Robert K. Lifton
Now, perhaps more than ever, in the face of the intractable problems facing the world leaders, whether in economic, business or political arenas – they need to apply what I call the “entrepreneurial spirit.” Such a spirit is based on a belief that commitment and effort can overcome most obstacles. It requires a willingness to challenge the status quo and conventional wisdom when they are not working effectively.
It requires an insatiable curiosity about new developments and a willingness to embrace new ideas and initiatives in seeking a better approach. Importantly, it also requires being willing to take risks to achieve one’s goals, even knowing fully well the pain that follows failure. This spirit has suffused my own business experience, which includes investing in and developing major real estate projects, activities in banking and secondary mortgage lending, participating in business activities that paralleled our national developments, such as off-shore manufacturing and high yield securities as well as owning Team America – The American national soccer team, buying the aircraft carrier on which I served in the Navy, and being a landlord to Donald Trump. That same spirit also influences a broad range of other activities I have been involved in whether seeking peaceful solutions to conflict in the Middle East, helping to develop strategies for addressing dangerous hospital infections, collecting art or even trying to develop a better golf swing.
During my life I have seen increasingly rapid changes taking place in the world of business and economics. One such change is how sharply increased productivity resulting from enormous technological advances is creating large scale structural unemployment, particularly of a younger generation, and what are the political implications of that development. Those changes call for business and political leaders to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit to recognize that existing techniques are not working effectively and to develop new approaches to education and job creation that address the changed circumstances. This may require breaking away from concepts like national balanced budgets and moving in the direction of allocating resources to repair aging infrastructure while creating jobs and giving the population the time to learn new technologies and abilities.
By the same token, during my life I have witnessed significant changes in military capabilities with the expansion of asymmetrical warfare, broader nuclear capabilities and particularly increasingly sophisticated cyber warfare. Here, too, nations like the United States have to apply an entrepreneurial approach to make sure that their military capabilities meet the current requirements and not depend on outmoded weaponry and models of warfare.
Finally, I hope my life story offers an example for a younger generation of business people to reach out beyond their businesses and get involved in the larger issues that face us. People who are successful in business often have special talents in seeing the larger picture, in dealing with others, in negotiating balanced deals and in applying their entrepreneurial spirits. These abilities both equip them and oblige them to become involved in the larger issues of our time, as I have been fortunate to do in domestic American politics and particularly in dealing with issues in the Middle East, as President of the American Jewish Congress, a founder and Chair of the Israel Policy Forum and Co-Chair of the Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations. I hope that those exciting experiences that I describe in my memoirs – “An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Stories From A Life In Business and Personal Diplomacy” – dealing with Presidents, Prime Minister, Kings and other world leaders will particularly inspire younger readers in the business world to expand their involvement both for their own satisfaction and the benefit of the world around them.
About the Author
Robert K. Lifton is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post on politics, the economy and the Middle East. He is a successful entrepreneur and served as president of the American Jewish Congress, chair of the Israel Policy Forum, and co-chair of the Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations. In Lifton’s recently published memoir “An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Stories from a Life in Business and Personal Diplomacy” he describes his entrepreneurial endeavors and foreign diplomacy work which are a great learning tool for business leaders of tomorrow.