Sunday, July 10, 2016

Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton

Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton was an excellent book from Barton, former CEO of Liberty Media, co-written with writer and journalist Shames about Barton's life and his death from stomach cancer in 2002 at the age of 51.

The subtitle to the book is "a short life well lived" and Shames in it noted how Barton in response to a question of why spend time on it while dying said that he wanted his kids to know more about who he was and what he valued and I found compelling Barton's thoughts on both his life and career.

When writing about his childhood, Barton noted that he became a good student when he realized that school is basically a game, and as with any game, it's more fun if you win. Barton also very much did what he felt he should, even if it seemed less than traditional, and left his masters program in International Relations at Columbia just shy of graduating as he realized it was leading him to work he didn't want to do.

After then working in the Public Sector, including a stint with the Governor of New York, Barton went to Business School and coming out of that, wanted his next job to be one that was (A) in an up and coming industry, (B) working directly for the head of a company, and (C) working for someone he thought wildly smart. Barton sent letters to 231 CEOs in Boston, San Francisco and Denver offering to work for free for 90 days, had 123 respond, and wound up with the cable company TCI, led by John Malone. The company became Liberty Media under Malone and Barton and in the book, Barton wrote of work as being something that should not being in the spirit of trading time for money, but with the joyful ambition of creating something. Barton also noted that while his approach to business could seem reckless at times, he was prepared, knew where he wanted to wind up, and worked towards that.

After Barton retired from Liberty at 45, and a year before he got diagnosed with cancer in 1998, he would take his kids and their friends on what he called Real World Outings to see how people made their livings. Each excursion had a theme, including one on luggage, where they went and saw people who made it, sold it, and those who handled it at the airport.

Barton wrote in the book how he realized while in a particularly difficult time with his cancer that finding a point to continue fighting became the point and just prior to the epilogue, wrote of his life, "I really tried. I did my best."

An excellent book, highly recommended.