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Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons by Seymour Schulich

Page history last edited by Chris Yeh 11 years ago

Sorry, this is incomplete as of now, but I'm not sure how to save it as a draft as I work on it - does anyone know?


Tiger Lily--don't worry about it being incomplete.  Maybe someone else will help you finish it!





Main Ideas


Chapter 1: The Decision-Maker: A Tool for a Lifetime

  • Use it to make every major decision in your life.
  • It works well because it strips off the emotion in decision-making and really examine the relative importance of each point.
  • How it works:
    • Make a pros and cons list for a decision, framed by a question (Eg Should I go to Western?). Think of the cons as opportunity costs for taking the next best course of action.
    • Assign a value from 1 to 10 for the positives (10 is very important to you) and a value from 1 to 10 to the negatives (10 is a major drawback).
    • Add up both sides, and if the positives:negatives is a 2:1 ratio or more, do it, whatever "it" is. If not, don't do it, or at least think more about it.


Chapter 2: Know Your Edge

  • Know not just your specialty/competitive advantage , but also where you can gain the upperhand in a deal of any kind.
  • Know who has the edge in any deal/negotiations of whatever kind in life. Just be aware of the fact so you can make decisions accordingly, and if possible try to gain the upper hand through your own "edge".
  • Tip: Always try to have your lawyers write up the contract. It's like having the serve in tennis. It's a big edge!


Chapter 3: Reciprocity

  • The famous anecdote of the MBA reading lists: When Schulich was at McGill, the MBA reading lists would come out, and because there were only 2 or 3 copies of each book in the library, there was always a stampede of nerds to the library to reserve the book for them. Schulich and his best friend Lawrence Bloomberg bought the biggest box of Laura Secord chocolates and gave it to Ms Sears, the intimidating, no-nonsense librarian who knew what was on the reading lists. Consequently, whenever the stampede arrived they were told the books were already reserved for Schulich and Bloomberg, and no one could figure out how.
  • Recipricity is an important concept for young people to learn. Reciprocity is the idea that people have a very hard time saying no to someone who has done somehting, even a small favour, for them.
  • Business and life is full of relationships, and relationships are grounded in reciprocity. He's never met a successful person who did not have a complete grasp of this.


Chapter 4: Career Lines: Jobs to Seek and Those to Avoid

  • Main idea: It doesn't matter if you don't know what you want to be when you grow up. 
  • Your twenties are to enjoy and figure out what you'd like to do, but by 30 you should have a clear direction.
  • You're more likely to find happiness and superior financial rewards in companies with high profit margins, since they pay more, have less layoffs and are less stressful (that last part I don't completely agree with)
  • Doctors and lawyers get paid by visit or by hour. The problem with that is that you're limited by the number of hours in a day, and you'll never get rich that way with a 50% marginal tax rate.


Chapter 5: Money's value falls 90% every Thirty Years

  • Keep a sizable portion of your wealth in inflation-sensitive assets like real estate, commodities and precious metals. They will hold their value against the ravages of inflation far better than cash, bonds, GICs or other long-term paper savings.
  • If you get the chance to lock in your debt for years at low rates of interest, do it, because interest rates and inflation rates are only going to get higher (That's not true Mr. Schulich, since you didn't predict the financial crisis, now did you you?)
  • Be skeptical of life insurance. Many insurance policies are simply overpriced savings plans in an insurance package, and inflation will destroy their value. If you're going to buy life insurance, buy term insurance, and get only as much as you need to protect your family in case something happens to you.


Chapter 6: Be A Positive Person

  • Self-explanatory
  • Great anecdote about how it only takes a small change in perspective to alter your attitude. As a boy he used to have Seasonal Affective Disorder because the cloudy Canadian winters would make him sad, But then he read a book called The Shadow of the Sun by a Polish journalist called Ryszard Kapuscinski. He had lived for many years in equatorial Africa, and wrote of the dreadful heat, the sun erupting out of the ground each morning, half the people suffering malaria, and no shade anwhere as the few trees had been felled for fuel long ago. It was an epiphany for Schulich. It changed his entire view of our sunless norther winters. Cloudy days no longer made him depressed. He just thought of those poor souls who live in equatorial Africa.
  • Behind every success story is a person who beat the obstacles because he or she refused to believe the pessimist's view.
  • Accountants and lawyers are the exception to this rule. There's something inherent in these professions that leads to dour, worst-case-scenario outcomes. Every company needs a few people like that, but positive people form the vast majority of life's winners.
  • "Two men looked through prison bars,

           One saw mud, one saw stars."

               - Oscar Wilde


Chapter 7: There's No Such Thing As An Overnight Success

  • Talks about the Starbucks story, and how no one had faith in Howard Schultz's idea.
  • Every business takes at least 4 to 5 years to build.
  • The average lifespan of a corporation is 20 years. The average lifespan of a multinational corporation is 40-50 years.
  • Nothing lasts forever, and great businesses aren't created in a few weeks or months.
  • An italian proverb says, "He that has no patience has nothing at all."


Chapter 8: Rules for Aging (Or Living)

  • (He paraphrases this section from a book he recommends called Rules for Aging by Roger Rosenblatt.)
  • Nobody is thinking about you, so banish paranoid thoughts from your mind. They are thinking about themselves - just like you.
  • Avoid swine. A swine is a swine is a swine. He will always be a swine, even if he is acting right now in an unswine-like fashion. Stay away from them. (Couldn't agree more, Mr. Schulich.)
  • After the age of thirty, it is unseemly to blame one's parents for one's life. (Ah, really? Oh, I suppose so.)
  • Never bring news of slander to a friend. This goes against conventional wisdom, which says that a true friend is one with the guts to break bad news to a pal. But the truth is that when a friend hears a slander from an enemy, he or she automatically discounts it as meaningless, whereas when it comes from a friend, his guard is down and he is vulnerable. So don't do it for two reasons: because it's not right to subject your friend to it when he's vulnerable, and because messengers are often beheaded.
  • Never expect gratitude.
  • Self-praise is no honour (something he learned personally from his wife, and that I've heard him repear elsewhere several times).
    • A quote not from Schulich: "An American football player is a fellow with two good blockers and a poet in the press box." The poet in the press box has created many legends.
    • A key to success is to have friends and colleagues who will remind the world of your achievements. Never, ever do it yourself.


Chapter 9: Longevity And Health






  • "I came across an inspirational message that sums up what my objective was in deciding to set up more than one thousand scholarships in six or seven institutions of higher learning, plus write a book to help young people deal with the major challenges of life's journey.                                                    

               "A hundred years from now it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove ... but the world                may be different because you were important in the life of a young person."

          My car is eleven years old, my marriage is 38 years old, and my house is thirty years old. My current life objective is to important and helpful in the lives           of a lot of young people." (Introduction, page 16)


          --> This is the kind of grounded man Schulich is, with unwavering perspective of what is really important in life. I salute a man who can be in finance and           still live this way. He is on my list of people I most want to meet in my life. I would love to have him as a mentor, to help keep ME grounded. And I envy           him for the wonderful people in his life who have given him the support that is his blessing.




  • What is my edge?
  • I need an assistant. Who should I recruit?
  • The money tips in Chapter 5


Ongoing Reflections


  • A book written by the businessman my business school is named after. Although I'm not familiar with his biography, his career path is what I want to do with my life in business: make money, remain a grounded person, have a happy family life and give my money to charity.



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