In a few weeks, I will be graduating from business school and as the day’s countdown I’ve been asked one question time and again – “how does it feel?”. Interestingly, each time, the first answer that comes to mind is that I feel fortunate.
I feel fortunate to have won the ovarian lottery and to be born to James and Leslie Campbell, where it all started.
Fortunate to have two parents that were willing to make sacrifices to make sure that I had activities to be involved in after-school. Parents that made sure that I read books and wrote book reports during the summer. Parents that set unforgivingly high standards and convinced me that I could do whatever I put my mind to, as long as I worked hard.
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend Cary Academy, a private middle school.
Fortunate that the day my father went to Cary Academy they had recently hired an African-American woman that was committed to increasing diversity in the school. A woman that was willing to take a risk and put me into the application pool. A woman that was willing to make sure that I was eligible for full financial aid, as that was the only way I could attend.
I feel fortunate to have broken my ankle playing football during my sophomore year of high school.
Fortunate to have doctors that insisted that I would never play football again after requiring surgery, a metal plate, and six metal screws to repair my ankle. Prior to my injury, I took pride in my self-reliance. However, as a result of my injury, I was forced to ask for and depend on help from others. I learned how to trust. I learned how to contend with and transcend fear.
I feel fortunate to have met Jeff Scott, Chad Barnes, and Derrick Thompson at Davidson College.
Fortunate that these three individuals would become mentors, role models, and most importantly great friends. Great friends that showed me the ropes at Davidson College. Great friends that kept me focused, taught me what classes to take to “protect” my GPA. Great friends that inspire me to this day. Friendships that have truly been a privilege.
I feel fortunate that Wells Fargo Securities took a chance on a liberal arts major that had only taken one math course.
Fortunate to be placed in the Leveraged Finance Investment Banking group. The group where I would meet Alicia Wnorowski, who would introduce me to her sister, Janina.
I feel fortunate that I meet Janina, my beautiful wife.
Fortunate that she has been willing to uproot her life on multiple occasions to support me. Fortunate that she has taught me how to live. To live for experiences, not material objects. To work to live, not live to work.
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in Private Equity at HarbourVest.
Fortunate to have learned what great leadership looks like and the beginnings of what it takes to build a great culture from Jeff Keay and the guys at HarbourVest. Fortunate that the experience helped me realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my professional career in financial services. That I instead wanted to work on things that were tangible, things that changed people. That I wanted to be an artist.
I feel fortunate that Harvard Business School took a chance on a young man from the south.
Fortunate that they didn’t hold my “tier 2” investment banking and private equity experience against me. Instead, seeing a young man that was resilient, hard working, getting comfortable with his own story, and passionate about making a difference.
The follow-up question to my response typically is – “Well, don’t you feel accomplished?”, which causes me to pause, as yes, I recognize that it is an “accomplishment”, or “something that has been achieved successfully”. However, I can’t bring myself to take any significant level of credit for the outcome, sure, I played a role – I worked hard, I listened, I took chances.
However, it’s the people and the institutions that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and be a part of that deserve the credit. They should feel accomplished as if you remove them the results could have been different.
Ultimately, our lives are shaped by an inescapable confluence of choice and chance.
I’ve been fortunate enough to make the right choices and fortunate enough to be given a chance.