Takeaways – My night with Mark Cuban

March 29, 2017
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Sunday, March 26th the Adelson Education Campus held its annual “In Pursuit of Excellence” gala. This year’s honoree was none other than, Mark Cuban, Owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and one of ABC’s “Sharks” on the hit show Shark Tank.

To be perfectly honest, I had no intentions of writing up a Takeaways from this event. But there were some things quite unique about the evening I thought would be interesting to share with all of you.

First of all… yes… Mark really did wear a polo and jeans to a formal event. To his credit, he did speak to it in the program, explaining that when he read the invitation he understood the event to be a Q&A with students. So he dressed for a Q&A with students. Somebody asked me if I believe him, and I have to say, I do. Still… nobody that night seemed to care!

Some of the Q&A was published in this RJ article.

My wife, Danielle, and I got to meet Mark during the cocktail reception.

  •  How did our conversation go with Mark?
  •  What insights did Mark share about the influence of his Jewish heritage, his views on technology, and why he never wears a tie?
  • How did he answer when asked “how do you define success?”

This is exactly how the interaction went at the cocktail reception:

Me: Hi Mark. Can I shake your hand?
Mark: Absolutely.

Me: My name is Hayim. This is my wife Danielle.
Mark: Hi Hayim and Danielle.

Me: Are you taking photos tonight?
Mark: For Hayim and Danielle… I’d be happy to!
Danielle: Our 5 year old son Nathan is going to freak out! He watches Shark Tank.
Mark: That’s awesome. Have a great night Hayim and Danielle.

Me: Thank you.
Mark: Anytime.

Then something interesting happened. My wife turned left to say hello to someone. From my right came a man and asked Mark if he would take another photo with him.

Mark: Absolutely Rich. Let’s take another photo.
Rich: How do you remember my name?!
Mark: How could I not?

Side bar – I recently heard a podcast of The Tim Ferriss Show (that link is to the actual show) featuring Adam Robinson (a US Chess Federation life master. He is the co-founder of  The Princeton Review. He currently works as a global macro advisor to the heads of some of the world’s largest hedge funds). It’s a long podcast but utterly fascinating. In it Adam discusses 3 rules for success. He’s ridiculously smart so obviously I listened.
1.  The importance of enthusiasm about everything we do;
2.  Connecting – creating delight with Others;
3.  Lean into each moment and create magic. Expect to create magic;

Back to Mark. The whole interaction lasted a minute. 90 seconds tops! All I could think about, even still, is how gracious was he?! And if I felt that way, imagine how that Rich guy was feeling!! Enthusiasm: check! Creating delight: check! Creating magic: check!

OK – on we go into the awards part of the evening. Typically with these events – there is a welcome program (National Anthems/Video/State of the Union type address), the honoree gets introduced, offers prepared remarks, accepts the award and the band plays. In regard to the prepared remarks, typically, it’s a one way street between the honoree and the audience right? They get to say what they want to say… and we get to listen… whether that is what we wanted to hear them talk about or not.

This evening was not so typical. Pleasantly so. Mark did give prepared remarks. But only 2 sentences to say “thank you” for the award. Then we spent some time in a Q&A. How cool! And even more cool was that most of the questions came from students from the Adelson Campus. The rest came from teachers and parents. Only a few from the audience.

Before I go into the Q&A, let me set the tone with 3 quotes that were shared on the event program and from Mark when he accepted the award.

  •  “It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You only have to be right once and then everyone can tell you that you are an overnight success.”
  • “Creating opportunities means looking where others are not.”
  • … a life lesson from his father: “You’ll never be as young as you are today. So live like it!”

*** While I tried to capture as much as possible, the Q&A below are not direct quotes. But pretty darn close in some cases! 😉

Q – Do you want to own another sports team?
A – At one point I thought it would be exciting… until my kids were born. Now I have their favorite teams to route for. And that’s exciting.

Q – Where do you see technology impacting sports in the future?
A – There will be more change with technology in next 5 years than last 30. Both on the medical side and AI (artificial intelligence). It used to be Basketball players had a long career if they played into their late 30’s. With advances in medical technology they are going to be playing into their 40’s. And using AI for deep learning and analytics.

Q – Technology makes our lives easier but does it make it better?
A – Technology it’s a tool right? When people ask me “What is my definition of success” I want to be very clear about it. It’s waking up every day with a smile on your face knowing it’s going to be a great day. And technology has nothing to do with that.

Q – Has your Jewish background influenced your life, career, or both?
A – Everything. It’s my foundation. My family came thru Elsie island. It’s my upbringing. How I interact with friends and family. How I approach challenges. Who I turn to. Being Jewish has given me a foundation.

Q – Ideas. Execution. Or timing. What’s more important?
A – Execution! That’s easy. Everyone has an idea. The hard part is actually doing it. Taking that first step. And then executing on a business plan.

Q – Why do you never wear a tie to work?
A – When sold first company I was 29. Every day I wore a suit and tie to work. I swore that I’d never wear a watch or tie again. And I haven’t.

Q – What’s next in tech?
A – Historically we’ve told machine to think. We’re getting to a point where machines can think, run processes and software. We’re in a revolution of technological change.

Q – How do you balance business and family?
A – For a long time I didn’t. I was on a mission. I couldn’t balance. I didn’t know how. I was dating this girl and she said you have to pick me or your business, and I was like, what’s your name again? But now my life is my kids and family. When I’m with them I don’t take meetings or calls unless absolutely necessary. It’s choices we make. We have to be honest with ourselves.


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