Archive for September 2014
I had the privilege of attending the Academy of Achievement thanks to the generosity of Wayne and Cathy Reynolds 2 weekends ago in San Francisco. There were 150 extraordinary people all staying at the same hotel and interacting, dancing, and eating with one another for a full weekend. I thought I would share some on-the-record nuggets of wisdom or shocking quotes from the honorees.
Admiral McRaven, former Commander of the US Special Operations best known for leading the operation that killed Bin Laden:
- “At best, there was a 50/50 chance Bin Laden was in that compound. In fact, some very intelligent folks thought it was 10%.”
- “It’s the little things you control…the words of encouragement, the phone calls…that will define you.”
- “If two people agree, one of them isn’t needed.”
- “It’s more credible to work with folks who are known to have different beliefs. Us coming together drew a lot of attention, simply because we stand for opposite sides on many issues.”
Athol Fugard, South African playwright
- “Beware of false pride.”
General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA
- “Get the big ideas right. Communicate them effectively. Implement them. Then repeat.”
Thomas Keller, Creator/Owner of French Laundry, Per Se
- “My first introduction into the world of cooking was as a dishwasher. It was critical. It taught me discipline (without it, where will the food go?), organization (knowing where the plates go, where the bowls go, saves critical time), efficiency (have to do it quickly), repetition (which equals perfection), and teamwork (everybody needed everybody, including me)
Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH)
- “My mother’s life advice ‘do whatever you want, but whatever you do, don’t become a federal employee.'”
And many, many more.
After a wonderful trip back to San Francisco, the learnings of which will be the subject of my next blog post, I’m officially writing this post from Cambridge, Massachusetts…where I now live.
Earlier this year, I walked into the offices of few General Partners at NEA and told them I was thinking about doing my JD/MBA at Harvard. The responses varied from “you’re out of your mind, stay at NEA” and “this isn’t the wealth optimizing move,” to “the JD is a commodity degree today” and “do you know how many MBAs call me and want your job?” But as I described my rationale—one that had nothing to do with my company-building and investing career—they slowly became enthusiastic.
For years, Silicon Valley has in general responded to government with a signature brand of techno-libertarianism, flourishing alternately condescension, ignorance, and a deliberate apathy. But in the birthplace of innovation, such a response is inimical to everything that this community stands for: knowledge, progress, and collaboration. Indeed, if Silicon Valley is to continue to lead the world in innovation, rather than rebuff government, we must work to reform it. Allocating capital and reforming policy the way a venture capitalist would—with a high risk tolerance, potentially massive impact, and a long-term orientation—could do wonders in the public sector. But in order to enable these shifts in the law, one needs to understand where the law came from– hence the JD. Tack on the MBA, which is only an extra year in the combined program, and it can’t do more harm than good, right?
Of course, I could be completely wrong, and this expensive long-term call option— considering both tuition and opportunity cost– could expire worthless if I never decide to enter public service. Alternatively, I may find the lure of Silicon Valley and the opportunity to build the next generation of companies too enticing and drop out, which many people are betting on.
But so far, I’m having an intellectually enriching time learning about the law and, more importantly, meeting the people. My classmates are diverse: a former member of the CIA who did special operations in Yemen, the sons and daughters of Heads of States around the world, the former head of the NFL Players Association, many brave and deeply selfless military personnel. And I haven’t given up investing: in fact, I am still actively investing and taking board seats/becoming an advisor to a few companies, some which will be announced soon.
Let’s see where this takes me. At worst, I will have dropped out of Harvard– that can’t be that bad, right? 🙂