After finishing my degree in philosophy, I needed a career. I have no regrets pursuing my MBA at Stanford and in the various experiences that followed from that choice. Would I have done the same thing if I had, say, a trust fund paying my living expenses? Probably not. But I am more of a person today for the intellectual rigor I assimilated at the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey, or for doing an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. I could list many benefits I gained from these experiences, but I will cite one. The microeconomic modeling and game theory analysis I learned at the Boston Consulting Group has helped me explain developments in the history of music that I would never have understood if I had spent my entire life in the arts.

On the other hand, I knew that I couldn’t allow the financial opportunities of the business world sway me from my music projects. Shortly before my thirtieth birthday I had a huge choice to make. The Boston Consulting Group wanted me to move to New York and advise their corporate clients, and that same week Stanford University asked me to teach jazz and work alongside artist-in-residence Stan Getz. The consulting job paid ten times the teaching job—I’m not exaggerating. But this was an easy decision to make. A few weeks later I started teaching at Stanford. I always lived modestly so I could make these kinds of choices.

Ted Gioia. NB: living modestly gives you the freedom to make the choices you want to make.