At the sprawling Oakland, California, home of business strategist Carl Hackney, billionaire Robert Smith held court as a gathering of mostly black politicians, venture capitalists, tech entrepreneurs, and philanthropists paid attention.
Invited by Hackney to do some high-level networking while the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners was in town, the space was packed and a cheer went up as Smith shared his plans to invest in Oakland and urged others to do the same.
Recalling a conversation he had at Morehouse College the previous weekend, Smith said he told the students there are three things he’s ultimately going to leave his children. You could hear ears perk up in anticipation, but Smith’s answer didn’t reference a succession plan for his estimated $4.4 billion net worth. Instead, he addressed the importance of community and the need for everyone to play a role in creating places where people—particularly the underserved—can become their best selves.
No doubt Smith’s five children will inherit other kinds of wealth, but here are the pearls he dropped for all to share.
1. You are enough.
“You are enough. So, think about what is it that you uniquely bring to a community that changes that community. Sometimes, it is words of inspiration. Most of the time it’s acts of inspiration. It is doing something, it is leading, it is taking advantage of what it is you have to provide. Sometimes what you have to provide is walking a child home every night so they feel safe. Sometimes it’s making sure a child is read to at night because their parent is at work. Sometimes it’s a scholarship. Sometimes it’s the encouragement to go dream big, go take the test, go try something different, go get an internship. Or it’s creating an internship, like the internship I got at Bell Labs when I was 17 years old, that allows them to stretch their imaginations.”
2. Discover the joy of figuring things out.
“Too often we pave the path for the child, as opposed to preparing the child for the path. This is the one time in human history where you can actually create value and wealth in your community without owning a resource. All you really need is your brain power today and access to this free computing power and you can create applications and products that can actually drive tremendous amounts of wealth into your family and into your community. If we miss out on this cycle, it may be a while before this happens again… We have to give them the tools, give them the access, and expose them to make sure that all of our embargoed children have an opportunity to succeed.”
3. Love is all that matters.
“What I mean by that is, love your community. Love your community by voting. Love your community by taking care of your community. Love your community by actually doing something wherever you can.”