LISTEN: Thomas Jefferson’s “Art of Power”

April 30, 2013

A Book Review

The Art of PowerAnyone who has studied American history knows that Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant thinker who wrote the Declaration of Independence and was our third president, and also founded the University of Virginia.  But I learned so much more by reading Jon Meacham’s new biography, especially the quiet way Jefferson got things done and practiced the art of power. If more politicians had that skill today, it would help us solve many of our country’s problems. 

Jon Meacham writes, “He immersed himself in the subtle skills of engaging others, chiefly by offering people what they value most – an attentive audience to listen to their own visions and views.” 

I’ve learned that most of us, including politicians, talk too much and listen too little.  The best political figures create the impression that everyone they encounter is the most important person on Earth.  One of Jefferson’s grandsons described him this way:  “His powers of conversation were great, yet he always turned to subjects most familiar to those with whom he conversed, whether laborer, mechanic or other.”

I believe the same to be true in business leadership.  Perhaps the four most important words in business leadership are, “What do you think?”  Not only does this show a sense of sincere interest in the other person, but I find that I always learn something.

Meacham also tells us, “Thomas Jefferson endures today because we can see in him all the varied and wondrous possibilities of the human experience – the thirst for knowledge, the capacity to create, the love of family and of friends, the hunger for accomplishment, the applause of the world, the marshaling of power, and the bending of others to one’s own vision.  His genius lay in his versatility, his larger political legacy in his leadership of thought and of men.”

In the last years of his life, Jefferson wrote to a young offspring some sound advice on life, “How to live a virtuous life – adore god.  Revere and cherish your parents, love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than yourself.  Be just, be true.  If you do this, your life will be the portal to one of eternal bliss.”

He also gave advice on living a practical life when he told his grandchildren:

  1. Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.
  2. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  3. When angry, count to 10 before you speak.  If you’re very angry, to 100.

Much of Thomas Jefferson’s advice my dad gave to me as I was growing up.  I wish I had listened more.

Send me the best advice you’ve gotten from someone. I’m listening!!

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

Listen to Blog

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Not really advice but certainly something that resonates with me. Here goes:

I read a book called, "Doors of Perception" by Aldous Huxley (the book that Jim Morrison named his band after). One particular quote I always think of that reminds me of your four important words, "What do you think?" Huxley says:

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

I think this is very key to remember that no one can ever fully understand or be fully understood to the degree we feel is total comprehension. It is important to ask what others may think in any scenario to maybe affirm our own thoughts or even expand our limited ones.

I enjoy reading your blog Mr. Marriott as well as working for you. In fact, I'm at work now! Keep up the great work!


Recently I came across this related observation from a surprising source:

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." Jimi Hendrix

Hi Mr Marriott

I would like to have your book in every Marriot Hotel in every country, in every room, the book "Without a reservation" . This is my Christhmas wish for this year. I am in Leon , Guanajuato , in a new opening Courtyard by Marriot . I would like to lear more and more about to this great company, everything, and i would like our customers lern more too.

Thank you Mr Marriott

Here are some golden words of wisdom: "It never hurts to ask". My husband and I have a non-profit with the mission of providing low-cost computer labs to schools in developing countries. We were recently in the Philippines and met the general manager of the Cebu City Marriott at a Rotary Club meeting. After the meeting, we contacted him to see if the Marriott had any used computer hardware that they were discarding. In a marvelous piece of timing, they had 15 used CPUs, monitors, keyboards, and mice that were considered obsolete, and the Marriott team from Cebu City delivered the units to one of our beneficiary schools! Those computers (with a 2004 date on their stickers) went from landfill-bound to serving students and teachers in the high school, hopefully for years to come. A million thanks to the folks at the Cebu City Marriott for their kindness and generosity! And it can't hurt to ask again: Are there Marriott Hotels here in America that may have used desktop or laptop computers that could be repurposed by our non-profit? We have upcoming projects in 2013 in Tanzania and 2014 in the Philippines where we can put them to good use serving students and teachers.

The best advice I ever received came from my Mother who said,
"Treat yourself well. Treat everyone else even better." She always valued fairness and respect for others. It has served me well and is a wise piece of advice in the hospitality industry.

Good morning Mr. Marriott. My dad gave me the best advice I've been given based on his service in the military and 27 years of volunteer service on the Utah County Search and Rescue team. He told me "If you want to be happy, serve others." Thank you for giving me a place to practice this advice here at the Provo Marriott.

Tom Foote
Banquet Red Coat
Provo Marriott Hotel and Conference Center

Be prepared and on time. If you show up five minutes early you might as well be five minutes late.

The best advise I ever received from someone is
Seek to understand before judging.

The best advise I ever received from someone is
Seek to understand before judging.