Do our absolute best

Much of our lives lies outside our control. People respond to this fact differently. Some like to believe they control everything while others like to believe it is all predetermined. Maybe one of those is the right view, we’ll never know. My preferred approach is to simply acknowledge that large portions of our lives lie outside our control. Once we acknowledge that, the onus is on us to also acknowledge the flip side – there are portions, occasionally significant, that are in our control. And, for those portions, we can choose to do our absolute best.

The context to which we wake up in the morning may be outside of our control. How we choose to live our day today, however, isn’t. And, by living our day well today, we can improve our context tomorrow. This can go on until our context changes again – for no apparent reason. That’s part of the unpredictability and beauty of this life. It can rain when we least expect it. What matters is that we learn to dance with it.

As I thought about the week that had passed by, I wondered if I could have done a little bit more. But, I also remembered to ask – did I do my absolute best? Did I be my absolute best?

Contentment and drive are false choices. There’s a tension between them (and many other false choices) that makes life beautiful. Asking ourselves if we did our absolute best is an example of a question that embraces both. We did the best we could as we knew it. Now, that we know better, we’ll do better.

I’ve learnt that there’s not much more we can expect from ourselves in every analysis. I’ve also learnt that there are few goals that are more worthy of aspiration. So, as I start this week, I tell myself that, at the end of it, I will reflect and ask myself – did I do my absolute best? Did I try to be the best version of myself?

I will likely have made mistakes and mis-steps this week. But, if the answers to those two questions were yes, it will have been a good week.

It’s fine to get an MBA but don’t be an MBA

As I’m two days away from getting started on my graduate school education, I thought I’d share a blog post that happens to be one of my all time favorites written by Hunter Walk (thank you for the great post, Hunter!), a venture capitalist and former Google/YouTube product manager. While the post’s title is directed at MBA’s, I think it is just as applicable for anything you consider an accomplishment – getting promoted to Vice President, raising funding for your start-up from an A-list venture capital firm, IPO-ing your firm, working at a blue chip company, etc.

I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did..


The “MBA: good or shitty for entrepreneurs” debate flares up regularly here in Silicon Valley. Having attended business school at Stanford, I certainly have a horse in the race, but I’m also not one to insist it’s (a) the best choice for everyone or (b) required for success. At the same time, let’s dismiss the notion that any legitimate entrepreneur would never go to business school – ie that the act of even thinking an MBA is worthwhile proves you’re not a real hacker or hustler.

Key to all this talk is a more fundamental issue which most people gloss over — the notion of letting an experience define you versus it becoming part of who you are. And thus my take is that it’s fine to get an MBA, but not cool under any circumstances to be an MBA.

Getting an MBA means you’re curious to learn broadly about theories and explore how these techniques can be applied to various businesses. Being an MBA means you think you’re getting taught the one right answer to problems – to a hammer everything is a nail – and that only MBAs know these dark arts.

Getting an MBA means offering your perspectives and experiences to your classmates. Being an MBA means looking at your peers as networking targets.

Getting an MBA means thinking about your degree as just another attribute of who you are – I have brown hair, a wife, work at Google, enjoy citrus fruits and possess a Stanford degree. Being an MBA means you are “Hunter Walk, Stanford MBA,” elevating the matriculation to a level of undeserving primacy.

Getting an MBA means you shoot out of school wanting to prove yourself and see what you can contribute to others. Being an MBA means thinking the world owes you something and that your value 10x’ed just from spending two years on a campus.

At the end of the day, just be who you are, which is a collection of skills, abilities, successes, failures, fears, dreams and hopes. The most important degree you possess is Human University.

By the way, the “get, don’t be” applies not just to business school but any accomplishment that causes one to define their identity vis a vis an entity or action. This just as easily could have been titled “fine to go to MIT, don’t be an MIT” or “fine to work at Facebook, don’t be a Facebook.”