Growing up in a lower middle-class community on the south side of Chicago,
virtually everyone important in my life, my family, my teachers, my girlfriend, wanted me to be a doctor. Overtime, their dreams became my dreams.
They convinced me I should be a doctor, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't do it. I was unable to make myself into the person that I thought I should be, so I decided to stop trying. I was 21 years old when I dropped out of college.
During my California springs and summers, I spent most of my days in the High Sierras in Yosemite Valley, working as a river guide and a rock-climbing instructor. I loved those jobs, but unfortunately, they didn't pay that well. So, I also got a job working a couple of days a week as a computer programmer back in Berkeley.
I had learned program in college. I didn't love programming but it was fun and I was good at it. I started taking classes at UC Berkeley. I took several classes, but the only one I can remember was a
sailing class taught at Berkeley
marina. When my class was over, I wanted to buy a
My wife said, this was a single stupidest idea she had ever heard in her entire life. She accused me of being irresponsible, and she told me I lacked ambition. She kicked me out, and then she divorced me. This is a
pivotal moment in my life.
My family was still mad at me for not going to medical school, and now my wife was divorcing me because I lacked ambition. It looked like a reoccurrence of the same old problem. Once again, I was unable to live up to the expectations of others, but this time, I was not disappointed in myself for failing to be the person they thought I should be.
Their dreams and my dreams were different. I would never confuse the two of them again. Throughout my 20s, I continued experimenting, trying different things, racing bikes and boats and constantly changing jobs. I searched and I searched, but I just could not find a software engineering job thought that I loved as much as I loved sailing. So, I tried to create one.
My goal was to create the perfect job for me, a job I truly loved. I never expected the company to grow beyond 50 people, so, maybe I really did lack ambition or vision back then. Today Oracle employs around 150,000 people, but when I started, it was not my intention to build a big company.
We assembled an all-star team of gifted programmers, who were among the best in the world at what they did. That team plus one crazy idea gave birth to a giant company. I call it a crazy idea, because of the time everyone told me it was a crazy idea. The idea was to build the world's first relational database.
But back then, the
collective wisdom of computer experts was, that while relational data bases could be built, they would never be fast enough to be useful. I thought, all those so-called computer experts were wrong, and when you start telling people that all the experts are wrong, at first, they call you
arrogant, and then they say you're crazy.
So, remember this, graduates, when people start telling you that you're crazy you just might be onto the most important innovation in your life. Oracle doubled in size year after year after year for 10 years. It was growing so fast that it was impossible for anyone to control. It was like sailing in a hurricane. And then we went public.
Oh my god. Maybe I should have been a doctor.
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