David Lee is Executive Vice President at Samsung Electronics, Head of Samsung Next, an accomplished startup investor, and formerly a corporate attorney at Google.
My Growing up, my dad was an entrepreneur and he is an inspiration in many of my career and life choices. He invented the first fully automated fortune cookie machine. I decided to take a different path, and that’s when I realized what betting on yourself means.” – David Lee
David is a hyper-intelligent, experienced, talented, and accessible man. His pragmatic and hard-won wisdom is on full display in this episode. It’s extraordinary to hear him tell his story, as well as the story of the world we’re all living in.
If you’re in the middle of making a big life decision and wondering what you’re going to do, or if you need some very practical advice about starting a new venture in your life, this episode will resonate with you deeply.
In this episode we talked about:
- What betting on yourself means to him
- How he feels about Tom Brady leaving New England
- Using sports metaphors in business and branding
- The incredible technology his father invented
- Similarities between athletics and startups
- The “gym rat” mentality for founders
- Facing business with your back against the wall
- The type of individuals who succeed in startups
- His transition from university to the real world
- The speech that deeply resonated with him
- Going to law school without the intention of practicing law
- Learning what it takes to be great at what you do
- His basic investing thesis
- His story of surviving stage 4 cancer
- The advice he’d give his sixteen-year-old self
If you’re a fan of the show don’t forget to follow to hear new episodes and Rate or Review us wherever you tune in!
David Lee: And then if you have the right alignment and aim, the chance of you hitting a good shot increase exponentially. When it comes to coaching, I think it's mind, body, emotions, right? And is that aligned? And if you have alignment there, that can transform stress into pressure. Pressure is a good thing, stress is not a good thing. And that's also what I tried to bring for founders is the alignment between their personal values and what drives them and their company values and building the type of company where they would want their children to work.
Michael Redd: Hey everybody, this is Michael Redd. And welcome to the Betting On Yourself podcast, where I interview successful entrepreneurs, athletes, and other top performers who rose to the top, took success into their own hands, and bet on themselves.
Michael Redd: Today I'm talking with David Lee, executive vice president at Samsung Electronics, head of Samsung Next, accomplished startup investor, and former corporate attorney at Google. In this episode, we talk about his high school and pick-up basketball years, growing up with a successful and an inventive father, his astonishing history in investing, surviving stage four cancer, how startups succeed and fail, and his incredible vision of the future. David is a hyper intelligent, experienced, talented, and accessible man. His pragmatic and hard won wisdom is on full display this episode. It's extraordinary to hear him tell his story as well as the story of the world we're all living in.
Michael Redd: If you're in the middle of making a big life decision and wondering what you're going to do or if you need some very practical advice about starting a new venture in your life, this episode will resonate with you deeply. Here's my conversation with David Lee. David, thank you again for being on the Betting On Yourself podcast. It's a real, real honor to have you on finally.
David Lee: No, like I said earlier, the honor is all mine. I've been a big fan of your career. I'm a sports nerd as you know and a big fan of everything that you've done. So this is a thrill for me.
Michael Redd: The honor is ours. And you played a little basketball.
David Lee: Oh, come on.
Michael Redd: [crosstalk 00:02:30]-
David Lee: I played a little shooting guard when I was a sophomore in high school and then I went to play basketball. But I do, pick-up basketball was probably my main hobby until I was about 30 and then wisely decided to play less. And at this point it's hard for me to play. I think I fear the torn ACL, blown achilles. The last time I played, I played with a bunch of 20, 25 year olds. And I literally think I pulled a hamstring just jogging back on defense and I knew that was over. So yes.
Michael Redd: I think you chose the right profession ultimately. No doubt you had the skillset to be an athlete, but people know you and know of you as this amazing investor, and we'll get into all of that, but you're an athlete inside and you are a Pats fan.
David Lee: I am. Yes. I am a Patriots-
Michael Redd: So how did that make you feel when Tom Brady won a championship for the Buccaneers compared to the Patriots?
David Lee: It's funny, and it kind of relates to my day job as an investor. I've gotten that question a lot from my friends. And I said I'm happy for him. I'm happy. But I root for the Patriots. I don't necessarily root for Tom Brady. I'm a Brady fan. He has been in my life literally for 20 years. That's 40% of my life. He's given me some great memories. But I'm really a Patriots fan. And I think if I'd bring it back to my day job, I do see that... And you may identify with this. In the sports arena or in the sports area, I see fans now, the younger fans, they're fans of players not necessarily teams where younger fans are fans of Curry, not necessarily the Golden State Warriors.
David Lee: And I think that is a metaphor for a lot of things that are happening in media, tech, other parts of the world of just themes around the creator economy, people sort of creating brands for themselves. But getting back to the original question, I was happy for him. And it sounds like I'm happy for him as if we're friends or something, but ultimately I was rooting for him. And I think every Boston sports fan went through this existential crisis. And at the end, when he's winning, there's nothing you can't do but to root for somebody like that.
Michael Redd: Makes sense. Man, and you're absolutely right. You embody the show in so many ways.
David Lee: Well, thank you for that.
Michael Redd: Learning more about you and your illustrious career, which we'll get into. Yeah. Betting on yourself, what has that meant to you personally?
David Lee: For me, in many ways, and I've listened to some of your podcasts and in many ways it resonates deeply. And particularly because when I was growing up, I always thought that my dad was an entrepreneur. And he is an inspiration behind a lot of my career choices, life choices, and just seeing what he did. He was, I think one of the first PhDs in engineering at UCLA that are of Asian descent. He invented the first fully automated fortune cookie machine. And so before his machine, people would make fortune cookies by hand. And he created the fortune cookie that had... or the fortune messages that had smiles on their faces or the smiley face on the fortunes. So I believe his legacy is he brought smiles to millions of people.
David Lee: I always thought that I would follow in his path and there's this idea, particularly in Asian culture of assuming the family business. And I ultimately decided to take a different path. And that was probably around in my mid 20s. In taking that different path, that's when I realized you're just betting on yourself. And it was something that was very powerful for me because there's also a piece, just growing up in an Asian American household, Korean American to be specific, there are two threads. The first thread is this American ideal of betting on yourself. The idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, not necessarily your bootstraps, but you can control your own destiny. You can do whatever you want.
David Lee: And then there's also this Asian American or Korean American piece of me that you're always part of a larger collective. It could be a family, it could be a culture. And so for me, betting on yourself is really that part of me, that piece which is saying, "Listen, I identify with and have a real sense of obligation and responsibility to a greater collective, but there is something very liberating and empowering about betting on yourself and thinking for yourself. So for me, that hit me around my mid 20s when I was going through a career transition. And I was behind when I made that... Anybody who makes a career transition, you're naturally behind some of your peers. And so I think of it as not necessarily against all odds, but you have a lot of work to do. By that, I mean in catching up and betting on yourself is a way of controlling your own destiny.
David Lee: And so it's hard to answer the question because I do have a lot of emotions and thoughts around it, but it's an idea that I deeply identify with. And that's why I enjoy listening to your podcast. And I think about you and anybody who could be Draymond Green or anybody who is... athletes who aren't necessarily lottery picks but they carve out a path for themselves. And it's not necessarily against all odds, but it's just a different story. And that to me embodies the spirit of betting on yourself.
Michael Redd: Thank you for saying that David. I'm a huge fan of yours and I read your blog as well, which has been amazing. We'll get to that in a little bit. I've seen you in action and me and you both are mentors in Snap's Accelerator Yellow. And that's where we first met through our dear friend.
David Lee: Big ups to Biggie Su for connecting us.
Michael Redd: Biggie Su, our brother, and it was a true treat to meet you. And we sat maybe for a hour to talk about life and things that we're doing at that time. And then obviously COVID over the last year or so has been an impediment to us getting together and reconnecting. But your message of what you just shared, I think you disseminate that to a lot of the people that you mentor and coach.
David Lee: Yes. I think when I met you, I was in another transition where I was spending more time as an executive coach. I actually trained to be an executive coach and I am really passionate about the intersection between... One of the things that I believe we sort of connected over and that we shared with the founders in that cohort was the similarities, if you will, between athletics or sports and building a startup for technology and also making that transition from maker to manager. And so some of those similarities are very easy to spot. So for example, when I meet certain engineers or developers who... Or now with biology becoming more of a trend or an area for startups to flock to, a lab rat, in many ways, those founders are doing exactly what they did as a child, as a kid.
David Lee: And I would imagine that's what it's like for many professional athletes. They get to do what they love to do for a living, and something that they've always done, and something that you don't need to pay them to do that. I'm sure you know and maybe you were one of these folks, there are people that will always have more talent and that are just naturally more gifted. So whether it's in sports, they have better athletic ability. Whether it's in tech, it's people that are just smarter. But then there are some people that are just gym rats and on a Friday night, they want to go to the gym and just shoot or play instead of doing the other things that a 15 year old might do on a Friday night or want to do.
David Lee: And similarly, I think there are those people that when they were younger, they would rather be in the lab or they would rather be coding than doing some of the things that some of their peers were doing. And I feel like that... drive is not the right word, but that passion almost, that mentality of being a lab rat or a gym rat, that in many ways is what I try to look for when talking to young founders. And if they aren't working on that thing, and by young, I mean companies that are earlier in their career, earlier in their business stage. And if they're not working on that, I encourage them to find that because that is the thing that will keep them going when times really get tough.
David Lee: Because with a startup, the bet is this, the bet is when you start a company, you're probably going to either lose weight or gain weight, whichever is the thing you don't want. Your relationships are going to suffer, you're going to go through this emotional roller coaster with real risk of some mental health issues coming up because it is so volatile and it's so... the ups and downs are so dramatic. And it's 90% sure that or probability that it's not going to work. And there are those people that look at those odds and they say, "I have no choice but to do this because this is all I know to do." And those are the people that you try to identify both in sports and also when evaluating startups. The NFL draft is coming up and you know this, teams spend tens of millions of dollars evaluating the number one pick. Is it Peyton Manning, or Ryan Leaf?
David Lee: And 50% of the time they're wrong, which is amazing to me. And I think it's that piece though, was that person a gym rat? And then I think some of the other principles as you think about a company building, there are similar principles around building a team and thinking about a team. Reed Hastings in his book, No Rules Rules, I think that's the name of the book. And in his most recent book, he talks about how building a company is more like building a team, not a family. And one of the things that you and I talked about is arguably the greatest tech CEO in history, Bill Campbell, who went on to be a legendary coach with some of the greatest CEOs of all time was a former football coach. And football, I've never played football, but I'm told that's one of the stronger metaphors for business.
David Lee: So those are some of the principles or lessons that I shared with some of the team in terms of finding that thing that turns you into a lab rat or a gym rat, and also thinking about your company as a team, not necessarily as a product or as a family.
Michael Redd: Wow. It's so good. And that has carried you or been a core value for you personally. As I did research on your career and your journey from wanting to be a professor, which has become full circle in sense of coaching and then going from that to becoming an engineer in college or studying engineering, and then going ultimately to becoming an attorney and being a corporate attorney for Google, talk about those journeys and those paths and even beyond Google.
David Lee: First of all, thank you for doing that level of research on me. I really appreciate that. I'll say that that transition from being a professor to going into business, that was the time when... You talked earlier about betting on yourself. When I really had to internalize the idea of now I'm betting on myself. Because I thought my path was this combination of professor and also working with the family business in some way. And I realized... There's a legendary Steve Jobs commencement speech in, I think it's 2004. And I don't want to say it changed my life because that sounds too dramatic, but it deeply resonated with me, and there are two things. The first thing that he said was, don't waste your time living somebody else's life. And the second thing that he said that we'll remember is you always connect the dots looking backwards not forwards.
David Lee: And so for me, what I took away from that was in any choice that you make, always do the thing that's more interesting because that to me is the choice that will enable you to connect the dots to look backwards. So what do I mean by that? When I was transitioning from engineering into business, I was thinking between law school and business school. And most people would have told me and did tell me, "Go to business school. You have no intention of being a lawyer." Which I went to law school thinking I wouldn't be a lawyer. I know it sounds really... it's mind boggling. And people would say, "Why would you go to law school?" And for whatever reason, law school seemed more interesting. And I decided to go to law school over business school, and this was mid '90s.
David Lee: So this is when the internet was hitting and there was a gold rush. And when I went to law school, it was not great for four or five years because anybody who knows me, if they think of me as a corporate attorney, they'd be like, wow, that is not a great fit. So I was to be kind an average attorney, but there's no way I would've gotten to Google if I hadn't decided law school over business school. And I'm not going to say there's no way, I don't know what the alternative history looks like. But looking back now, I'm 51 and that was maybe 20 years ago at least, it really is true. I think if you pick what is more interesting, and everybody has their own risk profile. I'm assuming that you can afford that type of decision. It always pays off in the end somehow.
David Lee: And then when I look back on my career and what I try to lean on as an investor, it is this service provider like mentality, which you do get from being a lawyer more so than maybe on the principal side after business school. And I do believe that has really served me because I think in working with entrepreneurs, working with founders, they really appreciate things like rapid response time, which you're taught as a corporate attorney. And it sounds so trivial, but it's not strategery, it's not advice. I think what they really value is just the presence when things aren't really going their way. And you really learn that when you're working as an attorney because generally, your clients are only calling you if and when things are, they're at an impasse.
David Lee: So my time at Google... One of the lessons that I learned from Google is just the importance of culture in building a team. I joined Google in '99, or excuse me, in 2003. And that was the time when everybody wanted to work at Google. And the resumes that we would get for our legal department were just mind blowing. These are the number one draft picks of number one draft picks. And we would turn some people away because there just wasn't a culture fit. And so it was painful to hire. But when I look back at that group, and it's just on paper as well, you look back on what that group has accomplished, it really taught me a lot about team building.
Michael Redd: Wow. you said a mouthful.
David Lee: Yeah, I'm sorry. You get me going, so.
Michael Redd: No, it's beautiful. [crosstalk 00:19:54] listening as a listener as well. And it's so beautiful. You transitioned from Google to work with Ron Conway, SV Angel. Was he a big mentor for you [crosstalk 00:20:10]?
David Lee: He was huge. He was huge. I learned so much from him and that team and you just, you learn what it takes to be great at what you do. And that's what I really learned from him, of just like the drive, the consistency. He really loves what he does and he's not afraid to do anything for a company. And when I say that, I mean it could be something like, something that a lot of people in his position would look at as too menial, and he's just not afraid to do it himself. And I think that's what separates him from other people who... And when I say separates him, you have to look at longevity, how many cycles he's been through and how many cycles he's been through where he's been the person that he's always around. Right?
David Lee: And it's not just the desire to do it. It's the actual execution. And so, yeah, I learned an immense amount from him and I carry a lot of his lessons, those lessons learned today to what I'm doing right now. So-
Michael Redd: Wow.
David Lee: ... in many ways he's a great mentor to me.
Michael Redd: And SV was unique because it invested in so many different companies, more than the typical venture model. I think I've studied where it was investing into three or to four companies within a particular trend.
David Lee: Yes, exactly. And so I think what I learned as well there, and this goes back to... I think there are advantages in many cases. You touched on it a little earlier, but I've jumped around a lot in my career. And one of the benefits of doing that is yes, you are behind. So for example, when I went to electrical engineering graduate school, I didn't really know what a transistor was. I was a physics major. And then when I went to law school, it was like, okay, I got a 500 verbal on my SAT and this is going to be really hard. When I started in venture, it was like, okay, I don't really know what a liquidation preference is, so I have to refresh my memory there. But so yes, there is work to do to get to, quote unquote, table stakes. But I do believe that one of the benefits is that you can bring a beginner's mind to anything that you do to question the conventional wisdom.
David Lee: And one of the pieces or one of the thoughts or principles that many people didn't question was this idea that 10 to 20% of your companies should drive all of the returns in your fund. So if you are investing in 10 companies, two companies are going to drive all of the returns in that fund. So I'm talking a little venture math right now, but it's basically a power law dynamic. And so that translates into what you do on a day-to-day basis. So to sort of get into inside baseball venture capital, that means it's really important that you continue to invest in the companies that are doing really, really well, those two companies. And when I got to SV Angel, the idea was, well, is it 10 to 20% of the companies, i.e. two companies? Or is it 10 to 20% of the dollars invested? Which is kind of the same thing. Right?
David Lee: And so the thought was, we're just going to invest in great companies regardless of stage. And because of Ron and because of the doors that he could open and the access that was created, we were able to invest in a lot of great companies regardless of stage. And the more companies you invest in, ironically, in some ways the conflict of interest issue kind of goes away as well, because you're invested in so many companies that in a weird way, that risk goes down in terms of just theoretically. And also, this is what Ron, he did in his career. He had some detractors in this approach, but it made complete sense to me. I said, of course, you're going to do this if you have the access and we can take a different approach, it's 10 to 20% of the dollars invested, not 10 to 20% of the companies.
David Lee: And then also, and this also comes back to sports in many ways, I believe that style suited my personality and what I like. I like meeting a lot of different founders at a lot of different stages. I think anybody investing, you have to have some interest in learning. And I love the variety. And so that approach really suited what I like to do. And there are some investors who are exceptional at what they do. They just want to work with five companies, five to 10 companies. They want to go super deep. And that works too. And I think the most important thing as an investor is to find the system that suits your skills, right? So for you, playing on the Bucs, that probably suited your skills better than playing on, I don't know, you would have done well on any team. And I'm not just saying that. I don't know what-
Michael Redd: I appreciate.
David Lee: I don't know if you think about your career and think, man, I should have been born 10 years later with the three point line.
Michael Redd: I do.
David Lee: You might still be playing.
Michael Redd: Oh, easily.
David Lee: You'd be hardened. You'd be hardened.
Michael Redd: I appreciate you saying that.
David Lee: I'm sure you've been around some of the best players and they're not in the right system and they don't know any better. So they're forced to play a certain style and it doesn't take advantage of their strengths. And so it was a real blessing to work at SV because I do believe that system really suited my strengths.
Michael Redd: And for my career, it was all about timing.
David Lee: Exactly. Yes.
Michael Redd: And for you, you look at some of your investments. You look at Airbnb, you look at Dropbox, you look at Snap, Pinterest, Twitter, Slack, and obviously Coinbase. How crucial is timing in investing?
David Lee: Timing is everything. And I want to clarify as well. This was a complete team effort in terms of Ron and my partners there. And so it was SV invested in those companies. It wasn't necessarily I invested in-
Michael Redd: Yes. Sure.
David Lee: But getting back to... I would tell people when I introduced myself a lot of times, and it sounds like false modesty when I say, the bull run from 2008 when the iPhone launched probably maybe 50% of this country was online and they were online primarily through the desktop and primarily maybe three hours a day because you're on your internet during work. And within, I'd say three years, my mom had an iPhone six, right? And so we went from a world where in many ways there were zero broadband access in this country, the largest market in the world, to 85% of this country being online 24/7.
David Lee: And that to me, I may be wrong, but I just don't think I'm going to see that again in my lifetime, that sort of behavior shift, that sort of step function. And so the real investment thesis was simply be a first screen app, be one of the apps, the 25 apps that are on the first screen of 80% of the users' phones. So for me, when you have that sort of momentum behind your back, it's kind of hard not to be a great investor or be in one of those companies if you were there. And again, people are like, "Oh, you're just being falsely modest," but I'm like, it's kind of again, to use a sports analogy. Part of the reason why Tom Brady is Tom Brady is the quarterback rules, right? If Joe Montana played in these rules, he'd still be playing.
Michael Redd: Sure. No question.
David Lee: And then by 2016, I read a report where the average number of apps that the US consumer downloaded was zero. That is by 2016, first screens were set. And you can see that between 2016 and 2000, let's say '20 until TikTok came around, and I'm talking mainly in the social consumer area, there wasn't a lot of activity. And so, because in many ways that war was over. And what's exciting about today is that I think there's an opportunity that's just as large because the market is not the first screen on every mobile phone in the US. The market is every device in the world. And if you just look at US GDP as a percentage of global GDP, it's much lower today than it was in 2008.
David Lee: And so I believe the timing today is just as good as it was in 2008. So I agree with you. And I think every great investor would say that timing is a huge part of what we do. Another corollary is, listen, we all know that there are going to be flying cars. Everybody can say that there's going to be flying cars, but it's a matter of when not if. And so the famous saying is a broken clock is right twice a day, right?
Michael Redd: Right.
David Lee: It's not just being right, it's being right with the timing.
Michael Redd: How would you describe the investment environment today?
David Lee: I think it's really exciting mainly because the first factor that I mentioned, which is, I think the market opportunity, particularly in other parts of the world outside of the US, the market opportunities are enormous. Then you see what's happening in the US, some industries that have been untouched by software are now being touched by software in such a way that some waste is being eliminated and new values being created. And I also think that more... So that's the first factor, which is just these macro factors of technology becoming more part of our daily lives, either work or personally. Then I think the second factor is... And with technology, the builders and the creators have more options of who they get funding from.
David Lee: Again, in any talent industry, it could be sports, it could be music, it could be the arts, when you have more options for patrons and supporters, and sponsors, and believers, it creates an enormous amount of opportunity. And so when you think about a founder today, a founder in 2008 probably had... and they wanted to build, let's say a technology company. They probably had literally 20 sources of seed funds, venture capital funds, angels. And there was this huge asymmetric information problem where the investors had all the information and the founders had none. Well, today in a lot of ways, that information gap is much smaller. So for example, thinking about how to build a first sales team. In 2008, you would need to go to an investor or somebody who's done it before because you just don't know how to build the first sales team.
David Lee: Today if you did a Google search for that, some of the content that's available, it's 10X better than any professional investor value that a professional investor could provide. In other words, the information gap is smaller. And therefore, I think the environment for builders, creators, they just have more choices. And that to me is an exciting thing.
Michael Redd: It is exciting. It's very exciting. I got to ask you this question about challenges. With the level of grit, resiliency that you live by, how much did being a cancer survivor prepare you for any challenge that may come your way in life?
David Lee: So for me, my case was a little bit extreme because I was misdiagnosed and I had a cancer with very high survival rate, Hodgkin's disease. Part of it is because of who usually gets it, which is young males in particular. So the survival rate is much higher, then also for whatever reason people can catch it earlier. And I was misdiagnosed and it turned out to be stage four instead of stage two. So I went through a whipsaw of emotions. And I do remember days when... So I would say two things. The first thing is there were days that were so dark and you're just like, there's always another day. You just got to get through today and then there's tomorrow. And you just have to think about it day by day.
David Lee: So there's always something, that's what I would always tell myself. Okay, this chemo didn't work. This radiation's, we're going to try this. Okay. There's always something. And that may be false belief, but there was a belief like there's always something and let's just take it, this day will pass. And then the second thing that I learned was to not be too judgmental of your emotions. So one of the things that... And this was the '90s, and so everyone would say, "Listen, you got to buckle up. Positive attitude really makes a difference. If you're negative and think you're going to die, then you're probably going to die." And there're some days where you really doubt yourself and you're having some tough emotions.
David Lee: And I remember this one person that I would go to, she was an art teacher and she taught art to cancer patients. And she just said, "You get to feel whatever the fuck you want to feel. There're some days that it sucks and it's okay to be scared and there're some days when you're really pumped and you're pumped for the challenge. And the most important thing is don't judge your emotions. Emotions are just data. And it's okay to feel whatever it is that you're feeling." And if you couple that with just tomorrow's the next day, that was something that I think about. I haven't always practiced it in my day-to-day, but when I feel myself going over, maybe tilting too hard, I'll just think, it's okay to feel these emotions. And then tomorrow there's always another day. There's always something.
David Lee: And I've been around people that frankly weren't as fortunate. And so that also creates a different lens where you can literally say to yourself, this sucks, but this is not life and death.
Michael Redd: That's remarkable. And so many people around the world who have dealt with COVID over the last year and a half, that mindset is such a powerful thing to have. You love to give back. And I think one of the things that I've discovered about you is that you've made it a career betting on others and supporting them. Talk about what that means to you.
David Lee: Thank you for putting it that way. One of the things that I do is I have a stack in my drawer and some frames of whenever a founder just says, "Thank you." I'll just print it out and put it in my drawer because there's nothing like... Listen, I don't have the talent that they have. And similarly, I'm sure you have coaches that helped you to get to where you are and they didn't have your talent. And I'm sure there are some coaches, maybe, maybe not, but for a lot of athletes or for a lot of people who have accomplished something, there are people along the way who have really helped them. And it's usually like a high school coach or maybe a teacher or a mentor. And that to me is everything.
David Lee: And I think that's the part of me that was interested in becoming a professor, there is a real thrill in that of knowing you kind of helped somebody get to where they want to go. And the analogy that I would use a lot, and again, bringing it back to sports is like Tom Brady has different coaches in his life. This made a lot more sense when he was on the Patriots, but he had Lloyd Carr at Michigan, he had his high school football coach, and Belichick, his professional coach, now Bruce Arians, and they all have the same title of coach. And they all brought something to his life. But I'm sure if you talk to him or others, I'm not sure of this, but for many people, one of the more significant influences was their high school coach or their dad or their mom.
David Lee: And to be able to play that role for some people who have gone on to really had a huge impact is a feeling that I'm sure Brady's high school coach... It's not Tom Gutierrez, I used to remember his name feels or your high school coach may feel when an athlete talks about them in the same way. That sort of impact. There's nothing like being there in the beginning. That to me is like... I also keep the emails where they're not the notable names, and just that exercise or that process to me is something that I find very fulfilling.
Michael Redd: You wrote a blog that I absolutely love it. It may be part of your coaching and your mentorship now, You Don't Have to Sweat to Work Out. It's such a powerful, powerful blog on the fact that you feel healthier now than you did even in your 20s. Talk about that message and how that may resonate with the people that you coach and mentor.
David Lee: I think there's this idea... With that investment in particular, we invested in... She's great. I think she opened a boxing gym and then she also worked for Theory, the clothing brand, and she created a stretch lab on the company's outer reach. And they're an inspiration because COVID really hit them hard because they were going to be, they're going to start as a retail presence and they've made a really impressive shift towards online. But it's this general idea that one of the things that we thought about at Refactor is that health is not just getting better when you're sick. Health is also... There's a whole spectrum. And one of the spectrums is what do you do to feel healthy? And part of that is exercising. And so I think we're around the same generation, but when we worked out, for meatheads like me, it was weights and cardio.
David Lee: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, weights, Tuesday, Thursday, cardio. And that's all you did to be healthy. We wouldn't even stretch. It's just like, okay, I'm going to bench press. And it wasn't... Right? And it's like healthy body. And when you shift the frame a little bit and you say, okay, what can I do to stay healthy? There was this idea of like, there is a mind body connection. So getting back to my cancer, what you asked me, what I really took from that.
Michael Redd: Sure.
David Lee: One of the things that I took was this idea of healthy mind, healthy body, that your mind is just as important as your body in many ways for maintaining health. I've been to therapy, I've been to therapy with many therapists, and there's probably still a stigma around that.
Michael Redd: Sure.
David Lee: There was in my generation. But there's not a stigma when you have a personal trainer. But it's kind of the same thing. It serves the same function. You're just trying to get better along a certain dimension. And so for me, this idea... So what Amy's insight was that stretching adds to your health. And that was very consistent with our belief or our thought that there are different ways of being healthy. It's not just running for an hour or doing hit or doing crossfit or doing heavy lifting. There could be stretching and playability. Getting back to Brady, look at what he's done. It could also be meditation. So one of the things that has been really transformative for me in the last five years is transcendental meditation.
David Lee: And I'd been meditating for a while, but I shifted to transcendental meditation because I saw that Jerry Seinfeld and Ray Dalio did it and said this is the most important thing that they've done. And I said, "Okay, that's a pretty good endorsement." And I really enjoy doing that. And I really feel like in many ways, now if I have 20 minutes of free time, instead of maybe going for a run for 20 minutes, I might meditate for 20 minutes because in a lot of ways, that to me is contributing to my health. And so when I think about not having to sweat to get a workout, I just think there are other ways that we can feed our health and cultivate our health that go beyond weights and cardio, which was my paradigm when I was growing up.
Michael Redd: I engage in [inaudible 00:44:08], which is all about stretching. Emotional training. That's been my portion. And I still do a little bit of the cardio and weights thing, but for the most part, it's the stretching.
David Lee: It's that, it's the mind body connection. One of the things that I've tried to think about or with my clients and coaching is just alignment. So if you look at the great tennis coaches, the great golf coaches, and you just watch them before the match, they're never working on technique. They're always working on alignment, particularly in golf. And then if you have the right alignment and aim, you're just going to be able to... The chances of you hitting a good shot increase exponentially, similarly in tennis, is there a straight line between your shoulders and your knees? Are you on the balls of your feet? There's a lot of that. And similarly, I think when it comes to coaching, I think it's mind, body, emotions, and is that aligned?
David Lee: And if you have alignment there, that can transform stress into pressure. Pressure is a good thing. Stress is not a good thing. And that's also what I try to bring for founders is the alignment between their personal values and what drives them and their company values and building the type of company where they would want their children to work, as Jerry Colonna, who's a famous executive coach would say. So a lot of it is that alignment. And stretching to your point, creates alignment.
Michael Redd: David Lee, what are you doing today? And I know you transitioned to Samsung, talk about that these days.
David Lee: Around November, December of last year, I was doing a lot of executive coaching, angel investing, working with startups, continuing to work with Refactor Capital as chairman and got a call asking if I would want to work at Samsung. And this is probably the only, or not probably, this is the only job in the world that I would take for a couple of reasons. First, I mentioned earlier about the opportunity ahead from a technology and market standpoint, and Samsung is, it is a true technology company that has, they have expertise or we have expertise at the lowest level of semiconductor and bio manufacturing all the way up to having the largest mobile footprint in the world and selling a TV every second. So there's real expertise in software and hardware. And it's a global company. So again, addressing the global opportunity and also thinking about the opportunity ahead.
David Lee: And finally, being Korean-American, feeling a real affinity for Samsung and its history. And then the third point of why I said okay... So if you combine that with what I had been doing in executive coaching, one of the things that you learn as an executive coach is coaching is leading or leading is coaching. And can you bring that sort of mindset to a larger organization? And to me, I felt like while I loved executive coaching, there was still a part of me that wanted to practice that on the field. So one of the books or one of the blog posts that really impacted me was Clayton Christensen, who was a business school professor at Harvard and probably the most influential business strategist. He wrote this book called The Innovator's Dilemma.
David Lee: He wrote a blog post called How Will You Measure Your Life? And I read it around the middle of last year. And he has one line that says, "Management if practiced properly is the most noble of professions." And that really stuck with me. And so when I applied that to this opportunity, I said, okay, here's an opportunity to apply a lot of the things that I had only been learning in books. And it has been just a lot of fun and it's been great because in many ways, it's a unit of Samsung that focuses on helping builders outside of Suwon, which is where Samsung headquarters are. And I think if we do that, if we support the best founders, builders, creators, we can create value and then we can also capture value as well.
David Lee: And specifically the way that we're supporting them and engaging with them is through investments and also through mergers and acquisitions. We also have some product teams that are building products at Samsung. But it's been a lot of fun and I'm excited for... I feel like the best days are ahead for us in all of Samsung.
Michael Redd: That's incredible. That's incredible. I'm so happy for you and the transition. If you had to go back to your 16 year old self, what advice would you give yourself?
David Lee: I'm a huge fan of The Sopranos, which is, for maybe some of your younger listeners, it's a television show in the early 2000s. And Tony Soprano, who's the main character, turns out to be... He's a mob boss and or mafia boss. And he's talking to his therapist, Dr. Melfi, and he talks about some of his life choices. And he basically says, or he says in a nutshell, "I went into the family business," because his dad was also in the mafia, "Because I was too lazy to think for myself." And for whatever reason, that resonated with me. What I would tell my specific 16 year old self if I look at 16 year old me, I would say, don't be afraid to think for yourself. Which I think is hard to do... For me, I was a kid that really had a focus on fitting in, so I'm a minority in an all white school and playing sports was one of the easiest ways as a boy to fit in, but you still feel different.
David Lee: And there wasn't a lot of room to think for yourself for me. And the advice I would give them, that person would be, don't be afraid to think for yourself even if it is different. So that's, I think the advice I would give my 16 year old self.
Michael Redd: So beautiful man. Wow. Dare to be different and to be curious.
David Lee: Yeah. She is amazing. Brené Brown, I started listening to her book and her podcasts and a lot of what she talks about resonates with me. I've had executive coaching from Jerry Colonna in college who's now doing his own thing, but yeah, it's a lot of that. So I'm glad that's hitting the mainstream.
Michael Redd: Well, I'm coming to see you soon at some point. It'd be great to see you again and reconnect. And I just can't thank you enough for being on the podcast and big shout out to Biggie Su for connecting us years ago. And it's been a real, real pleasure having you on the show.
David Lee: Thank you for that. I just want to say I'm kind of blown away by the time that you took to learn more about me just in the research and reading some of the blogs. I really appreciate that. This has been great. Thank you [inaudible 00:52:01].
Michael Redd: Thank you, buddy. You've been listening to Betting On Yourself.
David Lee: Thanks Michael.
Michael Redd: David said you learn what it takes to be great at what you do. And that has been his lifelong path, deciding what he wanted, learning how to start, and advance through research and mentorship, and adjusting his path along the way to success. Thank you so much for coming on the show, David. You can follow David on LinkedIn @DavidLee10. Thanks for listening. And until next time, I'm Michael Redd and remember, betting on yourself is the secret to your success.
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