Blond. James Blond.

| June 5, 2009

Jonathan Nelson learned the power of harnessing your unique talents in a music class in college, and it has served him well. He barely passed the class—appreciating Beethoven is harder when you don’t have perfect pitch—but now, as CEO of Providence Equity Partners, he is not only the richest man in Providence, he is the wealthiest man in the state. (It may be the smallest state in the Union, but there’s still some Texas-size money in Rhode Island; Nelson is worth at least $2 billion.) PEP acquired the movie studio MGM a few years ago, and the big question, he told me, was “What would we do with James Bond—who will be the next Bond?”

Music Appreciation

| June 1, 2009

It was Jonathan Nelson, the richest man in Providence, Rhode Island, who gave me the perfect phrase for the second commandment in The Richest Man in Town. We’ve all heard the advice, “Know thyself.” Nelson, like many of the RMITs I interviewed, took that very wise advice to the next level. He learned the importance of the second commandment in school—in a course on Beethoven at Brown University—but this lesson was not on the syllabus.

The Biggest Lie We Tell Our Kids

| April 18, 2009

Have you ever said to your child or to a loved one, “You can be anything you want to be, anything you dream of being”? If you have, you are not alone, but I’m sorry to tell you that you lied. Not deliberately, of course, but it is a blatant falsehood. Shocked? Don’t be. Instead, it’s time to stop the madness and get real. That’s hard to do, because our culture has inculcated this belief in our unlimited potential in most every one of us, just as we have all been taught to believe that money doesn’t bring happiness—which is also untrue.
W. Clement Stone, the insurance man and author of numerous books on success, who in the last century was the richest man in Chicago, was famous for saying, “Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” This ultimate optimist had the best of intentions, I’m sure. And it’s a message that we all want to hear: Sure, I want to be Warren Buffet, or at least have his billions. I wouldn’t mind looking like Brad Pitt while I’m at it, and I would love to play tennis like Roger Federer, but those qualities are simply not in my genetic code.