A Lifetime Of Learning And Growing

By Peter J. Strauss

Harvard Business School began offering its first Executive Education Program in 1945.

Self-described as “A Catalyst for Transformation,” each year more than 10,000 business leaders from over 200 countries attend various programs offered across the globe. One such program, the Owner/President Management (OPM) program takes place on the famed Harvard Business School campus in Boston, Massachusetts. OPM focuses on assisting the world’s top executives and successful entrepreneurs in transforming their companies and careers.

I’ve been visiting Boston regularly since 2002 when I set out to become an attorney. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend Harvard Business School for the first of three units of the OPM program. Growing up in a small town in central Kentucky, one can only imagine what a treat it is to be surrounded by some of the best minds in the country constantly striving to become the best versions of themselves.

Harvard Business School’s programs center on a style of learning known as the case study method. The case study method ensures full participant interaction, business simulations, and working within smaller groups, known as “living groups,” in order to foster collaboration and leadership development.

The first day of our program served as an orientation as we were placed in small groups of seven to eight executives, each from various locations around the world. This year, I have the distinct pleasure of working and learning alongside individuals from Malta, China, India, Dubai, Nigeria, and of course, Long Island!

Our orientation was rather informal and took place over dinner with some small talk and guided questions meant to help us get to know each other. It was during dinner that I began to look around the room and wonder what it was that was so special about Harvard Business School, and about the OPM Program, that made individuals from far reaches of the globe come together to learn how to be better leaders, more effective communicators, and more adept business owners.

At some point during the dinner, one of my new soon-to-be lifelong friends, Steven Risso, asked me why I wrote “another book on captive insurance.”  My response was simple and straightforward:

“Because it needed to be done.”

Pressed for more, I explained that The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Captive Insurance Companies was my attempt to continue to develop my craft and help my audience learn more. As I explained my reasoning, it struck me that the heart of the question posed by Steven Risso was the same thing I was asking myself about the other participants in the program. Why are we doing this?

As is often the case when I’ve got something on my mind to work through, I left dinner and went for an evening walk. I crossed the campus, headed along the Charles River, rediscovered the Public Gardens, cut through Boston Common and finally stopped in front of my old apartment on Boylston Street from my law school days. I stared up at the window on the fifth floor into the 352 square feet of space I once called home. I stood there remembering those early morning case studies and grueling days in class under the Socratic Method.

There I stood, all those years later, with a thirst for learning that hadn’t yet been quenched. In fact, my appetite only continues to grow. So, too, does my need to encourage others to continue to learn. Whether it is sending my sons off to camp to learn outdoor life skills, teaching my daughter to take her first steps, or sending my team members back to school to achieve advanced degrees in everything from risk management, human resources, or insurance underwriting; it is my belief that a love of learning should be enjoyed and appreciated by all.

I returned back to campus to settle in for the evening, to brief my cases for the next morning and prepare for our first group study session. As I walked down the hallway to my dorm room, I passed Steven Risso. Holding a pad of paper, handful of yellow highlighters, and a binder full of cases, he smiled and said, “I love being here, it makes me want to be a better leader; makes me want to be a better person.”

I responded in the only way I could think of, “A love of learning is another way of serving as a catalyst of transformation!”


Peter J. Strauss is an attorney, captive manager, speaker and author of The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Captive Insurance Companies with ForbesBooks. Learn more at thestrausslawfirm.com.

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