Spending time with Canada's richest man

You never know what kinds of decisions that you will make in a day — ones that could open the door to a great opportunity.

This past Saturday, I was downtown at a hotel in the Yorkville area. I had decided to spend a few hours working on a book that I am writing, to be published by Harper Collins at the end of this year (details to follow!). I managed to get some really good work done, so I decided to wander around Yorkville. As I was wandering, I stopped at a private art gallery. I noticed the gallery was fairly busy, and was showing a particular artist’s work.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone that I thought looked like Kenneth Thomson. In case you haven’t heard, he happens to own a number of companies, including The Globe & Mail. Mr. Thomson is worth over $19 Billion US dollars — yes, that is "billion" with a "B".

I had never been in the same room as a billionaire before – needless to say, I was interested without being intrusive. I watched as he and his wife were introduced by the owner of the gallery to the artist whose work was being featured. I noticed how respectful they were, and how generally curious Ken and his wife appeared regarding the artist’s style and work.

As I thought about this, I realized this type of behaviour — being respectful, curious, and looking to understand what the artist was thinking – is part of the reason for his success. Mr. Thomson has one of the greatest art collections in the world. He has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art hanging on his walls, and yet he doesn’t appear to think more highly of himself. Rather, he related to the artist as a peer.

I wondered how these types of attitudes have helped him be so successful as a business person. Yes, he is very well connected, but his respect for the expertise of others and his understanding of the way they contribute has probably helped with his own development both as a person and as a professional.

So, be respectful, be curious, and always look for opportunities to learn. You never know who is watching.