Here are some of my impressive achievements. (Isn’t that what these pages are for?) I broke my femur in a football game my freshman year of high school. I didn’t handle it well. My grades tanked, and I was kicked out for fighting. In college, I chased the money. I chose a major that I didn’t like, which landed me a job on Wall Street that I disliked even more. I left it to start my first company, a healthy vending machine business, out of a spare bedroom in Hollywood at 23. In the process of growing startups into multimillion-dollar “valuations,” I failed to value the things that matter most. I damaged relationships and forgot why I wanted to start companies in the first place. That’s the truth about me.
How can we create things that truly benefit people? First, we have to know the truth about them—the truth about what it means to be human.
Seven years and three startups later, after proving to myself that I could make (and lose) a lot of money, I decided to go into a cave for a few years. It ended up being five. I studied classic literature and philosophy. I lived in Italy for three years. I got a degree in theology—the sublime science—in Italian. It was made even more sublime by spaghetti l’amatriciana and cheap table wine from the hills of Lazio. Now I’ve learned more about “business” from Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and the poor who stop me in the streets asking for money or food to eat. Why do people want the things that they want? Why does there never seem to be enough? And how do we live together, in harmony, as wanting people? These are questions that no business guru will ever be able to answer. There’s a deeper truth about me and you. I have learned that I am what I want. And I have learned that I have been deeply loved. I have been shown mercy. I have learned my own poverty. I have experienced grace. In the end, I have gained everything through what I have lost. And that has made me a very different kind of entrepreneur.