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Forbes® Best Business Mistakes: How Today's Top Business Leaders Turned Missteps into Success by Bob Sellers

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Chapter 7. MOHAMED EL-ERIAN

Co-CIO and co-CEO of PIMCO

Former president of Harvard Management Company

Member of the National Bureau of Economic Research

Mohamed El-Erian doesn't want to be surrounded by yes-men. (Or yes-women for that matter.) He likes to come out of business meetings and ask his colleagues, "What should we have done differently in that meeting?"

He does it because he believes that by asking the right questions you can learn from mistakes. "No one goes through life without making mistakes," he says, adding:

Life is too unpredictable and we are too imperfect of instruments to deal with life. So we will make inadvertent mistakes. The important thing is not to make the same mistakes over and over again.

That willingness to question virtually everything is well suited to PIMCO, where he serves as co-CIO and co-CEO with Bill Gross. "That's why the fit is so wonderful," he says, "because I've ended up at a firm that has a process that is doing exactly what I learned when I was 17 years old, which is always to try to question and think about issues from different perspectives."

His diplomat father—who once worked at the United Nations—was a good role model. "While we were living in Paris we used to get four different newspapers," El-Erian recalls.

"So I asked my dad why we needed four different newspapers, and he said, 'Because you've got to view things from different perspectives.' My dad would say: 'Don't become hostage to one way of seeing things.'"

El-Erian is used to seeing ...

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