09 September 2011

"Why should white guys have all the fun?"

Do not let the heading mislead you – this book is not about prejudice or racism. This book is about how Reginald F. Lewis created a billion-dollar business empire in the United States in the eighties, at the time when African-American billionaires were unheard of.
Reginald Lewis used this phrase “Why should white guys have all the fun?” when he was growing up and when it was becoming apparent to him that undeniable differences existed between his African-American background and that of white people that he came across. He decided early on in his life that he was going to do everything he could possibly do to ensure he had as much fun as white people – and perhaps even more.

Reginald Lewis was busy writing his autobiography when he passed away in 1993, so a biography was completed by Blair Walker on his behalf. What I liked about the structure of the book is that Walker incorporated extracts from Reginald Lewis’ manuscript at specific points in the text to make a really interesting read.

The book shows how every single step he took along the way, from when he was in school in Baltimore, contributed directly to his ultimate goal. He calculated his moves from when he was very young and he did absolutely nothing to jeopardize his plans. He managed to get into Harvard Law School without ever completing a single application form. He was that determined to get in and he saw no other path to his goal.
It is difficult to say whether he developed the personality to match the big hairy audacious goal or whether it was the other way – but everyone who worked with him has a lot to say about his strict personality, work ethic and focus. He was extremely meticulous in the way he selected his team and was equally unforgiving when he detected sloppiness or disloyalty. He had a softer side too and was known to be very generous in his own terms. He was intelligent and had a “Can Do” that can easily send chills down anyone’s spine. As an individual in the leveraged buy-out scene, he was able to spectacularly pull feats that large multi-nationals would only marvel at.

A great read that I found very difficult to put down. It has an uplifting effect that can potentially awaken even the most discouraged of souls amongst us.