I was going to blog about Google's new Virtual World and while I was installing it, I was flipping through the latest issue of Business Week. Rather than blab on about Livey (at first glance, it looks like yet another odd attempt to create a usable virtual space), I'd much prefer to talk about the interview Maria Bartiromo did with Jerry Levin.
If you remember your dot com history lessons, Mr. Levin is the guy who was pushed into retirement after the Time Warner/AOL disaster. What I didn't remember, was that in 1997 his son Jonathan was robbed and killed by a former student. I'm always curious and interested to see how really successful people deal with tragedy, and what becomes of them.
One of Maria's first quesitons was "What have you learned in the past half-dozen years that you didn't in all those years climbing to the top?"
Levin's answer stopped me in my tracks. He talks about his relationships and perspective being in a "rather parochial zone of interest." This is so interesting because I feel that lately, I've been getting caught up in a very small, insular world focused on social networking and marketing.
Levin went on to say "If something didn't touch on any of the businesses of Time Warner, then I didn't have any interest." It's natural I think to be focused, but when you start to become too focused, you also lose some valuable perspective.
Finally, Levin saying in a BusinessWeek interview that "it's probably helpful to invoke the feminine principle and be compassionate, empathetic, understanding, give respect to everybody, don't get deluded by the natural hierarchy. And don't get too self-satisfied that you have all the answers" is astounding. It's too bad that it took a life disaster to realize these simple truths.
The interview is great - Levin talks about trying to "find a calm, meditative state every day. With the tempo of executive life, that seems almost impossible, but it's probably the most important thing that you can do." This seems like great advice,sort of like not checking your e-mail incessantly... seemingly impossible, but important to consider.
That's all nice and good, but to the heart of the matter... Bartiromo asked Levin "Do you have any regrets in terms of the way you lived your life in Corporate America?"
His answer, if honest, is absolutely perfect.
I think I'm the poster child for not paying attention to the most important
thing in the world. The death of my son was probably the pivotal experience of
Everyday since taking my new job with Microsoft I've tried to remember the most important things in my own life. Working from home has given me tremendous opportunities to be more inovlved with my wife and my children and it's vastly improved my perspective and quality of my life. I try to keep my eyes and heart open and to listen both professionally and personally. I may not get it right every time but I think I'm on the right track.