Hess Associates

What a Difference a Class Makes

Carly Fiorina gave the 2001 commencement address at Stanford University. The most valuable class she took when she attended Stanford was not in Economics or Psychology. It was a graduate seminar in “Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Political Philosophies of the Middle Ages”

Every week she read one of the great works of medieval philosophy (~1,000 pages) such as Aquinas, Bacon, Abelard and then distilled the philosophy into 2 pages.

Her process was quite interesting. She would shoot for 20 pages and then edit those to 10 pages and finally to 2 pages that would contain the essence. Then repeat the process over again the next week.

The skill she developed was the ability to distill and synthesize and get to the very essence of things.

The rigor of this distillation process, and the work of refining was where the real learning happened.

Over the course of her career, she honed this skill and finally ended up as the President and CEO of Hewlett Packard and also a Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency in 2015/2016.

She goes on to look at a life as a great work. Living life is a process that needs to be refined and distilled. She started with thousands of pages of text that came from her beliefs, education, relationships and experiences and started to distill her essence.

The way she did that was by confronting her fears, and mastering them. It was the “light bulb turning on” moments that brought her closer and closer to her true self.

She let her fears motivate her, not inhibit her.

You can read her speech “The process of distillation: Getting to the essence of things” at https://www.hp.com/hpinfo/execteam/speeches/fiorina/stanford_01.html

Or listen to her commencement address at https://www.c-span.org/video/?164865-1/stanford-university-commencement-address

Herbert Hess is the founder of Hess Associates, a recruitment firm involved in placing contract and permanent staff in the IT, Medical Device, and Biotechnology sectors.

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