The 10 Best Things I’ve Ever Done

  1. Run for student government in high school
  2. Take “Lab Research” in 11th grade
  3. Go to Princeton
  4. Ask Sally to move out to California with me
  5. Go to work at Microsoft
  6. Have children
  7. Live in Spain for two years
  8. Start my own company
  9. Study Mandarin for two weeks in Shanghai

#1 seems pretty silly but when I ran for student government in high school two things resulted: I realized that people liked me (I won) and I met my oldest and best friend, Oscar (and, yes, he is like a brother to me).

“Lab Research” was a great program at Miami Senior High School that let kids get school credit for working with scientists. Mine happened to be an entrepreneur interested in these new fangled “microcomputers”. Working on an Altair 8800 pretty much set the stage for much of what followed.

Princeton was both heaven and hell for me. The heaven part consisted of three things: making great friends (one of which, Tom, appears later in #9), getting a great education and getting back together with Sally (after a long hiatus).

The “getting back together” part was so successful that it led to #4 and eventually #6. She is still the love of my life.

Working at Microsoft, of course, provided me with the means to live a very comfortable life (e.g. #7 and #9), but also taught me how to be a good engineer and, during my last four years in Research, the pure joy of learning new things.

If I had to pick the single greatest thing I’ve ever done, it would, of course, have to be having children. My time (well, my timing) at Microsoft allowed me to spend 6 years at home with my kids and these were, as-yet, some of the best years of my life. Changing diapers, driving them to school, teaching them how to tell jokes – I’ve loved every minute of it.

Two of those six years were spent living in Spain where I learned how much fun it can be to completely change your life just for the hell of it. In Barcelona, too, we made two more great friends (Chuck and Nar) whom we’ve chased (or been chased by them) all around the world (well, to Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Singapore) in order to spend time together with them.

In 2004, I joined a startup and realized how rewarding it can be to build a company from scratch and how much more real and intense work is when all the responsibilities fall on your shoulders. Again, my set of friends grew.

My now-concluding trip to Shanghai is my latest great thing and, again, the friendships I made (or strengthened, in the case of Tom) were the true found-treasures of the trip. Last night I went out for a final dinner with the people who’d meant most to me during my Shanghai adventure. As we ate burritos and washed them down with Margaritas (yes, Mexican food in China), we gossiped and told jokes and recounted silly tales. We walked the streets together one last time, avoided the beggars as best we could and said hello to the prostitutes. My roommates asked that I wake them before leaving for the airport (at 6:30am) and when I did, we hugged and promised to stay in touch.

There are some distinctly different things on the list: some are business related while others relate to education. By far the most common theme in this list, however, is the extent to which I value experiences that have yielded great friendships.

I think this is a pretty good list. It helps me to keep my perspective when I think about all of the things I still want to do. I may have a bucket list, but were I to kick the bucket early, I think just before I walked toward the bright light I’d look back, count my friends and consider my life a B+ if not an outright A.

PS: You’ll notice there is no #10. I like it this way. There is still plenty of time to do more great things and, who knows, maybe I’ll have to start knocking old things off the list to keep its length at 10.