People at Stanford are relived. Because Donald Trump will soon - hopefully - no longer be president. Another reason is, that the Corona cases are stagnating - admittedly at a very high level. But above all, because Stanford continues to gather students who successfully complete their further lives on very different paths.
It is apparent that people with many, often very different life experiences prove themselves: they not only have a Plan A based on the assumption of a straightforward life path, but also at least a Plan B or even a Plan C. Their impressive careers are not always linear and are difficult to fit into predefined trajectories.
Here, at Stanford University, people are used to the fact that top careers are sometimes achieved through detours. After all, these detours are almost a tradition in Silicon Valley and are also demonstrated by tech entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. Musk was admitted to Stanford in 1995 to study physics (Applied Physics and Materials Science), but soon gave it up to establish his first Internet company. Truly a risky move, but one that has certainly proven to be not incorrect in the long run. Since then, the Canadian-US entrepreneur, who comes from South Africa, has gained worldwide popularity for his involvement in the private space company SpaceX and the electric car manufacturer Tesla. For this, he invested part of the 1.5 billion euros he had received in 2002 for the sale of PayPal to Ebay. He invested 100 million in SpaceX and seventy million in Tesla. The courage to change also means constantly striving for higher goals, even if the bar is already exceptionally high.
But even this special case does nothing to change the fact that Americans are used to fundamentally rethink previous paths in life and constantly breake new ground. "The courage to take risks and change is what unites successful people," says one of my trusted Stanford professors. The path from athlete to professor, scientist and/or politician is no exception.
ONE ENORMOUS FRIEND of mine from my Stanford days, Dave Prakash, is yet to make a political career. A former successful young surgeon who graduated from John Hopkins University, he decided to join the Air Force as a bomber pilot immediately after 9/11. After years in the military, he studied economics with me at Stanford, this on a military scholarship named after Pat Tillmann, a former football star who was killed in action after 9/11. After his studies, he now wants to become a senator - with the help of professors at Stanford. He's focused right now on making a U.S.-wide name for himself in health policy by focusing on using AI (artificial intelligence) to solve the outdated bureaucracy in the American health care system. His thesis: modern data-driven technologies can be used to democratize and decentralize medicine: giving every doctor in the U.S. the ability to offer better decisions and treatments based on that data.
In general, such a link between a military career and later top economic or political jobs is nothing unusual in the USA. The military seems to be the only way to interact with people who have different political beliefs in the current period of extreme polarization. Says Prakash, "As a doctor, I was surrounded only by doctors and other relatively affluent people; the military sent me to parts of the country I didn't even know." In the military, you take an oath to defend the Constitution, but not a president or a political party. Cross-party thinking, therefore, can be a critical quality of former military officers.
Dave Prakash has nothing to worry about professionally: He could have run for office as early as this year, but decided to seek his opportunity later. He would have no problems finding sponsors: as a surgeon, bomber pilot, and elite student with a social focus on the health care system, he is a perfect role model for what the U.S. actually expects of its leaders, quite unlike Donald Trump, who could point to neither a military nor scientific career, only a rather dubious economic one, based on his rich father's legacy.
Another sponsor would have been a classmate whose family owned an NFL team. Despite her wealth, she was one of the most eager students in my class and - as is almost fitting at Stanford - already had a career as a professional swimmer.
NORMAL CVs are rare at Stanford. Special and demonstrable qualities in several areas of life, be it in sports, culture or in a charitable commitment are an important factor for admission to elite universities, in addition to organizing the "small change" necessary for this. My advice to all applicants is to find out what your special quality is. And point this out confidently in your application. By the way, the courage to change is the first step to success, even if this means plan B or C.
About Robin Lumsden: Robin Lumsden is an Austrian attorney and entrepreneur based in Austria and California. After a career as professional tennis player (having played in Wimbledon), he became a Special Forces Officer in the Austrian army. Thereafter, he studied law at the University of Vienna (2003) and the prestigious University of California Berkeley (2005) and passed the bar exam both in Austria and New York. In 2010, former Austrian president Heinz Fischer appointed Lumsden as honorary consul of Jamaica in Austria. In 2013, he founded the law firm Lumsden & Partners with offices in Vienna, New York and Silicon Valley, where he studied from 2017 to 2019 at Stanford University to obtain an MBA degree. His mentors include former US Secretary of State and Stanford Professor Condoleezza Rice, political scientist Francis Fukuyama, long-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Arnold Schwarzenegger's former cabinet chief David Crane. In 2014, he was appointed by then foreign minister Sebastian Kurz to act as integration ambassador, acting as a role model for young immigrants. Between 2015 and 2019, Lumsden successfully defended the airport of Vienna in the course of a USD 168 million litigation in New York. In September 2020, his business law firm assisted the City of Vienna in providing equity capital of approximately € 50 million to € 70 million to support Viennese businesses during the Corona crisis. In 2020, Lumsden appeared as an expert on ORF and Puls 24 as part of the 2020 United States presidential election. Robin Lumsden is also a lecturer at Danube University Krems on the topics of US law as well as contract law and negotiation.
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