Friday, July 10, 2015

The Original Slick Willie

Willie Sutton (aka Slick Willie or Willie the Actor) was a notorious bank robber active during three decades of the Twentieth Century. It is estimated that over the course of his career he stole over $2,000,000. To put this accomplishment in perspective, today it would take $17.36 to buy what $1.00 would buy in 1935. Although he was incarcerated for over half of his adult life, he did manage to pull off three pretty spectacular prison escapes.

The story goes that once a reporter asked him why he robbed banks.

He responded, “That’s where the money is.”

This answer has gone down in business theory, as the “Willie Sutton Rule.” In activity-based costing the law stipulates where the highest cost are incurred are the activities with the highest potential for over-all cost reduction. (Wiki) The Willie Sutton Rule could also be applied to individuals looking for a better job or executives making strategic investments for the future profitability of their corporation.

If you want more money, it makes sense to find out where the money is located.

While this quote is pretty much considered apocryphal, Willie did write the following passage in his autobiography. “Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I'd be out looking for the next job. But to me the money was the chips, that's all.”

“Go where the money is...and go there often,”

I guess that is the key to making your job a meaningful part of your life. Find something that makes you feel alive and do it; provided there is some money to be had in doing it.

Then go there often.

Of course there is more to success that doing what you love in the presence of a demand for your product or service. Willie reminds us, “Success in any endeavor requires single-minded attention to detail and total concentration.”

At this point I would normally say, “Go thou and do likewise,” but I am afraid someone might take me seriously.

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