The Ten Commandments for The Ambitious

During the course of my visits to Numatics, John Musat and I would have dinner at Heroes Restaurant in Pontiac, Michigan. Although John was nearing retirement, you would not recognize it. John was always in search of more Heineken moments. Over the years, we had plenty of them, garnishing millions for shareholders.

On one particular evening at Heroes, John placed a single sheet of paper from a magazine article he had read on the dinner table. He was very poignant about me reading it right then. John had a penchant for disallowing too much of a relaxed atmosphere, as his interest in making things faster and better was always at the highest point of his consciousness.

So, being somewhat of a laid back person, I set back and started to read it. My posture was not intense enough to John’s liking. He said, "Jim, really read it and think." I then restructured my relaxed posture and read it with the same intensity as studying for a calculus exam.

Johann Baptist Winklhofer originally manufactured bicycles. His ambition led him to manufacturing automobiles, which included the Wanderer. The Auto Union purchased the Wanderer, adding to the fourth ring to the Audi.

John only drove Audis. So, I immediately picked up on that relationship, but that was not John's purpose in having me read the "commandments."

Mr. Winklhofer was born in 1859 in Munich, Germany and passed away in 1949. During the course of his life time, he developed a succinct list of how one should live their lives. He referred to this list as the 10-commandments for the ambitious. Here is the list:

1.      A thorough understanding of one’s own profession is a basic prerequisite.

2.      The urge to do everything better that anyone else.

3.      Adherence to the principle that the customer must be supplied with the best possible value for money.

4.      The work must always remain a source of pleasure.

5.      The factory should always use the latest working methods and the finest equipment.

6.      The bulk of the money, which is earned, must be devoted to the acquisition of these business improvements.

7.      The right man must be allocated to the right job.

8.      Live a simple, sound life, so that the work can be tackled from an early hour with a clear head.

9.      Be aware of the fact that not every transaction can or must be undertaken.

10.  Finally, a large portion of patience is needed when waiting for one’s endeavors to be crowned with success, even if the prospects sometimes look black.


After reading this, John and I could then engage in another meaningful discussion while enjoying steak and Heineken. Meaningful discussions were always prerequisite with any meal with John. He quite often said, “if you are not thinking about the business when the head hits the pillow at night and not thinking about it when you lift the head off the pillow in the morning, you cannot expect to perform at the highest possible level.” There is certainly something immoral about not performing at the highest possible level when being paid for that performance.

We owe Mr. Winklhofer gratitude for taking precious time from his busy life and jotting down these few simple statements that make profound sense. Few live by the above, but it is possible many more will by virtue of this guidance.

Over the past few years, I have shared these with many. Commandment number nine is the one that invokes the most interest. One can surmise the meaning is related to prioritizing and executing the pertinent, as one's capacity is limited. Other opinions are welcome.