Titan Acclaim in Frank Bruni's new book
Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be - An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania
By FRANK BRUNI
New York Times Bestselling Author
… Texas A&M, for example, has a weekly business seminar unlike any other I’ve ever heard of. Every semester for about nine years now, it has been taught by Britt Harris, a wealthy financier who served as the chief executive of Bridgewater Associates when it was one of the world’s largest hedge funds. He’s not an academic, and the class, called Titans of Investing, wasn’t put together, and isn’t conducted, in a conventional fashion.
Although it covers market history and economic theory, it concerns itself just as much with questions of leadership, and of wisdom: recognizing it, acquiring it, using it. To that end, the seventeen participants in the class-juniors, seniors and graduate students - read and discuss an eclectic mix of books specifically suggested by American business bigwigs, including Wall Street giants, several of whom interact with the students by fielding and assessing their written analyses of those classics. One week, the class might dive into MobyDick or Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. The next, it’s on to a biography of Benjamin Franklin or Steve Jobs.
Discussions are followed by long dinners promoting fellowship and sustained reflection, and the course’s alumni aren’t just encouraged, but pretty much required, to form an ongoing professional network.
Chapter 10 FIRE OVER FORMULA
“If you are extremely smart but you’re only partially engaged, you will be outperformed, and you should be, by people who are sufficiently smart but fully engaged.”
-Britt Harris, the former chief executive of the Bridgewater Associates hedge fund and a 1980 graduate of Texas A&M
It was about a week after my phone conversation with him that I happened to meet and have drinks with Britt Harris, the rich financier who teaches the “Titans of Investing” course at Texas A&M, his alma mater. He told me that largely because of the Titans class, he had given extensive thought to the real secret of the most successful people. Ambition? Sure, they all had that, but many unsuccessful people did as well, and sometimes in greater measure. Competence? Yes, but that doesn’t take a person all the way to the top. Mentors? Those helped, and anyone who finds a shrewd and generous one should by all means make the most of him or her. But mentors weren’t the decisive edge.
Harris shared his conclusion with me by recounting a guest lecture that he’d given to a hundred or so students at Princeton about five years ago. He told the students that he was humbled to be appearing before them and conceded as much, saying to them: “Your level of intelligence is literally off the charts. I want to admit to you - and this is not false humility-there was never a day in my life when I could reasonably be considered to be accepted into Princeton. I would have rejected myself!
“I’m in my fifties,” he recalls telling them. “I’ve run seven relatively important organizations, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have people from Princeton work for me. But I’ve never worked for somebody from Princeton. How do you explain that?” He then gave them his explanation for it: “I’m fully engaged. If I decide to get involved, I’m all in. Every day is one hundred percent.” That’s his greatest asset, he told them and, later, me, explaining that a robust and lasting energy for hard work is always going to be more consequential than any college.