Andre Agassi became famous for being a professional tennis player, but his greatest legacy may be through his work in charitable and social causes. He now oversees both a charitable foundation and the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a tuition-free charter school for at-risk K-12 children. As both a tennis and education enthusiast, I’m a big fan. As part of their “Life’s Work” series, Harvard Business Review interviewed Agassi.
I especially liked this quote about his typical day in “retirement”, as my ideal schedule is starting to look the same. Maybe not work every morning, but at least some mornings. Hiking, sports, or some other outdoor activity otherwise.
At the C2 Montreal conference earlier this year, you said a typical day for you now involves working in the morning but finishing by 2:30 in the afternoon to pick up your kids in the carpool line.
I have the luxury of tweaking the balance now, of never missing a baseball game or a dance competition. If I’m feeling like I need a business outlet, I plan work. But yes, I engage much harder with my kids because they grow up fast. By the time you’re qualified for the job, you’re unemployed.
The whole point of financial freedom is to do whatever you want, whether that means zero work, only charitable work, part-time work, or even more. Consider this quote from the man who has spent thousands of hours editing Wikipedia (over a million times)… for free.
Everyone should do work that is not for money. I believe that when you have free time, you shouldn’t spend it idling. I’m able bodied; globally speaking (though not at all locally speaking), I’m rich. I have a lot of resources other people don’t have — an internet connection, free time, the ability to speak English — and it’s incumbent upon me to use them to make the world a better place.
But back to Agassi – here he is on taking ownership of your career. I would expand this to perhaps your savings and investments?
What do you regard as your biggest career mistake?
I wish I had taken ownership of the business side of my career years ago instead of trusting certain people. Nobody cares more, or represents you better, than you do yourself.
Finally, he explains his intensive approach to changing the lives of children.
What sets your school apart?
One difference is time on task. There are no shortcuts. We have longer school days—eight hours versus six. If you add that up, it’s 16 years of education versus 12 for district peers. There’s also an emphasis on accountability, which starts with the kids themselves. They know this is a privilege: There are 1,000 kids on the waiting list. So they take ownership. The teachers have annual contracts; there’s no business in the world that could succeed if employees who worked for three years got a job for life. The parents are accountable too. They need to acknowledge, accept, and embrace the objectives set for their children. They come in, they volunteer time, they sign off on homework assignments. You have to cover all the bases.