I spent the better part of my childhood with my paternal grandparents. My grandpa would let me run wild on the playground, buy me neat books, and give me any toy I whimsically set my eyes on. Still, he made sure I strived to do my best in school. He was loving, but tough. My grandma would make memorize poems, badger me to take on extra practice problems for school,and enforce curfews and every other rule in the house. Still, she made sure I got to eat some of my favorite food (and she’d cook them too)! She was tough,but loving. This upbringing gave me the confidence to chase my wildest dreams as well as the discipline to work through the thorniest obstacles.
Loving but tough. Tough but loving.
Two decades later, on my first visit to Silicon Valley to interview for a job, my now partner Michael Moe took me to the Old Pro in Palo Alto. It was so I could meet Bill Campbell, a friend and advisor to the firm.
Of course I had read about the legend of Bill and watched videos on him speaking, but I had no idea what to expect. Bill not only served as the CEO and Chairman of Intuit, he was also the longest serving board member at Apple, a coach to Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google, and the mentor and confidant to countless executives in Silicon Valley.
I nervously walked over. He’s surrounded by his friends at the Coach’s Corner at the Old Pro. Michael introduced us, then Bill asked me a few benign questions, “where are you from?”, “where did you go to school?”, “what are you doing here?”
At this point, Michael jumps in and starts telling Bill about my background as a college entrepreneur and a financial analyst. Michael then said something to the effect that he was excited to recruit me to the firm. What happened next was classic Bill. He turns to Michael and in his raspy, yet booming coaching voice and shouts, “Why don’t you fucking hire him already.” Then he roared in laughter.
And through the years, Bill always gave me a hug every time he saw me. Little pip squeak me.
Bill was the very definition of loving but tough and tough but loving.
As Intuit CEO Brad Smith describes it, Bill was on a mission to get the best out of everyone. After Brad moved over to Intuit, his prior employer felt that there was a competitive conflict and it created a legal issue that Intuit had to work(and pay) through. So at his very first leadership conference at Intuit,someone walked up to Brad, wrapped his arm around his shoulder and neck,cutting off his oxygen flow, and whispered in his ear, “You are the fucker that cost us this much money. You better be worth it.” It was Bill. And at that point, Brad knew what the standard was.
Bill gave everyone his trademark bear hug, the kind with the force that you knew he meant it. He cared so deeply about the people in his life. He treated everyone with love, from the people in his hometown of Homestead,Pennsylvania to the CEOs of the most dynamic Silicon Valley company. But when you weren’t doing your best work, Bill would let you know it in all of his colorful language. After every such dressing down, however, he’d give you a big, tight hug and you felt like you could charge headfirst into any battle. You knew then that you could climb the highest mountain and swim the widest river.
Bill gave to everyone and never expected anything in return. He helped so many people through the biggest challenges of their lives. He loved and he gave. He coached and he inspired. He laughed and he shared. And of course he’d pick up every bar tab you ever went to with him.
Go to 5 min 50 sec for the Brad Smith story.
Last year, we thought it was only fitting to induct Bill into the Global Silicon Valley Hall of Fame, honoring the people who have made a lifetime impact on our community and changed the world for good. We went around to interview some of the people who he worked with closely.
We spoke with Danny Shader, a CEO who Bill coached for decades. Danny said he always asked Bill how he could repay him for everything Bill gave to him. Bill said, “You can’t. The way you repay me is to teach these values to the next generation of people and make sure they teach that to the generation after them.” That’s really the very definition of creating legacy.
Go to 3 min 10 sec for Danny Shader talking about Bill’s legacy.
What matters most to me is helping people achieve their best by treating them with the combination of love and toughness, being loving but tough and tough but loving. What matters most to me is giving back to the next generation everything that I was given, with no expectations of getting anything in return. What matters most to me is passing on the values and having the people I touch pass these values onto the next generation. If we do that enough times, we’ll have changed the world for good. And that is what matters to me most and why.