Few people have access to industry titans like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, former President Bill Clinton and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Unless, of course, you’re David Rubenstein.
The billionaire co-founder and co-chairman of private equity firm The Carlyle Group (CG) collected interviews he had conducted for his TV work on Bloomberg and PBS to write his book “How to Lead: Wisdom from the World's Greatest CEOs, Founders and Game Changers.”
“An effective leader is someone who’s failed at something, picked themselves up and persisted,” says Rubenstein. “To some extent everyone in this book has a great deal of humility.”
Rubenstein was among the first to sign up for The Giving Pledge, joining Bill and Melinda Gates and Buffett in committing to give the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.
These days, Rubenstein said he feels the need to give more of his money away faster.
“The hardest thing in life to do is be happy,” he says. “That’s the most elusive thing in life. One of the ways of being happy is giving away money, giving away your time, helping other people.”
While in good health, he says the coronavirus pandemic has made him much more aware of his own mortality.
“Baby boomers like me have thought we’ll live forever, we’re still on the main stage. I’m trying to get my bucket list done. I’m trying to give away more money to the health care area and accelerate my giving, because I may not be around as long as I once thought.”
Rubenstein said he worries about the debt the U.S. has incurred as the government tries to boost the economy to counter the effects of the pandemic.
“I think the stock market has not yet taken into account that whoever is president of the United States will have to impose higher taxes. I think we’re going to have to pay for some of this debt,” he said. “We can’t continue to borrow 50% of the money we spend every year.”
While he’s known many of his interview subjects personally and for years, Rubenstein says talking with them revealed some surprises.
“Jeff Bezos never makes a major decision before 10 a.m. and no big decision after 3 p.m., and he insists on eight hours of sleep at night. I wish I had had those insights before. I could have had more sleep and maybe been more successful,” he says.
By all accounts, Rubenstein has done alright for himself. The 71-year-old grew up in a blue-collar family in Baltimore and now has an estimated wealth of $3.3 billion.
Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance.