Best Intentions (#175)

A few weeks back, I wrote about the “Varsity Blues” scandal in which some very misguided parents were charged with “helping” their children get into elite universities through fraud and bribes.

Around that same time, I listened to an almost two-hour long podcast between Tim Ferriss and Lebron James. When Ferriss asked James about his parenting philosophy and his kids, one of whom is an aspiring basketball player, James said something that really stuck with me:

“I don’t want the best for my kids. I want the best out of them.

What a great piece of leadership advice – not only for parents, but for anyone who leads. When you want something for someone, it really has more to do with you than them.

I’ve seen this more times than I can count on the sidelines of youth sports games. Parents, who seem riddled with regret about not being a better athlete when they were younger, attempt to transfer their own lamentations to their child through overzealous “encouragement.”

Wanting the best out of someone is more about helping them tap into their innate desires and ambitions and encouraging them. It’s not about passing yours on to them.

Shortly after hearing Ferriss and James’ podcast episode, someone shared an article with me written by Kobe Bryant (another Hall of Fame basketball player) titled, “A Letter to My Younger Self.” In his article, he distinguishes between investing and giving and explains why he’s such a strong advocate for the former:

“You will come to understand that you were taking care of them because it made YOU feel good, it made YOU happy to see them smiling and without a care in the world — and that was extremely selfish of you. While you were feeling satisfied with yourself, you were slowly eating away at their own dreams and ambitions. You were adding material things to their lives, but subtracting the most precious gifts of all: independence and growth.”

During my discussion with renowned wealth expert, Garrett Gunderson on the Elevate podcast, he detailed this exact scenario between two of the richest families in American history: the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers.

The Vanderbilt’s approach was to shower their children with money. In turn, they and their children spent it as fast as they received it on houses, cars and failed investments. As such, the family’s wealth was almost wiped out within a generation.

The Rockefellers, on the other hand, chose to teach their kids values and used their wealth to invest in their children rather than on material things. To this day, the Rockefeller fortune remains intact. Many of the Rockefeller heirs have gone on to hold very successful leadership roles and the family remains committed to allocating their vast resources to charitable causes, donating over $50M each year.

Leadership is not about what’s important to you or about making you feel better. It’s about the other person; their desires and dreams. And, perhaps most importantly, real leadership is about providing the support so that others can develop skills that will allow them to be independent, not dependent.

Think about your approach to leadership, be it as a parent or as a boss. Are you a Vanderbilt or a Rockefeller? A Giver or an Investor? Do you want the best for others or do you want the best out of others?


Quote of The Week

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”


-Tom Peters


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World-Class (#142)

Ann Miura-Ko grew up as a first-generation American. Like millions before them, her parents immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life and more opportunity.

Her parents also had high expectations of their children. Her father, a rocket scientist at NASA, was passionate about the concept of excellence.

One of the principles her father regularly repeated and instilled in her was the importance of giving a “world-class” effort in everything she did, no matter how trivial. From a very young age, he would always ask if her effort in virtually anything was “the best she could do.”

After struggling with extreme shyness, the introverted Miura-Ko eventually developed into an elite high school debater. She went on to attend college at Yale and, while there, secured a job as an administrative assistant in the office of the Dean of Engineering as part of her financial aid.

On the first day of work, she happened to call her parents to say hello and her father reminded her to think about how she could be world-class in her new job. She explained to him that she would just be making copies and filing, but he responded with, “I think you should think about it.”

Respecting his advice, she decided to re-think how she approached her tasks. She focused on crisp copies that people could not discern from the original; she chose to use a label maker for filing, rather than hand write them; she even made sure to pick the freshest donuts when she was asked to bring them into the office.

Her stated goal was to make everything a “delight moment” for the people she worked with.

One day, a few years into her job, the Dean popped his head out of office and told her that he needed someone to tour his friend, Lewis, around the engineering school. The person who typically did this was out and he was asking her to do it as he’d heard good things about her work.

She gave a great tour and developed a good rapport with the gentleman but had no idea who he was. At the end of the tour, he asked if she would like to come to California for a tour of her own during spring break, shadowing him at his company. It was then that she learned that “Lewis” was Lewis “Lew” Platt, CEO of Hewlett Packard (HP).

Ann jumped at the opportunity and had a great experience. When she returned to campus, Lew sent her two pictures. The first one was of herself sitting next to Lew, talking to him. The second picture was of Bill Gates, who had also recently visited. He was sitting exactly where she had sat. This image left a lasting impression on her and Platt became a key figure in her professional development.

Ann Miura-Ko has gone on to become one of the most respected venture capitalists in the country, playing a significant role in helping to shatter the glass ceiling for women in her industry. She’s been referred to as “the most powerful woman in startups” by Forbes.

While often incredibly challenging, the wisdom imparted over and over by Miura-Ko’s father was astute. When we commit to being excellent or “world-class” in all that we do, we are choosing to own our circumstances, no matter how insignificant they might seem at the time.

This can give us a tremendous sense of ownership over our lives and career rather than a belief that we are at the whim of fate, circumstance, other people or external events; a commitment to excellence puts us in the driver’s seat.

Is there sometimes just plain ol’ luck involved? Sure. But if one of the top investors in the world got her break making copies, labeling, selecting fresh donuts and demonstrating accountability, where might you be able to do better?

To hear Ann Miura-Ko’s full story, I highly recommend listening to her detailed interview with Tim Ferris.


Quote of the Week  

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Abraham Lincoln



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No Right Time (#105)

There is simply no perfect time in life to do the things you want to do. Whether that’s starting a new career, launching a new product, getting married, having a kid or taking that trip you always wanted to go on.

My wife and I made 2017 the time to do the latter and our family just returned from an amazing 3-week mini sabbatical in Australia. It was a trip I had wanted to take for years but the timing was never “right.” So, we just decided to do it anyway. In the end, the timing was perfect as I needed the break to recharge for 2018 after a brutal travel schedule this fall and to finish my next book.

In many ways, I decided to live 2017 as if it was the last year of my life. That choice led to an incredibly fulfilling year that included publishing my first book , taking an epic trip to the Super Bowl  with my son and father-in-law and going on two Bucket List family vacations.

I plan to continue this mindset in 2018 without apology or explanation.

Performance guru, Tim Ferriss, popularized the concept of the “deferred life plan,” in his book, The Four-Hour Work Week. As he explains it, the deferred life plan is when people put off what they really want to do for what is expected of them. They tend to think that “later” or “when they retire” is when they will really start enjoying life.

In reality, none of us know how much time we have left on this earth. As we heard all too often in tragic stories from last year, the problem with deferring life plans is that there’s a chance our time will be up well before we think it will be.

This week, a lot of people are making new year’s “resolutions,” many of which are unlikely to last through the month or quarter. Personally, I don’t believe in resolutions. That said, I do think the beginning of the year is a great time to recalibrate and recommit.

2018 is as good a time as any to make the things happen in your life that you have been putting off. Here are some ideas to make it your best year yet:

  • Skip the resolutions. After you’ve gained clarity on your core values, establish long-term and short-term goals. The Whole Life Dashboard is a great tool to help you in this process.
  • Stop making the excuse of “it’s not a good time” to yourself and others. The perfect time will never come.
  • Say yes to great opportunities that come your way. And if it’s not a “hell yes,” then say no to it.
  • If it’s important to you, make it happen. If it’s not, give it up.
  • Pick something that’s been on your long-term goal list and commit to getting it done in 2018 – even if you don’t know the “how.”
  • Create accountability for your goals through a buddy, a journal (self-accountability) or by making your goals public. For the first time ever, I’m doing this with my team.

Despite what people might tell you or what you might believe, 2018 is a great time to get a new job/new career that you will love, take a risk outside your comfort zone, visit that Bucket List place, have a kid, face a fear, take a risk, or whatever else you might have been deferring for the “right time.”

Quote of The Week

“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”

George Herbert

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