Spark Tank.

January 11, 2020

Spark Tank.

May 29, 2023

I was barely old enough to buy a beer when I found myself in my Stanford GSB classroom. I was bored silly. I was the second youngest person in our class of 300. Right off, I intuitively felt there was more to learning business than drawing decision trees and grokking cost accounting. So, I decided to DIY my education.

I started a weekly entrepreneurial brainstorming group. I invited Seth Godin and three other students. We were MBA misfits, full of ideas and bravado, but often derided by our classmates for our lack of work experience. We kept at it anyway. In our minds, we were working. For little more than a year, we bantered around a few hundred business ideas. Our intellectual jousting helped shape me into a much better entrepreneur, preparing me for the moment when I would start my boutique hotel company, Joie de Vivre Hospitality, just two and a half years after business school. The lessons remain with me today.

Wisdom isn’t the domain of just old dudes. Yes, Seth and I are now 59 years old, but even in our early twenties, we had the insight to multiply our learning by applying what musician Brian Eno coined “scenius.” Instead of toiling to become individual business geniuses, we sought out a “scene” or a group of peers to sharpen our wisdom. Our entrepreneurial roundtable taught me to “argue as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong.” I also felt the enduring support of the group and the high tolerance for novelty. You never had to feel uncomfortable bringing a wacky idea to the table. Mutual mentorship, coupled with the rapid-fire nature of our gatherings, allowed us to create our version of a startup accelerator— twenty-two years before the first one got started in Silicon Valley.

Whether it’s the Algonquin Round Table, the Bloomsbury Group, or your own DIY think-tank, sometimes wisdom flourishes more in the sparks of a tightly knit and supportive community than it will in your own head.

This is the 1st post in our week-long series of Chip Conley and Seth Godin sharing lessons on how to harvest and cultivate wisdom.

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