February 17, 2024




The Trillion Dollar Coach

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Bill Campbell was the brain behind the brains that govern our world, working with companies such as Google, Apple, Chegg, among others. 

  • It’s estimated that, in his career, Campbell created over 1 trillion dollars in revenue for companies across Silicon Valley and the world. 

  • If some of the most successful people alive were willing to heed his advice on trust, community, and leadership, you should be too.

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The Trillion Dollar Coach

Bill Campbell was among the most influential people in the world. 

After studying at Columbia University, and serving as their head football coach, Campbell went on to become a successful businessman and mentor, mentoring Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), and John Hennessy, former President of Stanford University. 

Campbell was the brain behind the brains that govern our world, working with companies such as Google, Apple, Chegg, among others. 

It’s estimated that, in his career, Campbell created over 1 trillion dollars in revenue for companies across Silicon Valley and the world. 

Of Campbell, Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, said the following, “Everything Bill brought to the boardroom came from a place in his heart.”

He wasn’t just a great coach; he was a fantastic person and leader. 

Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, says this of Campbell, “[He] showed me that when you have a friend who is injured or ill or needs you in some way, you drop everything and just go.”

Trillion Dollar Coach, written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, discusses some of Campbell’s core principles and advice. 

Everyone could take a piece or two from Campbell’s book. Here are 10 lessons from Bill Campbell to apply to your life and work: 

Campbell’s 10 Lessons

1. Start with Trip Reports.

Campbell told his mentees to begin their meetings with what he called ‘trip reports,’ or brief discussions of nonbusiness topics. These conversations built rapport between team members, fostering genuine relationships. 

Not only do trip reports foster rapport, but they build trust. Trust is a hallmark of any great leader or person.

Aim to build trust with those around you. Take time to genuinely connect with your colleagues, and suggest a ‘trip report’ at the beginning of your meetings. 

Build genuine connections, not genuine contacts. 

Check out my notes from How to Know a Person for more ideas about connecting with others.  

2. Make a Decision, Then Move On

Campbell advised his mentees to “do something, even if it’s wrong.” 

I find this quote inspiring. When we’re struggling with a dilemma or problem, we become prone to inaction and stagnation. 

Many problems don’t need to be solved perfectly; they just need to be solved. Wasting precious time and activation energy laboring possible outcomes is fruitless. 

Back effort with results. 

Check out Speed Matters for more information about making a quick decision. 

3. Pick The Right Players.

Campbell intended this advice for leaders, but everyone can pick the right players for their personal ‘team.’ 

Surrounding yourself with smart, empathetic, invested people is the best way to cultivate a diverse perspective. 

Jim Rohn, motivational speaker, preaches that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Ensure these 5 people are those you’d like to be the sum of. 

If you’re stuck, check out What Good Friends Look Like and How to Read Anyone’s Character Rapidly. 

4. Don’t Stick It in Their Ear.

Telling people what to do won’t make them do it. Offering them gentle advice and stories might. 

People don’t respond positively to being told what to do. Oftentimes, this only encourages them to do the opposite. 

Providing others with advice is a sign of a positive and charismatic leader. Not only that, but they’ll be much more likely to listen. 

5. Only Coach the Coachable.

Campbell “only coached the coachable.” He was very “selective in choosing his coachees; he would only coach…humble, hungry lifelong learners.” 

Of someone’s coachability, he said, “To be coachable, you need to be brutally honest, starting with yourself.”

To gain someone’s trust, advice, or assistance, focus on making yourself the most promising and coachable person in any given room. 

Wise mentors aren’t likely to provide help to those who need it or ask for it, but they will provide it to those who are strong, humble, and growth-driven. 

Check out The Helping Paradox for more information on how to become more worthy of help. 

6. Build an Envelope of Trust

Trust is the most important ingredient in every relationship you cultivate. Without it, even the strongest relationships fall flat. 

Campbell highly valued connection and loyalty. Trust builds each. 

Trust is built through vulnerability and empathy. Show others both. 

If you tell someone you’re going to do something, do it. Consistency is a component of trust. 

Show up for others authentically. Others can sense dissonance between your actions and words. Build psychological safety for and with those around you. 

7. Cheer Demonstrably for People and Their Success.

Similar to the envelope of trust, Campbell was big on celebrating others’ successes. 

It’s easy to become jealous when a friend lands a lucrative job or receives an award. It takes a self-assured person to stand up and clap for them. Become that person. 

People are inherently drawn to positivity and authenticity. Celebrate genuinely, but loudly. 

8. Keep No Gap Between Statements and Facts.

Campbell believed in transparency. He ensured his words were backed up by facts and actions. 

It’s possible to be honest and authentic while still telling the truth. Mean exactly what you say. Back up all statements with true facts. 

9. Let People Leave With Their Heads Held High.

More than anything, Campbell believed in honesty and genuine relationships. He understood that positive working connections could only be built if people were allowed to maintain their dignity.

When providing feedback to others, ensure that feedback is honest and specific. Don’t couch feedback in positive statements. 

On the flip side, don’t overdo feedback either. Ensure feedback is rational and impersonal. Finish feedback with a positive statement about what is going well. 

Radical Candor is a great framework for mastering this. 

10. Be the Evangelist for Courage.

Value courage above all else. Campbell wasn’t afraid to probe for bold solutions. More importantly, he wasn’t afraid to encourage people to implement them. 

Humans are naturally fearful creatures. But fear and anxiety aren’t helping you solve problems or motivating you. Both hold you back. 

Campbell advised his mentees to be bold in all things and prompted courage in those around him. 

Check out Fear Setting for a discussion about how to curb yours. 

Notes on Bill Campbell

Campbell not only created revenue but inspired those who worked with him. 

Of him, Sundar Pichai said, “he showed me that what really matters at the end of the day is how you live your life and the people in your life. It was always a lovely reset.” 

Phil Schiller says, “That’s one of the biggest things I learned from Bill. Don’t just sit your butt in the seat. Get up and support the teams, show the love for the work they are doing.”

If some of the most successful people alive were willing to heed his advice, you should be too.

This week, examine some of Campbell’s principles in practice. Think about how you can be more vulnerable and improve the trust you have in yourself and your team.

  1. Pick the right players. 

    a. Are you surrounded by intelligent, uplifting, charismatic people? Do you cultivate a diverse set of friends? 

    b. How can you leverage your network and create more friends? Consider only practical methods. 

    c. Create a list of people you’re acquainted with. Which of these might be a potential friend? Begin cultivating a relationship with them. 

    d. Check out How to Pick the Right Friend for more information on this.

  1. Create an envelope of trust. 

    a. Do you value trust in your personal/professional relationships? Why or why not? 

    b. What makes you feel trust in someone? Why? 

    c. How can you show trust to others? Consider practical ways to build trust (ex. ways to be more consistent).

  1. Be an Evangelist for courage. 

    a. What does courage mean to you?

    b. Make a list of courageous attributes. As a bonus, think of the courageous people you know and work down from there. 

    c. How can you be bolder and more courageous? List some practical ways you can have more courage.

Bill Campbell began relationships by getting to know the person, not their resume. Aim to do the same.


I’d love to hear from you:

  • What do you know about Bill Campbell? 

  • Which of these tips do you find most interesting? 

  • How do you feel about trust?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


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