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Trillion Dollar Coach

The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell

By Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle
13-minute read
Audio available
Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

Trillion Dollar Coach (2019) pays homage to Bill Campbell, a coach and mentor whose advice and insights helped some of Silicon Valley’s brightest lights build multi-billion dollar companies. In these blinks, Google leaders Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle chart Campbell’s remarkable life, from the Columbia University football field to the Californian boardrooms in which the digital revolution was planned and rolled out. Along the way, they shed light on Coach Bill’s leadership philosophy.

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Eric Schmidt served as Google’s CEO, chairman and chief executive chairman before taking charge of its parent company Alphabet from 2015 to 2018.

Jonathan Rosenberg ran the Google product team from 2002 to 2011, and currently advises Alphabet’s management team.

Alan Eagle has been a director at Google since 2007, and currently runs Google’s sales programs.

Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle are the co-authors of the best-selling How Google Works.

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Trillion Dollar Coach

The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell

By Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle
Synopsis

Trillion Dollar Coach (2019) pays homage to Bill Campbell, a coach and mentor whose advice and insights helped some of Silicon Valley’s brightest lights build multi-billion dollar companies. In these blinks, Google leaders Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle chart Campbell’s remarkable life, from the Columbia University football field to the Californian boardrooms in which the digital revolution was planned and rolled out. Along the way, they shed light on Coach Bill’s leadership philosophy.

Key idea 1 of 8

Bill Campbell started out as a football coach.

Silicon Valley is often associated with whip-smart university dropouts who revolutionize the world from their garages before they hit their mid-twenties. But innovation in the Golden State isn’t just a young man’s game – in fact, one of the tech mecca’s greatest pioneers didn’t arrive in California until he was already in his forties.

Born in the Pennsylvanian steel town of Homestead in 1940, Bill Campbell was the son of a physical education teacher who moonlighted at the local mill. A quick-witted and determined student, Bill was set on making something of himself early on in life. In his teens, he took to the op-ed pages of the school newspaper to remind his peers of the importance of good grades and to warn them against “loafing.”

But it wasn’t an academic career that he’d set his sights on – his true passion was football. After heading to New York to study economics at Columbia University in 1958, he joined the college team, the Lions. He wasn’t the most likely candidate: weighing 165 pounds and standing five foot ten, he was the team’s smallest member by some margin. But what he lacked in physical stature, he made up for in fearlessness and willpower – qualities that earned him the nickname “Ballsy.” Under his inspired captaincy, the Lions won the Ivy League title in 1961, a feat they’ve never managed to repeat.

At the end of his studies, Bill was offered a position as an assistant football coach at Boston College. He jumped at the chance and moved north in 1964. Over the next decade he established himself as a highly capable coach, and offers from other universities began flooding in. One came from Penn State, home of the nation’s top college football coach, Joe Paterno. It was a golden opportunity but Bill turned it down. Why? In a word, loyalty – his alma mater had also offered him a job.

Returning to Columbia in 1974 was a sentimental rather than a practical decision. The university’s football facilities were in poor shape and badly underfunded. This showed through in the team’s results. During Bill’s tenure, the Lions won just 12 games and lost 41, a run of bad form which ended in a humiliating 69-0 drubbing at the hands of Rutgers at Giants stadium. It was time to move on, and in 1979 Bill resigned.

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