Dec. 5, 2019

03. How to be successful| Reflections on a conference with Barack Obama

03. How to be successful| Reflections on a conference with Barack Obama

Q - How is education important?

  • My mother lived a life of purpose to help impoverished women through micro-financing
  • Confidence that if you apply yourself you will succeed

Q- You create an environment it was okay to fail

  •  Yes - as long as you learn from it.
  • Most things worth doing are hard - if it was it would have been done
  • I tell my daughters adults dont know what they are doing - its amazing anything works but when we work as a team we cover each other.
  • Create an environment where everybody could constructively add to the discussion but we also did this when we succeeded
  • The success of Bin Laden raid was 6months in planning. We tested everything could go wrong up to if something goes wrong. Nobody could have done that on their own


  • In that situation with so many people with advise. Did they agree and how did you manage that?
    • As president, the only thing that comes to your desk is stuff that can't be fixed. Smart people have tried and it can't be done. So we work of probability.e.g. Car auto industry . We decided to help all even though poll disagreed we should help. I heard all the views and did it. It was right decision even though it could have turned out wrong
    • Business fail because of fear of good feedback etc. Have a structure. One thing I did
      • There is usually an outer ring in the situations rooms. They did the work
      • The generals sit in middle and start speaking
      • I started calling on the people in the outer circle even though I didnt know their names. They'd get nervous but it transmitted to them to be on their toes, I appreciate their values and their principals to listen to them
      • It doesnt meet you'll always get it right but you'll be in best position to get it right

Lets talk about jobs. As one of the youngest presidents in history. How did you prepare?

  • Its like building a startup
  • Make decisions based on imperfect decisions
  • Market it
  • Have a thick skin
  • Not watch cable news
  • What prepared me best was the prinicples in me over 30/40yrs
  • I have the ability to focus on a thing to its conclusion. You dont develop it in a week
  • The thing in presidency is not the specifics, its the habits of performance.
  • One thing I found useful was being able to take the long view. Not get too high or too low
  • I didn't buy the hype
  • I didnt get too low when people called me a bum when the auto crisis. You dont find this in a manual or in your religious faith. 
  • You still have to know what you are doing
  • Organisations know how to train to do the skills. Its tapping into their hearts is the hard thing

Change was always a theme. How did you do it?

  1. For me, I cant change till I recognise there is something wrong with me
  • I was a smoker for a long time. It drove Michelle nuts and she said why is someone smart smoking and it bothered her. The truth is it didnt bother me. I wasn't feeling the impact.
  • The reason I quit was because i never smoked in the house. My daughters got old enough to smell it and ask. I had to either lie or confess I was a smoker. So I either pass on a bad habit, lie or quit.