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Jorge Paulo Lemann - What I Learned at Harvard


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I don't think this has been posted here before:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/169640518/Jorge-Paulo-Lemann-What-I-Learned-at-Harvard

 

Source:

https://www.santangelsreview.com/2013/09/20/transcript-of-a-speech-by-jorge-paulo-lemann/

 

Some selected notes:

I discovered that all the tests from the courses were archived in the library, all the previous exams

 

So, I developed a system to search all previous exams, interview students who had done the courses and some

teachers, choose those courses, and have in detail what the focus of the course was -- the main objectives.

 

I also quickly discovered that teachers generally repeated the questions.

 

So, I started to have big dreams, meaning, I always thought about things, and doing bigger and better.

 

The other thing I learned at Harvard that is part of [my work now] was choosing people.

 

To finish at Harvard in the time span I wanted to, I was forced to develop a system to focus a lot and everything I saw -- to see which are the four or five essential things -- that was part of my thinking.

 

I always tried to reduce everything to what is essential.

 

I discovered at Harvard that simple is always better than complicated. When you see a lot of theory, you end up discovering that everything good is generally simpler than the more complicated things

 

I learned the importance of meritocracy, of Goldman Sachs, and the importance of a partnership system, of having partners with you, of having other people who are also owners.

 

And in general, it teaches you not to take risks, which is to say, to be careful. And I think in life, you have to take risks. Sometimes you have to take risks, and I think the only way you learn to take risks is practicing, practicing.

 

I think a lot of people study hard and think that will solve everything, and I think in order to do more, or do exceptional, you have to take risks.

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I don't think this has been posted here before:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/169640518/Jorge-Paulo-Lemann-What-I-Learned-at-Harvard

 

Source:

https://www.santangelsreview.com/2013/09/20/transcript-of-a-speech-by-jorge-paulo-lemann/

 

Some selected notes:

I discovered that all the tests from the courses were archived in the library, all the previous exams

 

So, I developed a system to search all previous exams, interview students who had done the courses and some

teachers, choose those courses, and have in detail what the focus of the course was -- the main objectives.

 

I also quickly discovered that teachers generally repeated the questions.

 

So, I started to have big dreams, meaning, I always thought about things, and doing bigger and better.

 

The other thing I learned at Harvard that is part of [my work now] was choosing people.

 

To finish at Harvard in the time span I wanted to, I was forced to develop a system to focus a lot and everything I saw -- to see which are the four or five essential things -- that was part of my thinking.

 

I always tried to reduce everything to what is essential.

 

I discovered at Harvard that simple is always better than complicated. When you see a lot of theory, you end up discovering that everything good is generally simpler than the more complicated things

 

I learned the importance of meritocracy, of Goldman Sachs, and the importance of a partnership system, of having partners with you, of having other people who are also owners.

 

And in general, it teaches you not to take risks, which is to say, to be careful. And I think in life, you have to take risks. Sometimes you have to take risks, and I think the only way you learn to take risks is practicing, practicing.

 

I think a lot of people study hard and think that will solve everything, and I think in order to do more, or do exceptional, you have to take risks.

 

The first part of the story reminded me of this story Munger told about Victor Niederhoffer (here: http://www.tilsonfunds.com/MungerUCSBspeech.pdf )

 

Page 16 of the doc / 19 of the pdf (and the rest of the speech is good too...thought it worth a post with it being Berkshire weekend and all):

 

"Niederhoffering the curriculum

 

There was a wonderful example of gaming a human system in the career of Victor Niederhoffer [www.squashtalk.com/profiles/niederhoffer.htm] in the Economics Department of Harvard. Victor Niederhoffer was the son of a police lieutenant, and he needed to get A’s at Harvard. But he didn’t want to do any serious work at Harvard, because what he really liked doing was, one, playing world-class checkers; two, gambling in high-stakes card games, at which he was very good, all hours of the day and night; three, being the squash champion of the United States, which he was for years; and, four, being about as good a tennis player as a part-time tennis player could be.

 

This did not leave much time for getting A’s at Harvard so he went into the Economics Department. You’d think he would have chosen French poetry. But remember, this was a guy who could play championship checkers. He thought he was up to outsmarting the Harvard Economics Department. And he was. He noticed that the graduate students did most of the boring work that would otherwise go to the professors, and he noticed that because it was so hard to get to be a graduate student at Harvard, they were all very brilliant and organized and hard working, as well as much needed by grateful professors.

 

And therefore, by custom, and as would be predicted from the psychological force called reciprocity tendency, in a really advanced graduate course, the professors always gave an A. So Victor Niederhoffer signed up for nothing but the most advanced graduate courses in the Harvard Economics Department, and of course, he got A, after A, after A, after A, and was hardly ever near a class. And for a while, some people at Harvard may have thought it had a new prodigy on its hands. That’s a ridiculous story, but the scheme will work still. And Niederhoffer is famous: they call his style “Niederhoffering the curriculum.” (Laughter).

 

This shows how all-human systems are gamed. Another example of not thinking through the consequences of the consequences is the standard reaction in economics to Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage giving benefit on both sides of trade. Ricardo came up with a wonderful, non-obvious explanation that was so powerful that people were charmed with it, and they still are, because it’s a very useful idea. Everybody in economics understands that comparative advantage is a big deal, when one considers first order advantages in trade from the Ricardo effect. But suppose you’ve got a very talented ethnic group, like the Chinese, and they’re very poor and backward, and you’re an advanced nation, and you create free trade with China, and it goes on for a long time."

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the problem with munger is that his brain seems to go faster then his mouth can keep up.. Sometimes im not really sure what he is trying to say. Which is kind of a shame. Allthough would love to talk to him sometime. Actually more then buffett, he just keeps repeating the same stuff over and over.

 

This:

It took me 20 years to figure out how and why the Reverend

Moon’s conversion methods worked. But the psychology departments haven’t figured it out yet,

so I’m ahead of them.

But anyway, I have this tendency...

 

Godamnit! Tell me about Reverend moon's conversion!

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The Neiderhoffer story seems like more mythology than fact.

 

It's believable that he missed classes as a result of his extracurriculars, but it's not really believable that he didn't earn As the normal way, through his tests and coursework.

 

Actually it is hard not to achieve A's at Harvard,

 

http://www.gradeinflation.com/Harvard.html,

 

or at least nothing below a C.

 

I had a fellow graduate student who joined the faculty at a prestigious private university. He would teach an undergraduate class and give some D's and F's. His department head and the dean would call him in every semester to talk to him and tell him they did not have D and F students at their university. He would respond if they were at Purdue, where the two of us did our graduate work, they would be getting D's and F's. My friend is now on the faculty of a state research university.

 

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the problem with munger is that his brain seems to go faster then his mouth can keep up.. Sometimes im not really sure what he is trying to say. Which is kind of a shame. Allthough would love to talk to him sometime. Actually more then buffett, he just keeps repeating the same stuff over and over.

 

This:

It took me 20 years to figure out how and why the Reverend

Moon’s conversion methods worked. But the psychology departments haven’t figured it out yet,

so I’m ahead of them.

But anyway, I have this tendency...

 

Godamnit! Tell me about Reverend moon's conversion!

 

If you listen to Charlie a lot - it's not that his brain is faster than his mouth. He has a way of leaving you hanging......like I gave you enough to

figure it out - if you can't figure it out now, you're not that smart. He always does that. Charlie is way ahead of most people and it's hard to keep up. That is part of the charm of Charlie :)

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If you listen to Charlie a lot - it's not that his brain is faster than his mouth. He has a way of leaving you hanging......like I gave you enough to

figure it out - if you can't figure it out now, you're not that smart. He always does that. Charlie is way ahead of most people and it's hard to keep up. That is part of the charm of Charlie :)

 

This.

If you think you're smarter than Munger you're not.  If you're not sure, you might be.  It's entertaining reading and hearing peoples' responses to him.  Based on how negative so many people are towards him, one can see why he is so successful with his insights. ;)

 

If I had to sum him up in a sentence: "I'd rather be lucky and good".

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Whilst this should do nothing to detract from Lemann's achievements after Harvard it is worth being slightly more critical of this particular piece. When he was entering Harvard, Brazil was an extremely poor country and one of the most (if not the most) unequal, in economic terms, country in  the world (slavery was only abolished 30 years or so before Lemann was born). It seems very unlikely that he got into Harvard on anything else other than money (not unusual at the time, remember this guy is old). Given this point, it is pretty futiile to try and read back his later success into this period. More generally, I think people who have gone onto be successful have rather selective memories when it comes to recalling how they got to where they are now.

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Hey i wasn't negative on CM. Just wish he would go in more detail, as I think it is v interesting what he has to say.

 

He also seems to not care who he pisses off either. He easily calls a whole bunch of economists idiots in his speech lol. He must have groups of people who hate him. Buffett is much more politically correct it seems. Which makes me like Munger more tho :D .

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Whilst this should do nothing to detract from Lemann's achievements after Harvard it is worth being slightly more critical of this particular piece. When he was entering Harvard, Brazil was an extremely poor country and one of the most (if not the most) unequal, in economic terms, country in  the world (slavery was only abolished 30 years or so before Lemann was born). It seems very unlikely that he got into Harvard on anything else other than money (not unusual at the time, remember this guy is old). Given this point, it is pretty futiile to try and read back his later success into this period. More generally, I think people who have gone onto be successful have rather selective memories when it comes to recalling how they got to where they are now.

 

I'm about half way through Dream Big and I would say that this is an unjust characterization of a great man and his success. There is plenty to be learned from that speech.

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It's not easy to get As at Harvard. It's just easy for the type of people who are admitted.

 

 

I have been on the faculty at a major research university for 30 years. There is a difference between “learning” and earning a grade. A student could be valedictorian of their high school class with perfect SAT scores, but will not learn subjects in college like vector calculus, solid-state physics, electromagnetic fields, and quantum mechanics, subjects I have taught, without working hard. Some of these students did not learn how to study in high school; they did not have to work hard in high school. But if the average grade given is an A- with the lowest grade given a C, many will graduate with good GPAs, without having “learned” much and certainly not learning how to work hard and how to study.

 

Why have grade averages become so high? There are a number of reasons. For some rankings, like US News and World Reports, the higher the graduate rate the higher the ranking. So a higher  average GPA will result in a higher graduation rate and higher ranking. Teaching performance, something that can effect promotion and tenure, is often solely determined by students’ evaluation of instructors on the end-of-semester course/instructor surveys. There is a correlation between course GPA and the evaluations an instructor receives.

 

Niederhoffer’s book is an entertaining read.  Universities are in my circle of competence and I find his story of his undergraduate career at Harvard plausible.

 

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Richard Feynman has some very interesting things to say on the subject of memorizing some facts, and actually understanding them. im gonna do a charlie munger and let you guys figure out the rest of it :D

 

I run into this all the time, they want to memorize a technique to solve a problem but not learn the concept so they could actually apply it to a totally different situation.

 

So I work really hard to try to get them to learn to think, instead of trying to memorize how to do something. One thing I do is the following.

 

I tell my students that after each test they can earn all the points they lost on one problem. All they have to do is come in to my office and teach me the concept behind that problem. Many come in and just start working the problem on the test, for which I have already supplied the solution! I again explain to them what I am after, send them away with no points and tell them to come back and try again. Many eventually catch on. So it is worth my effort.

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Richard Feynman has some very interesting things to say on the subject of memorizing some facts, and actually understanding them. im gonna do a charlie munger and let you guys figure out the rest of it :D

 

Feynman actually used Brazil as an example of how not to run an education system (back when he went there - I don't know if it has improved since). So even more credit goes to Mr. Lemann for surmounting that disadvantage too (though maybe he was lucky and he went to good schools in Brazil).

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Richard Feynman has some very interesting things to say on the subject of memorizing some facts, and actually understanding them. im gonna do a charlie munger and let you guys figure out the rest of it :D

 

I run into this all the time, they want to memorize a technique to solve a problem but not learn the concept so they could actually apply it to a totally different situation.

 

So I work really hard to try to get them to learn to think, instead of trying to memorize how to do something. One thing I do is the following.

 

I tell my students that after each test they can earn all the points they lost on one problem. All they have to do is come in to my office and teach me the concept behind that problem. Many come in and just start working the problem on the test, for which I have already supplied the solution! I again explain to them what I am after, send them away with no points and tell them to come back and try again. Many eventually catch on. So it is worth my effort.

 

This is a great method.

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Richard Feynman has some very interesting things to say on the subject of memorizing some facts, and actually understanding them. im gonna do a charlie munger and let you guys figure out the rest of it :D

 

I run into this all the time, they want to memorize a technique to solve a problem but not learn the concept so they could actually apply it to a totally different situation.

 

So I work really hard to try to get them to learn to think, instead of trying to memorize how to do something. One thing I do is the following.

 

I tell my students that after each test they can earn all the points they lost on one problem. All they have to do is come in to my office and teach me the concept behind that problem. Many come in and just start working the problem on the test, for which I have already supplied the solution! I again explain to them what I am after, send them away with no points and tell them to come back and try again. Many eventually catch on. So it is worth my effort.

 

This is a great method.

 

 

Kiltacular,

 

Thanks. Half the students get what I am after right from the start. They come in and they are now experts on the concept. I think what I am seeing with them is that they will put in considerably more effort to learn material to recover lost points on an exam than they do to learn the material for the original exam.

 

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[...]So it is worth my effort.

 

Indeed. Kudos!

 

Best,

Ragu

 

Ragu,

 

Thanks. It also gives me a chance to know my students. My typical class size is about 55-60. Previously I would get to know very few of them. Now by the end of the semester I know all of them by name.

 

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