A close friend of mine put life in quite simple terms: “What is the one thing you want to accomplish by the end of life? Whatever that is, use it as a beacon and only take opportunities that get you closer to it.”
Mine is to learn and fail enough to teach others to be more successful than me.
I believe there are two ways to do this well: teaching in a educational environment and investing in an institutional environment.
Teaching in an educational environment
I was fortunate to be surrounded by intellectually hungry people at college. It was challenging and stimulating. Nothing is taken at face value and there’s an underlying tone of understanding the Why over the What. Coming from a Liberal Arts school was a bit tricky in the job force because I didn’t have specific tangible skills yet, but I could learn, I could write and I could talk. Turns out those things are helpful, too.
Investing in an institutional environment
While I don’t yet work as an institutional investor, I will one day. I purposely did not pursue the traditional banking->investing->VC route. After reading the opinions of many successful investors (e.g. Fred Wilson, Bill Gurley, Reid Hoffman, etc.), it become clear that many believe the best investors have great operational experience that they can use to help their portfolio companies operate better. Additionally, the rise of A16Z has proven that focusing on founders and helping them grow their business can produce massive wins, thereby increasing the chances of having winning investments which produce the lion’s share of a fund’s returns. In theory, learning how to grow/run businesses makes you more adept at identifying unique value propositions early and helping the early teams think about executing their current phase and preparing for subsequent phases of the company. This is hands-on teaching, the best kind.
There’s more to learn — when is there not? Can’t wait to share it with whomever finds it helpful.