I was reading the book You Are Not a Gadget by the computer scientist Jaron Lanier and came across this passage: “…there is no evidence that quantity becomes quality in matters of human expression or achievement. What matters instead, I believe, is a sense of focus, a mind in effective concentration, and an adventurous individual imagination that is distinct from the crowd.”
I recently finished reading Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail. I recommend it. He managed to recreate—in incredibly believable detail—the timeline, personalities, and backroom politics behind Lehman Brothers’ demise and the resulting financial market devastation. I was close to the situation in my own way because my employer at the time, Ross Culbert & Lavery, was the design firm that produced Lehman’s annual report and we did marketing and design work for many of the players mentioned in the book. These current and former RC&L clients are mentioned prominently: Lehman Brothers, Citibank, AIG, Evercore, Simpson Thacher, Debevoise, PwC, Och-Ziff, Wiley Rein Fielding, Barclays, Boies Schiller Flexner, Ameriprise… the list goes on.
I especially like the passage when Warren Buffett is trying to decide if he should invest in Lehman. He’s described vividly as paging through our annual report and writing notes in the margin of the book to keep track of his thoughts. Well, he may have liked the annual report design, but he did not like their numbers and passed up the investment opportunity.
The rest is history.