Andre Agassi Interview: Typical Day in Retirement

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agassi_logoAndre 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.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this Jonathan!

  2. Uncovering gems like that is precisely the reason why I have read your site since 2007

  3. Brilliant ! The last paragraph is the best!

    accountability is the key.. without which no institution – financial, literary or anything else can succeed.
    No job is for life. You only deserve to be on it until you are productive

  4. If you ever get a chance, you may want to read Diane Ravitch’s book, “Reign of Error”. One thing she points out (that I had never really paid attention to) is that many of these schools work because of who they attract – generally the parents are involved enough to enroll in the lottery (or whatever system is in place) to get their kids into that school and often the parents place a strong emphasis on education.

    It’s not to say that these schools don’t do great work but they often have a better pool of children with which to work.

    • Thanks for the book recommendation. I haven’t read it, but I don’t have a problem with helping the motivated-but-low-income parents out. Yes it would be good to lift all boats, but like you said these are the kids who could benefit from a challenging education but whose parents don’t have the resources to pay for a private school tuition to get out of a bad peer group and poor public schooling.

      • Right. I guess the “poor public schooling” becomes a question of are these non-public schools just doing better because they sort of get to pick their students – they generally don’t have ESL or special needs kids and they usually get the parents who value education and are more active in emphasizing education for their kids. Again, not that these schools aren’t great, just an interesting question.

  5. Longer hours and only one year contracts? I bet they have a lot of employee turnover, which is never a sign of a good business.

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