This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Trump offers words of wisdom

Published: October 7, 2004

Reporter Contributor

"Think big," "be paranoid" and "get even" were just some of the pearls of wisdom real-estate guru Donald Trump offered to those attending his Distinguished Speakers Series lecture on Sept. 30.

Speaking to a nearly full house in Alumni Arena that welcomed him with a standing ovation, the 2004 Student Choice Speaker presented a casual lecture—actually more of a conversation—about the rules for success.

Trump charmed his audience with about 40 minutes of anecdotes about friends, family and his own experiences in the always-grueling corporate world.

"It's a beautiful world, but an ugly world, but you're always a little tougher than you think," he said.

He began his list of advice with the words "think big," acknowledging his purchases of what he called somewhat "loser" buildings, like one on Wall Street, that he said he refurbished to greatness. He noted that it's easier to get financing for a big and glamorous building than for a single-family house in the Bronx. Although not everyone can make these kinds of purchases, he said, the point is to always think strong and smart.

He also encouraged the crowd to "stay focused" and mentioned his down times, beginning in 1989, when he was swimming in debt. Trump said he never worked as hard as he did during the 1990s to get back to the top, adding that he never lost confidence.

Trump warned audience members to "be paranoid." The world is a vicious place, he said.

"When you succeed, people want to take it away," he said. "Don't get socked. Watch out for things, but not to the point where you can't function."

Trump pointed out that to achieve, one must "be passionate."

"If you don't have passion, you won't succeed, and won't be happy," he said.

Trump told the story of a good friend who went to Harvard Business School. He did all the right things, ended up working on Wall Street and hating it, but continued to do it to please his family. The friend also belonged to a country club and joined the greens committee as a hobby. He became good at greens design and greens-keeping and became very happy, Trump said. The friend struggled with the prospect of changing his career, noting that his family wouldn't understand. Finally, Trump said, the friend decided to go for it and change his career, and now he loves his job and has been very successful.

Trump also advised audience members to "never give up." As a student at the University at Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, he said he attended classes with geniuses—the best and the brightest. But many of these brilliant people haven't made it, he said, noting that while some people do not excel intellectually, they will "take the geniuses to lunch." These people work harder and don't know how to stop, he said.

"Guys who were jokes (in business school) now are on the covers of magazines like Fortune," Trump said. "These people worked hard and are just as important."

Trump instructed students to "surround yourself with the best people and sort of trust them—not totally, but watch them." Hanging around with the smart and best people will inspire you to be successful, he said.

While he said he hated the expression "luck," Trump acknowledged that some people just are lucky. He said people can work on luck, and that "the harder I work, the luckier I get." He also told audience members that they've all started off lucky by being born in America and being able to attend a university.

Admitting that "the professors will be upset with this," Trump urged the audience to "get even."

"If someone screws you, you screw them back," he said, noting that everyone has common sense and that it is inconceivable to him that people can be treated badly and not do anything about it. "Do it for me!" he said.

Trump continued his advice by recommending that spectators "always get a 'prenup,'" to which the audience exploded with laughter, knowing that Trump's two failed marriages had led to costly divorces for the tycoon.

"Had I not had a prenup, I would not be here!" he said.

Trump ended his talk on a positive note.

"To be a winner, you have to think like a winner," he said. "You have to remember this; it's very important.