Still being happy and successful ... from the middle of the pack

My time in high school

Attended high school in the

Overall high school experience
9/10.  So i went to  ... [high school name omitted]! So we're awesome. :) I know it was a different time, there was the competition, but it was more collaborative in my class. This has prepared me for my work life a lot better. Rare is the situation, where you're the solo rock star ... you're going to be working in teams, you're going to be "selling" something or an idea/concept/movement ... its about how do you reach out empathically with authenticity. You will get more done, when you go together. We each have to pull our part, but sometimes its knowing how to be a team player.

Grades in high school
A's and B's. I graduated dead middle of my class ... 151 out of like 300-ish students. There were people smarter than me and I knew it ... there were people I was smarter than and I knew it. But it didn't really come to play how I saw people ... if they needed help, I would offer. If i needed help, I would ask.


Favorite subjects
Math, Science -- there was physics which I really enjoyed and Biology which was meh!

Struggled with...
English ... because I didn't care. But I wished I did, I wished I had read more on philosophy. I've run small companies (40+ people) and larger teams (85+ people) and the books, courses, training on leadership really have a lot of roots in stoicism. Philosophy was originally intended to help guide the attitudes and actions for your day-to-day lives, which helps put perspective and an reasonable action plan to move past challenges.

Favorite extracurricular
Sports / Recreation

Life since high school

Getting fired ... I was at the top of my game and I only knew success up to that point. Getting fired, made me question everything. I got depressed, I doubted myself, my self-worth, my intelligence, my abilities ..

Attended college / university at
UC Davis

Majored in
Electrical Engineering

Post-graduate education or training
just random courses around technology, communication, pubic speaking and leadership.

Places lived in US

Places lived outside the US
I did not live anywhere outside CA, but I have traveled a lot ... nearly every country in Europe, Japan, China, Korea, Philippines, Mexico, Canada, a bunch of islands in the Caribbean

Current occupations / past occupations
An interesting note ... I NEVER SPENT ONE DAY IN THE OCCUPATION OF MY MAJOR ... i was never an electrical engineer
IT Consultant
Founder of Consultancy
Sales Engineer for startup companies
Product Manager
Product Strategy
Technical Marketing Engineer
Data Center Operations Director

Industries I've worked in
- Management of Companies and Enterprises

Did your education prepare you for your career or occupation?
In a way it did ... it showed me how to follow instructions, to understand the game rules and to play to my advantage. Everything has a system and you can complain about its fairness or you can try to find the angle that works (or get out of that system - sometimes thats a valid choice).

Has your education or career/occupation trajectory ever changed? How?
Yes ... I was suppose to be an electrical engineer (or a doctor). It was what I was told since I can remember (6-7 years old). That my grades were super important, that my family (parents/grandparents) sacrificed a lot and worked hard to give me the opportunities they never had.
I went into IT consulting because it was fun and I thought I could always go back and be an electrical engineer.

Then I started a company with some friends because we thought we were so smart and could do it better than the place where we were at. Part of it was true and there were some hard lessons to be learned. Then we got acquired, wow, I must be awesome ... but in reality, it was a lot of luck. But it gave me the freedom not to be so afraid of not having money, it allowed me to observe other people and the decision they made, the cost of those decisions and whether or not they learned from it.
Now that did not save me from making the same mistakes at times, but it allowed me to recognize it and correct them.
I joined more startups to try and make more money because that is what everyone else is doing.
I finally made a turn when I "gave it up" ... quit the being a VP at a VC-funded startup, sold my custom built home we spent 2+ years building, rented a tiny house ... to try and remember what it was like and is like for others. To build the appreciation for all that I already had, but forgotten.
We did that for a few years ... we re-settled ourselves, focused on the family, started another company, wrote down what we liked and didn't like and try to make a promise to honor those commitments. We fail at some, recognize, correct and try again ... with a smile.

While I don't have as much money as some, I do have more than others ... but I don't let it get in the way of what do and think. I try to be generous as much as I can, to spend the money on people vs. using people to get money. It as allowed my friendships to maintain, which takes some work. As social-economic gaps arise, its easy for friendships to drift ... guilt for having money, shame for not ... its a stupid reason for friendships to fade.
Lastly, having your friends or friend of friends die due to health reasons ... cancer sucks. You can simply think about how do you want your life to end, who do you want to be surrounded by ... then work backwards from there.

A little introspection...

To me, being successful means...
There are quite a few areas in which "success" can be applied. There is professional and personal arenas. But most of them involve building heathy relationships in which you can invest in cheerfully and draw upon when needed.
It would be disingenuous to say that money isn't a factor, but the reality I've come to realize is that you have usually make a trade with regards to where my time is applied. I have spent a lot of time focused on making money, so I can have some comfort, some self control and indulge in a little excess.
For me, Success is the ability to balance between those aspects and where it is spent (on myself or on others).

My definition of success has changed over time. 
Yeah, it was originally about power and money. Recognition by others was what I was trapped by. I've started 2 companies, joined 4+ startups and had been part of 3 acquisitions. It felt like it was wasted, not that these are bad things, but the attitude and expectations I had, did not allow me to enjoy them for what they were. Now it about the ride, the journey and those who will come along side you. It about building up grit, the perseverance to go through "hard stuff" and not run from it or be frozen by it, but to move through it. If you learn the most from your mistakes, then don't be afraid to make them and to own them. That is not the same being stupid or lazy about things and trying to learn from them ... put the best effort in that you can, do the prep work, run through the obstacles ... let the chips fall where they may. Be proud of the effort. 

My greatest accomplishment to date and what I’ve learned from it
I'm morally obligated to say my "amazing" children and my marriage. None of which came easy, but there was a lot of fun and joy in the journey. I learned that others matter, especially when you feel like you have nothing else left for yourself. Its in those times, when I focused on others, it help me not worry about the things that were bothering me.
Professionally, I started a consulting company, ran it for 3 years, had great growth, zero turnover and sold it. I learned that I was really happy there and in what we created, but I was too inexperienced to realize that and have been looking for a place like that since. Its been 14 years since that company was last together and a lot of us still get together every year to spend a weekend together. I learned that friendships matter the most ... not just the superficial ones and the only way to know if its meaningful relationship is when it is put to a test and you weather it together.

My biggest mistake or regret so far and what I’ve learned from it
Not learning sooner that investing in people is the right way to go. My personal and professional lives became a lot easier, more fun and rewarding when I stopped focusing on myself and invested in others. Its not to say you should only do that, but the hobbies I choose and things I focus on doing (and purposely stopped doing), were to help in that endeavor or to reinvigorate me so that I can serve others better with the right attitude. 

An unexpected event that significantly changed my life and how it impacted me
Getting fired ... I was at the top of my game and I only knew success up to that point. Getting fired, made me question everything. I got depressed, I doubted myself, my self-worth, my intelligence, my abilities ... sure everyone said that my boss was making a huge mistake and actually was taking advantage of me and all the others around him. But that didn't matter, I could only focus on myself and my negative feelings.

I looked back and I'm shocked by how much that affected me. I wished I could have not waste so much time or energy in state of mind. Because its been a few years since then and it doesn't even matter, it was a blip in my history and I've done so much more since then. Its true, if you don't fail at least some of the times, you're not trying hard enough ... you're just doing the safe things, which is ok, but only for a "season". It makes sense to rest, reset, prepare and the go for it again.

I learned that its okay to be emotional ... angry, scared, whatever ... but its important to move towards an action. The sooner is typically better. But if you remove the emotion from the challenge, then all there is an obstacle. Now you just have to figure out how to get past it ... tackle it, climb around it, jump over it, dig under it or just run through it (do the hard stuff, bite the bullet, grin and bear it ... because this too shall pass) 

Anything else you'd like to share?
Not sure how to ask, but I know of many stories of there people who i've worked with who took different paths ... Junior College, no college, vocational, who ended up in the same place I'm at ... their varying and colorful journey adds to the wealth of the team. Encouragement for the non-traditional approach should be a valid option ... everyone wants to stand out, be different ... well that's an easy way ... not out of anger or resentment, but out of curiosity.

This alumni is open to your questions and follow-ups.
In order to protect anonymity, we will pass along your message and they can choose whether to respond.

My favorite spot in or around Palo Alto

Nola's and The Old Pro ... but those stories are for a different time [map pointing to Nola's]