In August 2016, just before my kids started at their new school, I made a pact: I would walk them to school everyday—rain or shine or snow. I’m not sure where this calling came from or why this particular August was when I decided I would attempt to live up to this ideal. Maybe it was finally feeling settled after our move from San Francisco. Perhaps it was after a focused effort to set up our ICONIQ office in New York, or the successful launch of our third fund, both of which were all consuming. Or, maybe it was just the compilation of years of feeling too detached from what I knew mattered most. Either way, having been loyal to this commitment, save for some inevitable business-related travel, has given me a more complete sense of pride, peace and productivity. As we prepare for the school year that will quickly be upon us, I recall the richness this simple act injected into my life last year on both a small and large scale.
As luck would have it, school started during a period when I was in the city for a few weeks straight without any travel. The first day is always emotional—full of excitement, nerves, optimism, and an interesting mixture of both confidence and timidity. My wife and my two oldest kids led the way. A few steps behind, my youngest daughter and I clasped hands, as we usually do, and that jolt of paternal glee came over me. But, this time it was different. It was as if this feeling was slightly more earned, like there was an additional sense of delight I experienced from doing what felt right.
For my wife and kids, the walk was normal—another new school, another first day, and all the accompanying jitters. Once we arrived and they were in their classes, the morning continued as usual. My kids adapted; my wife returned to her routine. But for me, something had changed. I walked to the office with a spring in my step, with a sense of purpose beyond the usual. I felt good. I began thinking about the weeks to come and counting all the days I could make this walk. I made sure my calendar prioritized this effort; I could not imagine anything more important than staying true to this commitment.
The first day of school was an enormous success. The dinnertime stories about their inspirational teachers, the welcoming new friends, and how excited they felt after just one day reinforced the switch of schools. For the first time in years, I felt a connected to and involved in their stories. I felt like a character in the cast, like I was intimately acquainted with this production, and had greater ownership in its success.
Like many entrepreneurs, my life had become a blur—full of highs and lows, but always with an unswerving focus on building, innovating, and driving forward. There were countless miles flown, meetings, investments…but at what cost? And in pursuit of what goal? It seemed so impossible to take time away from the pursuit of ICONIQ, that I had lost sight of what gave the deepest sense of meaning to my life. I was so busy that I didn’t appreciate the toll this void was taking on my inner happiness and on that of my family. (For the record, I was never an absent Dad, but always did what was needed, what was asked, or even what was easy). Proactively deciding to engage more in my family and in their daily lives, at what I thought would come at the expense of my business, was a perceived risk. But this decision has resulted in exactly the opposite. Instead, it’s led to increased productivity and efficiency at work, a greater sense of purpose at home, and a bounce in my step—all the way to my kid’s school as many mornings as possible.
Michael Anders is a founding partner of ICONIQ Capital, a global merchant bank/multi-family office based in San Francisco and New York. Prior to his current role, he worked at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Franklin Templeton, Fidelity Investments and Societe Generale (in Paris and London). He was a founder of GivingCapital, which developed turnkey charitable products for a number of large financial service firms, and then helped in the structuring of their high net worth client’s charitable giving. Mr. Anders received his B.A/B.S. in Political Science and Communication Studies from the University of Rhode Island, as well as a certificate in International Economics from Columbia University. He serves on the Board of the San Francisco Symphony, Full Circle Fund, The Global Poverty Project/Global Citizen, The World Surf League (WSL) and P.U.R.E., WSL’s philanthropic arm which focuses on ocean research and conservation.