A Century of Learning from Bernie Marcus, Summed Up

Today I finished reading Kick Up Some Dust: Lessons on Thinking Big, Giving Back, and Doing It Yourself by Bernie Marcus, cofounder and longtime CEO of Home Depot. The book is about Marcus’s life. It describes his upbringing, career in corporate America, transition to entrepreneur, and transition to philanthropist. Marcus is almost 95 and has accomplished (and failed at) many things over the years. I was eager to hear about his experiences and the lessons he learned from them.

Marcus shares what he calls “core lessons in business and life.” He makes it clear that lessons are easy to grasp but hard to put into action. Here are the lessons:

  • Confidence – You won’t get anywhere if you don’t believe that you can “do it yourself.” You must be confident that you have the skills and abilities to accomplish any task or solve any problem. If you don’t have the skills, you can learn most of them without going to school.
  • Teamwork – On the other hand, you don’t have to do hard things by yourself. Some people will help if you give them the opportunity.
  • Full-time – You must be committed and determined to make whatever you’re pursuing work. Marcus says “[t]here is no such thing as part-time passion.”
  • Risk taking – If you find a problem or need that isn’t being met, you must take big risks to meet the need or solve the problem. Consider taking the biggest risks when you’re young; there’s less downside.
  • Failure – “Failure is the price you pay on your way to success.” Marcus describes his ninety-plus-year journey through life as "stumbling" fueled by optimism.
  • Storytelling – Marcus considers this the most important lesson. You must be able to articulate what you’re doing and why it adds value in a compelling story that’s easy to understand.

I’m glad I found this book. I learned a lot about Marcus that I wasn’t aware of. He’s a driven person who’s had a significant impact as both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.