Howard’s Gift is a book that will change readers’ lives: delivering both timeless lessons and practical guidance, it infuses readers with energy, clarity, and inspiration to pursue a satisfying career and a life lived with no regrets. Howard’s Gift features a series of strategies that enable readers to achieve a sense of deep personal fulfillment.
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For more than 40 years, Howard Stevenson has been a towering figure at Harvard Business School: the man who literally defined entrepreneurship and taught thousands of the world’s most successful professionals.
The Sarofim-Rock Baker Foundation Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School (HBS) and chairman of Harvard Business Publishing Company, Howard Stevenson is renowned as a business strategist and entrepreneur.
At Harvard, Howard has become the most successful fundraiser in Harvard history – having generated more than $600 million in philanthropic support. When Howard retired from active teaching in 2011, the university named an academic chair in his honor – Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration Chair.
Outside of academia, Howard held executives roles in manufacturing and financial service companies, and served on numerous corporate Boards. Most notably, he co-founded and led the Baupost Group, Inc., a wealth management firm that now invests more than $22 billion for its clients.
Howard has also been deeply involved in non-profit leadership, including serving as Chairman of the Board of National Public Radio (NPR) and as a trustee for a variety of organizations.
Through warm and engaging conversations, we hear Howard’s timeless and practical lessons on pursuing both success and fulfillment, beginning with:
• Create a vision of your own legacy through a process called “business planning for life.”
• Be entrepreneurial in driving your career ahead (even if you’re not an entrepreneur).
• Exploit the inflection points in your life – whether “friend,” “foe,” or “silent.”
• Cut risk in tough career and life decisions by shining the “light of predictability” on them.
• Plan for the ripples, not just the splash from your actions and choices.
Start at the End
As individuals, many of us follow a career path built on tactical decisions made in isolation, without a broader context. We find ourselves lurching from one priority to the next. All of the facets of the life we want to have—salary, job title, house, social activities, intellectual pursuits, role in the community—are tactical. Figuring out how all those facets fit together is a strategy. Or, as Howard would say, it’s business planning for your life’s work.
“To undertake business planning for your own life,” Howard explained to me, “you need to start at the strategic level. Develop an overall image of where you want to end up. And I don’t mean the title you want at the height of your career or the position you hope to have eventually. Develop the strategic vision and then make decisions—respond to inflection points—in ways that make sense and that help you realize that image.”
While businesses and individuals both need to invest time and energy in developing their strategic/legacy view, people face an interesting complication that organizations do not. For a business, financial “need” is clear and unambiguous: a company needs to make a profit and, over the long term, meeting that need is a key gauge of its success—a consistent measuring stick by which performance is, in large part, defined and judged. (Although, as Howard would be the first to point out, a company must have nonfinancial performance metrics as well, and, actually, profit can be viewed as simply a constraint on the company’s fundamental mission. Apple and Facebook, for example, have changed key aspects of our culture, and Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic save people’s lives—and the fact that they do those things enables them to be profitable.)
Human beings, on the other hand, have both needs and wants. For millions of people on this planet, fulfilling needs— something to eat, a place to sleep—takes virtually all of their energy and time; fulfilling wants is a wonderful extra, when it happens. On the other hand, the fact that you have the time to read this book—and I to write it—is indicative of the opportunity we’ve been afforded to pursue needs and wants, almost every day. We’re lucky; but we’re burdened, too, because having unfulfilled wants can feel quite painful. That’s especially so in a society that tells us, “You can have it all. Indeed, you should have it all; and if you don’t, maybe it’s because you’re just not smart enough, pretty enough, or diligent enough.”
“This work offers wonderful wisdom for navigating the inflection points in our lives.”
—Mehmet Oz, MD
“Howard’s Gift offers such an empowering way of thinking about life and work. This book is truly a gift for all those who are seeking fulfilling careers.”
—Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder,
Teach for America
Or, at least that is how the story was supposed to end were it not for a remarkable, inexplicable series of events that gave this professor, beloved by generations of students, a second lease on life.
As Howard was shaking hands with a colleague after finishing lunch, he experienced “unattended cardiac arrest.” In layman’s terms, Howard had a massive heart attack. Unattended cardiac arrest has a survival rate of less than 1%. Howard’s heart stopped and he was technically dead when his body crumpled to the ground.
But, on this day, it was not to be.
A colleague of Howard’s saw him collapse as she was walking across campus – right outside a building that happened to have a mobile defibrillator in it. While she sprinted to call for help, a second colleague, Andy O’Brien, the Director of Campus Operations, ran to Howard’s side and performed CPR. When the defibrillator arrived and was being administered, Andy walked back to his office on campus. On his desk was his mail. And in his mail was his certification of completion of his CPR training – which he had finished the previous week.
During a frantic effort to re-start Howard’s heart, an ambulance arrived on the Harvard campus. This particular ambulance was one of two in the City of Cambridge that carried a specific clot-busting drug called “tPA” onboard. The EMS crew on-duty in that ambulance happened to be specially trained to inject the drug directly into the human heart.
After working feverishly for 45 minutes on Howard’s unconscious body, the medics sped via ambulance to Mt. Auburn Hospital, where a leading cardiac surgeon was on-duty – and opened his chest to insert three stents into his heart. Less then 90 minutes from the moment Howard collapsed in almost certain death, he was given a second lease on life.
Now, five years after Howard’s near brush with death, St. Martin’s Press releases Howard’s Gift, a book that warms the heart, stirs the spirit, and energizes the mind.
ERIC SINOWAY is the President & Co-Founder of Axcess Worldwide, a New York-based partnership development company that creates inspired ideas and connects extraordinary brands and people. As an entrepreneur, Eric is involved in a wide-range of interesting and challenging projects and companies, including serving as a partner in Double-Cross Vodka, a top-shelf spirit produced in the Slovak Republic; Patagonia Sur, an innovative for-profit conservation project in Patagonia, Chile; and a variety of other early-stage companies. Eric’s professional experience has entailed leadership positions in the private, non-profit, and academic sectors. He has had the privilege of working with some of the world’s leading organizations and most accomplished individuals. Eric currently resides outside of New York in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons.