You are the creator of your destiny. In whatever business you’re in, there is always so much coming at you that you can stay insanely busy just responding. Don’t do that. Always think about what is your agenda, what do you want to make happen, what do you want the future to look like. This is not so easy.
I think this is a powerful idea. I was a homemaker for a lot of years. I think more than men typically are, women get socialized to respond to other people rather than setting their own agenda in this way, and it consigns us to servile roles, even if we are very talented.
She was apparently 65:
To my surprise, I can find no Wikipedia article about her.
Also, just because some personality traits worked for a certain place, time, and cultural period, doesn't mean it's applicable to the industry today.
Once, in the early days of the field of synthetic biology, I asked my mentor George Church why he collaborated with so many people who weren't obviously doing the highest caliber work. He replied, "When you're involved in starting a new field, often it's not enough to succeed by yourself. Sometimes you also have to help others not fail."
Because of the way Mr. Ellison been conducting himself business-wise, there is a saying in the Valley: "I would love to live a life as Larry Ellison, but heck I would not want to die as Larry Ellison".
If someone doesn't evolve over a few years, let alone a few decades, then something is gravely wrong.
Larry would sometimes take time out to think. He would just disappear for a few days, often without telling
Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder and CEO, was brilliant, driven, witty, charming, ruthless, wildly egoistical, a superb salesman, a notorious womanizer—and a seriously random number. Anything could happen, and often did. For example, one fine day I was part of a group that had a late-morning meeting with Larry. When we convened at his office, he wasn’t there. This was not unusual. Larry has just acquired a new wife—his third—and he apparently liked to go home during the day to make love with her. But our meeting was important, so we piled into a car and took off for his new house in Woodside. My manager, a former classical cellist who was stunned by Larry’s behavior as I was, turned to me in the car and said, “And now, we journey to the land where time has no meaning”. When we arrived, Larry came to the door, tousled but in good humor, and invited us into a huge house devoid of furniture, at least on the first floor, where we transacted our business and left. […] But although Larry was a nice planet to visit, I didn’t want to live there. In six months at Oracle I had five different managers, the last of whom was a former CIA agent who was much crazier than Larry was, but nasty and not half as bright.
— High Stakes, No Prisoners : A Winner's Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars by Charles H. Ferguson
Also probably responsible for many decades of lost progress, though.
For those that don't get the lawnmower reference: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5170246
1). The influence of Japanese culture on Ellison: in a world of Agile ironically everyone seems to miss how incredibly beautiful Japanese philosophy and literature is. In an age of “authenticity” and emotional excess, the “Book of Five Rings”, by a 17th century Samurai, is eerily relevant today.
2). Destruction, not profit: I actually like this quote. When I first heard it I rolled my eyes, but if you watch this video Larry Ellison never talks about profit or EBITDA or any bullshit like that. When people think of destruction and failure, they think of Microsoft in the 90’s, but really it’s more two-way than that. I think this philosophy is very motivational in the sense that Time Warner Cable must be destroyed, Pfizer must be destroyed, Equifax must be destroyed, etc.
3). Steve Jobs: Ellison and Steve Jobs first met when Ellison went over to complain to Steve about his peacocks making noises in the morning. After that they become friends for the next 30 years, and Oracle had a plan in place to buy Apple and reinstall Jobs in 1995. I wish Ellison had more Steve Jobs in-him when upgrading Oracle products, but at least he could see the success of Jobs.
EDIT: I mention a video in one of my comments. For that part I wasn’t referring to the audio interview posted above, but this: https://youtu.be/thRAjlyCfKE
1) What specifically of Japanese philosophy informs Ellison's approach? What has either Ellison or Japanese philosophy to do with agile or its complement? What is the meaning of "emotional excess"?
2) Why would one think of "Microsoft in the 90s" together with "destruction and failure"? The 90s were an incredibly successful time for Microsoft. Why must TWC, Pfizer, et al., be destroyed? Because some folks don't like large, dominant, somewhat pathological organizations?
3) "Upgrading Oracle's products"--does this happen? Isn't Oracle's approach the the diametrical opposite of a consumer hardware company that sells on product strength and style?
Why do business guys latch onto stuff like this so hard, it is literally a book about sword fighting, it tells you where to put your feet, how to grip the sword, to keep your pinkie loose and grip with your forefingers. How is that strategy going to help your SaaS business?
Generally the reason people like these books is because openly advertising you like them makes you sound enlightened.
The 'Art of War' is about winning in a zero sum game.
For most of history, that's the only way wealth could be created, i.e. 'taken'.
The Valley in particular, is a testament to the opposite - that value can be created out of thin air, that we can 'grow the pie a lot, and just take a small slice as profit and everyone wins'.
The 'Art of War' is therefore a bad business book for so many reasons - it presupposes that the only way you can win, is by destroying others. Surely, in some markets/situations it may be like that, but overall, it's antithetical to the premise of innovation.
Gates was somewhat like that Jobs a little less.
The 'new gen' are not really like that so much. I think Zuck & co. are highly competitive, but not conquerors.
If you or anyone else can elaborate on that in the context of The Book of Five Rings specifically, I would be fascinated to hear about it.
But I didn't read the Book of Five Rings because I wanted to get good at business, I read it because Musashi seemed like a fascinating character.
> The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.
It also speaks to efficiency. Just like in go you don't want any of your moves to be doing just one thing.
It's a pretty good metric, actually :)
It really just means 'profit without weird accounting things taken out'.
It's a photo of four young (in the 90-ties) Polish algorithmic contests competitors, chilling out.
When Pracle was a startup, they beat IBM to market with a database that used IBM's idea (Codd's relational algebra), and IBM's query language (SQL)... which is one of the few (only?) technologies still dominating almost 4 decades later. Typically, in software, 10 years is pretty good.
So, I think he had excellent foresight into how important SQL could be.
All that said, I was horrified when Oracle bought sun (amd java). I personally prefer their hippy-like approach of free open standards... but I have to acknowledge the merits that Ellison did have.
The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellison
Somewhere along the way I would have gotten chewed out over something I considered either a good-enough solution or an understandable oversight. First time, no problem. High standards, yes sir, right away sir. But the second? And the third? At some point I would have decided that life's too short to be treated like shit by a maniac, and left for some more conventional job.
Is that harder to do now than back in the 1980s? The pace of technological development has accelerated, and it's so hard to predict the standards and platforms and business needs that will arise 5 years from now, let alone 10.