Sunday, February 01, 2009

Steve Martin Part 2

In my last post I discussed Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life with, as usual, an eye for catching those traits which matched those of high achievers in other fields. Besides the ones mentioned, here are a few more

Debt aversion
Steve Martin avoided debt, and paid for everything with cash. Truly high achievers accumulate assets first, spend later. Warren Buffett, spent very little on his house, car, clothes, etc., till long after he had hit billionaire status. Sandy Weill and former protégé Jamie Dimon believed in a “fortress balance sheet” where assets could more than cover liabilities.

The "Snowball" Concept
Of course, the recent landmark biography of Warren Buffett is called The Snowball. Just what is the snowball? I call it a compounding effect created by applying a successful, self-reinforcing process at larger and larger scales. In other words, a key aptitude or competence can naturally unfold and expand. With Warren Buffett it was perceiving and unlocking value. With Sandy Weill it was, among other things, the ability to motivate brokers and efficiently manage a back office. The trick is to find a particular competence that can be “scaled up”. With Steve Martin it was a combination of his outstanding writing, performing skills as well as the easy, comfortable friendships he made and kept over a lifetime that helped him transition from the “low capitalization” world of standup comedy to the “high capitalization” world of movies.

Serenity of achievement
This isn’t really an achievement factor, but I want to note delightful couple of passages in Steve Martin’s books, right after several career breakthroughs, in which he describes a state of serene calm. I have felt this state of “post achievement” bliss a couple of times in my life. There is, at this moment, a sense of self-trust, a harmony between the potential you worked to develop and the actuality of an achievement that occurred, that s an almost mystical moment. You are doing “what you were meant to do”. There is an assurance, a stillness. You are “in flow”. Anyway, it was gratifying to hear it described so beautifully by the great Steve Martin.

I wish this state upon each and every reader at least once in their life.

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