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Straight Talk By Al Jacobs
Straight Talk By Al Jacobs

By Al Jacobs

The article’s title caught my eye: “How to get ahead, from the horses’ mouths.” Its author, Harvey Mackay, a prominent businessman and columnist, is a man intimately familiar with financial success; I hoped to pick up a few ideas.

The entire article consisted of quotations from the top brass of some of America’s largest public corporations. From Warren Buffet, chief executive Berkshire Hathaway: “Follow your passions. Find something you love.” Keith Wandell, former CEO Harley-Davidson: “Stay true to your values and principles.” Meg Whitman, CEO Hewlett Packard: “Be clear what matters most. And what matters most is your family.” Mary Barra, CEO General Motors: “Do something you love. If you are doing something you are passionate about, you are just naturally going to succeed.” John Gainor, CEO International Dairy Queen: “You need to treat every employee no different than how you want to be treated.” Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM: “Never define yourself as a product. If you do, you will lose sight of who your customer is.”

And so the verbiage poured out. Arguably, it may have been inspirational, but not one insightful word on how to get ahead. Of course, considering the source, this is as expected. Exactly how corporate executives successfully politick their way into the top echelon is not something many would care to divulge. And, understandably, when they become a part of the ruling hierarchy, they and their fellow cohorts-in-possession get ahead by systematically draining off the company’s assets with relative impunity. The simple fact is the principal reason public corporations exist is so their officers and directors can draw benefits from them.

Now, if you really want advice on how to get ahead, here are a few tips directly from the horse:

1. Most of what life is all about is simply attending to the details.
2. The heart of every sound investment is a clearly predictable cash flow.
3. Beware of gratuities, for nothing of value comes without a price.
4. Half of success in life is just showing up on time.
5. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Let me add a final thought. Never forget that 95 percent of everything is nonsense. Much of what passes as conventional practices and procedures borders on the insane. Try to live your life in the rational 5 percent and you’ll find things tend to go your way.

Al Jacobs, a Dana Point resident and professional investor for nearly a half-century, issues a monthly newsletter in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. You may view it at

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