Bits of inspiration to end the week

May 8, 2009, 11:59 PM UTC

This is a short post on a Friday to close an inspiring week. I told you about going to the Time 100 gala on Tuesday evening. What a high. The biggest names there were influential women, starting with Oprah, who wrote the piece about Michelle Obama in the Time 100 issue. At the dinner, the First Lady talked about social entrepreneurship and the best-of-breed innovators, like Donors Choose, whom we can learn from in the philanthropic space.

There at the Time Warner Center Tuesday night, Oprah paid tribute to one of her grade-school teachers, while New York Times columnist Paul Krugman directed his tribute at his wife, Robin. As Krugman, in his columns, has been consistently doubtful and tough on the Obama Administration’s efforts to stave off the global financial crisis, she could have urged him to tone down. She did the opposite, Krugman said. She urged him to be “more forceful.”

I was also inspired this week when I went over to JPMorgan Chase headquarters and saw one of its senior women, chief investment officer Ina Drew, interview Jamie Dimon. The session was off the record, so I can’t share what Dimon said. But I’ll tell you again what I’ve said before: The guy is as tough and realistic as CEOs come. He proves that leadership really matters, especially as we dig out of this global crisis. According to yesterday’s stress-test results from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, JPMorgan Chase, unlike its biggest rivals, doesn’t need to raise more capital.

Dimon heartily urged his audience — the senior women of JPMorgan Chase — to read his letter to shareholders in the recently released annual report. He pretty much wrote the letter himself–painful to write, he told them.

So I read the letter, 28 pages long. I encourage you to read it as well. Especially since Warren Buffett praised Dimon’s letter last weekend at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha. From a guy who knows how to write a letter to shareholders, this may be the best endorsement of all. Click here to read Dimon’s letter. Besides the requisite numbers and interesting background on JPMorgan’s two big acquisitions, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, it’s got poetry, of sorts, as well. Dimon riffs on the duty of taking TARP funds, even though JPMorgan neither needed nor wanted the government’s aid. He praises the Obama Administration for acting “quickly and boldly” and reminds investors what President Theodore Roosevelt said almost a century ago:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Keep striving and enjoy the weekend!