership of our actions and the resulting consequences, we cannot blame others when we fail. People will push back and say ‘If only I’d been born rich, if only I’d known about this back then, if only…’ But the fact is we weren’t, so we have to deal with it and move it. If we keep wallowing in self pity we’ll always remain stuck

A good work ethic is critical.

Related to the above, if you don’t want to work hard, the chance of success is lower. It’s not impossible of course, and there are plenty of lazy successful people. But the likelihood is reduced. Working hard doesn’t guarantee success, but it raises your chances.

Don’t think competition is bad, but play by the rules. I loved to compete and win. I never wanted the other guy to do badly; I just wanted to do a little better than he did.

I’ve seen this anecdote of ‘not being focused on competition but improving yourself and the rest will follow’, but I’m wondering how many people or companies actually do this in practice. Everyone likes to compare, and society is mostly relative status games among people. I’d be interested in knowing more successful examples of companies that did not compare themselves against a competitor.

Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader: Avoid the “Ready-aim-aim-aim-aim” syndrome. You have to be willing to fire.

Importantly, evaluate decisions not by the outcome, but by the process of how you arrived at that decision. We’ve talked about decision journals or better decision making processes before

Learn from mistakes. That’s not just a cliché. I sure made my share. Remember the doors that smashed your fingers the first time and be more careful the next trip through.

Be humble. I always believed the higher a monkey climbs in the tree, the more people below can see his ass. You don’t have to be that monkey.

The stereotype of Boone Pickens is this aggressive corporate raider, so it’s interesting he highlighted this.

Stay fit. You don’t want to get old and feel bad. You’ll also get a lot more accomplished and feel better about yourself if you stay fit. I didn’t make it to 91 by neglecting my health.

Keeping fit is one of those simple but not easy things to do.

Embrace change. Although older people are generally threatened by change, young people loved me because I embraced change rather than running from it. Change creates opportunity.

It’s a stereotype that the older generation is bad at technology. For the people where this is true, that’s a pity for them. There’s so much new opportunity should be more open minded. For example, an open minded grandma is now a famous youtuber. The world changes, and if you don’t adapt you’ll be left behind, bitter and isolated.

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