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Thank You, Stanford

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As I submitted my last final exam of my Stanford career, I took a moment to reflect on my time at Stanford.

I came in with a view, a voice, and a dream.  I’m leaving with a view, a voice, and a dream.  The difference is the magnitude, depth, sophistication, and (hopefully) unbounded potential of that view, voice and dream.

While I learned a fair bit from the classroom, my Stanford experience was made outside the classroom.  The stories, the perspectives, and the nuances in people’s lives.  The way people analyze, persuade, and persist.  The reasons people do things, the reasons people don’t, and the reasons people want to.  I’ve come out not with a knowledge of the solutions, but with a knowledge of the problems and challenges that we as a society face—and a better understanding for many of their reasons.

But perhaps the most important thing I learned—or, should I say, experienced—was not what to think.  I learned how to think.  I learned how to learn.

Thank you, Stanford, for one of the most profound experiences of my life.


Written by sheeltyle

June 8, 2011 at 10:19 pm

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Learning from the Past

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I wish I had studied more history.  Not necessarily as a degree at Stanford, but had devoured all solid books I could find on the history of development, economics, business, and finance.  The World Is Flat times 100. After a meeting yesterday, I’m going to make this a point going forward.

I met with my undergraduate advisor, Michael Boskin, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bush Sr.  I was mesmerized by his ability to connect what was happening today with the past five recessions and across countries, including their differences and similarities.  Then, within a matter of minutes, he was able to talk about the shifting of the Democratic and Republican parties over the last 50 years, after which he told the story of the development and creation of the phonograph, and why it was such a revolutionary technology compared to its counterparts.  Super comprehensive and all in 15 minutes.

I am always blown away by his intelligence and wisdom.  His intelligence is undeniably derived from a combination of his academic work, his experiences, and his interactions.  But I would argue that his wisdom is brought about through a meticulous study of history.  Not just from a theoretical perspective, but from a careful analysis of the choices, actions, and then subsequent ramifications policymakers, CEOs, and economists made/did/had in various situations.

He has made it a point to understand not just what decisions were made, but why certain decisions were made and the tradeoffs between them.  In his ability to understand the past, he has the results of a warchest of experiments already tabulated when a similar situation arises in the present.  His analysis of history is remarkably practical.  It’s probably why he sits on the board of three of the most powerful companies in the world: ExxonMobil, Vodafone, and Oracle.

I wish history education in America’s schools could take a page out of the way Dr. Boskin has learned it.

Written by sheeltyle

March 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

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Lessons from Discussion w/ Stanford President Hennessy

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As part of a group, I was invited to a lunch discussion with Stanford President John Hennessy earlier today.  He is on the boards of Google, Cisco, Atheros, and the Daniel Pearl Foundation; was the founder of MIPS; and just sat down with President Obama last week.

Key takeaways/viewpoints of his that I found interesting:

  • One thing that makes America great is that failure is not fatal.  However, it can also be its weakness, as that is fundamentally what caused the financial crisis.
  • Politics have moved away from the Jeffersonian ideal of it being a step away from your “normal”career.  It has become a full time career for people and that is troubling.
  • Authoritarian leadership doesn’t work in any great company.
  • One of the most important character traits of his that made him President was that he was always honest, but gentle, especially when delivering bad news.
  • Reputation is critical.  It is like a flame: easy to build up, but once extinguished, it is tough to light again.

Written by sheeltyle

February 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm