If I Knew Then Advice on careers, finance, and life from Harvard Business School's Class of 1963

Andy Petery

Life's Lessons

Life is about change. You must embrace the future and learn from each triumph and tragedy, forever determined to move onward and upward. Do not be a bystander. Make taking risks intelligently part of your repertoire.

Contemplate your failures more than your successes — not to lament where you fell short, but to learn the valuable lessons that will ensure you will not fail the same way again.

Do not despair over forces beyond your control. If you believe in God, as I do, your faith can carry you through even the darkest times. Find solace in the fortitude of your integrity, and focus on those things you can control.

Time is fleeting. Invest as much of yourself in your family as in your career — a lesson I had difficulty realizing. As some of the things you once place great emphasis on slowly fade away, family will be your foundation forever.

Know that everything you do will affect those you love the most.

Embrace humility and learn from your mistakes, but do not let them consume you with the paralysis of indecision or the depression of regret.

Understand that money is not the end game. It is, however, a great enabler. Money helps satisfy your curiosity concerning the world. It will enable you to travel and expand your horizons. It will also provide you with independence and the ability to support your family and friends in need, as well as give to your community, educational institutions, and church.

This is the real value of money, as I learned from my father. Earn it honestly, take risks intelligently to achieve extraordinary rewards, and give back generously.

Take care of your body. Exercise regularly. Do not smoke or drink excessively. Your body is the vessel of your soul.

Contribute to your team. Participate in sports — especially team sports —as long as you can. Some invaluable lessons can be learned from team sports, such as the interdependence we have on one another and that the whole really is more than the sum of its parts.

We are always indebted to others for our successes, including our strong forbearers — mother and father, members of our family, teachers, colleagues, mentors, and priests. 

Even if your marriage is blessed with children and happiness, it still presents a challenge and requires a series of adjustments.

Finally, in everything you achieve, take satisfaction from your own efforts, perseverance, mental strength, and judgment. Yet, always acknowledge the contributions of those family members and friends upon whose shoulders you stand.

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Marriage & Family

No one is born a parent. Although our media and bookshops are filled with endless self-help guides and courses, parenting is one of those things in life you must learn by doing. Striving to be a good husband and father have been my greatest challenges. 

I do not regret one bit that we set many “reach goals” for our children — both academically and in sports. In my view, it is necessary to stretch for something that is well beyond your grasp. If you never push yourself to your limits, how do you even know what your limits are? And if you do not force yourself beyond those limits, how do you grow?

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