This is an anthology of anonymous stories from Palo Alto alumni collected by two Palo Alto alums for today’s students and parents. They’re anonymous so that people feel more comfortable sharing their real life and career experiences.


Our goal is to shatter the myth that we believed growing up- that our career and life follow one linear path with the end goal of achieving one universal definition of success. We hope to replace it with the reality we’ve uncovered- that our career and life is a winding path made of different, sometimes unpredictable chapters in which our definition of success shifts.

We hope today’s students and parents will gain:

  • Inspiration: We are at our best when we strive to: solve big problems that engage us, dive into subjects that fascinate us, cultivate our passions, understand who we are as individuals and how we want to grow, and care for ourselves and those around us. 
  • Exposure: The lives that Palo Alto grads lead are diverse and varied.
  • Perspective: Singular events such as failing a test, not getting into the “best” college, or even picking the wrong major, do not dictate our future achievements. 
  • Reflection: Our definitions of success are vastly different and they change as our priorities shift over time.
  • Self-determination: We have the power to pursue and achieve success as we define it.


We've been honored to have this project featured in the Palo Alto Weekly, the San Jose Mercury News, and in the following NBC Bay Area video segment:


Michal Pasternak (LinkedIn, Twitter) and Jacqueline Gowen (LinkedIn)
Palo Verde, class of 1991
JLS, class of 1993
Gunn High School, class of 1997


If you have any questions, comments, or kudos, please share it here or email us at