The Best Advice I Ever Received

The best advice I ever received came when my parents dropped me off at college.  As they were getting in the car, my dad looked at me and said, “Your mom and I have done everything we could for you.  We fed you, we clothed you and you have a high school education.  From now on, it is your responsibility to make your dreams come true. We can’t do it for you, and no one else can either.  If you want it, you have to do it on your own.”

The message?  The cavalry isn’t coming.  Do you know how empowering that is?  It liberated me because I realized there is nothing I can’t do and if I fail, it is entirely my own fault.  Thanks to centuries of human effort to create a free civilization, life in the western world rewards and punishes behavior, not identity.

Each of us is dealt a different hand of cards at birth.  In my case, I have a fantastic intellect that makes life easy but almost no athletic ability when it comes to sports.  I had a great voice that let me attend college on a vocal performance scholarship in classical music but can be incredibly impatience when it comes to getting results in a business, which can wear people around me out sometimes. The point is, you need to structure and arrange your life so that you build off your strengths.

I didn’t struggle against my natural skills, but instead leveraged them to achieve the ends that I desired.  If I had been born with a lesser intellect but great athletic ability, I would have gone to college on a sports scholarship and hired smart people to work for me.

As I’ve said too many times to count, money doesn’t discriminate.  It is amoral.  If you own a hotel that is worth roughly $5,000,000, the $40,000 to $50,000 in monthly profit it generates doesn’t know anything about you, the owner.  The cash still gets deposited into your bank account whether you are a saint or sinner, black or white, tall or short, gay or straight, male or female, Republican or Democrat.  It doesn’t care if you like the Yankees or the Red Sox. It doesn’t care about the pedigree of your education – in fact, an estimated 81 out of 100 “richest men in town” did not attend an Ivy League university.

  • You also have a keen eye for allocating capital and making the whole campus angry. lol. Just kidding…kinda

  • Anytime you cut entitlements, Joe, people think you feed babies to lions and shoot widows for sport. I’m just glad most of them came around in the end, honestly.

    It still surprised me how long it took a lot of people to get it. We had more money in the end than we did when we started, received a $40,000+ donation to renovate the lounges, gave smaller groups access to money, and still managed to fund all of programming board’s big events like Spring Fling. The older crowd, though, that was there in the VP Council days just graduated out … some of them still hate me. Oh, and that horrible hole of an office got a 5-figure upgrade with custom furniture. Then, I realized, some people hate change of any kind. They will never like it. There was probably someone bitching that science cured polio.

    To tell you the truth, part of me relished the role of villain, but only because I knew what we were doing was good for everyone in the long run. It helped tremendously that you were buddy buddy with almost everyone on campus and knew the names of half the freshman I didn’t even recognize. Without that, I would have had to be … nice to people. So, thank you for the wonderful political cover. You were a great President because it freed me up to do what I do best … squeeze blood from a stone and multiple money, just like Jesus does with foodstuffs like bread and wine.

    And Laura was just magnificent. My “social intelligence” about dealing with people and handling situations calmly and patiently increased exponentially because of her guidance. She helped make me a much better manager and executive.