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The Cody Blog: LLT: Three Answers to Any Question

Thursday, March 02, 2006

LLT: Three Answers to Any Question

I've had many important mentors and influences in my life. From my parents, uncles and aunts, my grandma and Ross, so many great coaches (Dave Bliss being the antithesis of a mentor/influence by the way), important bosses and colleagues...I'll name names as I highlight lessons I learned from each in this new weekly feature for the blog here, called, "Life Lesson Thursday".

Today's edition of LLT is spurred by an interaction with an employee of mine who didn't answer a question correctly when I asked it this morning (and he knew better). My first job on Wall Street was with Andrew Lanyi, and he taught me many, many important lessons about life, my career, how to be a professional...heck he even taught me a lot about the English language (such as never saying, "There's so many of them", because that should be, "There ARE so many of them"...but that's not today's LLT, that's just a bonus LLT from my endless digression (endless digressions? Andrew, a little help here? Mom, help???))

I'd taken a foot-in-the-door kinda job from Andrew just answering his phones and filing papers when I'd been in NYC trying to break onto Wall Street for a few months back in 1996. October 27th, 1996 was my first day, as I recall. In my second week on the job, Andrew started yelling at one of his two apprentices (apprenti?) and he essentially fired one on the spot. "Cody, get your ass up here," he told me in his thick Hungarian accent (Andrew was, at the time, 73 years old and had been on Wall Street and in the US for like 39 and 40 years respectively).

First thing when I take my place at my new desk next to Andrew's desk, he asks me, "Cody, do you know how to use this portfolio software program?"

I answered, "Hmm, I think so."

He looked me in the eyes and slapped his desk in a shocking, horrifying loud BOOM.

I snapped to attention and he says to me in a quiet, stern, and harsh voice:

"Cody, there are only three answers to any question I'll ever ask you. They are:
1. Yes.
2. No.
3. I don't know, but I'll find out."

And that, simply put, is one of the most important realizations I've ever had in my life.

2 Comments:

Anonymous John Delikanakis said...

Dear Cody,

Your story about Andrew brought back a number of fond memories of my time with that extraordinary man. I carry the lessons I learned from Andrew to this day. I'll share one of my stories . . . On my very first day as a part time college intern in 1984, Andrew summoned me from the back of the room up to his desk. "John, please go to the telephone directory and look up the number of the Four Seasons restaurant." "Yes Andrew", I said and trotted back to my desk. I then dialed 411 and got the number which I then carefully wrote down the number on a 3 x 5 index card ( I still use them), in my specially chosen pen color (brown). I then wrote down the date and the time. Proud I had acomplished this task, I walked up to Andrew's desk and placed the 3 x 5 card in his in-box. Andrew waited until I walked all the way back to my desk and sat down and then shouted "John! JOHN! WHAT did I ask you to do?!". I froze and stammerd, "Get the number for the --" "No!" he thundered. "I told you to go to the TELEPHONE DIRECTORY and get the number for the Four Seasons restaurant. Now please do so." After I did this in red-faced embarrasment and placed the second 3x5 card in his in-box, he explained in a gentle voice, "John, in this business a mis-communication could cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. You must follow instructions EXACTLY as I tell you." It is a lesson well-learned. PS I later found out that Andrew already had the number to the Four Seasons restaurant in his rolodex because the owner at the time was his client!

3/14/2006 06:01:00 PM  
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4/29/2006 01:20:00 PM  

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