In this series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

The Mistake:

Equating money with success.

When I went into college at N.C. State, I wasn’t a particularly great student. I was very good at other things; studying just wasn’t one of them. When I was in college, I thought the best recognition in the world would be to be financially successful. I had a good, strong work ethic, and I worked my way through college.

When I graduated, I was on a self-serving mission, focusing on rising up through the ranks as quickly as possible. My goals were focused around the idea of being a successful businessperson, which I thought was measured in wealth. A huge part of that was that I grew up relatively poor, and I recognized how difficult that was on my parents. I was kind of a poor kid in a rich town. Maybe I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I thought I was going to wipe away those challenges early in life and that wealth was going to be my cloth.

After college I got an engineering job with what was then Harris Semiconductor in Florida. I was moving up. I was named a co-chair on a Joints Chief of Staff study on mobilization in a crisis when I was in my 20s. I was often at the Pentagon. I was leading meetings and conferences and I felt like I was really “on my way.”

“I realized then that my priorities were all wrong. Everything changed.”

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