My first job out of college was an internship at Bloomberg. The interview took place in October 2001, when the election was still up in the air. If he won, "Mike's Group" (the Corporate Communications department) at Bloomberg LLC was going to need extra support, at least temporarily, because so much of the staff was asking to go with him to City Hall.
From what I knew of Bloomberg, he seemed like he would make an adequate mayor, but the reason I pulled the lever for him on Election Day was because I thought it would bring me one step closer to a job. And it did. My first day of work I was told to be there at 8am, which hurt after a college schedule that started at noon. But when I got there, I wasn't alone with the tanks of tropical fish. The office was bustling and it stayed that way well into evening. Everyone got there early and left late, but I noticed fairly soon that the person who consistently got there the earliest and left the latest was Mike Bloomberg.
By the end of my first week, I was exhausted. I tried to calculate how much more time I had to serve in the work force before I could retire. And here was this billionaire punching in and out every day like his existence depended on it. I thought the same thing every time I saw him: You could be anywhere, why are you here? On mornings in the dead of winter I fantasized about what I would do if I had his money. Hotels, beaches, yachts on sparkling bodies of water. The last thing I would do if I were him was push my way through the slush into a brightly lit office in Midtown. He didn't even have a swanky corner suite. He sat in a cubicle like everyone else, with no views, no exotic flower arrangements and no privacy.
For him, the point was not to do so well that he could retire, the point was to do so well that he was empowered to do more. Observing him was the first time I saw work as something beyond a means to a paycheck. He had a greater goal, and the people around him knew it. His team was so devoted to him that when he got to City Hall they took voluntary pay cuts to join him. His own salary as mayor is $1 a year.
I later learned that not every boss inspires his team the way Mike did, and not every team feels loyal to their boss the way his did. When I switched career tracks to advertising, my new company didn't provide messenger bags, or tissue boxes, or an entire room of snacks to their employees the way Bloomberg did. And after working at a place without titles, the corporate hierarchy seemed frivolous.
But my biggest takeaway remains that the true power of success is the power to do something great with that success. And that is why, even though Mike Bloomberg could be anywhere in the world, he wants to keep solving the problems of New York. I say let him. He's doing us a favor and we should thank him for it.
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