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I went to a pretty formal prep school in New Jersey. One of the things my family and I joke about is that the day I got into Stanford, my dream school, I was also in detention. I did well in school but I was outspoken, precocious and I was against anything that was an arbitrary rule. I was a handful.


They never really knew what to do with me at school. They were pleased to see me leave. My reports were split — if I bought into a subject I was helpful in class. If I didn’t like a subject I would have been my own worst nightmare.


Some bits of my school report ring true today. I have always been very organised. When I was 12 I had a little filing system where I filed all my schoolbooks for the next day. So when it came to pack my school bag, I just took everything out of that particular binder and had all my homework scheduled on that. What 12 year-old does that?


The general gist of my school reports was “work harder and do more homework”. My teachers felt that I should rely more on hard work than my wits. I did, however, show leadership potential early on as I was the captain of the dance team.


I had a rebellious streak and would often lead mini revolts. I was involved in a lot of anti-apartheid protests. I always had an instinct for fairness and justice.


Disappointingly for fans of the school-failure-makes-good narrative, my school reports confirm that I was considered a model pupil. One of my nicknames was “Swot”.


I generally stuck to the rules. And — this will sicken many — I actually enjoyed exams. That may explain why, as a columnist, I can still handle the journalistic equivalent of a weekly essay crisis. In fact, I started a weekly satirical column in the school newspaper in my teens and the nearest I came to rebellion was when I lampooned the school chaplain and was ordered to go round to his house to apologise.


When it came to report cards, I was always pretty good at maths and science. I started programming computers aged 10. I was less good at English and social sciences. In a twist of irony I have now become a good writer.


Straight out of college I started working at Amazon as an engineer, where later I worked in a product management role. I worked with Jeff Bezos on a project and the way they do stuff there is that in meetings you need to bring memos — what they call the one-pager. You would make the case in writing and then Jeff would hammer you with questions.

大学毕业后,我开始在亚马逊(Amazon)担任工程师,后来做产品管理。我曾与杰夫贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)一起做一个项目,他们的做事方法是,在会议中,你需要带着备忘录,他们称之为单页报告。你要在写备忘时列出理由,然后杰夫会问你问题。

I left school at 16 with only two O-levels. My reports were along the lines of “Bright boy, but could have done a lot better”. My parents supported me so much, but I was a naughty kid. If you had read the letters from school, you would never have known I would be chief executive of a global property business.


But I did make up for it later on. I was a paper boy and always had Exchange and Mart magazine in my canvas bag, which I started reading before I delivered it. I then got really interested in travel and current affairs and developed a thirst for knowledge — and a guilt complex for letting my parents down. So I went off to travel, did A-levels at night school, then a diploma and graduate diploma in management and marketing.

但我后来发奋弥补过去。我当过报童,帆布袋里总是揣着Exchange and Mart杂志,我会在把它递送出去前开始阅读。然后我对旅游和时政产生了真正的兴趣,并对知识产生了渴望,而且对于让我的父母失望心怀愧疚。于是,我动身去旅游,在夜校取得了中学高级证书,后来又获得管理和营销专业的文凭和研究生文凭。

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