Life Through Sports

Networking comes in a variety of shapes, forms, and sizes. While it can be equally valuable to build relationships with peers and colleagues, wouldn’t it be amazing to quantum leap to the top and connect directly with industry-shaping juggernauts? Whether you are proposing a bold business plan or seeking simple advice, getting through to these pioneers is no simple task– particularly for those of us that are just starting out.

The first year analyst. The unpaid intern. Even the ambitious college student. We all wrestle with the same daunting question: How does the little guy network with the really, really big guy?

Most people are taken aback when they hear about the people that I have been able to reach, especially when I reveal that at the time I was a recent college graduate with less than one year of work experience. This past year, one of these “unreachables” I had the fortune of connecting with was John Bogle.

An acclaimed member of the 2004 TIME 100 Most Influential Person list, Jack revolutionized investing when he introduced low-cost index funds to the financial market. He is the founder and retired CEO of the Vanguard Group, one of the world’s largest investment companies with over $3.0 Trillion in assets under management.

Might I add, Mr. Bogle is an absolute gentleman. I’ll forever remain grateful for the lending of his time and wisdom that has changed my way of thinking and opened doors I would have never attempted to step through had we not conversed.

So how did do it? My resume is no more impressive than the next college graduate. At the time of our conversation, I had less than a year of work experience under my belt and not one referral that could put me in touch with the finance guru. So what did it? In short, it was my realization that while we cannot spontaneously create years of work experience, we can certainly create value. By following the “3 B’s principles,” you can find yourself sharing ideas and developing relationships with the “unreachables,” or quite honestly whomever you choose to reach: Be bold. Be visible. Be valuable.

Here are the 4 networking tips that helped me secure a 35-minute phone call with one of the greatest financial investors of the 20th century.

1. Big (Well-Thought-Out!) Ideas Attract Big People

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” Albert Einstein

Should student-athletes be paid—if so, how would it work?

I had just entered the world of college athletics as a first-year administrator. Conceptualizing a blueprint for a potential multi-billion dollar business solution wasn’t exactly in my job description, nor was it the common thing to do for a twenty-four year old on the weekends. But as a young professional, I knew that in order to network effectively and impressively, I had to makeup in VALUE and innovation what I lacked in experience. When I began to share the concept within my circle of friends, the model was both challenged for its daringness and lauded for the same reason.

The BOLD idea became my talking point. It gave me the confidence to reach out to Mr. Bogle’s office for both strategic advice and possible support in my efforts. He got word of the concept, applauded the innovative thinking, and agreed to schedule a phone call with me. (Please note: When Jack introduced the low-cost index fund to the market, it was an idea challenged for its daringness and lauded for the same reason.)

So what’s the lesson to be learned? Am I an undercover business genius oozing with the solutions to all problems? Not in the least. The truth of the matter is that big, well-thought-out ideas move people. There is a power in thinking big and following through with this line of thinking. Ideas with potential to create seismic value have a knack for attracting big people, regardless of whether it comes from a senior executive or a newly-hired intern.

Truth be told, your big, well-thought-out idea may or may not be accepted. This doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you’ve created potential value that has given you the opportunity to become VISIBLE, and partake in a discussion that you would otherwise have no business being a part of. Put in the work to allow your big ideas to attract to you big people. The worst that could happen? You get no response. The best? You land a one-on-one meeting and an incredible opportunity to connect with someone like Jack Bogle.

Ask yourself these three questions when starting out:

  • What is the single most prevalent and potentially devastating issue facing my company and/or industry?    
  • If I were responsible for solving this issue, what would be my solution?         
  • Who is one person in my company/industry that would find this information useful?

 2. Persistence is Everything 

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” William Feather 

From the day I reached out to Jack’s office to the day I got through, nearly four months had passed. My first cold email was not responded to after a few weeks, to which I replied a gentle reminder asking for a very brief, ten-minute phone call seeking advice about my proposed solution derived from the answers from the three questions above (Always ask for a specific amount of time, preferably less time than you need—I’ll write about this soon). I finally received an email, stating that I should send another email in a month’s time to check in when times were less busy. This continued for some time.

While making repetitive phone calls and sending reminder emails isn’t the most glamorous way to spend your time, you must understand that “unreachables” are incredibly busy, hence the nickname.  Your inquiries rank last on their priority list. This is where the personal growth for you happens. Stick with it and remain positive.

As with my case, it may take weeks or even months to reach an unreachable. But with persistence, you will undoubtedly have your sliver of opportunity in which you must present yourself as someone worth the time of day. But not to worry, you’ve prepared for this moment and you were made to impress. You’re more than ready.

3. Know Your Purpose and Stick to It

Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”  Leonardo da Vinci 

Why am I reaching out? What is my purpose? What is my  motive?

Following tip #1 and tip #2 will prepare you to answer these questions. Oftentimes, young professionals who wish to network have no pointed purpose. They don’t know why they wish to connect, believing that brushing shoulders with someone of importance may pay off in some arbitrary way. If you were a CEO or president– or quite frankly anyone who values his or her own time– would you give your time to a stranger who has asked no pointed question and has suggested no clear purpose for conversation? It’s highly doubtful.

Keep your reasons painstakingly simple as well as honest. It will cut down the time an “unreachable” has to spend deciphering what it is they can help you with, giving you a more reasonable chance to make that connection.

4. Humility and Assertiveness: Find the Happy Medium

It’s perfectly fine to be confident in your work. You’ve put in an incredible amount of time outside of your job to prepare yourself for this once-in-a-lifetime networking opportunity. But please keep in mind that the “unreachable” may have as many years in their industry as you’ve had on this earth.

Use the following points to help you find the happy medium between displaying humility and asserting yourself as a worthy networker.

  • If the “unreachable” has written a book, read the book. (The Little Book of Common Sense Investing was a great read.)
  • If the “unreachable” has any videos or recent interviews or speeches available online, watch the videos. (You get the pattern here?)

Without being prompted, you want to make it clear that you have done your due diligence and that you know a considerable amount about his or her past work and accomplishments. Failing to prepare is truly preparing to fail in these circumstances. Be prepared– it’s not as much flattery as it is following the hidden code of ethics for networking.

My phone call with Mr. Bogle changed the trajectory of my entire year for the better. It opened the doors for amazing opportunities, provided me the chance to meet incredible people, and above all, it has given me the confidence to network with just about anyone. I hope that you, the young professional, decide to follow suit. Use these 4 networking tips to be bold, be visible, and be valuable. Happy networking.

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What Had to Be Said: Remarks from the Princeton University Chapel gathering

Isaac Serwanga ’13, founder of the Profound Ivy mentorship program   

I want to use this opportunity to offer my perspective as an alumnus. Though I was asked to prepare a speech, I instead wrote an action plan, something that I believe would be of greater value than my own personal rhetoric. The plan isn’t complicated, but I believe it can be an effective tool as we desperately look for ways to heal our campus and build our community.

As a young black male and varsity athlete here at Princeton, I often found myself believing that Princeton could do more for me and those who fit the same mold. The transition into the Orange Bubble wasn’t the smoothest for me, and I found that the black males who were teammates of mine felt the same way. From the football locker room to the track-and-field locker room to the basketball locker room, I found myself hearing the same complaints from the black male student-athlete population. I called it an “I wish” list: “I wish Princeton had this! I wish Princeton told me that!” I would go back to my room in Spelman Hall and complain to roommates, and when they stopped listening I complained to myself. It wasn’t until my senior year when the light bulb went on, and I realized that I could be an agent of change.

I realized that for three years, I had been looking to everyone but myself to help make the community in which I belonged more suitable for me. There’s a great lesson to learn from this that applies to our current situation: We must realize that the onus does not fall on any one individual, but on each and every one of us equally. I hope today that we do not see these issues as any particular group’s, but rather as issues that face us as the Princeton community.

In my senior year, I came up with the idea of Profound Ivy, which would become Princeton University’s first mentorship program for black male student-athletes. It was established to provide these students with the resources, skills, and guidance necessary to achieve success both as current student-athletes and as future working professionals.

I worked side by side with our administration to develop the program, and the Profound Ivy group met for the first time in January, during my first year on the athletics-department staff. The ultimate goal was to enhance the Princeton experience for these young men, and in doing so strengthen the entire Princeton community. We cannot help move along the community if we do not first enhance ourselves.

Using a three-pillar approach to strengthen academic efficiency, career planning, and leadership development, Profound Ivy provides the necessary support and also demands the necessary commitment for the athletes to achieve profound success.

The following formula is one that I strictly followed as I asked myself the question, “How do I go about making a change?” I hope it can serve as a guideline that can be directly applied to our current situation and ultimately help us progress to achieve the results we wish to see.

First, constructive criticism. This is how any person or organization improves. Never resting on its laurels, an institution such as Princeton University should feel privileged to retain brave students, faculty, and staff who are willing to praise all that is right and concurrently state what is missing from or wrong with the status quo. Individuals and groups should feel comfortable bringing these issues to the forefront and having their voices heard openly and respectfully.

Next, positive engagement: While these criticisms may often create emotionally charged environments, I believe it is essential for students, in this case, to keep the engagement positive. This is not meant to pacify; rather, it is meant to keep the intent of the conversation clear. The intent of positive engagement is to do the groundwork to lead us to a clear result. Negative engagements undoubtedly will lead to defensive discussions, and the intended result often will get lost in the discussion. This leads us to our next and final pillar, mindful action.

At every step, it is essential for all involved to use empathy and take mindful action. The key here is “mindful”; that is to say, “If I take this action, how does it affect all those involved? How does this action enhance the entire community? If someone will be negatively impacted, who will it be — and why?” It is important to strongly consider asking these questions as we seek to create change to enhance our entire Princeton community.

Serwanga gave his remarks from notes; this has been re-created.


4 Networking Tips for Success: How I Landed My Phone Call with Financial Genius John C. Bogle

Source: 4 Networking Tips for Success: How I Landed My Phone Call with Financial Genius John C. Bogle

Hip Hop Hiatus: How You Can Use Music to Achieve Your Goals

Screening Test: I’d like for you to try and stop yourself from painting a mental picture of a tiger playing a piano. DO NOT paint a mental picture of the largest member of the Felid family striking its paws across the ivory keys, miraculously producing the sounds of a well-known Mozart classic.

If you are like 99% of the population, chances are that not only did you fail the test miserably, but now it seems all but impossible to get the ridiculous image of a piano-playing tiger out of your head. So why is this? While we would like to believe that we are in complete control of what information we allow our brains to focus upon—while we would love to believe that we know the difference between useful information and nonsense made purely for entertainment purposes– the fact remains that our brains (our minds in fact, but we will leave that distinction for another day) are highly sensitive, complex organs that are at the mercy of whatever we decide, or not decide, to expose it to. As we have all heard many times before, we are only but a product of our environment. Taking a “Hip Hop Hiatus” is going to allow you to reclaim control of this environment of yours, creating a world that will propel you towards the achievement of your personal goals faster than you ever thought possible.

Tiger playing piano

The Hip Hop Hiatus
  1. Free yourself from all hip-hop/contemporary music for seven full days. Clear your daily playlists and iPod from all of your favorite music.
  2. Next, replace this music with “success-conscious material.” Motivational, Inspirational, Educational—mix it up!
  3. Finally, just listen, listen, and listen some more. After seven full days, analyze your results and celebrate the great new habit you have created for yourself.                               

So what is music’s role in all of this?

Between commutes to and from school or work, exercising, socializing, and even relaxing, the average American listens to a minimum of four hours of music everyday. I know I personally have found myself some days listening to music for double that amount of time. With that amount of “brain exposure time,” it is easy to see how we can drift from the focus of achieving our goals and instead become carried away by the music. How much better off would you be with an extra 28 hours every week focused solely on whatever goals you wish to accomplish?

Don’t get me wrong– I love great music, and hip-hop is one of my favorite genres. But remember, we’re trying to achieve our goals here! What better way to do that than to take a habit that already exists (casual music-listening), and use this habit to create and sustain thoughts and ideas concerning nothing but our short and long term goals.

The “Hip Hop Hiatus” along with this entire article can be summed up in one brilliant, earth-shattering sentence that is constantly overlooked by all of us: “A [wo]man is only but what [s]he thinks about all day long.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

OK, I understand the music I listen to isn’t exactly helpful. But how will listening to positive, motivational music physically help me achieve my goals?

The money-question! So what should happen? Removing this music from your playlist by replacing it with positive, influential material will cause a steady shift in your thinking. More often throughout the day, you will find that your thoughts will be directed towards the accomplishment of your goals (as opposed to humming the latest Chris Brown or Katy Perry single). Obviously, just sitting and thinking about your goals will do you no good. It is the constant repetition of this goal-oriented material that will remind you of what is most important to you, and ultimately force you into action. You will find yourself feeling motivated to act, doing things that will only lead you closer to your goals, whatever they may be. This music is helpful especially on those bad days when you feel uninspired to say the least.

So what do I now?

1) Firstly, Get excited. You are about to embark on a new kind of mental journey that will help you achieve whatever it is you desire, only faster.

2) Make a new playlist for your IPod/IPhone entitled “Positive Influence.” This is the fun part. Search the Internet (YouTube works well) for motivational speakers that peak your interest and positive messages that you feel you could listen to throughout the day. I promise you, if you listen to these messages long enough, they will lure you into action! If it’s weight loss you seek, you will find yourself making more health-conscious eating decisions. If it’s money you hope to save, you will find yourself chugging along with “The 14 Quarter Project.” Whatever your goal, this playlist will engrave in your mind reminders that will constantly keep you engaged with what I like to call “success-conscious activity.”

3) Send me your favorite new song! Send me your playlist. Let me know what kind of impact the “Hip Hop Hiatus” has played in your day, week, or month!

4) Need help getting started? Email me directly at, and I will send you my own personal favorite song, and help guide you towards creating the right playlist for you.


What should I expect?

  • It will not be easy at first. But if you stick with it, you will eventually ask yourself why you hadn’t started “The Hip Hop Hiatus” sooner.
  • Expect it to work for you. I know nothing of your goals and dreams, but I do know that if you think about them long enough, you’ll do something everyday to make them come to life.


Last but not least. The Hip Hop Hiatus will not work if…

  • You don’t try it. If you are someone hungry to achieve your goals more rapidly, I’m sure you are looking for any and every way to get ahead. Trying is always the first step in succeeding.
  • You don’t believe it will work for you. Don’t be scared of change. All growth comes from a state of discomfort. You will miss your music at first, but as you see results, hopefully you’ll thank me for the idea and thank yourself for following through.
  • You don’t have any clear goals!! Know what you want—the positive Influence playlist is there to remind you of your own personal goal. Write it down. Memorize it. Then listen, listen, and listen some more.

If the “Hip Hop Hiatus” does not work for you, then you have missed out on listening to your favorite music for a week. But in the case that it does, then you, my friend, are on the path to success at an alarming rate. Enjoy the ride!

The 14 Quarter Project

Fourteen quarters a day. Does it sound ridiculous when you say it aloud? It must. Though I’ve never heard anyone utter the words “Fourteen quarters a day changed my life,” I’m here to tell you otherwise. Lucky for you, I’ve done the simple math— a freshman in high school who dedicates his or her time to saving just 14 quarters a day up until college graduation will amass a savings of 40,768 quarters—a little over $10,000.

The 14 Quarter Project Now as a high school freshman, you may not entirely understand what a monumental difference $10,000 could make for you as a recent college graduate, as you transition to an “independent” lifestyle for the very first time. I use the term “independent” loosely—ask the parents of recent graduates just how “independent” their new college graduate is in those initial post-college years. Ask a recent graduate how $10,000 might help them, as they try and plant their feet firmly onto the slippery slope of employment in those gruesome first six months. At that point in time, $10,000 is everything. Your parents will support it, and your future self will thank you for it.

What you are missing out on when you save 14 quarters a day:
14 gum balls that lose sufficient flavor after two good bites.
3, maybe 4 loads of laundry if you’re lucky.
7 Twix bars if they sold Twix bars in singles.

I can’t do it. 14 quarters is just too much! Nonsense! You can find quarters on the ground, in your couch, and in your dirty laundry hamper. Chances are there is a quarter in your pocket right now. Have you ever politely asked a friend for a quarter? What about a relative? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I promise you, quarters all around town have been waiting for the day to be part of a worthwhile cause like your 14 Quarter Project.

To start out, here is a potential letter you can use as an aid. Reformat as needed:

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I am writing this letter to request your help in my quest to save fourteen quarters a day. If I do this up until my college graduation, I will have saved $10,000, which will carry me over as I transition into life as an independent in the real world. If you choose to decide that the 14 Quarter Project is not worth your time, it is within my understanding that my transition into the real world will be all the more difficult. It is also within my understanding that I will undoubtedly return from college to live in this very room that I write this letter from, eight years from now. The choice is yours…

Your ambitious, proactive child

#loveyou #14quarters”

Make sure you charge them each a quarter to read the letter. They’ll love your ambition.

3 Rules to the 14 Quarter Project

Rule #1: You can never take money out. You can only put money in.
Think of it this way. This money in no way, shape, or form belongs to you. You owe your future self $10,000, and he or she has agreed to let you pay back this debt over an eight-year period. That’s right, you are indebted to your future self.

Rule #2: See it to the finish.
Some days will be more difficult than others. But by the law of averages, some days will also be easier than others. Your “stick-to-it-iveness” will be battled-tested and prepare you for the several other tests life will throw at you in this eight-year stretch.

Rule #3: See rule #1.
It will be difficult, so it must be said twice. Consider those 14 quarters non-refundable after the day has past. If you ever feel tempted to break the rule, quickly imagine the joy you will experience as you receive a check from yourself for $10,000 (or a bag of 40,768 quarters, your choice). This is called vorfreude– the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures. Step your vocab game up.

Why Should I do this?

Delayed Gratificationkobe easy money finalDelayed Gratification is a psychological concept that relies on the virtues of patience, self-control, and sheer willpower to resist the temptation for an immediate reward in order to receive a better reward at a later point in time.

The benefits you will receive simply by partaking in the 14 Quarter Project far outweighs the $10,000 payment you will be giving to yourself eight years from now. By committing yourself to this very worthwhile project, you will face challenges, make decisions, and be forced to grow in ways you could not duplicate in any other situation imaginable. You will develop a great time perspective—the amount of time one takes into consideration when planning goals and making decisions. (FFT: Studies have shown that amassing great wealth and having a great time perspective often go hand in hand.) Think of this as an eight-year school project, only this time the project is you. The 14 Quarter Project will reveal invaluable knowledge that you will not receive in school, but will without doubt benefit you for the rest of your entire life.

So share with your friends. Make it a competition. The great thing about this game is that there are no losers. Start today: let the 14 Quarter Project unfold and change your life for the better.

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