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

Artie Buerk

Arthur W. Buerk is the lifetime class secretary of the Harvard Business School Class of 1963. After earning his MBA, he went on to have a successful career in education and business.

He served as director of development at the University of Washington, increasing annual giving by more than 3,000 percent during his tenure.

He then was president for Shurgard Storage Centers, a small, regional self-storage developer that grew to more than 500 locations in the United States and Europe.

After leaving Shurgard, Artie was a founding partner and managing director for the Seattle-based private equity firm, Buerk Dale Victor.

A member of several corporate boards, he is also an avid supporter of civic and educational non-profits, including the Alliance for Education, Seattle Public School Foundation Fund for Excellence, University of Washington Alumni Association, and Partners of ’63.

He underwrote the production of this book after 50 years of assembling class notes from his fellow alumni, feeling that their advice and wisdom deserved a larger audience.


Happiness & Success

Several years ago, a graduating class from a large, well-known business school was asked whether they had written goals, unwritten goals, or no goals. It turned out that 3 percent of the class had written goals, 13 percent had goals they had not written down, and 84 percent had no goals.

At the 10th reunion, the class was asked again about their goals and accomplishments. The results showed that the 3 percent who had written goals did 10 times as well as the others, and the 13 percent who had unwritten goals did twice as well as the other 84 percent.

The ability to set goals is very valuable in achieving success. Goals should be balanced in all areas of life — family, social, spiritual, business, health, wealth, education, etc.  The major rules of goal-setting are:

  1. Goals should be in writing.
  2. Goals should be measurable — if they can’t be measured, they’re not goals.
  3. Goals should be dated so you have a time frame to measure accomplishment.

People who have a clear picture of themselves and have set well-rounded goals tend to be much more successful than people who are vague in what they hope to accomplish in the future.

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Happiness & Success

When I entered Harvard Business School, I was staggered by the ability of classmates (especially Ivy-Leaguers) to talk. Everyone seemed trained to be very articulate. In my mind, people were given two ears and one mouth for a reason: one should listen many more times than one should talk.

Active listening requires understanding what you are hearing, asking follow-up questions, and watching body language. The better one listens, the better one learns.

As one ages, it seems that people tend to talk more about themselves and less about the people they are talking to. Listen more and talk less for success.

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Life's Lessons

Serving as class secretary and following 600 alumni over 50 years has taught me to become an “info junkie.” I am also a voracious reader of periodicals of all kinds. All this information leads one to spot trends and look into the future for new trends — sometimes bad and sometimes good.

Travel is another great spur to personal growth. My wife Sue and I have visited 168 countries, and have roughly 40 to go to exceed the number in the United Nations and reach what most consider the more civilized world.

Finally, community participation and giving back are both very helpful in achieving personal growth

All in all, personal growth comes from looking ahead and giving back as much as one possibly can. Keeping track of 600 people for a lifetime was one of the most educations experiences one could ever have.

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Growing Older

As people grow older, we spend a great deal of time focusing on anti-aging and finding ways to fend off old age. It’s my belief we should focus more on “aging gracefully.” The following are a few suggestions for how to do so.

Daily exercise is the first thing. The easiest exercise is probably walking. I happen to use tennis and hitting with a tennis pro. Exercise from 45 minutes to an hour every day.

Secondly, you must eat well. The Mediterranean diet of fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other good fibers is very valuable.

Last but not least, keep your mind active through reading, travel, recreation, and — of course — goals. Having something to look forward to is very critical.

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