“A mighty woman with a torch, and her name the mother of exiles. From her beaconed hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command, Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp! Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” — Emma Lazarus, 1883

On the summer day several years ago, not unlike the one that greeted her in the late 1800s, my wife and I, two middle-aged adults, ascended the Statue of Liberty into…

Joe Nocera of Bloomberg

Once I sat next to former Fed chair Paul Volker on a flight as he paged through the Forbes 400 rich list (I was the magazine’s publisher). That was the only time the subject of CEO compensation up socially outside of the news media.

As if to prove my point, Joe Nocera, the well-known business columnist for the New York Times and now Bloomberg, took aim at Warren Buffett over the subject. He wasn’t the first to go after the “sage of Omaha,” although maybe the first who didn't bother to check his facts. …

Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne, April April 23, 1910, ANN RONAN PICTURES/PRINT COLLECTOR/GETTY

“Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

— F Scott Fitzgerald

On the 23rd of April 1910, a well-built man with a walrus mustache and pince-nez glasses burst onto Paris’s Sorbonne College stage. It did not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that he may have been a rancher with literary aspirations at one time. In fact, he had been a cowboy at the Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota and had authored 32 books. But the sad errand that brought him here had nothing to do with adventure. World War I had ended, but not for the French.

In 1859, Charles Dickens wrote the best-selling novel of all times, A Tale of Two Cities, with the familiar opening line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Without the influence of Thomas Carlyle and his near-disastrous experience, it might never have been written.

Woman prisoner awaiting execution by guillotine

Dickens lines seem almost prophetic today: “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the…

A portrait of the artist as an old woman

Annie Mary Robertson aka Grandma Moses (Photo: Website)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger in the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway

After the Civil War ended, small farms fell on hard times, and 12-year-olds like Annie Robertson had to leave their families to earn a living. As a nasty wind wrapped itself around her, Annie set out on the 10-mile walk to a neighbor’s home that was interested in hiring her as a housemaid. She was used to the cold, but heavy snow had dropped the night before and her bootprints left tiny marks in the frozen ground. When Annie arrived, she discovered a scene…

Fame is what results not what happened

self-portrait Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815- 1891) (Photo: Wikipedia)

If judged by popularity during their lifetime, we should be gazing at paintings by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815- 1891).

Haven’t heard of him?

The French realist’s portrayals of Napoleon’s army were unparalleled. He attracted national acclaim for magnificent detail and realism. The painting “1814” depicting Napoleon’s retreat is noted for the way he captured emotion rather than action after the French lost the Battle of Laon. The emperor’s nephew, Napoleon III, claimed Meissonier was the greatest living artist in the world.

“Life is the sum of all your choices” — Albert Camus

It is a remarkable thing to write about good luck and suicide in the same sentence. Yet, on August 2, 1828, a feeling of impending gloom overcame a 35-year-old ship captain who had been sailing the seas since he was a teenager. Pringle Stokes walked unsteadily towards the cabinet in his stateroom and withdrew a loaded navy revolver, placing the gun above his earlobe and gently pulled the trigger. …

Students learn that the main tool for a keener understanding of our species is a dictionary, more accurately an etymological dictionary.

I tend to get blank stares. An etymological dictionary is a source for the original meaning of language we use every day. When we look up the etymology of a commonly used word, it is like listening in on a conversation in a romanesque abbey in France or a thatched-roof hut in Anglo Saxon England 11th century. It is why I say it took one thousand years for women to stop being men.

The word “man” is an Old…

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…

— William Shakespeare, As You Like It


This is a draft chapter of a book to be published this fall 2021 entitled Be Somebody — Extraordinary Lives. It will discuss the nature and cause of eminent and successful lives with some contrasting material on failure and disappointment. Please note, some chapters are in final form while others are in such a rough state they are better unread. Changes will occur frequently…

Jeff Cunningham

Professor of Leadership. Extraordinary Lives Project. Author “Be Somebody” (2021); 2019 Telly Award IconicVoices.tv; ex-publisher Forbes

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