The Seventh Lesson

Contributed by Subhashish


Taught by Schumpeter

One more experience, and then I am through with the story of my

personal development. At Christmas 1949, when I had just begun to

teach management at New York University, my father, then 73 years old,

came to visit us from California. Right after New Year's, on January

3, 1950, he and I went to visit an old friend of his, the famous

economist Joseph Schumpeter. My father had already retired, but

Schumpeter, then 66 and world famous, was still teaching at Harvard

and was very active as the president of the American Economic


In 1902 my father was a very young civil servant in the Austrian

Ministry of Finance, but he also did some teaching in economics at the

university. Thus he had come to know Schumpeter, who was then, at age

19, the most brilliant of the young students. Two more-different

people are hard to imagine: Schumpeter was flamboyant, arrogant,

abrasive, and vain; my father was quiet, the soul of courtesy, and

modest to the point of being self-effacing. Still, the two became fast

friends and remained fast friends.

By 1949 Schumpeter had become a very different person. In his last

year of teaching at Harvard, he was at the peak of his fame. The two

old men had a wonderful time together, reminiscing about the old days.

Suddenly, my father asked with a chuckle, "Joseph, do you still talk

about what you want to be remembered for?" Schumpeter broke out in

loud laughter. For Schumpeter was notorious for having said, when he

was 30 or so and had published the first two of his great economics

books, that what he really wanted to be remembered for was having been

"Europe's greatest lover of beautiful women and Europe's greatest

horseman--and perhaps also the world's greatest economist." Schumpeter

said, "Yes, this question is still important to me, but I now answer

it differently. I want to be remembered as having been the teacher who

converted half a dozen brilliant students into first-rate economists."

He must have seen an amazed look on my father's face, because he

continued, "You know, Adolph, I have now reached the age where I know

that being remembered for books and theories is not enough. One does

not make a difference unless it is a difference in the lives of

people." One reason my father had gone to see Schumpeter was that it

was known that the economist was very sick and would not live long.

Schumpeter died five days after we visited him.

I have never forgotten that conversation. I learned from it three

things: First, one has to ask oneself what one wants to be remembered

for. Second, that should change. It should change both with one's own

maturity and with changes in the world. Finally, one thing worth being

remembered for is the difference one makes in the lives of people.