What they don’t teach you at Harvard – revisted

What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School has long been a favourite book of mine. Many of us know of the likes of Steve Jobs who never graduated from university, and went on amazing commercial success. The question is why?

I have just read about 3 highly talented Israelis, who have never bothered to set foot inside a campus. And yet their achievements are what most of us dream about.

Rami Levy is in his 50s. A native of Jerusalem, he opened a small grocery shop in a run down market in 1976. Today, his empire is quoted on the Tel Aviv Stock Market with dozens of retail outlets. The key to his success? “I learnt from experience to place corn flakes at the entrance to shops, because that way shoppers can buy something immediately for their kids and feel good”.

Fox-Wizel clothing chain has a very simple policy: Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap. The result is hundreds of stores around the world. The owner is often one of the first to arrive at the office in the morning and one of the last to leave at night. He employs loads of graduates, yet often feels that he has got to the solution before they have.

And when he meets people from abroad, he is quick to apologise for his poor English, because he spent much of his school years on the beach.

Daniel Gross is barely 20 years old. About to enlist in the Israeli army, he took up an opportunity in California to create some software. Seizing the chance with all his limbs, he is already worth US$5 million and looking to take on Google.

I could mention Amir, who following some renovations at his mother’s place, is now sought after by international DIY chiefs. Still not 30, I spoke to him this week and he has no intention just now of returning to university. How about the owner of Shilav, with 50 outlets selling goods for babies? The founder started out as a tear away at an absorption centre, where few gave him any hope.

And the list goes on. But what do these people, clear lacking an academic background have in common that enables them to reach such achievemens?

Going back to Steve Jobs, he quoted 3 rules of thumb:

  • “You have to trust in something”, which will allow you to connect the dots
  • “Got to find what you love”
  • “Have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition”

Add in some hard work, and maybe you will find that you don’t need to go to Harvard either.

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