Let’s admit it, we all want to be rich. Why some succeed while others fail? Do we have to be an utterly relentless businessman/businesswoman in order to thrive in this consumption-focused world? That’s what I was hoping to learn from Stephen Jarislowsky, a Canadian billionaire investor and philanthropist.

Stephen Jarislowsky and me in Montreal

Generally speaking, it seems that most self-made millionaires have dealt with important challenges before finding the road to success:

  • Born in Germany, M. Jarislowsky emigrated to the United States,
  • studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University,
  • served the US Army,
  • studied Japanese at the University of Chicago before serving in counter-intelligence in Japan after the war,
  • got a MBA degree at Harvard Business School,
  • worked as an engineer for Alcan Aluminium,
  • started Jarislowsky, Fraser & Company Limited.

Today, he is Chairman and CEO and former President of Jarislowsky, Fraser, which he built into one of the largest and most successful investment management firms in Canada, managing assets of over $40 billion. His personal wealth has been estimated at $1.2 billion, making him the 25th richest person in Canada[1].

Not only his achievements impressed me, moreover I find his vision of life quite interesting. Stephen Jarislowsky sees the value in traveling, which gave him opportunities to learn languages, to grow accustomed to new cultures, to meet friends. I couldn’t agree more, body and mind grow closer during travels, when we get to new places where no one knows us, we become ourselves.

Furthermore, I was dumbfound when the billionaire told us he was disappointed by his education at Harvard Business School. He blames the absence of philosophy and history courses in the curriculum. He believes that a cultural background is necessary to “take the cobweb off your eyes.”

When asked about his recipe of success, Stephen Jarislowsky mentioned three fundamental virtues needed to become an outstanding manager: curiosity, knowledge and courage. “Do no not behave like others when you are not convinced by them.”

On a more debatable topic, he opined that emotions lead to nearly nothing. To his eyes, the choice between following love or responding to the call of duty is rather clear. “We need to think to survive,” he says, “I need to put value on myself, and doing so doesn’t allow me to become attached with somebody else.”

What are your thoughts on this? Do we really have to choose between love or career? Is this a quandary we have to face at a certain point of our life? Can’t we have it all?

he is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and former President of Jarislowsky, Fraser, which he built into one of the largest and most successful investment management firms in Canada, today managing assets of over C$40 billion[2]. His personal wealth has been estimated at $1.2 billion, making him the 25th richest person in Canada

3 Comments

  1. Nice article isa! especially the values to thrive. Regarding the love/career relation, I guess there are many counterexamples to that: bill gates being the most famous. But the finance field is particularly tough along with law, with long hours and tight schedule. I guess at the end of the day, it’s a choice of life, and as long as you are coherent with your values, I think one can succeed in both with a balanced wealth: of course one can squeeze so much in a day, so taking out the love “burden” (according to him) frees up more time for business. The real question to ask I guess is: are one fulfilled by money and business alone? I don’t think so. There is a balance to find between the two, and a life lived without love is a half-lived life according to me. At the end if you extend his reasoning, one should take out culture and spirituality aswell in order to have more time for business, and we would become simply a robot! ;) I find his thinking surprising from the point of view of someone who finds disappointing the lack of culture and philosophy in a business school though…

  2. I rather admire Stephan for his focus, determination and good investment knowledge.
    His love quotient seems negated by earlier comment but I feel he is loving in re. family, friends, community and his philanthropies.
    I like his notion of travel to give world perspective. And especially I favor his liking of culture involving philosophy and history.
    Perhaps a business school has little room for this but there is a history of business and a philosophy of trade.

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