Chairman and CEO, ESL Investments; Chairman, Sears Holdings
Almost every weekend when I was 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, my father and I would toss a football in the yard or play basketball in the driveway. When we played football, he'd say, "Go out ten steps. Turn to your right." The ball would reach me just before I turned, and it would hit me right in the chest. Why would my dad do this? He told me, "If I waited for you to turn, you and the defensive player would have an equal chance to get the ball. Your opportunity is gone."
This idea of anticipation is key to investing and to business generally. You can't wait for an opportunity to become obvious. You have to think, "Here's what other people and companies have done under certain circumstances. Now, under these new circumstances, how is this management likely to behave?" The plays my father designed for me helped me learn to think ahead. Lots of days I asked him, "Why can't we just invite kids over and play a game?" In order to do something well, he explained, you have to keep practicing and preparing. NEXT: Thomas S. Murphy