John Templeton, who died in 2008, may not be as widely known today as Warren Buffett (though investors made pilgrimages to his Templeton Fund annual meetings in Toronto long before they started visiting Omaha). But, says Mary Mazzio, director of a new documentary film about Templeton’s life, his influence lingers, both in the continuation of his namesake fund under Franklin Templeton, and through the John Templeton Foundation, which “funds scientists, philosophers, and others who are studying the big questions of life.”
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Here are three key life lessons Mazzio learned from Templeton’s example during the course of making her film, Contrarian.
Frugality Matters. Templeton earned enough so that he certainly could have splurged on the finer things in life. But frugality remained an important virtue to him. “He saved religiously, always avoiding the usual trappings of wealth,” says Mazzio. “He lived very humbly. His grandchildren remember his sea-green jacket that he wore constantly for many, many years. John Templeton never flew first class – always by coach. He remarked to a close friend that ‘I get there at the same time as the first class travelers.’”
Hard Work Wins. When his father lost everything during the Great Depression, he called John – a freshman at Yale – and told him he’d have to come home. Paying for college was out of the question. But, recounts Mazzio, “instead of moving home, Templeton threw himself into his studies (to qualify for scholarships) and began working three jobs to pay for his own tuition. He also supplemented his income with poker games with wealthier Yale students.” If you’re willing to work hard and be creative, anything is possible.
Bucking Convention Is Your Competitive Advantage. If you want to make money as an investor, you have to find your competitive advantage – and for Templeton, that was his utter lack of concern for convention. As a world traveler who pioneered the concept of investing in emerging markets, and the husband of a full-time working wife in the 1940s, he “did not follow the herd, either in investing or in how he led his personal life,” says Mazzio. “John Templeton had remarkable common sense and the confidence to stick by his own convictions.”
Mazzio has made several previous films about entrepreneurship, including TEN9EIGHT, which tells the stories of inner-city teen entrepreneurs; and The Apple Pushers, about immigrant street cart vendors. “For me,” says Mazzio, “being entrepreneurial is the equivalent of being an adventurer. Taking on new challenges, getting back up to the plate after striking out. The concept of failure is one that is woven throughout nearly all of our films. There is so much I have learned from entrepreneurs – including how to be a better person and a better parent.”
Mazzio’s film, Contrarian, will be broadcast on Bloomberg Television on December 26, 27, 28 at 9pm EST. Beginning on January 1, it will stream for a limited time on Bloomberg.com. The DVD is available starting December 18, 2013 at www.tennesseecontrarian.com.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her new book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on Twitter.
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