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A caution against dodging phone calls

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Allen Dulles, the master spymaker who headed the CIA during the Eisenhower years, liked to tell the story of an important phone call he once refused to take.

One day in 1917, while Dulles served on the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland, his phone rang. The caller: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, then an obscure Russian radical living in Switzerland.

Dulles didn’t take the call because he was on his way to play tennis.

The next day, Lenin returned to Russia, where he took command of the Bolshevik revolution and ultimately of the emerging Soviet Union. So the two men never spoke—and the future head of the CIA had blown his chance to establish a one-on-one relationship with the world’s most powerful communist.

Lesson: Be careful of whose phone calls you don’t take.

— Adapted from “Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles,” Tim Weiner, Washington Monthly.

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