At 82 years, Ken Langone is an investor and philanthropist. He also is one of the founders of Home Depot. His autobiography, “I Love Capitalism,” may be hokey and overly cheery, suggests Peggy Noonan in the WSJ, but it “conveys the excitement of business–of starting an enterprise that creates a job that creates a family, of the joy of the deal and the place of imagination in the making of a career.”
When asked why he wrote the book, Mr. Langone explains that he wanted to show gratitude as well as to inspire the young. That if he could make it, anyone could make it. It was also important to him that young voters understand that socialism is not the answer, writes Ms. Noonan.
“In 2016 I saw Bernie Sanders and the kids around him. I thought: This is the antichrist! We have the greatest engine in the world.” The wealthy have an absolute obligation to help others: “Where would we be if people didn’t share their wealth? I got 38 kids on Bucknell scholarships. They’re all colors of the rainbow; some are poor kids, rough around the edges. It’s capitalism!” He famously funds NYU/Langone Medical Center.
- Take your religious faith seriously. His Catholicism gave him safe harbor in storms and left him “sensitive to the plight and needs of others.”
- Marry for the long run. He and Elaine have been wed 63 years. When things were good she cheered him on; when they weren’t she let him know “she would always be there for me—win, lose or draw.”
- You teach values by living them. Don’t say—do. People absorb eloquent action.
- “Pray at the feet of hard work.” Be ravenous in reading about your field, whichever you wind up in and for however long.
- Money solves the problems money can solve. Don’t ask more of it, and don’t be ashamed of wanting it. “A kid once said to me, ‘Money doesn’t buy everything.’ I said, ‘Well, kid, I was poor, and I can tell you right now poverty doesn’t do a very good job either.’ ”
- Stay excited. Don’t be sated.
- Admit the reality around you, then change it. When Mr. Langone couldn’t get an entry level job atGoldman Sachs , Kidder Peabody or White Weld, an executive took him aside: “Let me tell you the lay of the land. We have Jewish firms for Jewish kids and we have WASP firms for WASP kids. The Irish we make clerks, and put them on the floor of the stock exchange, and Italian kids like you we put in the back office.” When Mr. Langone began to succeed, he started to hire—and brought in the sons of cops who went to St. John’s. This contributed to “the democratization of Wall Street.”
- When you’re successful you’ll put noses out of joint, even among colleagues who benefit from your work. Be careful about jealousy but in the end roll with it, it’s human nature. When you “piss off the old guard,” become the old guard—and help the clever rise.
- “There’s no defeat except in giving up.” You’re going to fail. So what? Keep going, something will work.
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