BP #3-Bloomberg on Success and Happiness

From eagle scout, to Harvard, to bond trader at Salomon Brothers, to opening a business on information networking, to becoming three-term mayor of New York city, and to now becoming named the eighth richest man in the world, Michael Bloomberg is the definition of what many would call a successful business man.

In an article found the in New York Times, Bloomberg goes in to detail about his path to success. Being the son of a dairy company accountant, Michael came from a very modest background. Although he admitted to having received help from his parents to get through school, he also stated that he had a job every summer working in the faculty parking lot.

What many do not realize is that Bloomberg did not attribute his journey to success to the things people would normally consider. Bloomberg notes that he was demoted, and ultimately fired from his position at Salomon before it became a part of Citigroup. It was the end of this path that steered him into starting his own company.

Bloomberg also talked about what he views to be successful characteristics in people just entering the workforce saying, “I want the kind of kid with an ethic for taking care of his family — because then he’ll take care of others. Some of us don’t have much prenatal intelligence, but nevertheless go out and try and have a decent chance of surviving. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but nobody’s going to outwork me.”

We are all at fault of looking at a successful person and assuming not only are they happy, but that they are happy because of what the success has brought them. Referencing Aristotle in his essay, “On The Good Life”, it is easy to assume that Bloomberg’s ultimate happiness has stemmed from three things, pleasure, wealth, and honor. After all, his life seems to be the epitome of each of those things.

Bloomberg discussed what makes him successful, and as success is a vital to many people’s happiness, let’s assume they are directly related. So, as he talked about what has made him successful, through direct relation, he also talked about what makes him happy.

One of the first things I noticed in his interview is that Bloomberg never directly stated his wealth as being a source of his true happiness. In his essay, Aristotle stated that, “wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful for the sake of something else.”

Bloomberg seemed to understand this vital concept as he only referenced money as being crucial to fund his education, and to start his own business. Aristotle had many thoughts on the concept of honor, which is definitely a trait Bloomberg has attained throughout his career. He said that honor is, “Too superficial to be what we are looking for, since it is thought to be too dependent on those who bestow it.” In Bloomberg’s comments stated earlier about successful characteristics in people just entering the workforce, it is clear Bloomberg agrees with Aristotle’s opinion on honor.

Throughout the interview Bloomberg made many comments on the importance of work ethic and diligence. He also stressed the importance of taking care of others. As someone who processes both pleasure and honor, it becomes obvious, that like Aristotle, Bloomberg does not attribute either to his overall success and happiness.


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