If my former high school English teachers knew I’d written a book, they’d likely roll in their graves.
Then they’d probably leave their graves, find me, and demand answers.
I was a kid who crashed into teachers’ cars and calculated the exact number of days I could miss school without being expelled (it was fifteen). I’ve always been an avid reader, but writing wasn’t my specialty, so in all my years in politics and business, it never once occurred to me to write a book. What was the point?
The point is that we all learn lessons that can help others, but that didn’t become clear for a while.
I’ve led a rather Forest Gump-like existence, finding myself in extraordinary circumstances, learning from extraordinary people, when I still saw myself as a kid who skipped class, had a gun held to his head in Chicago, and wanted to join The Who (I clearly missed my calling as a rock star). Never could I have imagined I’d be the equivalent of a Two Star General at the age of 32, fly around the country with a movie star, work Defense conversion issues in Russia at the end of the Cold War, work at the intersection of the national security community and Hollywood post 9/11, be at the helm of a billion-dollar mobility company, or even start a business, much less several.
On the surface, it seemed like I zig-zagged through life, exploring great opportunities, but without necessarily a defining trajectory.
A couple years ago, I reached a point where I was looking both forwards and backwards, trying to connect the experiences of my life and carve out a direction for the future. Through this process, I realized there are some common threads in my ventures—some common life approaches—that have been incredibly helpful as I’ve navigated the challenges and lucky breaks life throws at you. They’re what make up the core tenants of my book, and are the main messages I speak about today.
Namely, they’re using holistic thinking in mixed tables and running great campaigns.
So, I’d figured out a few overarching themes that tied my life together—awesome! But again, why write the book?
Part of it is I’ve always wanted to try to pay it forward. What better way than by putting this approach out into the world for others to use? I’ve been fortunate to have more successes than failures and have taken paths that have led to wonderful achievements. But like everyone, I’ve also turned left when I should have gone right. Through both my successes and missteps, I hope I can beam a light on your own path, so you can see the right and the wrong turns, and that all that exists at the end of those wrong turnings are massive walls and tough lessons.
Sharing our experiences is the only way we can continue to rise as a society. It’s the only way we can build upon societal knowledge and wisdom, and not repeat the same mistakes for another hundred years.
That’s why I wrote this book—but it’s not the only reason.
I am deeply concerned about the state of the world.
The challenges we face are increasingly complex. With great innovation comes great responsibility, and from the impact of our machines on climate change to the threat of AI, we’re facing multi-faceted questions and problems that are not easily answered. One of my life approaches entails bringing various perspectives together in one room to solve wicked hard challenges. And in that room, everyone commands respect. You don’t get to degrade someone over difference. Now, more than ever, we need to bring people’s variant brilliant minds together.
Game of Thrones said it best. The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. We’re a pack species, and tearing each other down over having differences of opinions, or simply being different, is highly counterproductive, not to mention mind-numbingly annoying.
We need to be able to recognize we’re prisoners of our own perspectives and break through our rigidity of thought. We need to be able to listen and learn. We need to be able to respect our neighbors, our colleagues, our fellow humans, if we’re going to solve these problems.
I hope the approaches I’ve learned can help you take your business or your life to the next step and lead a more intentional existence. I really do. Life is better lived for it, and on an individual level, I’d be humbled to have helped just one person.
But I also hope the book helps people stop and listen to those who think differently, so we can actually come to some great, creative solutions. I hope it enacts change.
I by no means think I have all the answers in the universe, but we change societies, piece by piece, when we share our perspectives. This one’s mine.