I’ve been a member of YPO for 11 years and I’ve attended 10 Global Leadership Conferences. YPO has been a fantastic peer network. I’ve made great friends and learned a lot. It has been an amazing resource for my role as the steward of the Horst Engineering Family of Companies and the leader of our business family. We simply wouldn’t be where we are today, a successful 68-year old high precision manufacturer, without the benefits of my involvement in YPO. My volunteerism within the organization has yielded great benefits.
A hallmark of YPO is that it is a member driven organization of 21,000+ chief executives. By giving back to our local chapter, to the YPO-WPO Family Business Network, and to the 55+ other Networks, I’ve been able to get the most of my commitments. Debbie has been a partner in all of this, as there is a strong spouse/partner, youth, and family aspect to the organization.
Together, we have been to GLC’s in London, Washington D.C., Cape Town, Toronto, Sydney, Miami, Denver, Singapore, Istanbul, and Los Angeles. Each has been wonderful for their own reasons. This year’s event in L.A. was simply amazing. The EDGE portion of the event was the best line up of resources/speakers/education that I’ve experienced. I’ve had the benefit of great education over the years and nothing will compare to my three sessions of the Harvard Business School OPM program, but my last session was 10 years ago. YPO has kept me current. During the two days at EDGE, we learned about amazing technologies, overcoming challenges, philanthropy, exploration, entertainment, relationships, politics, and leadership development.
YPO’s long time mantra is, “Better leaders through education and idea exchange.”
Never before in the 60+ year history of YPO has there been an event quite like the EDGE. The confluence of entertainment, technology, and industry in greater Los Angeles presented the member-led committee with a lot of opportunities. They made the most of the opportunity by tapping their own vast networks and they delivered a fantastic event that I’m grateful to have attended. No doubt that years from now, members will refer back to the 2014 EDGE..
I’m a student of public speaking, so this lineup was a real treat. I studied their styles, approach, and execution.
Jim Collins - I’ve heard Collins speak before, but this time I was more tuned in. He spoke at the closing of the GLC portion of the event, which was the perfect capstone to two days of learning. His business books are some of the best of all time, though his leadership lessons are applicable to all aspects of life.
Robert Wuhl - he was our master of ceremonies for the two-day EDGE. His humor was mostly “on” and his enthusiasm kept things moving along. He handled some of the moderating duties and did that well.
Eric Garcetti – the Mayor of Los Angeles, and a former YPOer, delivered a bullish presentation on the progress of his city. You couldn’t ignore his excitement for the city and all that it has to offer. It was a big welcome and didn’t cover any of the challenges that the metropolis faces (e.g. homelessness, poverty, history of crime and corruption, high cost of doing business, etc.), but it did get us pumped to be part of the city’s growth.
Peter Diamandis – I’ve heard Diamandis, founder of the X-Prize and Singularity University speak and I’m always fascinated by his incentive based approach to technological progress. It was cool to hear that X-Prize is expanding into a number of different areas, including health care. His efforts to drive entrepreneurial leadership are notable. I was particularly interested in his comments regarding robotics and 3D printing. He said, “Unless you are disrupting yourself, someone else will.”
David Agus – a professor for the University of Southern California, he had some interesting insights into cancer and genetics. He noted that sitting more than five hours a day is really bad for your health. I’ve been focused on my own sitting and now have a UpDesk, so this resonated with me. His comments about supplements were also interesting. He thinks they are a waste.
Richard Lovett – I loved the story of how he became the head of Creative Artists Agency, one of the most powerful entertainment and sports businesses in the world. His firm represents some of the most famous actors and athletes on the globe. His comment, “Let the stars be stars,” was telling. He likes to work behind the scenes and has worked hard to build a teamwork based culture at CAA.
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – he was one of my favorite speakers. The Cornell University professor’s unbridled joy for science is contagious. I didn’t know much about him before the event. He has made his name through the television medium, and truthfully, I miss a bit not owning one. I’ll miss his launch of the new version of COSMOS, but my son and I will check it out on the National Geographic Channel via our iPad. His answer to a question of God was revealing and interesting. He has a way of describing complex concepts in simple terms. I’m still trying to get my head around the concept of the “multiverse.”
Susie Wolff – I’m a huge motorsports fan, and she is a rising star in the world of Formula 1. She is on track to be the first ever female to compete in a Grand Prix. I’m rooting for her, especially after hearing her speak about her upbringing and passion for racing cars. The technology in F1 plays a huge part in the sport, but the drivers are both athletes and personalities.
Neal Goldman – he is a YPOer and CEO of Relationship Science, a firm pioneering a cool new online networking platform that makes LinkedIn look pedestrian. He walked us through a demo.
Diana Nyad – I was really looking forward to her talk, and she didn’t disappoint. I followed her quest to be the first person to swim unaided and without a shark cage, from Cuba to Florida, but I didn’t get swept up in the drama. Swimming is a sport that I’ve become much more interested in since rekindling my triathlon career in 2009. I’ve never been a fan of endurance sports that require sleep deprivation, but I was enthralled with her first hand description of the challenges. Clearly, she has a powerful inner passion that I identify with, but I felt overwhelmed by her dramatic delivery which was storybook. Her intensity was serious and nearly over the top. The talk was geared towards the general audience, but I would have loved to hear more about the controversy surrounding the accreditation of her swim. Much has been written, particularly in the hard-core swimming press, about her years of conflicts with her competitors, peers, and helpers. I chose to set all of that aside and just enjoyed an entertaining personal account of failure and triumph.
Jerry Weintraub – he was hilarious. I don’t spend much time following the entertainment industry. I appreciate film, but I’m no buff. I do appreciate good business and the legendary producer has combined art and business for decades. His life story is amazing. He didn’t avoid some of the more sordid details of his story, but merely hinted at relationships (particularly with his children) that have been damaged during his quest for even greater success and wealth.
Brandon Beck – I am not a gamer, but after hearing Beck speak for the second time about the meteoric growth of his YPO firm, Riot Games, I’m amazed by the success of their game, League of Legends. Again, there is no TV in our house, and limited screen time permitted for our two kids. Video games are a huge industry and they aren’t going away. In my opinion, Beck’s description of the professional gaming community as “athletes” is a stretch. I’ve already tuned out the Olympics (both winter and summer) and I’ll tune them out more when video gaming becomes an official sport. Even still, I learned a lot from him.
Edward Norton – his explanation of CrowdRise, of which he is a co-founder and partner, was adequate, but I wasn’t impressed with his presentation. The philanthropic tool is something that Debbie and I will research for the many non-profits that we are involved with, but his talk was just a big commercial for the website and we really didn’t learn anything about his own rise to acting stardom and how he is translating his public persona and fame into the global charitable community.
Magic Johnson – I’ve heard Magic speak before and even met him at a book signing in Boston many years ago. I love him. He is the real deal. The passion and love for everything he is invested in (e.g. basketball, baseball, community, business) is insane. He is a wonderful speaker. It’s amazing how he has built his business by building great partnerships. I could have listened to him speak all night. I would still root for Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics every time, but Magic’s competitive fire is legendary and it has served him and so many others well.
Larry King – the longtime journalist was our moderator on day two. He handled Q&A duty for several speakers, including President Bill Clinton. One of the best exchanges of the EDGE was his discussion with Robert Redford. A member of the audience asked King to comment on each of the POTUS’ that he interviewed going back to Richard Nixon. He had something interesting to say about all of them: Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong – he was one of the best speakers. He appeared three times. Once on his own, then on a panel, and then with Bill Clinton. He is pioneering some amazing technologies. He is a very smart man, and it was evident. He demonstrated some amazing technology that can be run on an iPhone or other mobile device. He showed us next generation robots that have “augmented cognition” or feelings. This so-called, “next sense” is wild stuff. One robot is dubbed an “empathetic humanoid.” The use of the cloud for real-time research is speeding the advance of many technologies. He is working on projects that will revolutionize science. He plans to restore eyesight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.
James Cameron – I loved hearing from Cameron. I have read a lot about him in National Geographic magazine. I’ve shown our son videos of his recent dive to the deepest part of the ocean. His interview was all about his film directing career, which is legendary. He directed The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar. Those last two films are the only films that have grossed more than $2 billion each. He said that Arnold Schwarzenegger taught him that “doubt make you good” and that preparation is critical to any outcome.
Bill Clinton – I had never heard Clinton speak live before, but I’ve watched a lot of video. He is one of the best orators I’ve seen. His talk was casual and seated. It wasn’t a speech. He was relaxed and interesting. He spoke at length about the work that his foundation is doing, particularly in the cancer arena. He spoke of “lifestyle choices” being important to the prevention of chronic disease. I wish he said more about this topic and commented on vegetarianism/veganism as examples of good habits. He is working with Dr. Soon-Shiong on several initiatives including a low-cost hearing aid project.
Francis Frei/Troubador Theater Company – the Harvard Business School professor was joined by an acting troupe to play out some of the concepts she was discussing. It was hit or miss, but mostly hit. I enjoyed her insight into some of the best service oriented companies around, including Commerce Bank and Southwest Airlines. I was interested in learning about her concept that companies have to have the “courage to be bad” in terms of doing what they are good at and not focusing on the things that they are not good at. She said, “Leadership is about making others better in your presence, but making it last in your absence.”
John Gray – Debbie and I heard the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus author at a breakout session. I first read his book as assigned reading in my senior year capstone course at Boston College in 1994. He was hilarious, and he makes sense.
Adam Bain and Adam Lashinsky – the President of Global Revenue at Twitter was interviewed by Lashinsky, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune magazine. It was an inside look at Twitter, which I use from time to time. I’m no expert, so this talk offered some insight. It’s an amazing business concept and these two are on the cutting edge.
Sheryl Sandberg – The Facebook COO and author of Lean In, appeared on video link up. She was fantastic. I enjoyed hearing directly from her. Her rise in Silicon Valley is amazing and the work she is doing for women is noble. She is also a member of YPO and working closely with the Women’s YPO Network, which I also support through my oversight of YPO’s four Global Business Networks.
Robert Redford – the legendary actor was interviewed by King. I recently saw his movie, All Is Lost, on a flight. The interview covered a wide range of topics, from film to politics, and the environment. I am a big Redford fan, so this was a real treat.
Melissa Etheridge – the Oscar and Grammy winner spoke first, about her long career and all of the challenges along the way. She is a cancer survivor and she is well-known as a gay artist. She was genuine and funny. She followed her talk with a short acoustic set to end the EDGE. Later that night, at the closing show, she played an hour-long set with her band. It rocked.
The EDGE was everything I hoped it would be and more.