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

Eyk Van Otterloo

Careers

While still a teenager, make a list of all the things you like doing, and those you don’t like. Then find a job or study that maximizes the activities you like and minimizes the others. A happy and fulfilling job should feel like indulging in a hobby. Success is a result of true enjoyment and effort.

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Wealth

On inheriting: We have decided that a little inheritance is fine — a lot is a burden. Our kids all had a great education and the opportunity to go as far as they wanted to go, fully paid for, no debts. We consider that to be the greatest gift parents can give to their offspring.

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Life's Lessons

I did not know, 50 years ago, the importance of integrity, reputation, and image. I believe that integrity is the most important asset one should foster and maintain. It is slow to get established, and can be lost quickly if not nourished at every opportunity.

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Leadership

Successful leaders seem to have several common characteristics. Most of all, they really know the business and the environment in which it exists. They are often good spokesmen (or women) and, most important, they seem to enable people and help them perform. 

Really good leaders are rare. A business can become successful if it focuses on delivering exceptional performance to clients.

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Happiness & Success

The important ingredients of happiness are:

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Turning Points

The key turning point was the decision to leave Holland and shed some baggage. Harvard Business School was another key, and steered me to two areas of interest: investments (the management of investments) and development (attempts at alleviating poverty in underdeveloped countries). As an emigrant from Holland, I had a chance to start again with a clean slate.

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