Exploring the Elements of Success

With New Show, Sy Syms Professor Charlie Harary Brings Classroom Lessons to TV

What is the secret to success?

Charlie Harary, assistant clinical professor of management and entrepreneurship at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, is on a mission to find out.

Charlie Harary interviews  Michael Steinhardt for new TV show, "Elements of Success"
Michael Steinhardt and Sy Syms’ Charlie Harary discuss strategies of success for new show set to debut on The Jewish Channel.

On a recent July afternoon in a 34th floor conference room overlooking midtown Manhattan, with video cameras rolling, Harary was interviewing Michael Steinhardt—one of the country’s most prominent hedge fund moguls, president of investment fund company Steinhardt Management Co. Inc. and co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel—trying to pinpoint how Steinhardt became the thriving businessman he is today.

The Jewish Channel, popularly known as “the Jewish HBO,” was on hand to film the riveting conversation, which will air as part of a segment in Harary’s upcoming TV show, “Elements of Success.”

“The show is based on my class at Sy Syms, ‘Principles of Success,’ where we try to identify various principles, values and strategies present in different types of success and bring to life those values that we learn in the classroom,” said Harary. “We want to be able to articulate certain principles from our classroom, show their application to the world and connect them back to the classroom again.”

The show, which will debut on The Jewish Channel in the fall, tries to identify the traits of successful leaders and explore how their strategies are implemented in daily practice.

In Steinhardt’s case, his success can be traced back to his early exposure to the market. When he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in 1953, his father gifted him with 100 shares of two different stocks.

“That genuinely changed my life,” Steinhardt said. “From that point on, the stock market became my vocation and I loved it—the chance to make money, the diversity and the unpredictability. Back then, the market was new and it intrigued me. The fact that you could make a lot of money was tertiary. What I really cared about was being right and being the best. Stocks appealed to me for the elements of speculation and competition, and the fact that I had the greater ability to predict the future than somebody else.”

But success did not always come easily. Like many others, Steinhardt achieved it after experiencing struggles and failure, because of his willingness to dive back in and take chances. “I was a contrarian, and so I was more inured to risk than most people. I went against conventional wisdom and I was prepared to suffer,” he said. “But I wanted to be the best money manager in America and with those unrealistic high standards, I did not allow myself the cushions of reason.”

Steinhardt’s quest to be the best extended beyond his professional career and eventually propelled him to donate much of his talents and financial resources to support Jewish and other communal causes that he felt could benefit from his backing, including Birthright, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Hebrew Academy, the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University and the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.

“We met with Charlie and wanted to work with him to look for talented people like Steinhardt, luminaries in different fields that we could tap into and find out what makes them successful,” said Elie Singer, CEO of The Jewish Channel, explaining how the show came about. “We enjoyed the process of shooting the pilot and wanted to make it into a bigger production that worked and that people would be interested in watching.”

The pilot episode explored the concept of “Vision,” with Harary interviewing real estate tycoon Scott Rechler of RXR Realty, renowned chef Moshe Wendel of Brooklyn’s Pardes restaurant, therapist and confidence expert Karol Ward and preschoolers at the Educational Alliance in Manhattan.

When filming future episodes, Harary plans to enlist the help of his Sy Syms students to assist with the filming and production aspects of the project. “They will be invited to the set to see the whole process, from soup to nuts,” he said.

For Willie Balk, a 2012 graduate of Sy Syms currently studying at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Harary’s class provided a chance to learn about the industry from an expert that he could connect with. “Professor Harary is a powerhouse in the business community and at the same time, a giant in the Torah world,” said Balk, who also served as Harary’s teacher’s assistant last year. “To have this relationship with someone who not only shares my passion for Judaism but also has keen insight into the mind of real estate executives and Wall Street gurus was an amazing opportunity. I went into the class not knowing what to expect, but came out proud and confident of my skills as a public speaker and presenter.”

In addition to teaching “Principles of Success” this fall, Harary will teach a social innovation course for women on the Israel Henry Beren Campus in the spring semester. He is also the director of the “Leading with Meaning” initiative at Sy Syms, “which tries to bring a unique Jewish perspective to business,” said Harary. “Business leaders should be working toward some greater purpose, and not just for financial profitability.”

“Professor Harary is an expert at social networking in all of its forms and he has an important message to communicate about the importance of finding the right balance between work and life,” said Sy Syms Dean Dr. Moses Pava. “His new TV show brings to life many of the concepts he discusses in his new course.”

Harary, who earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School, is quite a success in his own right. In addition to his role at Sy Syms, he is the founder and partner of H3 & Company, an advisory and investment company. Harary is a prolific speaker who travels across the country to address schools, camps and organizations on a variety of topics and is a lecturer for the Orthodox Union, Aish Hatorah and NCSY. He also hosts his own radio show on the Nachum Segal Network titled “The Book of Life.” Prior to founding H3 & Company, he served as first vice president of residential operations and legal counsel of RXR Realty, and worked as an associate at the law firms of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Davis Polk & Wardwell.

So what is the key to Harary’s personal and professional success?

“In truth,” he said, “God is driving the bus. I’m just trying to enjoy the ride and do my best at every stop.”