Over the past nearly 2 years I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting with my family and friends, working to make an impact on gender equity, and exploring new ideas and learning. I knew I wanted to focus the next adventure of my life on something that will change the world. In my view over the next decade there are a few things that can and have captured my interest. Autonomous driving, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, next gen consumer/internet, cell and gene therapies, and Fintech/crypto. I was fortunate to be able to explore a number of opportunities across these spaces and find one that checks all the boxes for me. Working to create a world where cancer is curable is incredible. And within that world finding something that’s truly disruptive and working with a Board and team who have shared values is all I could ask for.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to identify disruptive innovations and develop the strategy, people, culture, and execution to maximize their impact. I can’t wait to do that at Arcellx, Inc. and look forward to partnering with the team for a fulfilling journey!
My kids are competitive like their dad and in the before times when we would head to a park they liked to race ninja warrior style against each other on the park play structure. Often times challenges arise. Another kid gets in their way, they fall, they accuse each other of cheating, and ultimately stop racing because they assume due to the impediment the other kids will win.
A few years ago on one such instance I pulled the kids together and shared with them one of my core principles: Always finish the race! I don’t care if you fall, if someone gets in your way, or if someone cheats, you always finish the race, then we can talk about it. Because even if you lose, finishing the race is helping you get better for the next race. Quitting robs you of the practice needed to improve. and equally importantly determination is a habit, you don’t want to develop a habit of quitting or excuse making.
Fast forward 5 years. Yesterday we were doing some swim races. And after beating me a few times in a row, sometimes handily, my oldest turns to me and says: Dad, good job always finishing the race.
A few takeaways from this experience that apply to leadership in life and work
1. Always Finish the Race: The race of life is long and there are a lot of obstacles along the way. But much like racing we can’t get better if we don’t work our way through the challenges and obstacles we invariably face. And our biggest life achievements be they academic, professional, or personal will involve pushing through obstacles. In fact that’s what makes achievement so rewarding, it’s overcoming the challenges along the way.
2. What You Say Matters: It’s incredible to me that this one lesson stuck with my kids from so many years ago. There are similar examples of things I’ve said to colleagues throughout my career that have stuck with them and helped them years later. We forget how impactful we can be on our family, friends, and colleagues and it’s a great reminder to use that super power for good.
3. Preach What You Practice : Words alone aren’t enough. Following through and demonstrating the behavior is key to effective leadership. If your behavior is inconsistent with your words, impact and followership will be hard to attain. Leadership is most effective when you’re preaching what you believe and practice. Being mindful of that is a key to having a meaningful impact.
I once asked a friend how she manages to run marathons and she replied with the old adage, “ I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when you’re done!” So set a good example, share your wisdom, and always, always finish the race!
This past week we picked up a new family game called Fluxx Marvel edition. Super fun and highly recommended. It’s a fast paced game with constantly changing goals keeping everyone on their toes while teaching mental agility and focus. Add Marvel super heroes and it can’t miss.
Playing the game with 3 of my kids offered a teaching moment. The Two younger kids focused on each other, stealing each other’s cards, trying to make sure the other doesn’t win. The oldest focused on the game’s objective and won consistently.
After a few turns of this I showed the kids the picture above. It’s from the 2016 olympics where Michael Phelps edged rival Chad Le Clos to win the gold in the 200m butterfly.
I was sent this picture by Jean Bays after an interview in which she asked me how I feel about everything I built at Nevro. I told her I haven’t looked around, I was too focused on winning and that there would be a day for looking around. That reminded her of this picture and she sent it to me as a follow up to the interview.
Back to the kids. I showed them this picture and asked them what they saw. They needed a little help to recognize that one swimmer, Phelps, was looking forward while the other, Le Clos, was looking at this competitor. One was focused on winning, the other on the competition. The very dynamic that was happening in our game of Fluxx. The kids took the lesson on board and gameplay improved dramatically.
Personally, this is the keeping up with the joneses lesson. Focusing on others instead of our own success and happiness detracts from happiness. Practicing gratitude, helping others, and focusing on our own goals will produce personal meaning and happiness.
Professionally it’s of course critical to be aware of and adjust for competition. But no one is winning by co-opting another firm’s strategy. Focusing on differentiation that’s value adding to your customers as supported by your unique resources and activities is key to strategy. Further it’s been my experience that too many firms focus on short term drivers rather than long term value. Peeking too much in your competitor’s direction is a sure fire way to lose sight of the long term vision for your product and company and drive you to short term reactionary activities. There’s a vast difference between the necessary awareness of the competitive landscape and focus that diverts away from your own strategy and long term success.
So focus on the goal. Don’t get caught looking around. As for me, I finally got a chance to take Ferris Bueller’s advice. Life does move pretty fast and if you don’t look around once in a while, you could miss it. I finally got my chance to look around and I couldn’t be more proud of what I built and more importantly the lives I’ve touched.