My Story: From Lehman To Stanford

The deciding factor was the emphasis on entrepreneurship in Stanford GSB’s curriculum. Professionally, I hadn’t interacted much with the kind of person who intends to go into entrepreneurship directly after school. I liked the idea that entrepreneurship wasn’t so much a state of mind as a very valid and reasonable career choice. I still think I’m likely to stay in more established industries throughout most of my career, but looking at my skills and my personality, I thought that particular learning environment would challenge and inspire me the most.

When I first started at GSB, there was this impression that “people”—in quotation marks—were always doing something. Like, this career is hot, or this company is really attractive, or this is what “people” are doing on this or that night. Over time, you realize that “people” might be just the most vocal minority group. There are all of these incredibly vibrant sub-communities that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you first enter school. There’s one for food, sports, investing, startups, and so on. Those sub-communities are actually the coolest part of GSB.

I was at Stanford Law School purely to learn, and as much as I wanted to learn, there were people willing to teach me. I had always thought that every law school had a competitive learning environment. When I was younger, I had read “One L” by Scott Turow, and I’d seen “The Paper Chase”—all these kind of classic horror stories. Of course, most of those are about Harvard. I was blown away by how collaborative Stanford Law School is. The staff is unbelievably kind and generous with their time. The way the school structures the grades allows you to take as many risks as you want. There are almost no consequences to taking any class. And there were always friends and peers who were willing to help.

If I were to practice law in any capacity, what I would want to do is just try cases in front of a jury. It’s fun, it requires all sorts of different skills, the learning curve is unbelievably steep, and I love the competitive element of it. I love the wins and losses. It’s similar to sports on some level. But the truth is, most law is not like that. There’s a saying: “Becoming a partner at a law firm is like a pie-eating contest in which the reward for winning is more pie.”

When I came back from my summer at McKinsey, I started doing an analysis of the sports industry in my spare time. As I looked at the major sports, I began to focus on hockey as something that I found really, really attractive. To use an investing term, I was long hockey, or I was bullish hockey. Why? First, people in the sports world focus on expanding internationally. Hockey is actually played at a high level in almost every country in Europe. Second, they focus on competing with the couch; a person’s ability to sit at home and watch a game on a 62-inch flat-screen with unlimited access to food and bathrooms—it’s really hard for leagues to compete with that. But of all the major sports, hockey is the one where the most people agree that the live experience is vastly superior to the home experience. You can follow the puck, the fan base is incredibly passionate, and you can see the speed, athleticism, and grace of the players so much more easily. It’s just a night-and-day experience.

I finished the JD/MBA program in three years and one quarter. I tried to take advantage of the time and freedom I had to really explore a bunch of different things. To give one example, I worked with the Anaheim Ducks as a consultant and special assistant to the CEO for 14 consecutive months. I never would have been able to do that in the regular program.

I’m incredibly grateful for my parents. There was never a question that they were going to provide love and support however they could. Having that as an example has enabled me to acquire unbelievably great, loyal, generous, kind friends. They’re always my biggest cheerleaders, and I’m theirs.

I’m also grateful for my wife. John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins gave a talk at GSB last year, and he basically said something to the effect of, “The most important thing you can do in your twenties to set yourself up for success is to find a life partner.” All the single 30-year-olds in the audience were like, “Oh, god.” But I am thankful every day that I found her—and having found her, I completely see what he was talking about.

I’ve been fortunate in life; I’ve been given every possible advantage. I was able to go to great public schools. I never had to want for anything. My parents were always employed. There was always food on the table. And more than that: There were opportunities to explore culture, to travel. We weren’t particularly wealthy, but we were certainly upper middle class. When you’ve had all that given to you, there’s a burden you feel to live up to that, because so many people don’t have those gifts. I think the number one thing I struggle with is, “Am I doing all that I can to make good? Am I as balanced as I should be? Do I give back as much as I should? Am I kind to people? Do I try to help those less fortunate? What can I do that will ever pay back that debt?” To the extent that I ever ask myself if I’m on the right path and doing the right thing, it’s mostly driven by that.

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