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#152 Katherine Graham: Personal History
November 5th, 2020 | E152

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Show Notes

[00:01:02] - A few minutes later, there was the ear-splitting noise of a gun going off indoors. I bolted out of the room and ran around in a frenzy looking for him. When I opened the door to a downstairs bathroom, I found him. It was so profoundly shocking and traumatizing —he was so obviously dead. 

[00:03:56] - Katherine Graham was the first-ever female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

[00:05:30] - This book is the inner monologue of someone not at all comfortable with herself and where she fits in with others. 

[00:08:55] - Katherine's mom on having a second wind: The fatigue of the climb was great, but it is interesting to learn once more how much further one can go on one’s second wind. I think that is an important lesson for everyone to learn, for it should also be applied to one’s mental efforts. Most people go through life without ever discovering the existence of that whole field of endeavor,, which we describe as second wind. Whether mentally or physically occupied most people give up at the first appearance of exhaustion. Thus they never learn the glory and the exhilaration of genuine effort

[00:13:42] - When an idea is right, nothing can stop it

[00:17:47] - Advice from her Father that she still remembers 60 years later: What parents may sometimes do in a helpful way is to point out certain principles of action. I do not think I would be helpful in advising you too strongly. I do not even feel the need of doing that because I have so much confidence in your having really good judgment. I believe that what I can do for you once in a while is to point out certain principles that have developed in my mind as sound and practical, leaving it for you yourself to apply them if your own mind grasps and approves the principles

[00:26:14] - Have a problem? Look at it from a different perspective: I had deplored the fact we had the bad luck to live in a world with Hitler, to which Phil responded, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s a privilege to have to fight the biggest son of a bitch in history.”  

[00:29:20] - Reading biographies can give you the strength to not quit: Phil was finishing a book on the lives and careers of newspaper magnates. “You know, they put the company together when they were in their thirties. Now they’re in their sixties, and I’m in my thirties. I think we can make it [successful] another way.” 

[00:33:28] - There is no doubt in my mind that the struggle to survive was good for us. In business, you have to know what it is to be poor and stretched and fighting for your life against great odds. 

[00:37:26] - Knowledge of that new generation—my children—was what led me, however hesitatingly, to the decision I made then: to try to hold on to the company by going to work. 

[00:38:04] - Sometimes, you don’t really decide. You just move forward, and that is what I did—moved forward blindly and mindlessly into a new and unknown life. 

[00:41:28] - I made mistakes and suffered great distress from them, partly because I believed that if you just worked diligently enough you wouldn’t make mistakes. I truly believed that other people in my position didn’t make mistakes; I couldn’t see that everybody makes them, even people with great experience. 

[00:46:19] - Good luck was again on my side, coming just when I needed it. It was my great fortune that Warren Buffett bought into the company, beginning a whole new phase of my life. 

[00:47:53] - Writing a check separates conviction from conversation. —Warren Buffett 

[00:52:05] - My business education began in earnest—he literally took me to business school, which was just what I needed. How lucky I was to be educated by Warren Buffett, and how many people would have given anything for the same experience. 

[00:55:56] - Warren has done so many things for me, but among the most important are the inroads he has made on my insecurities. Warren is humanly wise. He once told me that someone in a Dale Carnegie course had said to him, “Just remember: We are not going to teach you how to keep your knees from knocking. All we’re going to do is teach you to talk while your knees knock." 

[00:57:13] - Warren later told me he subscribed to Charlie Munger’s “orangutan theory”—which essentially contended that, “if a smart person goes into a room with an orangutan and explains whatever his or her idea is, the orangutan just sits there eating his banana, and at the end of the conversation, the person explaining comes out smarter.” Warren claimed to be my orangutan. I heard myself talk when I was with him and I always got a better idea of what I was saying.

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