5 Famous People I Met This Year, And What I Learned From Them

Life and Business Lessons From Jessica Alba, Mark Cuban, and more.

In my last semester of college, I took a course that featured high-profile guest speakers. I learned more in those fifteen weeks than I did in any other course during the four years of my education. Here are five of the lessons I learned, and the people I learned them from…

Gary Vaynerchuk: Investor, Founder of Vaynermedia & Winelibrary

1. “You have to audit who you actually are, and bet on your strengths.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

In addition to breaking the record for dropping the most “f-bombs” in a guest lecture, Gary dropped some serious knowledge when he visited our class. For years we have been taught (and forced) to take classes in a diversity of disciplines. Gary challenged that model, and argued that each person should figure out what they do best and go all-in on it. It makes sense, because isn’t that what the “real world” is going to be like? If I’m trying to go into the sports industry, why should I have to know a single thing about Saturn?

Jessica Alba: Actress, Founder of The Honest Company

2. “Focus in on your ideas. Be good at being concise.” — Jessica Alba

While many people may only recognize her as a successful actress, Jessica Alba is also a successful businessperson. Her health-conscious startup has rapidly grown, and she accredits her success partly to her ability to be concise at its early stages. When I asked her how she was able to go from being an actress with an idea to a founder with a business, she said the most important factor was being able to conceptualize her venture in a way that was easy to understand and believe in.

Brian Grazer: Founder of Imagine Entertainment

3. “Curiosity is a quiet power.” — Brian Grazer

When he was starting his career, Brian Grazer quickly realized that making connections with people opened many doors. He made it a point to regularly meet and connect with people, and has since met over 1,500 people who have helped shape him and his success. This thirst for connections stems from an innate curiosity in what people stand to benefit from one another. This curiosity is what he considers to be his greatest strength and tool. According to Grazer, “curiosity creates information, information creates knowledge, and knowledge creates power.”

Mark Cuban: Investor, Founder of CyberDust & many other companies

4. “Social Media is access; use it to access people of influence.” — Mark Cuban

Mark is a strong advocate for the power of social media to connect people and give individuals access to people they would otherwise have no access to. One of his latest ventures — CyberDust — is a social media app designed for secure interaction between influencers and their followers. When he came to speak at USC, he took questions through the app and responded to them all night. One of the questions he responded to was “will you come with us to the local bar after this event?” He did, and bought us all a round of drinks… it was an awesome experience that wouldn’t have happened without social media and the access it provides.

Landon Donovan: Former U.S. Soccer Player

5. “There will be tradeoffs.” — Landon Donovan

When asked how he was able to manage a soccer career and family life, Landon simply said that he did not. Now that he is retired, he is able to look back at his career and realize that he was not capable of allocating enough time to his personal life, and when he spoke to our class he admitted that he does feel regretful. He candidly explained that tradeoffs had to be made while he was focusing on his soccer career, and that now he is trying to make up for the time he missed by focusing on family and other personal things.

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As my time in college comes to a close, I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunities of hearing from such amazing people as these. If you’re a student at USC, do not graduate without taking this course (BAEP 470: Taking the Leap).

You can read/watch content from the course at the following links: