Commentary + Concepts

Guest Post from Ada Polla: My Three Life Vectors

Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at Brigadoon, the conference that is the brainchild of my friend Marc Ross.  Brigadoon brings together a small and intimate crowd of about 50, men and women from all industries.

This gathering is about thinking, about getting people to think differently, and outside of their usual frameworks.

In a program filled with lectures about foreign policy, and economics, I decided instead to speak about what I call my life vectors. These are guidelines, rules that help me make decisions in life, to help me stay the course, help me live the best life I can. 

My 3 vectors are: choice, harmony, and kindness. Over the next three weeks, I will share my thoughts on each vector.

But first, here is how these came about.

When I was 6 years old, my parents decided to move to Boston, MA, for their medical career. Between 1984 and 1986, I went to public school in Brookline, learned English, loved my teachers Ms. Leslie and Ms. Ruth, and made the best of friends, mainly Rachel, Kayci, Shane, and Tommy. I learned about GI Joe, tie-dye, and played in the junkyard behind our house. These turned out to be my favorite childhood years.

I had such a wonderful time that I told my mother, the day we had to fly back to Geneva, that “I will come back to Boston for school – because here, girls fix their own bicycles.” 

And I did. From high school in Geneva, I applied only to American universities. I wanted to go back to Boston. I wanted to go to Harvard. I applied to 10 schools, and got in everywhere except Harvard. So I began college at Yale. 

At the age of 17, my parents dropped me off at the Geneva airport, with two huge suitcases, and said “do good work, see you at Christmas.” A family friend picked me up at JFK, and drove me to New Haven, CT. I remember after she dropped me off that my first interaction was with a campus police officer telling me I should not leave my suitcases unattended on the sidewalk because they would get stolen. Needless to say, for a girl coming from the safety of Geneva, it was quite a culture shock. 

It was at that moment that the concept of vectors crystallized for me. I felt alone and scared – but only for a minute. In that very moment, I reminded myself that I didn’t have any reason to be scared – college was school, which I had always loved and excelled at. I also reminded myself that I should be elated. After all, this was what I had decided I was going to do when I was 8 years old. I had worked 9 long years to get here. I was going to love it, and make the most of it. I was not going to be homesick, I was not going to be sad, I was not going to be scared. I was going to do well in class, and I was going to go to Harvard.

The vectors I will share with you have evolved since that day entering Yale’s campus in 1995, and help guide my actions.

Brigadoon = Dinners, Scotland, and Sundance

Brigadoon was created to foster meaningful relationships between a diverse collection of people and generate knowledge from others who have unique perspectives not frequently seen in your daily life.

To expand the reach and engagement of Brigadoon, I am proud to announce Brigadoon Dinner.

This is a new project for Brigadoon, and I am planning on hosting/organizing four Brigadoon dinners over the coming months - you can find full details below.

These dinners will be intimate and limited to a maximum of 20 attendees which will ensure an open and frank discussion with all participants.

I am excited to see where these dinners go and I am keen to receive your feedback and ideas.

Thanks for supporting this little passion project. From a first gathering of 8 in a ski house in Utah, Brigadoon is expanding and engaging more people daily.


Marc A. Ross
Founder + CEO
Brigadoon |

PS: If you have leads for potential special guests or want to organize a Brigadoon dinner in your town - drop me a note.

On Thursday, August 17, please attend the first-ever Brigadoon Dinner to discuss Radio + Entertainment in the Age of Trump with two of DC's leading radio personalities Kelly Collis and Darik Kristofer.

This will be an intimate dinner limited to 20 attendees and will allow for an open and frank discussion with all participants.

On Tuesday, September 19 please attend the second Brigadoon Dinner at Frederik De Pue's new restaurant Flamant in Annapolis, Maryland.

This will be an intimate dinner limited to 14 attendees and will be a special dining experience with an open and frank discussion with all participants.

On Thursday, October 26 please attend the third Brigadoon Dinner to discuss Driving the Day in Washington with one of DC's top political reporters Daniel Lippman of Politico.

This will be an intimate dinner limited to 20 attendees and will allow for an open and frank discussion with all participants.

Brigadoon is expanding and will organize a gathering of entrepreneurs and thought-leaders around Edinburgh, Scotland on November 12-14, 2017. Attendees will come from around the globe to exchange insights and drive creativity.

The gathering will have an intimate feel with just 20 attendees.

Brigadoon is organizing its sixth gathering of entrepreneurs and thought-leaders at Sundance Mountain Resort on February 25-27, 2018. Think of it as a mountain weekend where participants will be exposed to new ideas, discuss global issues, talk about enterprise, play in the mountains, and ultimately leave the gathering smarter.

The gathering will have an intimate feel with just 50 attendees.

Anti-glib: Knowing what you're talking about

Glibness is a disease that's particularly virulent in Silicon Valley, politics, entertainment and the executive suite. Someone has an insight (or gets lucky) and then amasses power. Surrounded by more than they're willing to understand, they substitute the glib statement, the smirk, the cutting remark. They turn everything into a status-fueled professional wrestling match.

It's usually done out of fear, and, ironically, the fear-induced glib approach merely makes things worse, creating even more fear.

The alternative is to know what you're talking about.

To have done the reading. [I've seen this problem in boardrooms, examination rooms and classrooms across the planet].

To be able to hold conflicting ideas in your head as you consider options.

To know and respect the people who have earned a place at the table of ideas.

To have energetic engagements with people who are more experienced, wiser and more connected than you are.

To admit that you were wrong, because you didn't know what you know now, and then to chart a new path.

To ignore sunk costs when making new decisions.

The fans of professional wrestling (in all its forms) are entertained by the glib, because it releases them from the obligation to understand metaphor, to look more deeply, to engage with a logical argument.

Everyone else would rather work with people who know what they're talking about, who respect those they work with and most of all, who seek useful outcomes, not just the comfort of a short-term win.

HT Seth Goodin. Read more here.

Valuing tech’s titans

A spectacular conversation that will make you smarter and wanting more.

"Are we basing companies’ valuations on the right criteria? In this long-form conversation, Scott and NYU Stern colleague Aswath Damodaran discuss what the top digital companies are really worth."