In today's Wall Street Journal there is an article titled "Bank of America CEO In Spotlight After Deal" about CEO Kenneth Lewis, who by most accounts is a solid CEO of Bank America. Bank of America is in the news because they recently bought a $2B stake in Countrywide Financial and is near to becoming the largest bank in the US by market value. In this passage former CEO McColl, who built up Bank of America from a series of regional banks, describes how Mr. Lewis reacted when McColl asked him to go to Florida in 1985 to lead integration efforts on a newly-purchased bank... when McColl questioned Lewis about when he could leave for Florida:
"I said, when can you go?" Mr. McColl recalls. "He said, 'When you stop talking to me.' He reported for duty within 24 hours, bought a house and told his wife -- in that order. We had a man who knew what had to be done."
In a parallel thread, a friend of mine works for an investment firm in the western United States. He was talking about his millionaire clients, and discussing how we could be rich like them. The first thing I said is that we need to get divorced and "lose" the first wife since that is pretty much what all the rich people had in common... sadly, after some thought, he had to agree that these individuals were divorced at least once in the vast majority of his client base. These high achieving individuals GENERALLY commit totally to their work and all of their relationships (family, friends) suffer as they focus on achieving success.
The odd thing is that no one really talks about this and calls it out "point blank". In fact, there almost is a dis-information campaign as the uber-wealthy often talk about the importance of their family, generally while sitting next to a finely tuned second or third wife with young children on their knee. Not mentioned is the fact that their first marriage was shredded and their first batch of kids were often alienated.
It is important that people joining the work force have realistic expectations about what it takes to be extremely successful - total commitment. This doesn't mean that you have to take this path, but virtually all of the high achievers got rich by focusing like a laser on work and building wealth to the detriment of all else. If you have to think of a single, pithy passage that sums it all up, look to McColl's description of Lewis up above.