Sharing the Stage

I get to meet a lot of interesting people in my job, even a few “power couples.” The first power couple I met was Oscar and Carolyn Goodman. It is hard to do the Goodmans justice in a book let alone a paragraph. Oscar is a former mob lawyer turned politician who served three terms as mayor of Las Vegas. He passed an ordinance requiring that any film shot in the city include him in a scene. Oscar would show up with a showgirl on each arm (Jennifer and Porsha) and a martini in his hand at public events. We were honoring him for his contributions to building the city, but I feared we didn’t have a stage big enough to contain the man. That was before I met his wife, Carolyn, an equally strong personality who had founded the best known college prep school in the city. When I learned she was going to speak too, I feared a very long evening filled with verbosity. I was wrong. They were gracious, funny and generous to a fault. I was awestruck as two big personalities both complemented and found room for each other on the stage. The voters of Las Vegas apparently saw the same thing I did, for when Oscar stepped down, they voted Carolyn mayor in a landslide.

I met another power couple Friday: Alan Eustace and his wife, Kathy Kwan. Alan is a graduate of UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science. His career led him to Google where he served as Senior VP of Knowledge. Knowledge is a big thing at Google; they don’t just give that job to any chump. He also holds the world record for the highest-altitude free-fall jump. The dude jumped from the stratosphere (25.7 miles from the ground) in nothing but a pressure suit. Wikipedia claims Alan “wasn’t widely known as a daredevil prior to his jump.” Well, I sure expected one to show up in my office. He did, but the surprise was his wife, Kathy. Like Carolyn, Kathy was a force in her own right. A Berkeley MBA who served as Managing Director of Finance at Kaiser Permanente for 11 years, she is a trustee at UC Berkeley and head of the family foundation. Alan and Kathy had graciously agreed to talk with our Ambassadors, and I was struck at how they shared the stage much like Oscar and Carolyn. It wasn’t a coincidence that both Alan and Kathy stressed the importance of finding smart, high-energy, positive people who were committed to doing something big to work beside. While they spoke in terms of career advice, their interactions told you that it was “how to pick a life partner” advice, too.

I thought this was the best lesson they could have given our Ambassadors. Like all ambitious young people, they so want to be viewed as leaders that they sometimes push their best potential collaborators off the stage. As Alan remarked, no one achieves great things alone. They achieve them by surrounding themselves with the best possible people and finding ways to help make their shared dreams reality (spouses included). This means saying “yes” as much as possible, especially when it comes to sharing the stage. Don’t worry, if the venue was big enough for Oscar and Carolyn, it’s going to big enough for whoever is up there with you.

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