No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career

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    • Publication Information:
      NEW YORK: Columbia University Press, 2020.
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    • Abstract:
      Meyer Feldberg is a storyteller. The source of his stories is his rich and unique life, which took him from South Africa under apartheid to a C-Suite in present-day New York, from the hallowed halls of academia to the frenzy of global investment banking. As with all storytellers, there is a purpose embedded in each of his stories that is specific in its details but universal in its message. No Finish Line is Meyer Feldberg as his friends and colleagues know him. It is the professor dispensing sage advice. It is the mentor telling a tale about himself that is really about you. In his telling, Feldberg's story-his successes and his failures-is a lesson plan for how to lead a worthy personal and professional life. This concise volume reminds the reader of the importance of courage and decency in our relationships. Feldberg shows how values such as self-awareness, personal responsibility, and generosity play out in ways that in retrospect become pivotal. He relates his regrets as well as his triumphs, candidly sharing how our failures to live up to our own expectations can continue to haunt us. Written by a leading fixture of New York's educational, cultural, and business elite, No Finish Line is an engaging portrait of what matters most in living a good and successful life.
    • Contents Note:
      Front Matterp.iTable of Contentsp.viiACKNOWLEDGMENTSp.xiLESSON 1 - PACE YOURSELFp.1It was seven o’clock PM, the floodlights were on, the grandstand was packed, and the crowd roared. On your mark, get set, and bang sounded the starter’s gun as eight swimmers dived into the pool for the hundred-meter butterfly championship in Johannesburg, South Africa. The year was 1959. One of those eight swimmers was me at age sixteen. I dived in, skimmed across the water. I felt like I was flying on top of it. I had never swum like this before. Toward the end of the first lap I saw that I was three lengths ahead of all theLESSON 2 - BE SELF-AWAREp.7It’s eight AM, and I’m shouting at the family that we have to leave immediately. The slopes open at eight-thirty AM. We’re behind schedule. Everyone piles into the Jeep, and we drive from our home to the main parking lot in Vail, which takes twelve minutes. We park. Everybody jumps out of the car. We take the skis off the roof, put them on our shoulders, hold the poles, and walk in our boots for ten minutes to the gondola. There is already a line, but I’m very pleased with myself. We’re going to get the most out of theLESSON 3 - TAKE RISKS TO FIND THE RIGHT FITp.13Opportunities arise at unexpected times and in unexpected places. There’s no way to know what will work out. Which career move is right? Is this move happening at the right time? You just don’t know. What you do know, however, is that if you want your career to progress, when an opportunity arises that you feel can move you toward your goal, you need to trust your intuition and go for it. This is precisely what happened to me when I became dean of Columbia Business School. My path back to Columbia Business School was indirect and would not haveLESSON 4 - LIFE IS FRAGILEp.23My father, Leon, had his first heart attack in our home in Johannesburg back in 1954. I was twelve years old. I got out of bed early in the morning at around six-thirty AM, just like any other day, and I began walking to the staircase to go downstairs for breakfast. I passed my parents room, glanced inside, and got a shock. There were people in the room other than my mother, who was still in her dressing gown. My father was lying in the bed, a doctor with a black bag hovering over him. My sister, Gaia, was upsetLESSON 5 - ADMIT YOUR MISTAKESp.31Children are adaptable, but only so much. Our son, Lewis, and our daughter, Ilana, were both born in Cape Town. We were fortunate in that we had a large house and that my parents would visit us from Johannesburg for long periods of time. During my early years as the dean of the University of Cape Town Business School I was like most ambitious young men. I was always in a hurry for the next accomplishment. I let my career take center stage. I missed important moments in the lives of my children. This was a mistake. At the timeLESSON 6 - CONFRONT INJUSTICEp.35Injustice is something that is frequently understood in the abstract, unless one is the victim of it. I grew up in South Africa under apartheid, the formal government policy of segregation and white supremacy. I benefited from that system by nature of being white. But I am also Jewish, which puts me at something of a distance from the Afrikaners, the descendants of the Dutch, German, and French settlers. Rather, I was part of an at times insular minority. Nevertheless, apartheid was a way of life that I was born into. As a child I was thoughtless about it inLESSON 7 - ADDRESS DIFFICULTIES IN THE MOMENTp.43There are times in our lives where we fail to do the right thing. We know better, but we don’t do better. It may be because we wish to avoid something difficult in the moment, but this is shortsighted. Avoidance doesn’t make what is hard disappear. It makes it worse. Avoidance may in fact prolong a problem in a way that can never be rectified. My relationship with Bob Pritzker ended in avoidance. He gave me a tremendous opportunity and was an understanding supporter of my career, yet I never properly thanked him. My last meeting with him was anticlimactic,LESSON 8 - BE GENEROUSp.49I have been fortunate in life to not have wants. I have lived well, and I have made the most of the opportunities I have been afforded. This is of course not true for everyone. Regardless, one must always act from a place of generosity. Generosity of time. Generosity of material resources. Generosity of opportunity. Generosity of spirit. It’s 1979, and I am in my office at Northwestern University. The phone rings, and Sol Kerzner is on the line from Johannesburg. He and I first met in Durban, South Africa, where he grew up. I was eight years old andLESSON 9 - PLACE MATTERSp.55During my life and career I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the world and live in some extraordinary places. In all of the places I’ve lived, I’ve learned the simple truth that place matters. Wherever you live, make the most of it, and throw yourself headlong into your community. This became clear to me when I moved back to New York as dean of Columbia Business School. In 1989 I was invited by Columbia Business School’s search committee to visit the campus in May. The first person I interviewed with was Lionel Pincus. At that time he wasLESSON 10 - ENGAGE WITH ALL OF YOUR CONSTITUENCIES BUT KNOW WHO COMES FIRSTp.61My position as dean gave me access to all that New York had to offer, including all the big shots in politics and business. We had regular events—and still do—at our home that included guests like Mike Bloomberg, Larry Summers, Bibi Netanyahu, Ross Perot, and Dick Cheney, to name but a few of the movers and shakers who have sat at our dining-room table with faculty, students, and alumni. It is easy in this position to get carried away with the names in bold, but the dean of a school is responsible to the full range of students,LESSON 11 - LEAD FROM THE FRONTp.67In a position of leadership it’s easy to cordon yourself off, hurling missives and directives from a remote office suite. An organization’s staff relies on its leader for direction. This comes across not just in what the leader does but how he does it. Good leaders lead from the front and set an example for the norms of behavior within the organization. When I arrived as dean of Columbia Business School in 1989, the institution was in desperate need of new leadership—of people willing to get into the trenches. In 1989, the business school had just been ranked fifteenthLESSON 12 - WIELD POWER RESPONSIBLYp.71There are times when we have power over others and we use it appropriately, but there is also the temptation to use that power selfishly. The line between the use and the abuse of power is easiest to see at a distance. And sometimes we lose sight of it when friends and family are concerned. An episode in which I abused my power that I am ashamed of concerns my son when he was a student at Columbia Business School and how I treated an instructor in one of his classes. My son, Lewis, graduated from the University of ChicagoLESSON 13 - MAKE AN EXTRA EFFORT FOR TOP TALENTp.75When I became dean at Columbia Business School, I knew that the faculty were waiting and watching to see what I would do to enhance their effectiveness and their capacity to recruit additional talent. As anyone who has worked in a university knows, when push comes to shove, the faculty has enormous positive and negative power over the dean and the school. The more illustrious the faculty is, the more highly is the institution viewed. The faculty must be seen by their peers to be outstanding. The dean and the university need to place great value on the reputation ofLESSON 14 - BE MENTORED AND BE A MENTORp.79Over many years, you come to realize and understand that there are people in your life that have advised you, helped you, guided you, and mentored you. You also realize that there are people in your life that you have mentored and that come to have valued your advice and guidance. Nobody does it alone. We learn from others both how to do things and how not to do things, and it is incumbent upon us to pass that experience along to others. Mentoring or being mentored is something that we frequently do not understand at the time. Years later,LESSON 15 - TEND TO YOUR FRIENDSHIPSp.87Looking back over a life and career, I’ve come to understand that relationships and friendships don’t always last. There will be people with whom you may develop deep and meaningful relationships that turn out to be circumstantial. At the worst, there are people whose friendship is based purely out of selfinterest. They believe that you can be helpful to them. They believe that the organization you are leading can be helpful to them. They believe it is good to be seen with you. You, too, may believe that they can be helpful to you. There also are friendships that existLESSON 16 - ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN YOUR COMMUNITYp.91It was a long, very long, tedious day. Barbara is standing behind me on the escalator at Newark Airport. I look down at her and say, “I just can’t do this anymore.” Three days after coming back from Colorado I was scheduled to fly from New York to Johannesburg for a board meeting. I was the deputy chairman of Sappi, one of the two or three largest paper companies in the world. Sappi’s head office was in Johannesburg, and the company had six board meetings a year, three of which were in South Africa. It was my ninth year onLESSON 17 - STAY ACTIVEp.103There are people who eagerly count down the days to their retirement with the goal of spending their so-called golden years—if they can afford it—as leisurely as they can. I am no such person. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are no second acts in American life. While it was not my aim to prove this wrong, my postretirement career as dean has proven as long lasting as my time in academic administration. If you, like me, find the concept of retirement inconceivable, fear not, for second acts are indeed possible. My last day in the office asLESSON 18 - CONCLUSIONp.107Is life about judgment or about luck? In my experience, it is about luck and judgment. In 1962, I was a world-class swimmer in Johannesburg. I was looking to go to the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In 1962, the International Olympic Committee banned South Africa from the Olympics. This was very bad luck for me. I immediately decided to apply to business schools in the United States. I applied to four schools and elected to go to Columbia Business School in the city of New York. Good judgment. On my way to Columbia in 1963, I stopped in IsraelEPILOGUEp.113My wife has been a professional artist for fifty-five years. She has had exhibitions in Cape Town, in Chicago, and in New York. Our favorite galleries are of course those closest to our homes in Manhattan and Vail. Over the years, it has been gratifying that strangers and friends alike have acquired Barbara’s paintings. I am always a bit disappointed when she sells one. Our children and I miss having them hanging at our home or our children’s homes. There is, however, an upside to the paintings that she has sold to friends. We still get to see them, just
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      Columbia University Press, 2020
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  • Citations
    • ABNT:
      FELDBERG, M. No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. NEW YORK: Columbia University Press, 2020. ISBN 978-0-231-19672-7. DOI 10.7312/feld19672. Disponível em: Acesso em: 27 maio. 2020.
    • AMA:
      Feldberg M. No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. NEW YORK: Columbia University Press; 2020. doi:10.7312/feld19672.
    • APA:
      Feldberg, M. (2020). No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. Columbia University Press.
    • Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date:
      Feldberg, Meyer. 2020. No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. NEW YORK: Columbia University Press. doi:10.7312/feld19672.
    • Harvard:
      Feldberg, M. (2020) No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. NEW YORK: Columbia University Press. doi: 10.7312/feld19672.
    • Harvard: Australian:
      Feldberg, M 2020, No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career, Columbia University Press, NEW YORK, viewed 27 May 2020, .
    • MLA:
      Feldberg, Meyer. No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. Columbia University Press, 2020. EBSCOhost, doi:10.7312/feld19672.
    • Chicago/Turabian: Humanities:
      Feldberg, Meyer. No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career. NEW YORK: Columbia University Press, 2020. doi:10.7312/feld19672.
    • Vancouver/ICMJE:
      Feldberg M. No Finish Line : Lessons on Life and Career [Internet]. NEW YORK: Columbia University Press; 2020 [cited 2020 May 27]. Available from: