For the past 18 years, I've focused my time on a worldwide search – a search for successful, entrepreneurial men and women who have reached an "inflection point." A point in their lives and careers when, looking back, they could be deeply proud of all they'd accomplished and yet, looking forward, they felt...an itch. An itch to spread their wings and to tackle something new, invigorating and impactful. This past fall, I looked in the mirror and recognized the telltale signs that I'd seen in so many others. I, too, had reached...an inflection point.
Last April, I celebrated a major birthday thanks to my wife Denise's decision to surprise me with a party six months early – on her birthday, at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. In July, our son Dylan accepted a terrific new job and moved west to start a new life in San Francisco. And throughout the autumn months, Denise and I spent many an evening at our kitchen table with our daughter, Eva, working on her college application essays. Looking at Eva and Denise across that table, I realized that we were all moving into a new phase in our lives...
I've been very lucky, even blessed, in my life: Most of my greatest adventures have resulted from a stray conversation, a chance meeting, an unexpected phone call. I got one of those calls on a quiet Sunday afternoon this past November. It was from one of my fellow Henry Crown Fellows. Many of you know him. He's justifiably one of the most admired business leaders in America. Reed Hastings. Reed had a vision for Netflix when he and I first met around the Aspen seminar table 20 years ago in 1998. Today, he has a vision to take the company and its much-admired culture to a whole new level. That Sunday in November, Reed called to ask if I'd consider joining him in making his new vision a reality by helping him and his team to literally build a cutting-edge executive leadership development center for Netflix in California.
Timing is everything. A seed was planted. And, over the following weeks, it took root and began to sprout. Denise and I found ourselves successively surprised, intrigued, delighted and excited. What an opportunity to make a significant contribution to one of the world's most innovative companies whose impact is spreading around the world. And what a treat to do it alongside two Henry Crown Fellows — Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos.
It's been 20 years since I began my Henry Crown Fellowship at the Aspen Institute; 18 years since a handful of Fellows and I first laid the groundwork for the Aspen Global Leadership Network; 16 years since I joined the Aspen Institute board; and 14 years since I received another unexpected phone call – this one from Walter Isaacson – inviting me to join the Institute's senior management team full-time – first to support the growing portfolio of policy programs and international partners, then to focus full-time on the Aspen Global Leadership Network and the Aspen Executive Seminar. I am extremely proud of all that my wonderful team, my partners and I have been able to accomplish. But all things must pass. And so, my headline:
I am stepping away from my role as Executive Vice President at the Aspen Institute to join Reed and his remarkable team at Netflix.
Denise and I are embarking on this new adventure – taking us right back to where we first met and fell in love – with great anticipation but also a deep sense of gratitude. Our time with the Aspen Institute has been one of personal growth and camaraderie that very few people get to experience.
I believe that the Aspen Global Leadership Network – this growing, worldwide community of high-integrity entrepreneurial leaders (now 2600 in over 50 countries) committed to building a better society – is and will continue to be a major force for good in this world, sending out what Teddy Kennedy, in his moving eulogy for his fallen brother Bobby, called "ripples of hope."
I am grateful to every one of my fellow Fellows, to my amazing AGLN team, to my fellow moderators, and to the many trustees, mentors and friends from around the world who have stepped up to build, support and guide this important work.
I am especially grateful to Bill Mayer, my mentor and friend of over 20 years, who first introduced me to the Aspen Institute and the Henry Crown Fellowship. To Lester and Jim Crown, and Francis and Muriel Hoffman for the honor of participating in and leading the Henry Crown Fellowship. To Skip Battle, Keith Berwick and Ben Dunlap for the wisdom they have so generously shared and continue to share as mentors and friends.
I am equally grateful to fellow AGLN Fellows Ken Ofori-Atta, Ali Mufuruki, Isaac Shongwe, Romeu Rodrigues, Amina Oyagbola, Segun Aganga, Stace Lindsay, Chadia El-Meouchi, Shane Tedjarati, Kim Smith, and Ranji Nagaswami – valued co-founders all. The same for the scores of Fellows now moderating seminars and supporting the AGLN from every corner of the world.
My respect and admiration for the Aspen Institute is undiminished. Under Dan Porterfield's leadership, I know that the Institute will continue to flourish and strike out in many more important directions. If ever there was a time when a neutral convener of leaders was needed in this country and beyond, it is now.
My plan is to live up to my commitments to the Institute through April, beginning my next adventure on May 1.
To quote one of the greats: What I could do, I have tried to do.
To quote another: He who's not busy being born is busy dying.
I'll head west, fittingly, straight from the New Orleans Jazz Fest...
With thanks. Always a fellow Fellow.
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